How do I Check the Fluid Level in a Tacoma's Rear Differential?


Brace the vehicle by engaging the parking brake and placing chocks around the front and back of at least one wheel. This ensures the vehicle will not roll while you are underneath the rear axle accessing the differential. If necessary to allow additional access, jack the vehicle and then brace it with jack stands. To ensure the differential and vehicle remain level for optimal fluid level checking, use ramps on a flat surface, or park the vehicle with the rear on a downward slope, then jack the front upward until level.


Locate the rear differential. On the Toyota Tacoma, it is found near the center of the rear axle. The differential has a drain bolt at the bottom and a gear oil fill/check bolt toward the top facing the front of the vehicle.


Place a drain pan beneath the differential to capture any oil that may spill from the gear oil fill/check bolt. Loosen and remove the gear oil fill/check bolt.


When the differential is full, gear oil will dribble out of the gear oil fill/check hole. If no oil is drips out, the oil level is too low. If necessary, add the correct gear oil in the fill/check hole until the fluid begins to dribble out.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the rear differential is ever submerged in water, the gear oil should be replaced shortly thereafter to ensure the oil is not contaminated.
  • Differential oil has a distinct sulfur odor. This sulfur smell is usually strong. If the oil is absorbed into clothing, the sulfur smell can be retained for a long time. Use caution around the oil to ensure it is contained appropriately.
  • The differential is not designed to consume oil. If the level is low, check for leaks or other problems.
  • The differential on a Toyota Tacoma is located between the two rear wheels along the drive line. The differential allows the wheels to rotate at different speeds. In a turn, the length of distance traveled is greater on the outside wheel, so the inside wheel does not need to turn as fast. Without a differential, one wheel would either slip while spinning or the other wheel would drag. The differential allows each wheel and tire to maintain contact with the road and increases tire life. The fluid in the differential allows the gears to wear slowly while keeping gear slipping to a minimum.