Everything You Need to Know About Differential Breathers
Are you looking to take your 4×4 rig out in the outback and have some fun? If you’re considering traversing through creeks or squeezing down some trails, you’ve probably thought about installing a snorkel. However, a snorkel isn’t the only aftermarket modification you need if your vehicle comes in contact with water. Differential breathers are almost just as important as snorkels. The difference is, while snorkels make sure the engine doesn’t get any water in it, diff breathers make sure your drivetrain is safe and sound. The drivetrain controls the amount of torque the engine sends to the wheels, so the last thing you need is drowned differentials.
So What Are Differential Breathers?
Your vehicle comes with stock differential breathers. However, they are generally one way valves that release pressure from the differential. As your vehicle operates, the oil in the differentials heats up, causing it to expand and create huge amounts of pressure. So, if you were to drive your hot differentials through a puddle or cold water, it will cool off quickly, causing it to contract rather than expand, resulting in a vacuum inside. This, in turn, will result in suction. If this happens while your vehicle is submerged, water will go through the weak points. This can be avoided with the right aftermarket diff breathers kit, and it can save you thousands of dollars in potential repairs, and reduce the chances of premature failures and rusting.
Where Are Differential Breathers Placed?
Stock differential breathers are generally fitted low on vehicle whereas aftermarket breathers are located at the highest point possible to ensure pressure ventilation happens above the water when your vehicle is submerged. A common place to mount aftermarket breathers is the engine bay against the firewall. Just make sure to keep the lines clear of other hot car parts. Where you mount your aftermarket diff breathers will depend on the type of vehicle you have. Aftermarket diff breather kits generally come with an instruction manual, so read the guide on how to properly install them.
How to Install a Differential Breather?
Even if you aren’t very handy with tools, you can install differential breathers yourself. First and foremost, ensure you get a kit that’s suitable for your vehicle. While there are universal kits available, vehicle-specific kits are much easier to fit on your vehicle. What many people don’t know is that you can build your own breather kit using a hose, union, zip ties and hose clamps. In fact, that’s what most aftermarket differential breather kits include.
Next, you’ll need some tools, including an allen key, spanner and zip ties. This makes fitting differential breathers easy to install. You might need a few extra tools depending on the type of kit you get. Regardless, installation typically involves the following steps:
- Remove the factory breather from your rear differential with the spanner.
- Clean the area of debris as you don’t want anything inside your new differential
- Place one of the new differential breather ports into the rear diff
- Insert your new line into the existing factory line of your front differential
- Make sure you create a solid seal when placing the new hose into the factory line
- Run the new line up against the back of the engine bay’s wall
- Run the new line along the chassis
- Use existing wiring or lines to guide it to the engine bay
- Use zip ties to connect the tube as you go
- Once you reach the engine bay, mount the differential breather manifold and join the lines
That’s it! Your vehicle now has a dry and safe location for your differential breathers that won’t get wet when traversing through water.
How to Clean Differential Breathers?
Just like any other part and accessory, checking the state of your breathers is part of vehicle maintenance. Whether you have stock or extended breathers, you should keep them clean and clear for optimum flow. Clogged breathers can be the reason for a lot of issues, so check them for dirt and clogs frequently, especially if you frequent the off-roads. Typical problems that are a result of clogged breathers are leaking seals, generally axle or pinion seals. To check the breathers for clogs, use a wrench to remove its port. Once you remove the port, blow air through it. If there’s no air flow, use a brake cleaner. What many people don’t know is that brake cleaners are a great cleaning solution for many car parts. Lastly, flush your breather with the brake cleaner until air starts flowing again.
Differential breathers are an affordable, easy-to-install modification that will make your vehicle more capable. They’re a great area of improvement for people who want to start modifying their rig for the off-roads. While you may not get the same results as a whole suspension upgrade and a snorkel, they can still provide a lot of value and save you thousands of dollars in repairs. You can use those savings to get more modifications instead, and slowly build your rig.