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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Sharing my recent/ongoing project on my 98 KC XE 5MT 2WD, which is swapping out the H190 axle for an H233B, and adding some other related goodies. I've seen similar swaps done before, but I approached this one a bit differently. This swap uses the following components:
  • An H233B axle housing from a D21 V6 2WD
  • Gears from a D21 V6 2WD (existed with 3.55, 3.70, and 3.90 gears, vs. the 4.375 or 4.625 commonly found)
  • H233B 3rd member housing from a 96-04 2WD R50 or W/D22 with ABS sensor on the pinion
  • 31-spline W/D21 axle shafts
  • 31-spline LSD differential
  • WD21 rear disc brake set (best to grab the entire axle shaft with backing plates and all)
  • OEM Spicer 1310 series H233B pinion yoke (uses outer snap rings, 5153X u-joints)
  • WD22 Xterra rear sway bar
  • New speedometer pinion gear
  • Brake lines
My "expertise" is in Nissan axles and differentials up to 2004 models, so this project is pretty much of an extension of that. I run an 04 Pathfinder SE 4WD with dual air lockers, plus a rear disc brake swap from a WD21 Pathfinder, among other modifications. I still do a few locker installs and LSD repacks, too.

This Frontier has been in the family since new, but in recent years has been relegated to simple truck duties. It only sees a couple trips every few months, and probably no more than 500 miles a year. Rodents were starting to get cozy in the engine bay. I've been wanting to restore/rebuild everything for a while, but other truck projects have prevailed. The original fuel pump finally failed after 212K miles and 23 years, and became the catalyst to starting this project. In reality, it'll be the start of me restoring/rebuilding the entire truck...which still runs fine, but just needs some love.

The reason for doing this swap was in anticipation of building it up a bit...still undecided between keeping it NA, or turbo, or engine swap. Leaning towards turbo right now. I also hoard Nissan axles and diffs, so I'm sitting on LSD units and parts, and happened to stumble across the right D21 and WD21 donors in the same junkyard, about 60' from each other, so I hodge-podged the perfect axle on the spot just for this truck.

I decided to start with the rear because of the fuel pump. Rather than wedge my husky self under a slightly lowered truck to drop the tank, I pulled the bed instead. This gave me all the working space I needed.



I pulled everything off the frame as part of my restoration process...not that any of this is needed for the swap, but all part of the finished result I want.



Puny and tired H190...



All cleaned up and painted:



Mostly everything re-installed:



Here's a comparison between an H190 and H233 diff:



So now, the technical talk part...

The previous builds I've seen have used the full axle from a WD21 Pathfinder because they were available with disc brakes, and usually had a LSD. In order to use that axle, you need to cut off all the 5-link perches and weld on new leaf spring perches. They also have lower gears not found on H190A-equipped trucks (the C200-equipped trucks were a little closer). The D21 V6 2WD axle works well here because it's already got the leaf-under perches that are set to the same width as the D22 2WD; in fact, the axle housing didn't require any modification to fit here. The D21 V6 2WD donors will also have the higher (lower numerically) gear ratios. My truck has 3.7 gears, and the donor has 3.9's...reasonably close, and easily corrected by swapping the gear on the speed sensor (the gears are available from Nissan and can be replaced easily, I'm swapping my 17-tooth gear for an 18-tooth).

Notably, I did have a set of 3.7 H233B gears, which would have been great to use, but they were from an 87 D21 (a rather rare one, actually...VG30 Standard Cab 2WD 5MT with bucket seats, sunroof, power doors and windows...a real gem, but beyond repair unfortunately). Anyway, the older Nissans had a 3rd member with 9 bolts, not the 11-bolt pattern all newer 3rds had. However, the pinion gear also does not fit newer 3rd members, either (the shaft and tail are smaller). So, I sticking with the 3.9's instead, which I think will be better in the long run anyway.

My truck has rear ABS only, which uses a tone ring behind the pinion flange instead of at the ends of the axle housing tubes. If you have the same ABS setup and want to keep it like I do, you'll need a 3rd member housing with it on the snout. Note that some older 3rds have a different ABS sensor (the pic above has the older style); on mine, the H190A sensor fit the H233B collar just fine, and used the same wiring harness. The sensors looked different, though, so I used the H233B sensor. All the 3rd member parts (bearings, seals, pinion, etc.) interchange whether the 3rd has or does not have the ABS collar. To keep the wiring secure, I welded on mounting tabs to the axle housing. Of course, since the truck is not yet driveable, I have no clue if the different tone ring and/or sensor is going to confuse the ABS computer yet...so we'll see.



The D21 axle donor had an open diff, so I used a 31-spline LSD diff that I re-packed to 105 ft-lbs. I'm not sure if this is high or low for 2wd street use, but it far exceeds what Nissan thought was suitable in all R50s and 03-04 W/D22s. The LSDs I repack for 4WD usage I usually put around 200-275 ft-lbs, depending on driver needs and parts on hand. I won't go into details about it here because I have a full write-up at NPORA: How To Repack a H233B LSD. Note, too, here that you need a 31-spline LSD. A 33-spline LSD won't work well because the WMS on those axles is about 4" wider...I mean, you can put a W/D22 H233B on the truck, but it just introduces problems.

As for the disc brakes, the WD21 axle shaft assemblies install directly into the D21 housing. Only notable here is that some H233B axles used single-cone bearings while others used dual-cone bearings. The single-cone models will have shims at the axle tube openings and a thrust block in the differential (the donor did). Since the WD21 axles were dual-cone, the shims and thrust block in the diff should be removed. Obviously, you can use W/D21 drum brakes, adhering to the same bearing and thrust block usage. Note that the D21 and WD21 axle shafts are the same length, so this is why it's convenient to use the complete WD21 axle shafts...plug and play. In my case, I tore down the axle shafts to clean and regrease everything. I will also not going into full details about the disc brake swap because it's been covered here at CF and Xterra Nation where it's more applicable to D22. Of course, I also have my own R50 write-up about it, too: R50 Disc Brake Conversion.

Fun fact: if you have a C200, you can also do the disc brake swap.

I'm still working on the parking brake setup. On my R50, I made some spacers that adapted the R50 cable to the WD21 backing plate, but for this, I will be splicing the WD21 mounting feet to the D22 cables using a 2/0 compression butt splice. The parking brake cabling between my R50 and D22 are very similar, but note that some D22 use a cross-over cable that's completely different and won't work with the WD21 parking brake setup without extra work, if at all.

For the driveshaft, the H190 pinion flange has a smaller bolt pattern than the C200 and H233, which are the same. The workaround here is to replace the H190 driveshaft yoke with another one that was available on H233 that used outer clips on the u-joints. My driveshaft uses the same outer-clip u-joints, so the yoke can just be swapped on. However, the H233 diff is 1" longer than the H190, so the driveshaft also needs to be shortened 1". I'm still deciding whether I want to do this myself, or have a shop do it (the shops I've called don't seem to want to do the work...as soon as you mention "Nissan" to probably Jeepers, they brush you off; I'll still want a shop to at least balance it). The driveshaft uses Spicer yokes, and a brand new, weld-in yoke runs about $20-$25. The driveshaft OD is 2.5", so there are two possible Spicer yokes depending on the tube wall thickness (which I don't know yet): 2-28-367 and 2-28-277. The code stamped on the OE yokes appears to be obsolete, and I've not been able to find an old reference. I'm not yet ready to cut the tube to find out.

I decided to put an D22 Xterra sway bar on because...why not? This is optional, of course. I welded the perches on the axle a little lower than they are on the X to avoid potential routing issues with the brake lines. I made my own mounts, but weld-on kits exist. This also required welding on upper mounts to the frame.





Lastly, brake lines. You should be able to bring over the WD21 brake lines, but I usually see them damaged and unusable. Instead, I use some readily-available Poly-Armour brake lines that already have fittings and flared lines installed. The lengths I used were 51" (PAJ-351) and 20" (PAJ-320), and they're about $5 each. They are 3/16" lines with M10x1 fittings. I used the same brand/style on my R50 conversion.

The near-completed result:



 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Project complete!

The parking brakes came out great. I liked this approach far better than how I did it on my Pathfinder. Used 1/0 AWG butt splice connectors instead of 2/0...fitment was perfect (cable OD is 10mm). I used pinch clamps to secure hoses and boots.







I also determined that missing WD21 brake pieces can be acquired from an older Honda Passport (Isuzu Rodeo). I needed some special WD21-only and discontinued pieces that got lost along the way, and parts from those trucks were perfect. In fact, the hardware kit (springs, adjusters, etc.) for those trucks is a 100% replacement for the WD21 brakes, despite no actual WD21 kits existing.



I had the driveshaft shortened 5/8" by a local shop. The OE length would've been fine with a non-ABS 3rd member, but the ABS version is 1/2" longer. I took a little extra off to account for some shimming that was required behind the carrier bearing. The shop that did the work was fine reusing the OE yoke, so I was able to return the new weld-on yoke I bought. (I determined the shaft to be 2.5" diameter and 0.083" wall thickness.)

At one point, I determined that the driveshaft from a Pathfinder like mine was also the ideal length I needed, so I was tempted to go pull another from the junkyard and use it instead of going with custom work. Another guy who did the H233B swap had indicated that he was able switch caps on his u-joints in order to make the flange yoke attach to his driveshaft, and a similar approach would be necessary to use the Pathfinder shaft. I can confirm that approach can work...but it depends on the joints and, more likely, the joint manufacturer. I opted to not go that route because the Pathfinder joints are some stupid uncommon Nissan-only (well, and a Subaru Brat) spec while my Frontier uses 3 extremely common Dana 1310 series joints. It made no sense to buy 4 u-joints (2 of the common type, and 2 of the uncommon type) to make 3 different u-joints, when I could just buy 3 of the same common ones. (It's also worth noting that this OE driveshaft is 100% Spicer parts...I was able to crossref every component on it, many of which can be bought from any drivetrain shop still, which is definitely not the case for the Pathfinder driveshaft.)

New KYB Gas-A-Just shocks installed all around. Also installed a new Gibson catback exhaust I'd been sitting on for a couple years. Exhaust tone sounds better, and is a fairly mild change (which I'm fine with...haven't installed the tip yet, if that makes a difference). The LSD seems to grab pretty easily, so I'm going to go with it. It also didn't help that the bed, bumper, and hitch hadn't been installed yet during the test drives. The slightly lower gear ratio is also nice, as the truck seemed to have a little more pep to it.

Final pics before I reinstalled the bed...













 

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Dang, that looks like it just rolled off the factory line. Nice work! I presume you're making it a street truck of sorts, does it have the 3.3 engine?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Dang, that looks like it just rolled off the factory line. Nice work! I presume you're making it a street truck of sorts, does it have the 3.3 engine?
Thanks! Not yet sure what the real end goal will be, but perhaps just a clean errands truck. It has the 2.4L KA...by no means a powerhouse, but not terrible with a 5-speed. I meets my needs, and I've never had an issue hauling or towing with it, but I'd like to have some fun with it. I've been sitting on a new set of Pacesetter headers for a while and have read up on 240SX/Altima cam swap, but am entertaining a basic turbo setup at this point. The engine and transmission will eventually be rebuilt. The entire truck will be freshened up, inside and out. But in the end, it just needs to handle an occasional honey-do and some steel runs. It's a bit of an eyesore right now with really bad paint on the hood, roof, and passenger bedside, but it's slated to be repainted this year, too.

Stance wise, this pic from 2017 is what it still looks like today (conveniently hiding the bad paint). My dad's new-at-the-time 2017 Frontier SV 2WD in the background is what replaced this Frontier.



This truck has seen so many phases over the last 20+ years, that I had actually considered lifting it (again) when I was freshening the suspension a couple years ago (poly bushings everywhere, shocks, etc.). I ran a full Fabtech kit on it for several years on 31's (massive compared to stock 26")...





One thing that was nice about this project was finally painting the frame where the rear tires had rubbed from flexing, which eventually led to some surface rust!

Believe or not, this swap was 20 years in the making. This was my second attempt. My first "attempt" was around 2002 when these pics were probably taken, and I had no clue what I was getting into. I round-tripped from Tucson to El Paso to buy an 4.363 LSD axle off a guy who was SAS'ing his truck, brought it home, and that's pretty much how it ended. After realizing the axle was 4" wider, having no way to mate up the pinion, and no skills to convert it to leaf-under (or really, any skills or knowledge to do anything except turn a wrench), I put it up for sale. I eventually sold it to a guy up in Mesa, who most people will know him as DesertRat, the former owner of a 1998 Standard Cab 4wd nicknamed Blue Meany. He ended up replacing his C200 with it (it was practically bolt on for him), and then eventually SAS'd the truck (among many many other things).

Anyway, that's what makes this project really special for me: I finally completed the swap.
 
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super clean swap man! I just did the same one on my 02, but used a rear from a 4x4 d21 and relocated the leaf spring perches. i also grabbed an xterra sway bar from the junkyard and was wondering what diameter measurement you used when making the sway bar mounts on the axle housing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
super clean swap man! I just did the same one on my 02, but used a rear from a 4x4 d21 and relocated the leaf spring perches. i also grabbed an xterra sway bar from the junkyard and was wondering what diameter measurement you used when making the sway bar mounts on the axle housing.
Thanks. I went with a 3" diameter to match the axle tubing, but since it crosses over a weld seam, it also needed some notches. They have off-the-shelf weld-on options that might work, too.
 

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Thanks man, just needed some reassurance that my head was in the right place. It's a tricky one, between the taper of the housing, what I'll call the "accessory tabs", and that weld.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks man, just needed some reassurance that my head was in the right place. It's a tricky one, between the taper of the housing, what I'll call the "accessory tabs", and that weld.
Yeah, I ended up mounting the brackets on the lower side of the tube to clear the brake hose/"T" and some brakeline tabs. There wasn't much left/right movement to work with in order to clear the bar around the passenger side shock. The height/angle I put the bracket at also helped keep the bar from obstructing the fill plug on the diff. Here's a somewhat better look at the angle:

 

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Yeah, I ended up mounting the brackets on the lower side of the tube to clear the brake hose/"T" and some brakeline tabs. There wasn't much left/right movement to work with in order to clear the bar around the passenger side shock. The height/angle I put the bracket at also helped keep the bar from obstructing the fill plug on the diff. Here's a somewhat better look at the angle:

Damn dude! i totally overlooked the fill plug placement. thank goodness i havent welded my brackets on yet. i was more worried about the bar hitting the shock issue. (which i have even less room that you, due to me having coil-overs on the back)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Damn dude! i totally overlooked the fill plug placement. thank goodness i havent welded my brackets on yet. i was more worried about the bar hitting the shock issue. (which i have even less room that you, due to me having coil-overs on the back)
The coilovers will make it tough. There wasn't much wiggle room there with normal shocks. The bar does open up a little towards the top, but there wasn't a good way to move the bar forward to better utilize it. And any further left or right and the end link head is against the leaf springs. You might need to look into the Hellwig or Belltech options unfortunately since they sweep outward better.

Though...with the coilovers and leaf springs, think the sway bar will be necessary?
 

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The coilovers will make it tough. There wasn't much wiggle room there with normal shocks. The bar does open up a little towards the top, but there wasn't a good way to move the bar forward to better utilize it. And any further left or right and the end link head is against the leaf springs. You might need to look into the Hellwig or Belltech options unfortunately since they sweep outward better.

Though...with the coilovers and leaf springs, think the sway bar will be necessary?
Honestly i dont know if its necessary. it was one of those things that i figured id try and see what difference it made due to everyone and their brother saying about how much of a difference it made for them. i mean those coil over shocks absolutely blew my mind in the difference it made to the rear suspension of my truck. it just seems that i still get some horizontal suspension shift when looking at my leaf spring shackles. maybe i should revisit my initial idea of a panhard bar?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I'm in favor of sway bars. Figured if I was going to go this far with the swap, might as well add one. But since mine will be more for hauling steel and less for hauling @ss, any improvement in road manners couldn't hurt, especially with the original leaf springs.

A panhard ought to work, but that's a lot more work.

BTW, I forgot the Hellwig is NLA. The Belltech looks like it might clear a coilover, but the install looks questionable. This S10 write-up looks promising...a lot more clearance around the shock: Junkyard S10 rear sway bar install - Infamous Nissan - Hardbody / Frontier Forums

Related: Cheap rear sway bar mod!

Also, if you've still got rubber bushings in the leaf springs, take a look at poly options. They'll take out a bit of slop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Oh...and if you want to try that mod using the Pathfinder end links and brackets mentioned in the IN link, let me know. Pretty sure I have a used set of them around.
 
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Sharing my recent/ongoing project on my 98 KC XE 5MT 2WD, which is swapping out the H190 axle for an H233B, and adding some other related goodies. I've seen similar swaps done before, but I approached this one a bit differently. This swap uses the following components:
  • An H233B axle housing from a D21 V6 2WD
  • Gears from a D21 V6 2WD (existed with 3.55, 3.70, and 3.90 gears, vs. the 4.375 or 4.625 commonly found)
  • H233B 3rd member housing from a 96-04 2WD R50 or W/D22 with ABS sensor on the pinion
  • 31-spline W/D21 axle shafts
  • 31-spline LSD differential
  • WD21 rear disc brake set (best to grab the entire axle shaft with backing plates and all)
  • OEM Spicer 1310 series H233B pinion yoke (uses outer snap rings, 5153X u-joints)
  • WD22 Xterra rear sway bar
  • New speedometer pinion gear
  • Brake lines
My "expertise" is in Nissan axles and differentials up to 2004 models, so this project is pretty much of an extension of that. I run an 04 Pathfinder SE 4WD with dual air lockers, plus a rear disc brake swap from a WD21 Pathfinder, among other modifications. I still do a few locker installs and LSD repacks, too.

This Frontier has been in the family since new, but in recent years has been relegated to simple truck duties. It only sees a couple trips every few months, and probably no more than 500 miles a year. Rodents were starting to get cozy in the engine bay. I've been wanting to restore/rebuild everything for a while, but other truck projects have prevailed. The original fuel pump finally failed after 212K miles and 23 years, and became the catalyst to starting this project. In reality, it'll be the start of me restoring/rebuilding the entire truck...which still runs fine, but just needs some love.

The reason for doing this swap was in anticipation of building it up a bit...still undecided between keeping it NA, or turbo, or engine swap. Leaning towards turbo right now. I also hoard Nissan axles and diffs, so I'm sitting on LSD units and parts, and happened to stumble across the right D21 and WD21 donors in the same junkyard, about 60' from each other, so I hodge-podged the perfect axle on the spot just for this truck.

I decided to start with the rear because of the fuel pump. Rather than wedge my husky self under a slightly lowered truck to drop the tank, I pulled the bed instead. This gave me all the working space I needed.



I pulled everything off the frame as part of my restoration process...not that any of this is needed for the swap, but all part of the finished result I want.



Puny and tired H190...



All cleaned up and painted:



Mostly everything re-installed:



Here's a comparison between an H190 and H233 diff:



So now, the technical talk part...

The previous builds I've seen have used the full axle from a WD21 Pathfinder because they were available with disc brakes, and usually had a LSD. In order to use that axle, you need to cut off all the 5-link perches and weld on new leaf spring perches. They also have lower gears not found on H190A-equipped trucks (the C200-equipped trucks were a little closer). The D21 V6 2WD axle works well here because it's already got the leaf-under perches that are set to the same width as the D22 2WD; in fact, the axle housing didn't require any modification to fit here. The D21 V6 2WD donors will also have the higher (lower numerically) gear ratios. My truck has 3.7 gears, and the donor has 3.9's...reasonably close, and easily corrected by swapping the gear on the speed sensor (the gears are available from Nissan and can be replaced easily, I'm swapping my 17-tooth gear for an 18-tooth).

Notably, I did have a set of 3.7 H233B gears, which would have been great to use, but they were from an 87 D21 (a rather rare one, actually...VG30 Standard Cab 2WD 5MT with bucket seats, sunroof, power doors and windows...a real gem, but beyond repair unfortunately). Anyway, the older Nissans had a 3rd member with 9 bolts, not the 11-bolt pattern all newer 3rds had. However, the pinion gear also does not fit newer 3rd members, either (the shaft and tail are smaller). So, I sticking with the 3.9's instead, which I think will be better in the long run anyway.

My truck has rear ABS only, which uses a tone ring behind the pinion flange instead of at the ends of the axle housing tubes. If you have the same ABS setup and want to keep it like I do, you'll need a 3rd member housing with it on the snout. Note that some older 3rds have a different ABS sensor (the pic above has the older style); on mine, the H190A sensor fit the H233B collar just fine, and used the same wiring harness. The sensors looked different, though, so I used the H233B sensor. All the 3rd member parts (bearings, seals, pinion, etc.) interchange whether the 3rd has or does not have the ABS collar. To keep the wiring secure, I welded on mounting tabs to the axle housing. Of course, since the truck is not yet driveable, I have no clue if the different tone ring and/or sensor is going to confuse the ABS computer yet...so we'll see.



The D21 axle donor had an open diff, so I used a 31-spline LSD diff that I re-packed to 105 ft-lbs. I'm not sure if this is high or low for 2wd street use, but it far exceeds what Nissan thought was suitable in all R50s and 03-04 W/D22s. The LSDs I repack for 4WD usage I usually put around 200-275 ft-lbs, depending on driver needs and parts on hand. I won't go into details about it here because I have a full write-up at NPORA: How To Repack a H233B LSD. Note, too, here that you need a 31-spline LSD. A 33-spline LSD won't work well because the WMS on those axles is about 4" wider...I mean, you can put a W/D22 H233B on the truck, but it just introduces problems.

As for the disc brakes, the WD21 axle shaft assemblies install directly into the D21 housing. Only notable here is that some H233B axles used single-cone bearings while others used dual-cone bearings. The single-cone models will have shims at the axle tube openings and a thrust block in the differential (the donor did). Since the WD21 axles were dual-cone, the shims and thrust block in the diff should be removed. Obviously, you can use W/D21 drum brakes, adhering to the same bearing and thrust block usage. Note that the D21 and WD21 axle shafts are the same length, so this is why it's convenient to use the complete WD21 axle shafts...plug and play. In my case, I tore down the axle shafts to clean and regrease everything. I will also not going into full details about the disc brake swap because it's been covered here at CF and Xterra Nation where it's more applicable to D22. Of course, I also have my own R50 write-up about it, too: R50 Disc Brake Conversion.

Fun fact: if you have a C200, you can also do the disc brake swap.

I'm still working on the parking brake setup. On my R50, I made some spacers that adapted the R50 cable to the WD21 backing plate, but for this, I will be splicing the WD21 mounting feet to the D22 cables using a 2/0 compression butt splice. The parking brake cabling between my R50 and D22 are very similar, but note that some D22 use a cross-over cable that's completely different and won't work with the WD21 parking brake setup without extra work, if at all.

For the driveshaft, the H190 pinion flange has a smaller bolt pattern than the C200 and H233, which are the same. The workaround here is to replace the H190 driveshaft yoke with another one that was available on H233 that used outer clips on the u-joints. My driveshaft uses the same outer-clip u-joints, so the yoke can just be swapped on. However, the H233 diff is 1" longer than the H190, so the driveshaft also needs to be shortened 1". I'm still deciding whether I want to do this myself, or have a shop do it (the shops I've called don't seem to want to do the work...as soon as you mention "Nissan" to probably Jeepers, they brush you off; I'll still want a shop to at least balance it). The driveshaft uses Spicer yokes, and a brand new, weld-in yoke runs about $20-$25. The driveshaft OD is 2.5", so there are two possible Spicer yokes depending on the tube wall thickness (which I don't know yet): 2-28-367 and 2-28-277. The code stamped on the OE yokes appears to be obsolete, and I've not been able to find an old reference. I'm not yet ready to cut the tube to find out.

I decided to put an D22 Xterra sway bar on because...why not? This is optional, of course. I welded the perches on the axle a little lower than they are on the X to avoid potential routing issues with the brake lines. I made my own mounts, but weld-on kits exist. This also required welding on upper mounts to the frame.





Lastly, brake lines. You should be able to bring over the WD21 brake lines, but I usually see them damaged and unusable. Instead, I use some readily-available Poly-Armour brake lines that already have fittings and flared lines installed. The lengths I used were 51" (PAJ-351) and 20" (PAJ-320), and they're about $5 each. They are 3/16" lines with M10x1 fittings. I used the same brand/style on my R50 conversion.

The near-completed result:



Where can I get this so I can take the drums off my rear axle and make them disc or is there a kit I can buy to do this?
 
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