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2012 Nissan Frontier
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Discussion Starter #1
Boom. Or bang. Whatever the noise was, it wasn't a good one. It sounded like a rock kicked up between my wheel and brake caliper and was trying to wedge out. Unbeknownst at the time, the noise came from my front diff while I was out in the middle of the Mojave Desert, trying to climb up a hill that my buddy told me I couldn't do. The slope was a mixture of loose rock and dirt, and the failure occurred in 4lo, with the rear locked. I was almost at the top, the front wheels started spinning, the front end dropped into a dip, and the system was shock loaded.

I was able to get home in 2wd without any issues from the drivetrain (luckily the front wasn't locked up and there weren't any crazy noises coming from it in 2wd). In our trucks, the front hubs are permanently "locked", and the 4wd engagement occurs at the transfer case. In a normal working state, with the wheels on the ground you shouldn't be able to turn the front drive shaft without the truck moving. In my case, I could rotate the driveshaft more than 180 degrees until I would meet resistance, then I could overcome the resistance by turning harder. This further indicated that something inside the diff housing was broken.

After dropping my diff and pulling the cover, I could see that I had a broken spider gear. A tooth was totally missing from one side, and 180 degrees opposed it was missing another. It also looked like there was a crack through the whole gear. I pulled the half axle, and the splines that mesh with the spider gear were rounded and yielded. The cracked spider gear had literally separated into two halves, and the thrust washer/carrier was holding it together. Surprisingly, I had minimal damage to my ring gear, pinion, and housing. There are some gouges on the end of two ring gear teeth, and one tooth on the ring gear has some marks. I think I can carefully shave these down with a stone and reuse them. Luckily, the two teeth that broke off didn't get severely wedged between the ring gear and housing.

I bought a 3.13 diff from an Xterra that I'm planning to use for its half axle and spider gears. Conveniently, this diff carrier also accepts 4.10s if I choose to go that route down the line.

Here's a summary of how my truck was set up at the time:

Suspension:
2.5" RC Front Spacer Lift
SPC UCAs
1.5" RC Rear Shackle Lift
Stock Pro-4X Dampers and Springs

Drivetrain:
6MT
3:69 Gears
Rear E-Locker

Tires:
285/75R16 Goodyear Duratracs

Armor:
White Knuckle Sliders
Shrock Radiator Skid
ARB Transfer Case Skid
Stock Pro-4X Gas Tank Skid

Extra Weight:
CVT Mt. Jefferson RTT and rack (>200 pounds)
Camping gear for a week in the desert.

Pictures attached.
 

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Yes, that is what I been hearing. It is the spider gears that fail.
The Lokka locker replaces the spiders. Hopefully this will prevent failures.
Luckily it did not damage your case which is known to happen.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I've definitely seen a lot of spider gear failures with stock components. After adding a Lokka, the next weak point seems to be the axles/CVs. Once I get the truck back together, I think I'm going to regear the donor diff that I have to 4.10 and add a Lokka. Then I can take my time learning how to properly set the gear mesh. And the regeared diff could sit as long as it takes to get funds to regear/rebuild the rear.

I got really lucky that the rest of my diff stayed intact when the spider gear broke.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Looks like the case is cracked. Good thing that you bought a new diff. Too bad it is the wrong gear. 285 with open R180 seems to not work. I need to get that lokka locked diff installed


Did this guy ever come through?
http://www.clubfrontier.org/forums/f114/r180a-nismo-front-diff-322457/
I think the area that looks cracked in that picture is actually the parting line from casting the housing. I inspected it pretty closely and didn't find evidence of cracking in the areas that are gouged.

I ended up buying a diff off of The New X, from Driz, because it was within a days drive. The 3.13 came out of his Xterra with 32k miles, and it looks brand new. That carrier fits the 4.10 gears from Rugged Rocks, so I think those and a Lokka will be my next steps.
 

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I have 4:10 gears and a Lokka to be installed. I have strong axles (300C) but stock CV’s. Just had not been well enough to install. Plus I need to make a pinion depth tool.
 

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I think the area that looks cracked in that picture is actually the parting line from casting the housing. I inspected it pretty closely and didn't find evidence of cracking in the areas that are gouged.

I ended up buying a diff off of The New X, from Driz, because it was within a days drive. The 3.13 came out of his Xterra with 32k miles, and it looks brand new. That carrier fits the 4.10 gears from Rugged Rocks, so I think those and a Lokka will be my next steps.
To the left of the pinon that isn't a crack? OK.

Mojave to SLO that is a long drive. I think I would have pulled the driveshaft and CVs for the drive home.

Yes the CVs would then be the weak point but they are cheap and easy to replace. Diffs not so.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I have 4:10 gears and a Lokka to be installed. I have strong axles (300C) but stock CV’s. Just had not been well enough to install. Plus I need to make a pinion depth tool.
Nice! I hope you're able to get them installed soon. You'll have to let me know how you like the gearing. I've definitely heard more positive things than negative.

I have 4:10 gears and a Lokka to be installed. I have strong axles (300C) but stock CV’s. Just had not been well enough to install. Plus I need to make a pinion depth tool.
To the left of the pinon that isn't a crack? OK.

Mojave to SLO that is a long drive. I think I would have pulled the driveshaft and CVs for the drive home.

Yes the CVs would then be the weak point but they are cheap and easy to replace. Diffs not so.
Yep, it's just the parting line from the sand casting. It definitely worried me at first.

I'll admit, I was a little naive about not pulling the CVs and drive shaft after having a diff problem. Everything functioned normally in 2wd though. It was just stupid luck that the broken spider teeth generally stayed away from the ring gear.
 
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