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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I searched for a while on how to do this swap, and there's very little, at least on CF. So I decided to photograph my swap and document it for you guys. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. There are a few photos I missed, so I'll try to articulate everything as well as I can.

This how-to covers the process of swapping the factory R180 front differential with the M205 while maintaining factory width. This is for those of you who want the strength of the Titan M205 front diff, but don't want the added track width of a full-on Titan Swap. When I broke my R180 whilst wheeling in the snow, I just used it as an excuse to upgrade and get the toughness of the M205. I suspect a few others will do the same.

So, let's get into it. First thing you need to do is track down the major parts for the swap.

The Differential

This can be difficult or easy to find depending on where you live and how much you're willing to spend. One big factor to consider is the differential gear ratio of your truck. Some people can just do a straight across swap, using one of the Titan's factory gear ratios. Others will need to regear during the swap.

Use this to determine your gear ratio: What Axle/Gears do I have in my 2nd Gen?

If you have a truck with 3.36 gears and you'd like to maintain your factory gearing, then you're in luck! The first gen Titans only ever came with two gear ratio options: 2.94 and 3.36. The majority of trucks will have 2.94s, and only the trucks that came with the factory Big Tow package were equipped with the 3.36 gearset. A Big Tow truck can be difficult to find and often even more difficult to identify. The best way to ensure you have what you need is by checking the tag on the rear axle. On it will be the gear ratio, as well as some other information. If the donor truck is missing the rear axle or the tag is gone, you'll have to go about it another way. You can run the VIN through a dealership to find out if the Titan you find has Big Tow, or, if the truck is a pre-2008, you can identify using these identifying characteristics:

- Tow mirrors
- Factory tow hitch
- Transmission temp gauge

If the truck is post-2008, they all came with trans temp gauges. Towing mirrors can also be misleading, as many people have added those after the fact. If you do find a post-2008 Titan, then you'll probably have to run the VIN. The most surefire method would be to spin the diff and see how many rotations the driveshaft must make in order for the tire to make one full rotation.

Prices on these seem to vary wildly. $400-$800 for one out of a junkyard is pretty common. As of this post, Rugged Rocks sells the M205 with 3.36 gears for around $1800. I'd try my hardest to find a used one. Check here to find out what wrecking yards near you have a Titan M205. I picked mine up from a local Nissan/Infiniti specialist for $550.

Assuming you manage to get your greedy little mitts on an M205 in good shape, it's on to your next assignment.

The CV Shafts

In order to run the M205 diff and maintain stock track width, you'll need a set of CV shafts from a V8 Pathfinder, which uses the M205 but is the size of the Frontier. These CV shafts are a little tough to come by, since V8 Pathfinders are about as rare as a mint condition signed Babe Ruth rookie card. As such, not many 3rd party manufacturers are making them, and even fewer are selling them. When you do find them, they're often extremely expensive.

If you're lucky, you can find a used set from a wrecked Pathfinder, but most people end up needing to buy new. CourtesyParts sells the OEM Nissan units for $466 per side. If you look at most retailer's websites (AutoZone, NAPA, O'Reilly), you'll find out they claim to sell them, but if you compare the part numbers, usually they're the same as the V6 truck, which uses the R180. I ended up tracking down a set from RockAuto (part number NI-8354), where they were selling at $65 per side. Some people have claimed that they ordered them and RockAuto cancelled their order, but mine went through without a hitch.

Miscellaneous Parts

Once you've gotten the diff and the CVs, next thing you need to do is assemble the various minor things necessary to do the swap.

- 1/2" hose clamp (for the diff breather hose, mine was worn out)
- 1/8" x 1.5" cotter pins (for the tie rod ends and UCAs)
- 2 quarts gear oil (I used Royal Purple 75W-90)
- PB Blaster
- Anti-seize
- Shop rags

I personally also use disposable nitrile gloves when I'm wrenching. It keeps my hands from collecting ridiculous amounts of oil and grease, and they're pretty cheap.

Tools

Here's a list of tools you will need to complete this job. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but this should be a good basic list to get you started.

- Sockets: 12mm, 14mm, 17mm, 19mm, 21mm, 22mm, and 32mm
- Wrenches: 14mm, 17mm, 19mm, 22mm
- 3/8 drive and 1/2 drive ratchets, speed handles, or breaker bars
- Impact gun (pneumatic or electric)
- Hammer
- Pliers
- Wire cutters
- Prybar or big wrench
- Pitman arm puller
- Torque wrench
- Brother-in-law you get along with who has a shop with a lift
- Two friends who owe you for all the help and garage time you've provided them with

You can rent a torque wrench and pitman arm puller from most auto parts stores. The brother-in-law and friends may be harder to come by. YMMV.

Once you've got all this collected, it's time get your hands dirty!
 
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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Preparation

The day before the swap, I'd recommend hosing down the bolts on the front end with PB Blaster. These bolts are exposed to a lot of dirt, water, mud, grime, temperature swings, etc., so they're very likely to be seized up. Giving the truck a good wash, including hosing down the undercarriage couldn't hurt either.

If your M205 came with bolts, I suggest doing what I did and taking the time to clean them. I soaked mine in PB Blaster for about 25 minutes to clean the crud off of them and make them easier to install once you're ready to start tightening things down. I cleaned up the diff itself as best I could too.

Tear Down

(NOTE: I don't have a front swaybar, so I won't go over the simple removal process here)

Now for the fun bit!

This first part is the basic procedure for removing a CV from the R180, which is a good skill to know. That being said, if you've done everything right you won't have an R180 anymore so this newfound skill is more or less completely useless.

While the truck is still on the ground, pop the wheel center caps off and use your 32mm socket and breaker bar to loosen (not remove) the axle nut. The cotter pin may be in the way, so be prepared to bend it out of the way if you need it. Once you have those broken loose you can lift the truck with whatever means you have at your disposal. I had a big warm shop with a lift in it. :D



Once the front end is off the ground, you can remove the front tires and pull the cotter pins off the axle nuts. Once those are out of the way, you can remove the axle nuts. Once you've removed them, give the axle shaft a few smacks of the hammer to loosen it up. It should start moving inwards without too much resistance. Since you're not reusing this CV shaft, you won't need to worry about buggering up the threads, so go nuts and get rid of some of your pent-up aggression.

If you have skidplates under your truck, now would be a good time to remove them. I ended up removing both the engine and transfer case skids (I don't have a trans skid yet).



Next up is disconnecting the tie rod ends. You need to move them out the way so you can remove and replace the CV shafts. The first step is removing the cotter pins. I had one come out easy and one that took absolutely forever.



With the cotter pins out of the way, you can loosen and remove the 22mm nuts on the tie rod ends.



Set the nuts off to the side where you can't lose them. Next, you have to separate the tie rod ends from the spindle. Since these are a press-fit, you'll need to use the pitman arm puller to pop them apart. Some people have used a big hammer to separate them, but I've found the puller to be much faster, easier, and more effective. Be ready, they'll make a hell of a noise when they come apart. Once you have them separated, tie the tie rod ends up and out of the way.



Next up, it's time to disconnect the upper control arms from the spindles. Doing this will allow you to move the spindle freely and therefore pull the CV out. Pull the cotter pin out and break the ball joint castle nut loose. I can't remember off the top of my head what size the nut is, I'm assuming it's a 22mm.



Once you've removed the nuts and set them in a safe place, it's time to pop the spindle loose from the UCA ball joint. Like the tie rod end connection, they're a press fit, so break out the puller again.



Before you go any further, unclip the ABS lines so you don't overstretch them.



Now that the spindle is disconnected, you can remove the CV shaft. First, lean the spindle away from the truck and pull the outer CV shafts from the spindle. Next, go underneath the truck and use a prying instrument to pry the CVs out of the differential housing. We didn't have a prybar available, so we used a big wrench and it worked just as well. They should make a small pop sound and come out easily.



Mine were in remarkably good shape for what I'm assuming is a factory part. Here's my friend Chance posing proudly with our bouncing new baby CV.



With the CV shafts out of the way, tie the spindles off to the frame.



Next, remove the 19mm lower shock mounting bolt so you can swing the shock out of the way when you go to install the larger flanged CV shafts. (NOTE: I was able to move my shock out of the way because I have Radflos, which use heim joints at either end, which gives them a greater range of motion. Moving the shock that far may not be possible with OE shocks or coilovers not using heim joints.)

Now it's time to disconnect the front end of the driveshaft from the diff. You need to remove four 14mm nuts and bolts, which on my truck was a complete pain in the butt. I had to jam a thick screwdriver in the driveshaft yoke to keep it from spinning, while my friend worked with two wrenches to pop the bolts loose.



With the driveshaft disconnected, the last thing to do before removing the differential housing is pulling the crossmember out of the way. You won't be able to pull the diff without moving it. It's held in with four bolts and nuts, which I believe are 19mm. Once it's loose, it may need to be pried out a bit since the fit is very tight.



With the crossmember out of the way, you can pull the diff. Before you take the bolts out, remember to disconnect the differential breather hose and move it out of the way. The diff itself is held in by 3 22mm bolts: two in the front, near the front LCA mounts, and one in the back just above the driver's side crossmember bolts. The two near the LCA mounts are held on with nuts. Once those are free, you pull the fragile R180 out of the truck. We had the use of a transmission jack, so it was pretty easy for us to use that to drop the diff. That being said, it's pretty light and not very big, so you shouldn't have any trouble if you're just using sheer manpower.





And that's it! Now you have the diff out! Time to take a break and eat something manly and filling as a reward for all your hard work. ::grin::
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Install and Reassembly

(NOTE: I used anti-seize on pretty much every bolt and nut during reassembly to make future work a little easier on myself)

First thing I did once I was done with teardown was drain and refill the new diff. I used Royal Purple 75W-90. Some people say you need 75W-140, but I've read reports over on TitanTalk that people using this oil had their diffs run hot. With the amount I'm using 4Hi in the winter, I'd prefer to keep the gears a little cooler.

Once the diff was full, I cleaned up all the mounting and connection points I could. I cleaned out the wheel bearing area and the splines in the spindles, as well as the driveshaft flanges. Everything with threads got wiped down and cleaned off. This would make reassembly easier. I also took the opportunity while everything was apart and in the air to grease everything with a zerk so I shouldn't have to worry about it much for the rest of the winter.

Once I was done, it was time to lift the new diff into place. Lining everything up is super easy. I would recommend putting the rear bolt in first, but honestly lining it all up at once was so easy I wouldn't worry about it. Pop all of the bolts into place, but don't tighten them until you have them all in place. With the M205 resting comfortably in it's new home, you can torque the mounting bolts to 135 ft-lbs. After you have the bolts torqued down, you can reconnect the breather hose. I recommend using a new clamp, as mine wouldn't provide a good enough hold with the factory clamp.



Here she is, with her burly CV mounting flanges, in her new home!



With the differential bolted into place, it's CV time! Here they are, the mythical V8 Pathfinder CV shafts next to the factory R180 shafts. These are beefy!



I love shiny new parts. It's nice to have this done, now just about everything with the exception of the LCA bushings, lower ball joints, and tie rod ends has been replaced.



Now for the hard part. You have to wrestle the CV shafts into place. Actually, it's not that hard. Untie the spindle from the frame. Place the CV shaft flange against the diff flange and lean the spindle away from the truck. If you angle it right, you can slip the splined end into the spindle. With the CV shafts in place, you can torque the 14mm CV flange bolts. Now, I'll be honest, I couldn't find a torque spec for these, and using a torque wrench on these is a pain. So I used an impact on a lower setting so I wouldn't over-torque them. Both flanges are steel, so I wouldn't worry about it much. I torqued them using the same pattern I use when torquing my wheel nuts to seat them squarely.



Once the CV is in place, you can reconnect the UCA to the spindle. Torque specs vary depending on which uppers you have. SPC says 45 ft-lbs, OEM is 58 ft-lbs. I torque mine to 50 ft-lbs, then tighten it until I can install the cotter pin. Use one of your new cotter pins you bought for the install.



Next, hand-tighten the axle nut as much as you can and install the cotter pin, making sure you can still fit the socket over the nut. You won't be able to torque this down until you have the wheels on the ground to keep them from turning, and once you have the wheels on you won't be able to install the cotter pin.



Next up is reconnecting the lower shock mounts. Torque these bolts to 155 ft-lbs. After those are done, clip your ABS wires back into place.

With that, you can reconnect the tie rod ends. Now, these proved to be a bit problematic for us, because the bolt end is actually a ball joint, so the bolt itself can spin. If you reach a spot where the nut starts to bind up, the the bolt will spin along with the nut, bringing your progress to a halt. Here's how we did it: Coat the bolt with a thin layer of anti-seize. Place a prybar between the tie rod end and the spindle, and apply a solid amount of force. This should lock the ball joint in place and prevent the bolt from turning with the nut. Once the nut is threaded on enough for you to gain access to the cotter pin hole, insert a sturdy pick into the cotter pin hole and use it to keep the bolt from spinning. Eventually, the bolt will lock into place and you won't have to keep it from spinning anymore.



Once the bolt stops spinning, torque the nut to 63 ft-lbs and install the new cotter pin. Repeat on the other side.



Now for the finishing work. Back beneath the truck, reconnect the driveshaft. I don't worry about the torque specs here, because there is no way you could get a torque wrench on these bolts. With the driveshaft back in place, reinstall the crossmember and torque the bolts to 96 ft-lbs. Reinstall the skidplates if you have any.

Finally, it's time to put the wheels back on. Wheel nuts should be torqued to 98 ft-lbs.

Lower the truck back to the ground. With the wheels on the ground and unable to turn, torque the axle nuts to 101 ft-lbs and reinstall the center caps.

That's it, you're all done! All that work, and the truck doesn't look any different! But now you can reap the benefits of the M205 and easier to replace CV shafts. Take a test drive and feel the confidence of having that stronger front differential. Then sit back, have several beers, take a shower, and go to sleep feeling like you've accomplished something cool.

I hope this tutorial was helpful and informative. If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask!
 

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I think we might want to add that after a week go back and re-torque everything. This way if something was not sitting right the first time it should have moved to where it should be and you will now have everything ready for you to see if you can do the same thing that broke the R180 and not break the M205!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I think we might want to add that after a week go back and re-torque everything. This way if something was not sitting right the first time it should have moved to where it should be and you will now have everything ready for you to see if you can do the same thing that broke the R180 and not break the M205!
I like it!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Excellent write up! How long did the entire process take?
Including the time to stop and take photos, making a one hour stop for dinner, and some excess dawdling, it took about six hours. Not too bad if you ask me.
 

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Awesome write up. Answered pretty much all of my questions. I appreciate the torque specs.

Nice shop, I'll be there in about three weeks to install my m205. haha
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Awesome write up. Answered pretty much all of my questions. I appreciate the torque specs.

Nice shop, I'll be there in about three weeks to install my m205. haha
Thanks! Glad I could help.

Haha my brother in law loves me, but I don't know if he loves me THAT much!
 

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Nice write up. I thought I might add that the early 205 had two ribs and later years had three ribs. Some people said that the three rib is stronger. I don't know.I still have a 180.
Oh yeah, nice plastic handle "Snap On" ratchet!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Nice write up. I thought I might add that the early 205 had two ribs and later years had three ribs. Some people said that the three rib is stronger. I don't know.I still have a 180.
Oh yeah, nice plastic handle "Snap On" ratchet!
Thanks! Hmm, interesting little tidbit there. I'd imagine the three rib version might cool a little bit better? Either way, I'm really not worried about blowing up another diff. The added strength of the M205 is certainly more then enough I'd think.

Haha yeah... They're my brother-in-law's tools.
 

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Discussion Starter #14

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Discussion Starter #15
Short term update: I've been driving around on the M205 for a week now. I've put a good number of miles on the truck, including a 325 mile trip I did yesterday. Everything is working perfectly. Can't even notice a difference really, which is great.

There is a very small amount of vibration in 4Hi over 60mph, but that's normal, and my truck did that before I did the M205 swap.

All in all, couldn't be happier.
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Looks like Photobucket decided my photos sucked so bad it just randomly deleted them. I'll see if I can get it all back up and running.

EDIT: Fixed the photos.
 

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Wreckdiver,
Did you put thread locker on the cv bolts to the m205?
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Wreckdiver,
Did you put thread locker on the cv bolts to the m205?
Nope. They'll hold their own torque just fine, and if you have to swap them having thread locker will make it even more of a pain.

Getting the swap done?
 

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Just ordered the cv bolts from Courtesy and verifying I have all the parts needed. The plan is to install the m205 on 1-30 and have the rear re geared a week or two later. Anyone have an opinion on driving on the street for a couple of weeks with the front drive shaft removed?
 
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