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Pulling away from a stop sign onto the highway, we were rewarded with an alarming series of bangs coming from the rear end of my 2008 Frontier. I dropped it off at the local grease shop, where the mechanic told me that the spider gears were out. He recommended replacing the whole rear end rather than just the spider gears, so his staff have been looking for a salvage. The best price he's found is well over $2k for a unit with over 200,000 miles on it, and it just goes up from there. That's all before paying to get it here (southwest Montana) and the labor to put it in.

Does that seem accurate? Do you agree with his assessment that it's a better choice to replace the whole rear end? I think his rationale was that it's so labor intensive to deal with the gears that it's more straightforward to deal with the whole unit.

What other options are there? Are there any aftermarket parts packages that would work?

I don't know enough about the differential that I can make much of a judgment myself. I didn't even know what a spider gear was until I broke 'em!
 

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Cossack....have you tried searching under Car-Part.Com's website??? It's a website that lists all the auto salvage yards in the United States that offers available parts off of wrecked / salvaged vehicles.

You'll need to know a little bit more information about what specific rear axle assembly, (2 wheel drive VS 4 wheel drive, gear ratio, etc), your model year truck uses & whether your truck is a short-bed or long-bed as the Car-Part website will offer you different choices when conducting your search. You''ll see as you navigate the site.

Prices can vary from $500 dollars thru $1800 dollars, (not including taxes & shipping), depending on mileage & model year vehicle it came off of.

Anyhow, hope this helps.... Good Luck!!!
 

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Cossack....have you tried searching under Car-Part.Com's website??? It's a website that lists all the auto salvage yards in the United States that offers available parts off of wrecked / salvaged vehicles.

You'll need to know a little bit more information about what specific rear axle assembly, (2 wheel drive VS 4 wheel drive, gear ratio, etc), your model year truck uses & whether your truck is a short-bed or long-bed as the Car-Part website will offer you different choices when conducting your search. You''ll see as you navigate the site.

Prices can vary from $500 dollars thru $1800 dollars, (not including taxes & shipping), depending on mileage & model year vehicle it came off of.

Anyhow, hope this helps.... Good Luck!!!
Thanks! That's really helpful. Honestly, though, I'm not quite sure what part I'm looking for. There's no "rear differential assembly" or "spider gears" - and, as you're probably inferring by now, I'm car stupid - so any guidance is helpful.

Oh, and not that you need to know necessarily, but it's a 4x4 long bed quad cab. I think that's not helping me find parts, since I think the long bed is less common.
 

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Cossack....nothing to be embarrassed about...we ALL started out ignorant about cars. Some of us were just fortunate enough to have someone,(s) mentor us about cars as we grew. Others learned thru the "hard knocks" of car ownership, or were fortunate enough to find a kind, knowledgeable mechanic that was kind enough to "school us" about cars. And some of us are even now, STILL learning about cars....there's soo much information out there & lots to learn.

Forgot to ask you, is your Frontier manual transmission or automatic transmission?? Because you have the 4X4 longbed model you are looking for a rear axle that has a 139.9 wheelbase. Not sure if your differential has the 3.36 ratio, (automatic transmission), or the 3.69 ratio, (manual transmission).

If you should happen to call an auto salvage yard & mention that you are looking for the entire rear end assembly, most would understand you are looking for the rear axle which usually includes the rear differential assembly. Not sure where in southwest Montana you are at, (rural area, small town, or city), but if you are willing to spend a day driving, you might be able to find a auto salvage yard in your neck of the woods that has your part in stock at a affordable price to you. But in your case, because of the longer wheelbase, it sounds like you have the "unicorn" rear differential. Not that many of them out there & are harder to find. That's probably why your mechanic quoted you such a high price.

If you think your mechanic's prices are somewhat high for the part & repair, you might want to consider looking for a mechanic that specialises in rear differentials - usually places that set up & fix off-road vehicles. Since your Frontier is a 4X4 model, you might be able to find a shop that is close to you that does that. They might be able to locate aftermarket parts that they can use to fix your rear differential, (spider gears), at a price that you might find more agreeable than your mechanic.

Anyhow, hope this helps....Good Luck with the repair.
 
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For that sort of money, I'd just get an ARB locker (or whatever other locker/LSD options exist), even if you never plan to use it.

But, no, I totally disagree with the assessment to replace the entire axle. For failed spider gears? That's an absurd approach, especially if the ring and pinion gears survived (the ratio doesn't matter unless they're damaged). Even swapping in another carrier is a no-brainer operation. Even if the R&P needed replacing, that's a standard shop job. It's understandable if that shop can't do gear setups, but find a shop that can.

Still...from what I see with your partial vehicle information (need more information about transmission and trim; a VIN would help), NissanPartsDeal.com shows the spider gears for the open diff being available for $40/ea before shipping. Can even get them on eBay from another reputable dealership, Courtesy Nissan (TX). NPD also shows all the open diff carrier internals being available. If only the carrier internal pieces need replacing, this job is trivial. No gear setup, just part swaps, a new gasket, and some gear oil. Tow the thing home and DIY.

I can post up some p/ns once you've confirmed more details about your truck. You should get visual confirmation of what is damaged...should be a simple request since its got a diff cover.
 
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For that sort of money, I'd just get an ARB locker (or whatever other locker/LSD options exist), even if you never plan to use it.

But, no, I totally disagree with the assessment to replace the entire axle. For failed spider gears? That's an absurd approach, especially if the ring and pinion gears survived (the ratio doesn't matter unless they're damaged). Even swapping in another carrier is a no-brainer operation. Even if the R&P needed replacing, that's a standard shop job. It's understandable if that shop can't do gear setups, but find a shop that can.

Still...from what I see with your partial vehicle information (need more information about transmission and trim; a VIN would help), NissanPartsDeal.com shows the spider gears for the open diff being available for $40/ea before shipping. Can even get them on eBay from another reputable dealership, Courtesy Nissan (TX). NPD also shows all the open diff carrier internals being available. If only the carrier internal pieces need replacing, this job is trivial. No gear setup, just part swaps, a new gasket, and some gear oil. Tow the thing home and DIY.

I can post up some p/ns once you've confirmed more details about your truck. You should get visual confirmation of what is damaged...should be a simple request since its got a diff cover.
Can you post a link on the spider gear.

Though replacing an entire rear axle assembly does seem ridiculous, it is something I can do in my driveway in an afternoon. The last time I took apart a diff it took me 3 weeks to get it back together.

Adding an ARB locker to the rear end is a good idea if you need a locker. But again it is time consuming and detailed worked, and will end up costing as much as a used rear axle.
 

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Can you post a link on the spider gear.

Though replacing an entire rear axle assembly does seem ridiculous, it is something I can do in my driveway in an afternoon. The last time I took apart a diff it took me 3 weeks to get it back together.

Adding an ARB locker to the rear end is a good idea if you need a locker. But again it is time consuming and detailed worked, and will end up costing as much as a used rear axle.
Sure, here's the diagram link (2008 D40 V6 CC 4WD Long Bed, trans and grade unknown): NissanPartsDeal.com link

Part in question is labelled 38425 "pinion mate." Of two p/ns listed, 38425-21W0A covers both, and was found several Pathfinder, Frontier, Xterra, 350Z, and 370Z models. The side gear also cross refs to 96-04 Pathfinders (my specialty) front R200A differentials, which is not surprising. If this is really all he needs, I can pull these from spare diffs I have and send to @Cossack if he wants to go this direction and can confirm more details about his truck.

Swapping an axle is simple, but requires obvious heavy duty acquisitions and logistics...400-500 lbs, $300+ axle vs. 8 oz, $40 side gear. As someone who hoards Nissan axles and differentials, and does locker installs and differential/LSD rebuilds on the side...you don't want to collect this stuff. The differential carrier in question was used in 2005-2010 V6 Frontier, Xterra, and Pathfinders, and the internals were used in even more applications. This shouldn't be unobtainium. I'd stick with finding what he needs, or otherwise challenging the shop to be more realistic on the repair and costs, and otherwise prove that's the only option. (I'm going to need some serious carnage pics here.) Seriously, if it's just the spider gears that have failed, it's a 3-hour job, tops.

Gears cause panic whenever mentioned, but if only the internals of the carrier are damaged, there's no gear setup required here. All the parts get and reinstalled in the same exact position as before to avoid changing the backlash. The gears should be checked for backlash before and after removal just to confirm it was and remains in spec, but at 200K it's probably omittable provided you keep parts well organized. In this case, the effort required would be:
  • pulling the axle shafts out enough (requires disconnecting the brakes, and eventually bleeding them when done)
  • marking and pulling the bearing caps, keeping things L/R position (including shims placement)
  • removing the carrier (easier than you think, does not need a case spreader)
  • removing the ring gear (presuming it obstructs the pinion shaft, possibly gear ratio dependent; heavy duty impact gun recommended if you don't have the means to secure the carrier when removing or torquing ring gear bolts)
  • removing the roll pin from the pinion shaft (need a long-nose punch to get the roll pin out)
  • disassembling the carrier internals (slide pinion shaft out, rotate the side gears and the spiders will slide right out)
  • reverse the above to complete
Need basic stuff like fluids, thread locker, dead blow hammer, sockets, new gasket, new roll pin, etc. Nothing fancy, unless you want to check backlash...$40 in cheap tools from Harbor Freight (dial indicator and a magnetic base).

The suggestion for the ARB was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It'd obviously be silly to not use it, and was entirely based on any willingness to pay what was being quoted while providing a solution to "replace" spider gears (with the ARB being a complete differential carrier replacement, of course). Even if they never plumbed it up for use, at $1K and requiring nothing more than shims and bearings, it was a cheaper suggestion than what his shop threw out. Personally, lockers are worth every penny if you wheel at all, so all things considered, not a terrible idea without knowing how the OP uses his truck, but it should be clear by now that I'm advocating a simple parts replacement.
 
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There are C200k axles of various ratio's on ebay for under $700 shipped. The M226 axles are double that though.
 

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Sure, here's the diagram link (2008 D40 V6 CC 4WD Long Bed, trans and grade unknown): NissanPartsDeal.com link

Part in question is labelled 38425 "pinion mate." Of two p/ns listed, 38425-21W0A covers both, and was found several Pathfinder, Frontier, Xterra, 350Z, and 370Z models. The side gear also cross refs to 96-04 Pathfinders (my specialty) front R200A differentials, which is not surprising. If this is really all he needs, I can pull these from spare diffs I have and send to @Cossack if he wants to go this direction and can confirm more details about his truck.

Swapping an axle is simple, but requires obvious heavy duty acquisitions and logistics...400-500 lbs, $300+ axle vs. 8 oz, $40 side gear. As someone who hoards Nissan axles and differentials, and does locker installs and differential/LSD rebuilds on the side...you don't want to collect this stuff. The differential carrier in question was used in 2005-2010 V6 Frontier, Xterra, and Pathfinders, and the internals were used in even more applications. This shouldn't be unobtainium. I'd stick with finding what he needs, or otherwise challenging the shop to be more realistic on the repair and costs, and otherwise prove that's the only option. (I'm going to need some serious carnage pics here.) Seriously, if it's just the spider gears that have failed, it's a 3-hour job, tops.

Gears cause panic whenever mentioned, but if only the internals of the carrier are damaged, there's no gear setup required here. All the parts get and reinstalled in the same exact position as before to avoid changing the backlash. The gears should be checked for backlash before and after removal just to confirm it was and remains in spec, but at 200K it's probably omittable provided you keep parts well organized. In this case, the effort required would be:
  • pulling the axle shafts out enough (requires disconnecting the brakes, and eventually bleeding them when done)
  • marking and pulling the bearing caps, keeping things L/R position (including shims placement)
  • removing the carrier (easier than you think, does not need a case spreader)
  • removing the ring gear (presuming it obstructs the pinion shaft, possibly gear ratio dependent; heavy duty impact gun recommended if you don't have the means to secure the carrier when removing or torquing ring gear bolts)
  • removing the roll pin from the pinion shaft (need a long-nose punch to get the roll pin out)
  • disassembling the carrier internals (slide pinion shaft out, rotate the side gears and the spiders will slide right out)
  • reverse the above to complete
Need basic stuff like fluids, thread locker, dead blow hammer, sockets, new gasket, new roll pin, etc. Nothing fancy, unless you want to check backlash...$40 in cheap tools from Harbor Freight (dial indicator and a magnetic base).

The suggestion for the ARB was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It'd obviously be silly to not use it, and was entirely based on any willingness to pay what was being quoted while providing a solution to "replace" spider gears (with the ARB being a complete differential carrier replacement, of course). Even if they never plumbed it up for use, at $1K and requiring nothing more than shims and bearings, it was a cheaper suggestion than what his shop threw out. Personally, lockers are worth every penny if you wheel at all, so all things considered, not a terrible idea without knowing how the OP uses his truck, but it should be clear by now that I'm advocating a simple parts replacement.
Fantastic post SIR.

Agreed on the locker. I am locked front and rear, and engage my rear whenever I start slipping the rear. Figured the stock e-locker is stronger than the 2006 spider gears.
 

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Fantastic post SIR.

Agreed on the locker. I am locked front and rear, and engage my rear whenever I start slipping the rear. Figured the stock e-locker is stronger than the 2006 spider gears.
Thanks. It's also worth noting that guys that install lunchbox lockers can get away with the same no-gear-setup; literally exact same process. But, as mentioned, gears should be checked before and after mainly to confirm it doesn't go in worse than it came out. As long as nothing else is changes, it's almost foolproof.

I'm locked front and rear as well, though I engage rear or both before scaling the obstacle. Makes for easier work from the onset. Engagement during wheel spin should always be avoided, though, if for nothing more than to avoid shock on the spider gears. I don't believe the M226 e-locker has the same "ramp up" engagement like other e-lockers (like Eaton and Harrop), but for those styles on-the-fly engagement is bad for the locker. Also, there have been a few documented failures of early model P4X lockers...failed spider gears, actually. But, I believe the root of the problem was Nissan initially going with a 2-pinion design, and later a 4-pinion. If that's true, a 2-pinion was a terrible design decision from the start for a locker.
 

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I lock up pretty much the same time I shift into 4low. I don't sit and spin and then lock up. That is how you break stuff. I also try not to lock on the fly. But sometimes it takes some driving before it will lock up. Deff don't try to lock up mid obstacle.

I think most of the 2 spider failures occurred when the diff is opened. From my understanding the pin type locker bypasses the spiders when locked.

Lunchbox lockers on the rear end is said to be a handfull.
 

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I lock up pretty much the same time I shift into 4low. I don't sit and spin and then lock up. That is how you break stuff. I also try not to lock on the fly. But sometimes it takes some driving before it will lock up. Deff don't try to lock up mid obstacle.

I think most of the 2 spider failures occurred when the diff is opened. From my understanding the pin type locker bypasses the spiders when locked.

Lunchbox lockers on the rear end is said to be a handfull.
Right on, you’ve got the idea. On-the-fly engagement is fine at low speed, straight line rolling just not mid-obstacle with wheels spinning.

And correct, some lockers can bypass the spiders when locked, but others (like air lockers) rely on holding a side gear stationary, which then applies force across all the spiders (which is true when unlocked and traveling straight, they’re just allowed to rotate otherwise). I’ve not handled an M226 locker before, but the pics I see suggest similar operation. Lunchboxes lack spiders, of course…they’re manageable in rear applications, just not suitable for all climates…or those with a heavy foot around corners, lol.

Anxious to see the OP’s reply. Hopefully it’s as simple as the spiders, so I can just pull and send some.
 
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