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Old 05-27-2008, 01:59 AM   #1
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How long can I drive on bad differential bearings?

Ok, I am freakin' out... I bought a good looking 1998 maxima 5 speed, 135k a couple of months ago. Last Friday I took it to the mechanic to have a look at it and give me quotes for a wheel bearing-like noise which turned out to be bad tires. Here's the list ... 2 new Michelin front tires $328, new CV axles $420, new right axle seal $48, new control arms - $575, alignment -$75. That adds up pretty quickly, but all of a sudden my major concern became this $48 dollars seal... I searched around, and I noticed the differential bearings thread. DAMN, not a new Transmission!!! Not me. Not now

Ok, here's the transmission story. When I bought the car, I noticed that when you first start it up, and then release the clutch pedal while still in neutral, there is some noise from the transmission. I was concerned at first, but then noticed that after driving for a few minutes, that this specific noise seems to go away. That is, when the car is warm, and it's in Neutral, pushing or releasing the clutch didn't make too much of a difference in the transmission noise. I didn't check too closely, but there were no obvious leaks either. Ok, so far so good.

I drove the car from Chicago where I bought it to Gainesville, Florida (1000 miles or so) and it perofmed pretty good. I noticed that when going from neutral into 5th gear, moving the shifter to the right and keeping it there (before moving it to the front to engage 5th gear) results in a slightly audible whining noise. Anyway - when I got back home in Gainesville, I decided to change the transmission oil, hoping that it would resolve the noise at start up issue. I got some Red Line MT90 and changed the oil. The shifting felt maybe slightly better, but the noise when initially starting the car didn't go away. On top of that I got a leak... I couldn't find anywhere where I could get a new drain plug gasket ( the guy at autozone told me that transmissions don't have drain plugs... ), so I reused the old one, and I was pretty convinced that this is where the leak was coming from. However, when I took it to the mechanic, he told me that the leak is actually coming from the passenger side axle seal. Then I did some research here, and here you go "start up noise + axle seal leak = differential bearing failure = transmission rebuild". F****K!

Ok, so, what kind of sh**t am I in? The car drives and shifts really nice, so I cannot believe that I have to spend a $1000+ on axles and lower control arms (and the struts might have to be changed too, at some point), and on top of that I need to get a transmission rebuild...

Something else I was thinking. I think that I can (possibly with some help from another DIY maxima enthusiast from around Gainesville) replace the CV axles and the LCArms. How long do I have until the transmission totally blows up??? I originally bought the car because I am moving to California in a month, and I was planning to take a nice road trip to there for a whole month and around 6000 miles. However, 6000 miles seems a lot for a bad transmission. If I make sure I top it up with enough oil, can it make it? Once I get in California, I can probably attempt a rebuild myself, but before I leave, I will just not have any time at all for that...

Any advice? Would my transmission survive a 6000 mile trip if it has bad differential bearings? I am hoping that the issue is just starting to develop, because I think there wasn't any oil leakage from the tranny before I put in the synthetic oil. Probably it has a finer structure and that's why was able to make it through the seal? Also, the mechanic didn't say anything about a possible differential bearing problem? Is it possible that it's just the seal that is bad, and the noise at startup is natural? I mean, I've never been in another 98 Maxima with manual transmission, so I have nothing to compare against.

Thanks a bunch guys! Also, if anyone is in the Gainesville area and is willing to give me a hand with the CV axles/ Seals and Lower control arms (and possibly struts) it would be greatly appreciated. I mean it...
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Old 05-27-2008, 07:12 AM   #2
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I will address two of your issues. The weakness of the Maxima 5-speed is nothing new to the veteran members here.

First, the start up noise is your input shaft bearing. This noise occurs with the engine running, trans in neutral, and is a common problem. Could take many miles to destroy itself, and it will.

Second, the differential bearing issue. This also will result in complete trans failure, but again could run many thousands of miles before doing so. The key here is to just keep the trans topped off with fluid, say every 1-2K miles. I ran mine another 20K or so after the discovery until I finally had enough and got a different transmission.
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Old 05-27-2008, 09:32 AM   #3
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I ran for about 10000 miles after my diff bearings started to leak, i kept topping up the fluid every time i filled up with gas and the leak kept on getting worse. Eventually the tranny took a crap on itself and i lost first and second gear, i decided to get a used tranny off the org that was rebuilt and shimmed properly so it lasts.
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Old 05-27-2008, 09:53 AM   #4
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It's really hard to say how long it will last without knowing what the bearings look like.

Get under the car and use the CV inner end to try to move around the diff within the transmission. If you can move it, say more than .03" up/down, you have advanced transmission wear. How did the old gear oil look? Were there metal flakes in the bottom of the drain pan? How big were the largest flakes?

The noise you hear on startup is probably your input shaft bearing. Does the sound go away when you put in the clutch? In any case, the diff bearings only turn when the car is moving. The likely reason you're getting more leakage is because now you have enough oil and before it was low. Keep checking it from time to time, because going low on gear oil is more destructive than having a leak.

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Old 05-27-2008, 11:33 AM   #5
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Thanks guys, really appreciate your help on this!

When I changed the gear oil, I was looking for a "shiny" feel to it, which would mean that there are fine metal particles off of bearings, gears, or what not. I can't really compare to anything else, because this was my first transmission oil change, but I think there was a bit of glitter in the oil. I didn't notice any flakes, though.

Yep, I didn't realize that the start up noise from the tranny was a different bearing. Yes, when I press the clutch, the noise disappears, when I release it (in neutral), the noise comes back. If you say it's the input shaft bearing, I'll take your word on that.

About the differential bearings, I'll get under the car sometime this week and check for play in the CV axles where they go into the tranny. Basically, any play that I can feel would be bad, right. I think there will be, though, because when I put the car in first gear and start going a bit more abruptly than usual, I hear a one-time "click" from somewhere. My interpretation is that this is happening because there is some play in the differential bearing, and when you accelerate harder, the CV axle hits the side. When I release the clutch slower, though, I don't get the "click".
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Old 05-28-2008, 03:05 AM   #6
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All of your symptoms sound like heavily worn bearings. Flakes = glitter in oil = spalled bearings.

Basically I have no idea if it will make it. But there is most definitely a risk that it won't. If it "doesn't" make it, it will become a lot more expensive to fix, and by that I'm not referring just to the towing bill.

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Old 11-16-2009, 12:27 PM   #7
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I am having the same issue with my 99 se. Any tips before I get this fixed what to do and where to have the shims? Im new to all this. I want to make sure that I get my car fixed correctly.... THANKS FOR ANY HELP
I need new differential side bearings & axle seals.
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Old 11-16-2009, 06:23 PM   #8
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First, don't take it to a dealer. The only thing they're probably willing to do is install a new transmission for $4k+. Used transmissions are much cheaper but there are enough 5 speeds out there with worn out bearings I think it's a bad gamble. If you take it to someone familiar with Maxima transmissions that's probably going to be your best value and most long lasting fix.

If you take it to a transmission shop they may give you a pretty good service just make sure to have them check the shims against the factory settings.

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Old 11-17-2009, 12:31 PM   #9
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Pretty much excectly my story too. Except that I got a 1996 with 146k.
It lasted about 2000k after I changed the gear oil to MT-90 before the diff. bearings blew. Cost me around $1200 with used transmission (80K), new axeles and a clutch.
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Old 11-18-2009, 04:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shilov View Post
Pretty much excectly my story too. Except that I got a 1996 with 146k.
It lasted about 2000k after I changed the gear oil to MT-90 before the diff. bearings blew. Cost me around $1200 with used transmission (80K), new axeles and a clutch.
Same here....i had jus bought mine and 3 months later I had a leaky differential bearing. Cost me 1200 bucks to replace the tranny (90k), clutch, and labor.

Does anyone know what the rebuild would entail and how the shims work. I know i have read it on the org so ima do a search. But can anyone who knows post in here.

Phmor, the differential bearing is a critical issue and should have a permanent post on how best to handle/fix. Can any one of the mods take a lead on this. Thanks
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Old 11-20-2009, 09:25 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cashoit View Post
Same here....i had jus bought mine and 3 months later I had a leaky differential bearing. Cost me 1200 bucks to replace the tranny (90k), clutch, and labor.

Does anyone know what the rebuild would entail and how the shims work. I know i have read it on the org so ima do a search. But can anyone who knows post in here.

Phmor, the differential bearing is a critical issue and should have a permanent post on how best to handle/fix. Can any one of the mods take a lead on this. Thanks
Motorvate has a good writeup. There is another thread by Jtz-max who wrote up the process. I do things a bit differently when I rebuild them but my only real important suggestion is that if you must cut the bearings off, make sure the grinding grit does not get on the parts. Oily transmission parts are very hard to clean and hold grinding grit like a magnet.

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Old 01-05-2010, 06:42 PM   #12
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I really need some help before I buy this car.
I test drove one today and took it to PPI. A mechanic told me that the transmission output seal(driver side) is leaking. Is this the same problem as differential bearing? The mechanic said it will cost about $300 to fix this problem. He said that just take out axle and replace the seal......Other than that the car was fine so I agreed to buy it tomorrow.
I haven't paid money so I can still cancel it....I just want to know whether the car has the differential bearing failure.
Please let me know.....
Thank you

Last edited by gorillajin; 01-05-2010 at 06:49 PM..
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Old 01-05-2010, 09:08 PM   #13
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$300 to replace the $20 seal and an hours labor? I want to be your mechanic, I'll quit my current job.
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Old 01-05-2010, 09:08 PM
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