Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Part of a half shaft still left in the differential?

I have a 96 Nissan Maxima (V6, Auto). I was making a left turn and the DS axle disengaged from the differential. I removed the axle and found the circlip sitting at the edge of the hole. I installed these axles (both DS and PS) a few years ago.

My Question: There doesn’t seem to be any metal past where the clip would fit. Is it possible that part of the axle sheared off and is still in the differential? If so, any thoughts on removal? Will it fall into the pan?

All else runs okay; don’t really want to have to drop the transmission to take out a piece of metal.

I’m having a hard time picking up on exactly what you are saying - is it that the circlip is all the way at the very end of the axle, so you’re wondering if you’ve lost some metal past there? What did you mean by saying the circlip was sitting at the edge of the hole? What hole? Does it look like it was sheared off? Or like there’s a clean, machined end?

If you’re confused about whether or not the whole input shaft came back out I’d think about taking a look at a new one at an auto parts store to compare.

If that tip fell inside the transmission housing it will likely do a great deal of damage if not removed. It sounds as though you have a bad motor mount and the CV shaft was pulled out far enough to damage the splined shaft.

It sounds like you’re saying that the approx. 1/4" of the splined end of the halfshaft snapped off at the snap ring groove on the halfshaft.
That’s a very unusual thing to happen.

If the car were mine I’d have to drop the transmission pan. My curiosity wouldn’t let me leave this be.
The piece could have been thrown out on the road or the chunk, or debris, could have settled in the pan.

Now would be a good time to change the fluid/filter and answer the question.

Thank you for the input! The description was rambling. The circlip was sitting at the side of the transmission where the axle enters (right next to the seal). The only think I can figure out is that the fluid pressure moved it out with the axle. The circlip looks fine. I went by the parts store and looked at a new axle and talked with a parts rep. The end of the axle past the groove for the circlip looks sheared off, although it is a very smooth failure! I think that the part of the shaft that sheared off is still inside “somewhere;” I know that isn’t good!

That is what the part rep told me (see above reply). I don’t know on the motor mounts, but I will check.

In a nutshell, that is pretty much it. I know that this much metal in the transmission isn’t good. The parts rep I spoke with wasn’t hopeful that it would make it to the pan, but I’m certainly going to check (that is for tomorrow morning).

I know that whatever bit of metal that sheared off didn’t fall out because the shaft was still partially in the transmission. When I pulled it out the rest of the way, the circlip was there at the axle seal, but not the extra part of the shaft.

You might pull the seal and look carefully into the side gear for the broken piece. If it can be seen a magnet might remove it. Good luck.

Are we saying there is a route for a piece of broken halfshaft to use to get from the differential housing to the transmission housing.

All in all this post has wierdness all over it, first the end of a half shaft breaking off, then “disengaging” itself.

I’ll give you the fact that this presents all sorts of “wierdness.” I did some research on one of the Maxima boards. There have been reported instances of half-shafts disengaging. I do recall that, when I changed the shafts, they were hard to remove! I haven’t, however, seen any mention of parts coming off the internal, splined part of the joint.

In terms of the piece (if there is one, I’ll grant that) somehow getting to a place where it would be easily retrieved, I don’t really hold out much hope. I don’t know much about working on transmissions, but understand that the tolerances are very tight. I’m almost surprised I didn’t hear bad noises as I was coasting to a stop! I really don’t know what a likely pathway from the differential housing to the bottom of the transmission would be; I’m simply crossing my fingers in hopes of avoiding a shop bill!

Great Idea! I’ll do some fishing. I might even rent a borescope and have a look!

The piece in question is pretty small and it’s my opinion anyway that it could easily make its way into the pan by rolling or sliding downhill so to speak. (assuming it was not ejected onto the roadway when the shaft came out)

The one thing that might bother me more than anything would be any potential damage the splines in the differential gears may have suffered. If this was a sudden fluke breakage then maybe the splines were not damaged. If the shaft had been wallowing around for a while before it broke then it’s at least possible the gears could have been damaged.

Just something for consideration here, but if that replacement axle you installed a few years ago had some questionable splines on it to begin with maybe it simply wallowed around for a while before giving up.

In just looking at the splines, they appear straight and undamaged. Likewise, other than the prospective missing piece from the driveshaft, all the splines there look to be in good shape.

Don’t know how long the shaft has been in the process of “disengaging”. It could have chosen that moment to move out just far enough that all the torque of my accelerating and turning tried to travel through that small portion of the spline past the clip groove. That may have allowed enough shearing force along that machined portion to break it off.

With some luck the piece could be in the space between the seal and the side gear.

I had the same issue happen to me just a few days ago,so I replaced the half shaft and I tried to find that portion of the half shaft that broke off inside of the trans/ differential, but I could not locate it. I’m hoping it will make its way to the pan. however what did you end up doing with your vehicle where you able to drive it without any other issues or damage and where you able to find that piece of metal.

I think the biggest danger here is that the end piece is inside the spider gear cage and it will eventually tear them up. I don’t know if a piece that size could fall out of that cage so I would strongly recommend a teardown of the differential.

I’ve been rethinking your problem. If the c clip was just inside the transmission, then the driveshaft was never fully seated correctly in the spider cage. If the driveshaft had been fully inserted, the c clip would still be down in the spider gear assembly. Since it didn’t go in completely, it only had about an 1/8" of splines engaged instead of the full inch.

It is possible that if you look into the hole where the drive shaft goes with a flashlight, you might still see the end of the shaft in the splines of the spider gears. A strong magnet might pull it out. I’m thinking too that if the end did fall out, it would more likely fell outside the differential cage. It could still get caught in the ring and pinion gear or in the bearings. If it settled to the bottom of the transmission, you could try to glue a strong magnet to the bottom of the housing to hold the piece there.