Cheap 4.88 Gears: 4.88s straight from Toyota

Need taller gears for your big new tires? Gears and setup are expensive, but if you can find some cheap Toyota 4.88s, you can save some serious money and have your rig running like it should.
Table of Contents

  • 4.10, 4.56, 4.88, 5.29 - What gears should you get for your Toyota?
  • Toyota Gear Styles - Differences between 7.5", 8", 9.5", and more

  • Some Toyota 4Runners and pickups came with 4.88 gears from the factory. This is great because if you can find a couple of these third members, you can potentially have a cheap gear swap and skip worrying about a gearset installation. If you aren’t that mechanically inclined, swapping a third member is a pretty easy operation, especially compared to doing a ring and pinion install.

    What to look for

    These differentials seem to have come in a few different Toyotas. Combos for 4.88s we’ve seen are:

    • ‘92-‘95 4Runner, IFS, V6, 31” tires, auto transmission, tow package
    • ‘92-‘95 pickup, IFS, V6, 31” tires, auto transmission, tow package

    The vehicle will also usually have:

    1. door tag code of G144
    2. white pinion paint code - the end of the pinion (driveshaft removed) will have paint on it

    It seems that these are the most common combos, but there are also reports of non-tow equipped vehicles having 4.88s. Never hurts to check!

    Pros and Cons

    The pros are that these gears have a stronger V6 third member (in the rear) with lower gears that are suitable for larger tires, and (most importantly) they can be had for less than a full ring and pinion install. If you have an IFS truck, you can swap in the 4.88 IFS front diff. If you have a solid front axle truck, you can swap in a rear diff into your front axle.

    The carrier is the same as any other V6 differential, so you can fit a standard locker or limited slip in the 4.88 diff.

    The front 7.5” IFS diff is just like any other IFS differential. You can regear it at will.

    Not everything is good, though. The 8” rear diff is pretty much a throwaway third member if you have a problem. Why? Because the third member is specially cast with a slightly offset pinion, which results in a special, Toyota-only, thin ring gear. Because the pinion is offset, only a thin Toyota ring gear will fit this differential. You should not consider this diff “regearable”. If you need to replace the ring and pinion, they are incredibly expensive from Toyota. In other words, if you decide to change your gearing in the future, you’ll have to fully replace the 8” 4.88 diff.

    Where to look

    Find them in:

    • Local junkyards - They pull it and it tends to be more expensive.
    • Toyota 4x4 enthusiast sites - Usually already pulled or sometimes comes with a full axle.
    • Craiglist - Usually, this requires a little back-and-forth with the seller to determine what they have. Mostly, we see full trucks being parted out, and many sellers want to sell the whole axle.
    • Pick-N-Pull junkyards - You pull it yourself. This tend to be cheaper, but is obviously more labor intensive.

    How much to pay

    This is highly variable - we’d say $25 on the low end and $200 on the high end. This is a pretty desirable diff for Toyota 4x4 enthusiasts, since it tends to be much cheaper than a new ring and pinion install and can be installed by an experienced person in under an hour. The longer you look, the better the deal you can find. Make sure you know how many miles are on it and have a look at the internals for chipped teeth, tons of metal or metal chips on the drain plug magnet (some metal is normal), and rust. A little surface rust is okay, but pitting on the gear teeth is bad. Rusty bearings will need to be replaced.

    Getting a full axle?

    You might find that the best deal you can get is a full axle. If this is the case, you need to get it home. The axle will fit in the bed of your mini or the back of your 4Runner. Fold your seats down and bring a tarp and towels to put it on. You may want some pieces of wood to rest the brake assembly on.

    Tie the axle down. This will keep it from rolling and damaging your interior. We’d advise doing a really good job if you’re transporting it inside the passenger compartment since if you get into an accident the axle will kill you once it becomes airborne. Similarly, if you’re transporting in a pickup it will probably kill someone else in an accident if not properly secured.

    Have a plan for getting it out of your vehicle. DO YOU EVEN LIFT? If not, this could be a problem. It is extremely unlikely that a single person can muscle a Toyota axle out of their vehicle without damage and we've talked to people that have hurt themselves trying to do so. Don't ask your significant other to help you unless they are very, very strong. Our suggestions:

    1. Use an engine hoist, chain hoist, or something else to lift the axle up and then drive out from under it.
    2. Invite a strong friend over for a beer and “remember” that you have this axle in the car to take out.
    3. Drain the gear oil and disassemble in your vehicle. Then you can pretty easily remove the lighter parts. Note that this can be messy and potentially disastrous. While many of us would wear gear oil cologne if they made it, we have found that it is not very attractive to the opposite sex. Try not to spill any in your vehicle!


Tyler Branham

Tyler came out of the womb with a Birfield in one hand and a stick of 6010 in the other, ready to weld any piece of trail-busted steel back together. He has wheeled, broken, and modified a variety of rigs, from Toyotas to Jeeps to Fords to Chevies. He likes doing long distance overland travel and would happily spend every night in the bed of a pickup under the stars.

Last updated: September 5, 2019