A few weeks ago, I took my Mom’s car to get inspected. When I first drove it down her street, I heard the unmistakable groan of a dry wheel bearing doing the best it could to not explode all of it’s ball bearings out of it’s cartridge resulting in a wheel-lauching-disaster. When I get the car back to her I ask her why she hasn’t told me about why her car is groaning like Donald Trump listening to a Hilary Clinton speech?? “Well I just turned the radio up louder and started driving slower.” Ugh.....I’m sure many of us DIY’ers can relate.
So anyways, I hop on RockAuto and order up a new Timken wheel bearing for it. The next weekend I pulled out the old bearing only to discover that this particular car uses an in-hub ABS sensor. There’s not really a way to install the new bearing without removing the sensor. In fact, I probably shouldn’t have been able to remove the old bearing without removing it, but the back plate fell off the old one when I removed it, making the removal a bit easier.
Anyways these in-hub ABS-sensors ALWAYS seize in the hubs in my experience, and this one proved to be the same. Eventually, after many attempts to get it out gently, I broke off the exposed tab and had to drill-out the rest of the sensor.
Due to my mom needing the car, I installed the new bearing and told her: “Don’t worry about the brake, ABS, and traction control lights. Just drive safer for a few days.” (Disclaimer: that’s probably not the best way to handle things, but whatever)
I then began to look around for an ABS sensor. After a ton of searching around, the best price I could find on the dumb thing was an astronomical $155! The wheel bearing only cost $100. I didn’t want to have to tell my mom that she needed to come up with that kind of cash for such a small part.
In an effort to find more options, I started looking at Nissan Versa parts. Back when I did her front brakes, I couldn’t find rotors locally available for a Cube and they were rather expensive to order. It was then I discovered that the Nissan Versa 1.8 shares most of its underpinnings with the Cube. I was able to find Versa rotors at the local Advance Auto and they were much cheaper as well.
I checked RockAuto again for an ABS sensor for a Nissan Versa. They have one, for $23! Huh? $132 difference is insane! It can’t be the same part.
Or can it???
Everywhere I looked, I found that the part numbers were different between the two sensors and there was no mention of interchange. While searching, I stumbled across the coolest aftermarket auto-parts reference guides that I have ever run across: Opticat-Online. This website provides a listing of aftermarket parts-suppliers and what parts they offer and is searchable by make and model along with trim, and even VIN specificity. It provides the part-numbers, photos (if available), descriptions, and part-interchangeability. If you do a lot of work on different cars, do yourself a favor and bookmark this site.
So while I could find matching part-numbers for brake rotors, struts, and even some wheel bearings, I decided that I would take my chances with the Versa ABS-sensor. I ordered it from my local Advance Auto for $31 because it would be easier to return if it didn’t work. When I picked it up and took it out of the box, it certainly looked like the same part.
Yesterday I got my Mom to bring the car over and I switched out the sensors. As you can see in the photo below, they are the same length, the plugs, attachment points, and rubber grommets are all in the identical spots. I installed the new part, put the wheel back on and fired it up. Much to my pleasure, the ABS and traction-control lights were now off. I took the Cube to a gravel lot close by and did some hard breaking and cornering to ensure both the ABS, and traction-control. They both performed as they should much to my relief.
After sleeving in a new exhaust pipe to replace a broken section, my Mom was happily on her way in a much quieter, and now, safer car.
So I can’t help but to wonder:
There are certainly places where I can understand parts that look similar on similar vehicles would be a different part number. Things like load rating, computer changes, and I’m sure many other things could be factors in parts not being compatible across the board. But in this instance, the part turned out to be identical and it clearly worked in this application.
So even if it is the same part with a different part number, why is there such a drastic price disparity? I truly don’t understand that part of it. It’s not like one part is on a Bentley Veyron and the other is on a Toyota Corolla. In that instance, the Bentley part would almost certainly cost a ton more than the Toyota. But in my instance, it’s two entry-level Nissans.
Maybe someone out there has a better grasp on this than I do.
The author, who goes by ‘Joe’ in real life, is an automotive enthusiast and likes to pretend that he’s a decent writer. He owns a 2016 STI and a 2004 RX-8 and hauls his wife and two kids around in both of them because he’s too stubborn to own something sensible. He has also owned a 500hp Fiero and likes Mighty Taco. You can reach him at AkursedX@gmail.com