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The Niva gearbox is essentially lifted out of the Lada classic saloon car, which in turn is a licence built version of the Fiat 124 gearbox (though Lada licenced the 4-speed version, and Fiat and Lada developed their added on 5-speeds separately; both added on as an after-thought). This means the gearbox was really designed for a lighter car with less torque and not needing the demands of off-roading (and designed by Italians, not necessarily known for making the world's best gearboxes), hence it is a weak-point in the Niva drive-train.
Note that Lada stipulates 5th gear not be used at less than 80 KPH, and some parts dealers recommend this be 90 KPH (and have sold less 5th replacements after giving this advice).
If you haven't already done the gearbox "overfill" on your 5-speed, do this now as it is essential for ensuring adequate lubrication to the 5th gear. Naturally it is wise to change your gearbox oil regularly (especially if used off-road; consider fitting a breather hose if it used in water/mud/sand). And note the potential problem with high sulphur content gearbox oils on the Oils page.
Another common problem is the loss of 5th gear when the nut on the output shaft at the rear of the gearbox works loose. Driving it in this condition will cause damage inside the gearbox, so if you loose 5th check this as soon as you can (you may be lucky and 5th will return when this nut is re-tightened). This check is more easily checked if the gearbox-to-transfer-case donut/CV is removed (though I think I've managed to check mine with it still in place, but very awkward). So if you ever happen the have this donut/CV off for any reason, while you're there also make sure this nut is tight and locked in place (there should be a located washer under the nut which bends up over one side-face of the nut, some people put a spot of weld on to be sure) — though don't over tighten it like we foolishly once did with a very long bar and myself wrestling the gearbox to the ground :lol:
By most accounts the 4-speed gearbox does not give nearly as many problems as the 5-speed, and some people who don't need to use their Niva on the highway for long periods have swapped 4-speeds in (it's pretty much a straight swap, though you'll also need the rear mount from the 4-speed).
If you ever have your gearbox out, note that the transfer-case needs to be aligned up with it again (tip: before removing the gearbox or transfer-case spray some paint on their mounts; these with show you where to line it up again and give you a better baseline for alignment).
(unknown author, 3.5M)
Gearbox disassembly (Ahma)
These are actually the start of a sequence showing how to built a low-ratio transfer-case, but the first 2 videos show how the gearbox is disassembled.
Gearbox Overfill - essential for protecting 5th gear
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