We find ourselves entering every project with the highest of expectations and best of intentions. However, as the saying goes “some days you’re the dog, some days you’re the fire hydrant.”
You may think that after so many backpedaling endeavours that the bitter taste of crow would be discouraging us from attempting another ambitious task in the garage. As the investment Shylock says, past performance is no guarantee of the future. Besides, if you had to swallow a jagged pill of reality and give up every time, we’d all be huddled in the fetal position calling for mamma.
This shop of dreams started with the intention to get our buddy Derek’s family trail bus – the Trailhoe 6000 – out in the woods with locked axles. The mid 1990’s leviathan left the factory with an independent front suspension (IFS) ready to be deposited in a dumpster and a rear that is nary strong enough to hold a roll of paper towel.
Derek did the rig justice by swapping in a set of axles scored off a local craigslist ad, which was a Dana 44, 8-bolt front axle and a rear full float Dana 60. With unknown history and a tight budget, we didn’t want to dump a whole lot of coin into the unknown. The decision was made to simply stuff a set of USA Standard Gear Spartan Lockers in the axles, as well as upgrade the 30 spline factory shafts to beefier, 35 spline 1541H alloy units – all scooped from Randy’s Ring and Pinion.
The Spartan lockers are a sure-fire way to exponentially increase the traction derived from an axle with an open differential without the need to sell a kidney. Randy’s has them available for a multitude of axles and most are in stock and ready to ship.
The bonus for us is that they don’t require any specialized tools or setup, unlike many full case units and other “lunchbox” styles on the market. They simply engage machined, internal teeth together when under load to essentially “lock” the left and right axle shafts together. They also ratchet/open when little or no load is being applied to the drive wheels, making them seamless in the front of a 4x4 on the street when in rear-wheel drive. Granted, they are not the ideal choice in the rear axle of a short wheelbase, high horse power, standard transmission rig, but in Derek’s Trailhoe this won’t be an issue.
The major catch with this install is the rear axle. Dana 60’s can go from peanut prices to astronomical or at times, comically high. This one is at the low end of the scale simply because it is equipped with only 30 spline shafts and massive drum brakes. The brakes are a simple bolton kit swap, but upgrading from a 30 spline 1.31” shafts to a 35 spline 1.5” shaft setup involves boring out the hardened spindles to fit the new metal. Luckily, Randy’s ring and pinion sells such a tool, allowing you to bore the spindles out at home with a good drill and some spare time.
Taking a tally of where we were, we had our Dana 44 and 60 Spartan lockers, new Yukon cut to length 35 spline shafts, and a bunch of guys with time on a Saturday to kill. A “race of greasy gearheads” was plotted with two teams of two. One pair tackled the front axle, and the other took care of the rear. Yours truly figured that with the extra work of pulling off all the components on the front of the rig to get the carrier out would make up for the extra time needed to bore out the spindles of the rear 60. However, as previously mentioned, not all our plans go off without a hitch. Between burnt out drills, broken bolts, rusty guts, and a limited slip where an open differential should be, we were right on track for disaster and another episode of garage déjà vu. Read on from here to see the roadblocks we hit, and how we overcame them to help a buddy get a cool rig back in the dirt.
Randy’s Ring and Pinion – www.ringpinion.com Yukon Gear and Axle – www.yukongear.com USA Standard Gear – www.usastandardgear.com