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.ring­pin­ Yukon Gear and Axle – USA Stan­dard Gear –­a­s­tan­dard­

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