The “Hillbilly-Elite” Method

- Words & photos by Bryan Irons @bryanirons

If you have wheeled your rig, even in moderate settings, you know that traction is everything. All the power and driving skill in the world is wasted if you can’t get it to the ground. There are MANY different differenti­al

upgrades that can be made to improve the ability of power getting to dirt. Most base level 4x4’s come with what is commonly known as an “open differenti­al” and they work beautifull­y for vehicles with equal traction on both the left- and right-hand side. While cornering, they allow the outside tire to travel a different distance/ speed than the inside tire in a seamless, mechanical action. Our problems occur when traction on either side of the vehicle is different, like climbing over loose

surfaces or undulating trails. We see it plenty of times on the trail as it is easy to spot with one tire turning, and the other just sitting there not helping at all. If you have been in this situation, this is normally when you start smelling the torches and see the reflected light from the freshly sharpened scythes of the “go buy a locker” mob. Don’t worry; we’ll see if we can help out.

"What are the alternativ­es", you ask? If you find yourself contemplat­ing the need for added traction, you’re in the right place. We’ll go over a few options here with our personal experience­s and let you decide. Our advice is always to have a chat with some wheeling guru’s and watch how their rigs behave on the trail and in the streets, and remember that “compromise” is the word of the wise.

Starting off with “selectable lockers” such as those factory options in some Toyotas, Hummers, Dodge/Ram Power Wagons and the belly button ubiquitous Jeep Rubicon to name a few. The selectable locker allows the driver to manually select when the right and left axles shafts will be “locked” together in unison and when they can act like that of an open differenti­al. Availabili­ty in the aftermarke­t is abundant, but the price is high along with a more complicate­d installati­on. Not to mention that you now have switches and gadgets to operate on the trail as well.

Next on our list are the “Auto Lockers” and as the name implies, the mechanical springs and gears perform a ratcheting action to keep the left- and right-hand sides of the axle turning the same speed when power is applied, but do allow some tire speed discrepanc­ies while not on the gas. They work well, are simple, but can have some odd handling characteri­stics especially with high power, manual transmissi­ons and short wheelbases. “Lunchbox lockers” also fall into this category with a cheap buy-in and easy installati­on. Longevity on the Lunchbox style is suspect, as the components do wear, and they rely on the strength of the original carrier design.

“Limited Slip” differenti­als come in many factory vehicles in numerous styles and designs with the same goal, which is to limit the speed difference between the left and right hand axle shafts by the use of friction. Typically, clutch materials and spring pressure is used to actuate the limited slip and they go though life mostly unnoticed. The added traction is mediocre and most clutch style Limited Slip differenti­als are toast before 60,000 kms and act as an open differenti­al. Not our fave, but they have their place and are GREAT in snow and loose sandy materials when they are new. Gear driven limit slips

negate the wearing issue but they still are not a true “locker”.

This leaves us with methods to permanentl­y lock the axle shaft together, FOREVER. “Spools” are a by-product of too much power, not enough traction and a very low budget. Ultimately, a full case spool is a single chunk of steel that replaces the center carrier of your differenti­al. No external components or special oils are required and they provide predictabl­e traction. For those on an even tighter budget, you can look at “Mini spools” which simply replace the standard differenti­al gear cluster with solid pieces of metal. Spools offer the ultimate in traction and simplicity, but chew tires on the street, make turning radiuses larger and can place huge strains on your vehicle’s driveline components. If there is a weakness to be had, a spool is sure to find, and exploit it. If placed in the front axle of a vehicle, plan on the above symptom to be even worse, and kiss the notion of street driving goodbye unless you have locking hubs.

All the above mentioned require some kind of cash outlay and possibly some profession­al installati­on of some sort. As per our previous ramblings, we hardly make enough dineros at this job to buy two-ply toilet paper. So, in the spirit of uber-cheapness, we’re going to show you how to spend next to nothing to get yourself the ultimate in traction. At this point, you may be thinking “Lincoln locker”, which is a term used when you simply weld the living begesus out of the spider gears in your differenti­al. Apply named by the Lincoln brand welder, it creates a “poor mans spool”. We’re not going to do that, we’re going to make a “Miller Spool” (AKA Fozzy locker) where by the differenti­al spider gears are removed, welded on a bench and placed back into the carrier…. With a Miller welder in our case! The end result is a basic spool that can be easily removed once we come to our senses and grow up, if ever.

The advantages of using the age old DIY traction adder such as out Miller spool are plentiful, the first of which is the simplicity and basic outlay of cash, plus, if you have an extra set of carrier gears like we have, you can have amazing traction on the weekend and swap the original spider gears in for highway driving with no added tire wear or component stress. We really need to lay down the law at this point and let you know that this is a dirt cheap, booty fab, last kick at the can traction adder for a vehicle that should see little or no time on the street, especially in a front applicatio­n unless you have locking hubs and a lucky rabbits foot.

Follow along down into the dark corner of wheeling shenanigan­s and tomfoolery as we attempt to get something for nothing in a last-ditch effort for off road supremacy. For those of you with a keen eye, hit us up on Facebook and let is know what differenti­al you think we are working on, what type of differenti­al we are starting with (open or limited slip), and what gear ratios fit this carrier for chance to win some dusty relic that editor Mack has managed to squirrel away from us in his office.

Miller Welders www.millerweld­s.com

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 ??  ?? If you can guess what this carrier is from, get in touch with us for a chance to win a General Tire Edition Portable Jump Starter. The pop can and chip bags can be used for sizing, or maybe we just needed to add some colour to this picture!
If you can guess what this carrier is from, get in touch with us for a chance to win a General Tire Edition Portable Jump Starter. The pop can and chip bags can be used for sizing, or maybe we just needed to add some colour to this picture!

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