Locked-Up Locker

Jp Magazine - - Your Jeep -

I own a ’71 CJ-5 with a 4.3L V-6, SM465 man­ual trans­mis­sion, Spicer 18 trans­fer case, and Dana 44 axles with 4.56 gears and Lock-Right lock­ers. The rear axle has a Warn full-float­ing kit and the Jeep has disc brakes all around. It sits on a spring-over sus­pen­sion with Wran­gler leaf packs and rides on QR78-15 Buck­shot Mud­ders. Af­ter sit­ting for a while, the Lock-Right in the rearend won’t ratchet like it used to. What is a pos­si­ble cause for it to stick and make the rearend act like it has a full spool? I have taken the diff cover off and I was ex­pect­ing to find water in the dif­fer­en­tial, which would ex­plain the locker not click­ing or ratch­et­ing when turn­ing, but I found no water or rusted com­po­nents.

JC R. Via email

Drop-in lock­ers like the Pow­er­trax (pow­er­trax.com) Lock-Right are a great low-cost and easy-to-in­stall full locker al­ter­na­tive. It’s per­fect for those that want to dip their toes into the ag­gres­sive trac­tion-adder world with­out break­ing the bank or com­mit­ting to a gear setup. By de­sign, th­ese drop-in lock­ers are typ­i­cally not as durable as their full car­rier re­place­ment locker coun­ter­parts. This is mainly be­cause the drop-in locker sim­ply re­places the dif­fer­en­tial gears and is fit­ted into the fac­tory open dif­fer­en­tial car­rier. In most cases, only one cross pin is used to re­tain the drop-in locker in the cast open car­rier, where a full locker will typ­i­cally have four pins that at­tach the locker to a much more durable ma­chined-steel dif­fer­en­tial car­rier.

Over time, drop-in locker per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­ity can di­min­ish. How long this takes de­pends on sev­eral fac­tors in­clud­ing horse­power, gear­ing, ve­hi­cle weight, tire di­am­e­ter, driv­ing style, and gear oil clean­li­ness. There are sev­eral things at work here. The added stress can cause the cross pin to wal­low out the cross pin bores in the fac­tory car­rier, which will lead to wonky locker op­er­a­tion and pos­si­bly cat­a­strophic fail­ure of the dif­fer­en­tial car­rier. In­spect the cross pin bores. The pin should fit in them well; if there is ex­ces­sive play or crack­ing around the bores, you’ll need to re­place the car­rier.

The small springs and pins used in the drop-in locker can fail too. It’s a good idea to check them pe­ri­od­i­cally. Any bro­ken locker springs or pins should be re­placed. Bro­ken springs and pins can cause the locker gear teeth to dis­en­gage un­evenly or not dis­en­gage at all. It’s not a bad idea to carry spare springs and pins. They are in­ex­pen­sive, small, and can eas­ily fit in a tool bag or glove­box.

Con­tam­i­nated oil could also cause faulty op­er­a­tion of a drop-in locker. The re­main­ing oil ooz­ing out of the dif­fer­en­tial in the photo you pro­vided looks pretty dirty. Zoom­ing in even re­veals larger bits of sed­i­ment. There are also traces of water vis­i­ble. You should thor­oughly flush and wipe out your dif­fer­en­tial hous­ing, ex­tend your breather hose, and maybe even put a small fil­ter on the end of the hose. This will help keep water and other con­tam­i­nants out. Re­fill the dif­fer­en­tial with the proper fluid and check it reg­u­larly if you fre­quent deep water cross­ings and heavy mud.

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