Fix Your Own Limited Slip at Home

It’s eas­ier than you may think!

Jp Magazine - - Table Of Contents - By Brian Gabriel jped­i­[email protected]­ Pho­tog­ra­phy: Brian Gabriel

There are three main cat­e­gories of axle dif­fer­en­tials: open, limited slip, and lock­ing.

They are all terms we have heard be­fore while cruis­ing the web fo­rums or read­ing our fa­vorite Jp Mag­a­zine is­sues cover to cover. In gen­eral, a dif­fer­en­tial is the mech­a­nism that splits the power to the left and right tires at ei­ther the front or rear of the ve­hi­cle. It al­lows the wheels to travel at dif­fer­ent speeds when corner­ing, since the tire on the out­side of the turn must travel a longer dis­tance than the tire on the in­side of the turn. Most ve­hi­cles come from the fac­tory with an open-dif­fer­en­tial con­fig­u­ra­tion. With this setup, the power is routed to the tire that has the least amount of trac­tion, which can tend to be a prob­lem when ex­plor­ing off-road in cer­tain ter­rain and con­di­tions.

Lock­ing dif­fer­en­tials are on the other side of the spec­trum. Au­to­matic lock­ers can be a full dif­fer­en­tial re­place­ment unit, like a Detroit Locker. Or it can be a lunch box–style locker that re­places the spi­der gears in­side of the fac­tory dif­fer­en­tial case. They both func­tion the same in that when power is be­ing ap­plied to the dif­fer­en­tial, it will equally split the power to both tires. This will force both tires to power the Jeep in any sit­u­a­tion, such as turn­ing the tire that has trac­tion when the other tire is slip­ping in the mud. Lock­ers also force the tires to ro­tate at an equal rate when corner­ing. This can cause the tires to “chirp” when mak­ing a turn on the pave­ment, re­duce turn­ing ra­dius, and re­sult in some over­all quirky road man­ners. While off-road trac­tion is in­creased, street driv­ing man­ners are sac­ri­ficed.

There is some mid­dle ground though in the form of a limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial. A limited slip has typ­i­cal spi­der gears found in open dif­fer­en­tials. How­ever, clutch discs are added to the side gears to cre­ate some fric­tion bias to trans­fer power to the tire that has the most trac­tion. By no means does a limited slip per­form like a locker, and be­ware of man­u­fac­tur­ers that re­fer to limited slips as lock­ers. In heavy off-road ter­rain and rock­crawl­ing, a limited slip will leave much to be de­sired. Limited slips are ex­cel­lent for wet, slip­pery, sloppy, or snowy ter­rain, es­pe­cially ba­sic moun­tain roads and Forest Ser­vice roads. They pro­vide ad­di­tional trac­tion over an open dif­fer­en­tial while main­tain­ing very friendly street man­ners.

There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent styles of limited slips avail­able through the af­ter­mar­ket, and some are priced sim­i­larly to many of the full lock­ers. Like most folks, we need to do this whole Jeep thing on a bud­get. Luck­ily, many limited slips were of­fered in Jeeps, trucks, and other SUVs from the fac­tory. The clutch discs do wear out af­ter a while and re­quire some ser­vic­ing to re­turn them to their full orig­i­nal func­tion. Fol­low along as we freshen up one of these fac­tory limited slips and show you how to bring them back to life and work­ing like new.

My friend Sammy had a fac­tory Dana 44 limited slip that had been rust­ing and col­lect­ing dust for longer than he could re­mem­ber. He gra­ciously do­nated the fac­tory TracLok to our cause, mainly so he could quit trip­ping over it. These old units can be had for cheap, if not free, as they are gen­er­ally over­looked.Most Jeep mod­els had op­tional limited slips from the fac­tory, so it is pos­si­ble there is al­ready one in the rear axle of your Jeep.

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