Product Review and Install into a Dana 44 – www.aussielocker.com
| AUSSIE LOCKER
Following are my notes from installing an Aussie Locker from Torq Masters into my Dana 44 front end. The unit itself is well made and very stout. The instructions are detailed and well thought out. They don’t leave you scratching your head trying to figure them out like many product sheets. The install went very smoothly and would probably have taken half a day if I hadn’t also been taking photos and setting up new gears. I ran into only one issue and that was with my existing parts, not the locker. Hopefully my experience will help you avoid the same problem. In addition the tech support (Bill Cole in particular) was very responsive in helping me track down and solve the problem.
A couple of weeks after writing this article I was finally able to get out on the trail and really see what it could do. My test trail was Lower Terminator because it’s fairly technical (rated 3-4 depending on conditions) and I’ve been on it several times before. I was familiar with the obstacles that had given me problems in the past and was curious to see how my new Aussie Locker would handle them.I can tell you right now that I’m not going back to an unlocked rig. I upgraded from a factory limited slip to the Aussie Locker and the difference was amazing. I imagine going from an open differential would be that much more impressive. The extra traction meant I was able to use much less throttle and much more finess. Obstacles that took me several attempts in the past were conquered in a single try. And all of this is still with my rear end unlocked.
One item of note is the affect on steering. It’s minimal, but there (at least on my install). I can definitely tell the difference now between driving down a dirt road in 2 and 4 wheel drive. Also, in the rocks the wheel tends to fight you a little more. I don’t consider the affect severe enough to be a negative, but rather just something to get used to and keep in mind.
Overall I’m very happy with the Aussie Locker. It’s easy to install, performs great and for about $230 it’s an excellent value.
|A few notes before you begin.
Because of the length of this article I’ve split it up into a few sections:
|When you open the box you’ll find (2) cam gears, (2) axle gears, (2) spacers, (4) pins and (4) springs. Also included is the installation manual and Operator’s Guide.|
Here’s what a few deep water crossings will give you. Hopefully your gear oil looks a little clearer than this.
|Park on a level surface. Put the transmission in gear (or park) and chock the rear tires. Raise the front axle with a floor jack and secure jack stands under each end. Place a drain pan under the differential and remove the cover bolts, which should start the flud draining. Let it drain while you work on taking out the axle shafts.First remove both tires and then disassemble the locking hubs. If you have disc brakes remove the calipers, hub/rotors, sprindles and backing plates. If you have drum brakes remove the drums, shoes and backing plates. You should now be down to the bare knuckles on both sides and can pull out each axle shaft.|
|By now the differential should be completely drained. Finish removing the cover if you haven’t already. Inspect the gear and inside of the housing for any metal shavings or damage.|
|Now take a look at the pinion shaft (cross shaft) in relationship to the ring gear. If the ring gear is thin enough you may be able to slide the shaft out past the teeth, which means you don’t have to take the carrier out of the housing. But typically with a Dana 44 the ring gear is too thick and so the carrier has to come out and the ring gear removed. (See photo)|
|Before you remove the carrier side bearing caps you need to mark them. They need to be reinstalled in exactly the same way they came out. You can’t turn them over or switch sides. If they haven’t been marked by the factory or a previous owner (see photo for example) then you’ll need to mark them with a punch or dremel.Next loosen the cap bolts, but leave them just a few turns from coming all the way out. Now pry and wiggle the bearing caps away from the carrier, being careful not to damage the races. Leaving the caps loosely attached will allow you to pry the carrier most of the way out, but also keep it from suddenly falling out and dropping on the floor (or your toes).|
|Now it’s time to remove the actual carrier. This can seem like the most difficult part of the whole process. Most carriers take a lot of determination and some really choice words to get out. Start by using a large prybar, but be careful not to pry against the ring gear teeth or inner spider gears. You might try a chain or strap wrapped around the carrier. Then you can slip the prybar through the strap and leverage against the axle housing instead of the carrier or gears. One trick is to wedge a rag below the ring gear and then turn the gear (or pinion). This forces the rag to get sucked in where the ring gear and pinion gear teeth mesh and should help leverage the carrier out a little. Then follow up with the prybar.|
|Once the carrier is loose finish pulling the side bearing caps and lift the carrier completely out of the housing. Be sure to keep each side carrier bearing race with it’s respective bearing since they’re matched.Move the carrier to a clean work surface. If you plan to re-install your old ring gear then mark it’s position on the carrier. It needs to be reinstalled the same way it came off. Once it’s marked unbolt the ring gear and set it aside.|
|Now use a punch to tap out the roll pin holding in the pinion shaft (cross shaft). If you don’t have the right size punch an old drill bit makes a good substitute. Just be sure to use a brass or plastic dead blow hammer and definitely wear eye protection. Drill bits are hardened and a normal steel hammer can shatter them. (Photo shows roll pin already removed)|
|Tap the pinion shaft (cross shaft) out of the carrier and the spider gears should fall right out. You can toss all 4 spider gears, but you need to re-use (or buy new) the thrust washers. These are the larger washers behind each side spider gear. (2 total)Now you’re left with the pinion shaft, thrust washers, and the carrier itself.|
Examination of the parts:
|These are the parts you’ll use from your existing open carrier; pinion shaft, thrust washers, and the carrier itself. You should also buy a new roll pin to secure the pinion shaft in the carrier.The spider gears (side gears) inside the carrier will be discarded since the Aussie Locker replaces them.|
|Check that the pinion shaft isn’t worn. Using a micrometer compare the diameter at the end of the shaft with a spot where the side gears ride. There should be no more than .002″ difference.|
|Double check the hardness of the shaft by scratching it with a small file near the center. The file should slip off the surface, not leave a groove. If it leaves a groove then the shaft should be replaced.|
|Examine your carrier for chips, cracks or other damage. If you find any you’ll need to get a new carrier. Here you can see one of the four cracks that I found when I removed my carrier. This was a disaster waiting to happen! Luckily I wasn’t going to reuse the carrier anyway since it’s a limited slip carrier and the Aussie Locker requires an open carrier.|
|Check your thrust washers for wear and warping. When I first insalled the locker I couldn’t get the tolerances to meet specs (see next section). It turns out my original washers were warped. A quick trip to the Ford dealer got me two new ones. See the photo to the left comparing the new (left) and the old (right).|
Checking Case Tolerances:
|In this step you’ll need to partially assemble the locker in the carrier/case to be sure the tolerances are within spec.First, place your carrier in a bench vice. Be sure to use plastic or rubber vice jaw inserts so you don’t damage the carrier. Open the Aussie Locker box and take out the Axle Gears and the Spacers.|
|Coat the Axle Gear teeth, center opening and back with medium to heavy axle grease. This will help hold the parts together during assembly.|
|Take your existing thrust washers and install one on the back side of each of the two Axle Gears.|
|Install one Axle Gear with thrust washer into the carrier.|
|Now the other side.|
|Put a little grease on the back lip of the spacers and install one on each Axle Gear. The open end of the spacer goes toward the Axle Gear.|
|Now carefully install the pinion shaft (cross shaft). Always use a plastic or brass hammer to avoid damaging the shaft. As the shaft starts to engage the spacers be sure they are completely pushed to each side so the shaft can pass between them.|
|Tap the shaft completely into position. The ends of the shaft should be flush with the outside surface of the carrier.DO NOT install the roll pin at this time. The pinion shaft is coming back out for the next step.|
|Using a screw driver pry one of the spacers away from the pinion shaft. Measure the gap (at the tightest spot) using a feeler guage. Repeat for the other side. The gap should be .006-.020″. This is a critical measurement and will affect how the locker functions. If it’s not within range you need to figure out why and correct it before proceeding.If the gaps are within range you can go on to the next step. Slide the pinion shaft back out using a brass punch. Also remove the Spacers, but leave the Axle Gears and thrust washers in the carrier.|
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