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Q: I have a '99 XJ and am wanting to upgrade the rear limited-slip and front open-diff to lockers on a budget. The drivetrain is stock. This jeep gets used mostly as a mountain truck in Colorado. What would y'all recommend for budget lockers front and rear?
Wimberley, TX / Westcliffe, CO
A: Colin, there are a variety of methods to obtaining an inexpensive locker. Perhaps the cheapest method is to weld together the spider gears inside the differential carrier so that the stock open carrier operates as if locked. A welded diff is called a "Lincoln Locker" after the welder manufacturer Lincoln Electric. This is a permanent modification and you will require a new carrier if you opt to go back to an open differential. This is also primarily a home-made conversion; I'm not sure how many 4x4 shops will be willing to perform this task due to the liability of future parts breakage. The least expensive off-the-shelf lockers you can install are mini-spools and "lunch-box" or drop-in style lockers such as the Powertrax Lock-Right (shown). A "Lunch-box Locker" is named for the fact that it can typically be installed without removing the carrier from the housing. Lock-Right units are available for many applications, reuse many stock parts, and fit most open and some limited-slip carriers. A mini-spool functions like a full spool but isn't as strong. It installs inside a stock carrier, replacing the spider gears and locking the axle shafts together. All of these options offer a budget price tag but remember that you might be compromising strength if you also use tall and wide tires and big horsepower. If you are simply after an easy method of gaining locked differentials in a somewhat stock vehicle with mild tire size, then either the mini-spool or Lock-Right unit should do the trick at a price you can afford. For more information, check out www.powertrax.com. 'Wheel on.
Izuzu Trooper Lift?
Q:I just picked up the January 2010 issue at the supermarket; great mag, guys. I couldn't help but notice that on Page 38 there appears to be an Isuzu Trooper on the trail. I have a 1996 Trooper and I plan on a few upgrades, including a lift, roof rack, some custom bumpers, and a few other mods. The Trooper wheels relatively good in stock form but a couple inches of lift would make a good 'wheeler a great one. I have been looking at what's available out there as to lifts and find nothing much. Calmini and Old Man Emu are the only companies offering anything and at best only 2 inches for the '90s models. Has anyone you know of done a lift on a Trooper? This would make a great article subject! Troopers are getting affordable around here anyway; I bought mine for $1,000. Can't beat that! This makes taking the family 'wheeling cheap again. Anyway, good job on the mag.
A: Anonymous, how tall of a lift kit are you after? The Calmini kit you mentioned raises the Trooper 2 inches and enables use of 32-inch tires. You should even be able to fit 33s with some fender trimming and spring spacers. This is a fairly respectable amount of lift for this vehicle and should improve ground clearance and off-road ability for at least a 3-rated trail (although skid plates should be added to your wish list). I have heard of some Trooper owners assembling their own lift kits from various available stock and aftermarket suspension parts to fit larger tires, but this takes a lot of homework on your part and typically nets minimal gain over packaged lift kits. One often-used method to gain tire clearance is to flip the upper ball joints and crank up the torsion bars as far as they go. Cranking the torsion bars may create a higher stance but it decreases ride quality; you would also need to address the rear suspension to level the vehicle. By the way, second generation Troopers like your '96 model suffer from poor factory shock valving, particularly for off-highway driving situations. You will greatly improve off-road performance with the simple addition of a set of new shocks. Good luck.