Since the Jeep Wrangler JK was introduced we've been seeing a lot of stock to mildly-built Wrangler TJs for sale at affordable prices. Many have never seen dirt while others saw plenty and were ridden hard and put away wet every time. You may be able to strike a deal on one of these abused TJs but don't be surprised when you hear the differential and gears start to whine. Not to worry, however, as stock TJ axles can easily be freshened up for continued service with the simple addition of some quality aftermarket parts. And with the popularity of the TJ there is no shortage of available axle kits and differential options. Exploring these options led us to three companies with a lot of experience in dealing with axles and differentials.
A long time player in the automotive industry, Motive Gear offers a wide range of axle and differential components, including ring and pinion gear sets for many applications. The company also offers transfer case and manual transmission rebuild kits as well as new and rebuilt transfer cases and transmissions. Motive Gear's standard performance ring and pinion gears are excellent replacements for stock axle gears or for ratio changes to accommodate changes in tire size.
Also part of the Motive Gear family is TEN Factory, which manufactures stock replacement and high-performance alloy axle shafts and axle kits. TEN Factory front axle shafts are forged from 4340 Chromoly Alloy steel and are available for many applications, including Jeep CJ, YJ, TJ, and JK, as well as Ford, GM, and Dodge applications. TEN Factory axle shafts are black oxide coated and are backed by the company's 10-year replacement warranty.
We looked to Eaton Performance, manufacturer of the venerable Detroit Locker, for a new front differential. Enticed by its on-demand locking capability we selected Eaton's ELocker, which uses an electromagnetic locking mechanism to fully lock the differential at the push of a button. Push the button again and internal return springs disengage the locking mechanism, allowing the ELocker to function as an open differential. The ELocker is built with precision-forged gears and offers a stout case construction. Each unit includes a wiring harness, wiring loom, and a switch.
With these quality components on hand we landed at Tri County Gear in Pomona, California, to complete the install. The Tri County Gear team is excellent at what they do and can swap gears, diff, and axle shafts in record time. We've also watched the installers straighten unbelievably bent housings, saving the customer from having to buy a new one. In addition to its proficiency with axles and gears, Tri County Gear offers full fabrication services and also completes custom ground up 4x4 projects.
In just a few hours time the TJ was ready for action with push-button traction, herculean axle shafts, and the proper ring and pinion ratio for the 35-inch tire size.