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February 1999 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on February 1, 1999
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All Locked Up
I own an '86 Chevy 1/2-ton pickup that I recently converted to a 3/4-ton with a 14-bolt rearend and a 10-bolt in the front. Both are from a '76 Chevy and have 4.11 gears to accommodate 35-inch Buckshot Mudders. I want to have the best traction for the buck, so I'm considering an E-Z Locker for the frontend. How hard is it to install one of these lockers?
Charles Heinbaugh
Via E-Mail

The E-Z Locker, manufactured by Tractech (Dept. 4WOR, 11445 Stephens Dr., Warren, MI 48090, 800/328-3850, 810/759-3850, www.tractech.com), has two major advantages over other locking differentials on the market (with the exception of the Lock-Right): It's cheap, and it can be installed by the average weekend mechanic.

Most lockers replace the stock carrier assembly, which requires resetting the ring-and-pinion, a process that takes expertise and special tools. The E-Z Locker retains the stock carrier and replaces only the side and spider gears of an open differential. Although this design may sacrifice some strength compared to other lockers because the stock carrier is retained, resetting the ring-and-pinion isn't necessary and the labor costs as well as the initial investment of the locker are substantially less than most other lockers on the market.

Installing an E-Z Locker in the frontend of your truck is fairly simple, but the exact procedure depends on whether you'll need to remove the carrier from the axlehousing. To find out, remove the diff cover and see if you can slide the cross shaft past the ring gear. If you can, the E-Z Locker can be installed without the carrier being removed. If you can't, the carrier will need to be taken out of the centersection and separated from the ring gear, which involves a few more steps.

Aside from the carrier concerns, the procedure is as follows: With the front axle on jackstands, remove the tires, locking hubs, wheel bearings, brake calipers, rotor assemblies, spindles, and brake backing plates in order to slide the front axleshafts out above a foot. This is a good time to repack the wheel bearings and replace any worn seals. Next, unbolt the diff cover and disconnect one end of the tie rod so it will be out of your way.

If you can slide the cross shaft past the ring gear, remove the shaft followed by the side and spider gears. Install the couplers and drivers of the E-Z Locker in the carrier, following the directions included with it (dabbing them with medium grease will help hold the parts in place during assembly), then install the springs and replace the cross shaft. When this is accomplished, everything goes back together in the order it came apart.

If you can't slide the cross shaft past the ring gear, mark the carrier bearing caps left and right and remove them. Place two large prybars behind two of the ring-gear bolts (one above the center of the diff and one below) and use the leverage to carefully pry the carrier out of the axlehousing. Keep track of which side the bearing races and any shims that may fall out belong, and clamp the carrier in a vise. Unbolt the ring gear, then install the locker following the procedure outlined in the instruction manual. Once the installation is complete, put the ring gear back on the carrier and torque the bolts to the spec found in your service manual (don't forget to use Loctite on the bolts). Place the bearing races and shims back on the sides of the carrier, and using only a plastic dead-blow hammer, tap the carrier back into the housing. Install the side bearing caps and torque them to spec, then reassemble the rest of the frontend.

Although this seems like a lot of work, you'll find that the procedure is straightforward. Once you're finished, you'll have all the benefits of a locker for less than half the total cost of a conventional unit.

No Lift
I recently purchased an '89 Chevy Blazer 4x4, but I have not been able to find a lift kit for it anywhere. It has a solid front axle with leaf springs, but all the Chevy lifts for that model year have IFS. Do you know where I can find one? Also, I've been told that my Blazer needs a 2-inch lift to clear 33x12.50-15s, but mine fits this size with no modifications. What gives?
name withheld
Via E-Mail

If you read the fine print in most suspension manufacturers' catalogs, you'll find that the lift kits for '73-'87 Chevy trucks, Blazers, and Suburbans will also fit '88-'91 fullsize Blazers and Suburbans. The reason for the discrepancy you're finding is that Chevrolet switched all of its standard and extended-cab pickups to IFS with the new body style, but the Crew Cabs, Blazers, and Suburbans didn't receive the redesign until the '92 model year. Lifts of 2 1/2, 4, and 6 inches are available for your truck from most manufacturers.

As for the tires, the advertised tire height often varies from the actual tire height (the actual height is almost always shorter). Wheel offsets also vary according to the manufacturer, so maximum tire-height recommendations are often conservative. While your tires and wheels fit your Blazer without a lift, a different combination may rub without adding a 2 1/2-inch lift, so your best bet is to consult your local off-road shop about the combination you plan to use with whatever lift you decide to run.

Chevy-Powered Ford
I have an '84 Ford F-150 4x4 with a 300ci straight-six, a C6 tranny, and the original transfer case. I would like to replace the engine with a Chevy small-block 327. Advance Adapters can sell me a transfer case adapter that will allow me to run a TH350 with the existing NP208 transfer case. I realize I would have to fabricate motor mounts, tranny mounts, exhaust, and so on, but what else is involved? Is an adapter available so I could mate the small-block Chevy to the C6?
Greg Silvia
Via E-Mail

Wow, we'd keep a swap like this quiet in front of any Ford fans if we were you. As with any swap that attempts to mate components from different manufacturers, there's a sizeable amount of hassle and difficulty. However, the problems you'll encounter with the swap you're proposing are compounded by the fact that virtually no one attempts it. Before you dive in, we recommend taking a hard look at why you want to transplant a Chevy powerplant into a Ford. If you want to swap the 327 because you happen to have one lying around, be prepared to spend a lot more cash trying to make it work (remember that the transfer-case adapter alone is $600) than you would if you just went out and purchased a rebuilt Ford V-8.

With that said, let's touch on some of the things you need to make this work. All the engine mounts, wiring, exhaust, linkage, gauge connections, and plumbing would have to be altered or fabricated. A1 Manufacturers (Dept. 4WOR, 7359 Canoga Ave., Canoga Park, CA 91303, 818/884-6222) makes the adapters needed to mate the 327 with the C6, and no input shaft change is required. If you choose to run a Chevy tranny, you'll need to alter the crossmember and fabricate a tranny mount as well. As you mentioned, an adapter does exist for the Chevy tranny and Ford transfer case, so this will allow you to retain the stock 'case with the front output on the proper side, but driveshaft modifications will be necessary if the transfer case is moved forward or backward to accommodate the engine. All in all, be prepared for quite a bit of fabrication work and to have lots of spare time to work on your project. If you actually succeed, you'll have a truly unique ride.

Water Logged
I own a '97 Jeep TJ Sport with an automatic. A few weeks ago, I got stuck on a muddy road and had water up to the running boards. After I was pulled out and got back on the highway, the transmission started slipping badly. The TJ was towed to the dealership, and the service manager said the problem was likely something in the valvebody of the tranny that had not been caused by my off-road excursion. However, once they started taking the tranny apart, they discovered it was full of water. This type of damage was not covered by the warranty.

Shortly after taking the hit for a new tranny, I was told by a mechanic that all the water most likely entered through a breather hole located about 3 inches above the input shaft. Is there a way I can keep this disaster from happening again? Donny Tabor
Via E-Mail

For some advice on what to do about the breather hole on your TorqueFlite, we contacted Tri-County Gear (Dept. 4WOR, 1143 W. Second St., Pomona, CA 91766, 909/623-3373). A technician at Tri-County agreed with your mechanic-the water most likely came in through the breather hole above the input shaft. Although it's best to avoid sitting in water that deep for any length of time, stuff happens, and we can understand that you want to take steps to prevent this from happening again. Several other Chrysler trannies have breather holes in a similar location, but it's unlikely that an average guy can plug and relocate the breather hole without possibly damaging the tranny. Therefore, your best bet is to install a breather tube similar to those found on axlehousings.

The fix will require dropping the tranny and temporarily removing the torque converter. Once this is accomplished, the technician recommends locating the breather hole and tapping it to accept a small hose fitting. Attach a length of hose to the fitting (rubber fuel line or braided steel works well), then drill a hole in the top of the bellhousing large enough to slide the hose through. Double- and triple-check that the hose won't interfere with the torque converter, and reinstall the tranny in the Jeep. From there, run the rest of the hose from the top of the tranny to the engine compartment. It's recommended that you attach a filter to the end of the hose. It's a good idea to mount it above the air intake for the engine. In addition to the tranny breather, now is the time to relocate the axle and transfer-case breathers if frequent deep fording is in your future, and don't forget to check all the fluid reservoirs more frequently for water contamination.

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