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Jeep Differential Welding 101

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on June 1, 2011
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Lockers are expensive and open diffs suck-a-duck off-road, so for chump-cheap traction, it’s hard to beat the age-old method of simply welding up your differential spider gears to create a mini spool. But is a welded diff for you? Well, in our best Jeff Foxworthy voice: If your welds are weaker than year-old bubblegum stuck under a table, a welded diff might not be for you. If you want your Jeep to have street manners rivaling a British butler, a welded diff might not be for you. If your axleshafts are as spindly as a steroid freak’s legs and your tires as huge as his biceps, a welded diff might not be for you. If you’re as good a mechanic as Tiger Woods is a faithful husband, a welded diff might not be for you.

So with all that said, we think you can guess what we’re getting at. Welded diffs can offer cheap traction, but you should only take on the project if stuff like disassembling your axle and laying down some clean, well-penetrating welds is in your repertoire. Likewise, since you’ll be creating a spool, keep in mind your street driving will be compromised to some degree with chirping rear tires around corners and a slightly diminished turning radius. The welded diff will also put added strain on your axleshafts, so keep your tire size within limits if shaft survivability is important to you. Finally, we really don’t recommend welding your front diff. Keep the welded diffs out back and pop for a real auto or selectable locker up front.

There are a couple ways to weld up your spiders. You can tack-weld them inside the case and then remove them to be fully welded. However, there’s a slight chance the heat from welding could cause them to cock, making reassembly difficult. We normally just weld the gears together inside the case, making sure to get as much weld coverage as our MIG gun will allow. Don’t forget: If you’ve got C-clip axleshafts, don’t weld the cross pin to the gears. It may also be a good idea to protect the cross pin with some aluminum foil to keep any large weld boogers from sticking that would prevent the pin from being removed. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get your C-clips back on your axleshafts.
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