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2000 Ford F-350 Super Duty - Project Plain Jane - Part II

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 6, 2004
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We arrived early in the morning for our appointment at West Coast Differentials in Rancho Cordova, CA, for Jane's surgery. We were out of there in time for a late lunch. WCD's Eric Knouse changed both front and rear ring-and-pinions from 3.73 to 4.30 and installed two ARBs (minus plumbing) in a little more than five hours.

A few months back we introduced Plain Jane, a 2000 F-350 Super Duty with plain looks but a whole lot of personality. Original plans for Jane included using her as a tow rig, a camper, a capable 'wheeler, and a part-time daily driver. She is now nine months old and has racked up 19,000 miles, with about half of those miles pulling a 9000-pound trailer.

Because she lives on ranch land, her eight-foot bed has become handy for hauling everything from fence posts and tractor parts to wood pellets and trash cans. We also haven't been able to do as much serious 'wheeling with her as we'd like, but that's not to say she isn't up to it if asked, especially now. That's because to go along with her ready-for-anything Fabtech suspension and 36-inch Swampers (Four Wheeler March 2001), Jane now sports a pair of ARB Air Lockers and 4.30:1 gears in her diffs.

With Jane on the operating table, technician Eric Knouse has stripped her front Dana 50 axle and she's ready for the trick stuff. In the foreground are the sealed wheel bearing assemblies that new Super Dutys use. At the time of our install, Jane was just the second new Ford that WCD had taken apart with this bearing and hub design.

We chose ARBs because they offer the seamless driveability of an open diff and the grip of a full locker when ultimate traction is required. Remember, half of Jane's mileage has been pulling a trailer. An open-diff truck presents no surprises when pulling a load. Also, Jane lives in snow country. On icy roads, an open differential again offers no surprises. But if it snows too much, Jane will be the first one through the powder with her fully locked diffs. All we have to do is push a button.

When we installed 36-inch-tall tires in place of the stock 31s, we felt a power loss when pulling the trailer. Jane's big diesel engine didn't care much when the truck was empty, as the Power Stroke has power to spare. However, with a load, we were down a whole gear when towing in the mountains. Since we were pulling the diffs apart anyway to stick the ARBs in, now was the time for a gear swap. Jane came from the factory with 3.73 cogs. Some quick math revealed that with 36-inch tires, she'd be pretty close to stock with a set of 4.30s. So we made a call to Gary MacFadyen at West Coast Differentials (WCD) in Rancho Cordova, CA, and made an appointment for surgery.

WCD offers all the major brands of ring-and-pinion sets, as well as all the major aftermarket differentials. The company's huge warehouse stocks applications to fit just about anything that moves. Better yet, also housed in the same building is their Ring & Pinion Service, ready to install your new gears and diff. Best of all, WCD can ship its products anywhere in the world.

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When Jane arrived for her appointment at WCD she was placed in the experienced hands of Eric Knouse. In just five hours, Eric swapped out Jane's wimpy open diffs and installed the ARBs, along with 4.30 ring-and-pinions. In fact, it took longer to drive the 150 miles home, adhering to the required break-in procedure (drive 40 miles, stop, and let things cool an hour) that WCD recommends. Since we want Jane's gears to last as long as her diesel engine, we followed those instructions to the letter.

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We've rolled 11,000 miles since Eric's work with no hints from those new diffs that they've ever been touched-except when we push the magic traction buttons. That's when Jane becomes separated from all the other Super Dutys running around. Traction with locked diffs puts a 4x4 into another dimension-even a big, heavy 1-ton diesel.After the gear-and-tire swap, one last thing needed to be addressed. We needed to make Jane's speedometer read correctly. This is handy because it's good to know how illegally we are driving, and it's also nice to have the odometer mileage correct so that you can track the truck's maintenance intervals.

Some work here was necessary because even though the swap to 4.30s put the gearing very close to stock with 36-inch-tall tires, the speedo was still off the same amount as when we had 3.73s and just the tall Swampers installed. This is because Fords take their speed readings from a tone ring mounted on the rear diff carrier. It doesn't matter what ring-and-pinion you run, tire size determines the rotation speed of the carrier, hence the tires have control over the signal sent to the computer.

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We found a cure for our speedo woes with Superlift's TruSpeed Speed Sensor Calibrator. Developed in Iceland, and in use for years there, this magic little black box is the answer to recalibrating modern electronic speedometers found on all new vehicles. With just a four-wire hook-up you can recalibrate your speedo to any tire size and/or any gear ratio. Not only that, the TruSpeed has a toggle switch that allows for two different calibration settings. This allows you to own two different sets of tires of different diameters, and still have your speedo read true no matter which set you're running.

We installed a prototype unit before the instructions were written, but even without instructions, it was easy to install and adjust using roadside mile markers. By the time you read this, TruSpeeds should be available at your local Superlift dealer, complete with calibration charts for all gear ratios and tire combos. So, now we know our 11,000 miles of driving with the ARBs and the 4.30s are dead on.

Installing Warn Premium Hubs on a Super Duty
While testing Goodyear's AT/S vs. MT-R tires, (Four Wheeler, May 2001) we tagged a rock with our right-front locking hub. The OE Ford hubs are made of pot metal and didn't like the rock one bit. A check with our Ford dealer revealed that a new hub lists for $150. We quickly called Warn Industries to see if they made the OE hubs for Ford and if they offered a more realistic price. Warn rep Dan Buffen felt that their Premium Hub (PN 38827) would fit the new Super Dutys, so we gave them a try. Check out the photos to see what we found out. One final note-Jane has manual locking hubs. If your truck is equipped with a pulse/vacuum (automatic) hub system and you want to install regular locking hubs like Warn Premium you must plug the vacuum line with a BB. This fools the computer into thinking the hub is always locked, which is OK. Otherwise, the computer will send a code and your "check engine" light will come on permanently until reset.
— Plain Jane - Part 1
— Plain Jane - Part 3
— Plain Jane - Part 4

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Superlift Suspension Systems
West Monroe, LA 71292
West Coast Differentials
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
Stockton Wheel Service
Stockton, CA 95203
Interco Tire Corp.
Rayne, LA 70578-0486
Fabtech Motorsports
Brea, CA 92821
Air Locker, Inc.
Seattle, WA 98134

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