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Front Locker Performance in a 2nd Generation Explorer


GJarrett

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It is time to post a product review on the only front locker available for our '95+ Explorers, the Powertrax NoSlip. For years we've waited on unfulfilled hopes and/or promises from corporations like ARB and KillerAxles, but one - and only one - locker is made today for our front differentials, the Powertrax NoSlip. I know that many of you don't have time to read my long posts, so I'll cut to the chase. Here's the short version for those of you who don't have the time to read the rest of this thread. Pay attention.

If you have a '95+ Explorer and have enjoyed fourwheeling it hard enough to have bothered to install a rear locker, you are stupid to not have installed a front one yet.

Yeah, I just called you stupid. :) Do I have your attention? Then read on. Because the difference in capability I got from going locked-in-rear, to going locked front-and-rear is massive. I know there are obstacles to overcome in order to install this locker, but take my word that it is worth whatever it takes to get it done because of the extraordinary result in performance it reaps. :bounce:

I have a theory regarding why the front locker modification is so effective. The Explorer's rear solid axle has great articulation flex ability even in stock condition, so installing a rear locker has limited additional effect (even though that limited amount is still very effective). However, our front IFS articulation positively sucks :( and we lift a front tire all the time on the trail, which immediately relegates any traction totally to the rear axle and leaves us naked with 2wd (or just 1wd without a locker, yuck). So IMO a locker up front would logically have greater effect during more times on the trail than the rear locker might have, since the rear lifts a tire much less often than the front.

That's just my theory and is probably wrong; it doesn't matter to me. I don't necessarily need to know what the real reason is and I don't care. The important thing to me is the result. I only know the reality, and the reality is that a front locker in a 2nd generation Explorer makes a HUGE difference in its ability on the trail.

If you've done much serious fourwheeling in your 2nd generation Explorer, I'll bet that you've developed a traildriving technique to overcome this tendency of your front tire lifting all of the time - you'll hit a hill with an aggressive amount of go-pedal so that when you lose traction hitting a ledge and get air up front, your momentum will push you past it until you can grab traction again. And you're worried - because sometimes that involves a helluva lot of parts-straining push onto that go-pedal to make it up that obstacle, sometimes your free tire is really spinning fast when it lands back down and grabs traction, and you always wonder if something very expensive is going to break while you are doing it....

Go ahead and admit it - you do it, it's okay, we understand; that's the first step to recovery. :)

There is a cure. Locking the front. It results in front traction remaining at all times no matter when and how often we lift one of those IFS tires. The difference this one modification makes is nothing short of spectacular and takes our ability to fourwheel to a whole 'nuther level way beyond what we could do before. This is no small deal.

If you own a 2nd generation Explorer and fourwheel it, then once you finish reading this post you should be installing a front locker by the time you log off. If not, then quit whining - we have a solution, it is available right now, and all you have to do is install it. You can get the Powertrax and use it and quit waiting for other companies to continue to ignore us and string us along.

You wanna wait for an ARB or Killeraxle? Okay then have yourself a grand time and be their first, hopefully by 2008 when they may (or probably not) finally get you the locker?.. in the meantime the rest of us will have been already using our Powertrax fronts and wonderfully enjoying our 4wd adventures on difficult trails while you sat on the sidelines.

I have now wheeled this year with a front locker coast-to-coast from CA to PA, and I can confidently report that my Explorer will surmount any obstacle that it can clear. You read that right: as long as I don't hang up my undercarriage, I will make it through whatever it is I am going through. How many times have you lost traction going up a muddy hill or lifted a front tire on a ledge on a steep hill and lost momentum and didn't make it? The answer to that question for me this year is zero. As a matter of fact, I'm not using momentum to attack any obstacle anymore (whereas before I did it all the time). I don't have to - I just laugh and slowly crawl right up it :smoke:

In addition, I believe that since I can now easily crawl up obstacles that previously required me to hit the gas and gun through them at high horsepower, that it is easier on my vehicle. The front locker may prolong vehicle parts life instead of lessening it, which is probably directly against popular opinion. Now that I've experienced this mod, I'd rather casually motor up a hill than have to gun the helloutta my vehicle to make it up - I do think that may be less strain on my vehicle, not more.

================
COMMERCIAL BREAK: GO ORDER THE LOCKER RIGHT NOW! PART NUMBER 92-0435-2702
================

Now back to our regularly scheduled program ... :exp:

Before the flames start calling me for BS, observe that I am not claiming an ability to go on extreme trails - note my qualifying phrase about my clearance. Yes there are extreme trails that I still cannot do and I am not stating that I can - my Explorer "Herc" will never see the Upper Helldorado trail in Moab. And I still have to deal with the lack of flex and excessive offcamber leaning inherent with this front end. I have no doubt that if I ever build Herc extreme and lift my frame clearance up another several inches, I will then be able to get on trails that will get me solidly and decidedly stuck. What I am saying is that dragging/hitting my current minimal lift clearance is now my "performance ceiling" that stops me, not lack of traction.

However, four locked 35" MTR tires and another 2" of suspension lift still equals a 4" lift with a lot of traction, and that will get me into some impressively difficult looking places :smoke: As long as those can clear me over an obstacle, I can approach it with the confidence that I know that I've probably got it conquered.

In other words, when I step out of my vehicle to look at an obstacle now, the only thing I care about is to see if I can clear it without catching the middle of my undercarriage because of my sucky breakover angle. If that one visual test passes my inspection (and I can envision a line that will keep me from high-centering) then I don't care whether it is muddy, huge rocks, steep, scary, or what; I'm gonna make it - and I know it :smoke:

I can't wait to take every opportunity to show off in front of J**pers from now on, LOL :D

What would it be worth to you to be able to take on a trail and know that with good spotting and driving, you'll be able to walk right through anything that used to stop you cold? I think it's well worth the small adjustments that it took to get that NoSlip in the front of my Explorer. Some of you may be intimidated into removing your front diffy to install this thing. Make no mistake, that ain't much fun at all, but I will once again repeat myself; it is worth every bit of trouble to do it. Jefe wrote an excellent article explaining how to do it.

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=53863

I printed off the article and used it as an instruction manual and did the job by myself in one afternoon. The only change I made is in unbolting the spindles/steering knuckles. I was able to hammer out my upper ball joint/control arm and that makes the job much easier, plus I didn't have to worry about screwing up my alignment. Jefe couldn't do that because his were so rusted in place, and was stuck using his method. BTW, when I reassembled, I greased the upper ball joint shaft to make sure I would never have his problem.

Okay, so what's the problems? Let's address those issues so you you'll go for it and bite the bullet and become a BigDawg too :D There's only a couple of reasons that you would not want to install this in your Explorer, so the real purpose of this post is to answer those concerns.

4auto
The first is the fact that many of us have 4auto, which automatically engages 4wd in certain situations. The NoSlip is nonselectable and is an automatic locker. If you have 4auto and install this locker, you will watch your front end grenade in short order on the pavement as it engages both front tires beyond your control. You will have to disengage the 4auto so that you have the ability to only engage the front drive when you want to, not when your vehicle wants to do it for you. This thread addresses that concern and provides instruction on how to do it

http://www.explorerforum.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=41956

The short version of that thread is that you need to clip the connection on the large brown wire that feeds into the left side of your transfer case to control the engagement of the front axle. The wire goes all the way from the switch in the dashboard, to the left and along the wiring loom running in the floor to the left of the driver's seat, then down through the floor into the transfer case. I clipped it in the loom at the floor under the carpet to the left of the driver's seat and then ran a detour to an aircraft safety switch that I installed on my door panel. Now when I want to engage my front axle and locker, I simply flip the switch :) - and when I don't, it stays unengaged until my order and not at the vehicle's command :rolleyes:

I do need to opine that I hesitated to do this mod because there is a real value to having 3wd. Once done, this mod means that you are stuck with 2wd unless you are faced with a difficult obstacle requiring the switch to 4wd. I remembered all of the trails that I've been on for the past few years that I cruised through because of the grab in my front traction, and didn't want to have to give that 3wd up. If you are thinking that, trust me, Forget It. :p Just put the locker in, do the mod, and flip the switch when you need more than 2wd :bounce: There is about a 20-1 return on what you'll gain with your newfound 4wd
as opposed to what you'll give up in 3wd.

The second problem is one that did not show up until after a few of us took the trouble to do the modifications that it took to install 35" tires and also install a front locker. Our Borg Warner 4405 electronic transfer case is (in certain situations) too weak to handle the strain, drats.

NOTE: If you are scared to put a locker in because of this issue, I will repeat the emphasis of this thread: install it anyway, the gains you will reap are far more than you will give up.

BW 4405 Transfer Case
The Borg Warner 4405 transfer case uses an electro-magnetic clutch to engage the front axle. When I went to 35" tires it was still strong enough to work properly. But once I doubled the strain by locking both front tires, it did find its limit - but only during certain circumstances. I wish to emphasize that it still works most of the time and that is why I say that you still need to get that front Powertrax NoSlip and install it in yours


Under what circumstances does the 4405 fail? If you have huge tires and idle up to press them against a large rock that requires vertical initial climbing, if you hit the gas once the tire is already planted and locked against the rock, the transfer case will slip, because it does not have enough electrical magnetic strength to engage two 35" tires against a ledge blocking their forward movement. The key is to have a little power with the vehicle moving ahead of time and the transfer case already locked and working - anytime I have come to trouble in the middle of surmounting an obstacle the transfer case has worked fine once it had already locked the front unless the pressure was way too great from a static start like I just described. I am not sure that this is a bad thing; as a matter of fact I think it may be a good thing. The transfer case is now operating as a kind of "fuse" that slips when there is too much pressure, so it slips before axleshafts and other really expen$ive parts start to break. Remember, some of us are now running 35" tires on Dana35 based front diffentials, so I'd rather slip a line and have to re-approach it than have to pay for a new front end.

All the NoSlip front locker has done has been to reveal the limit of our transfer case. But that is another subject. The point of this thread is to verify that this locker can take 2nd generation owners to another level on the trail, and the difference that it makes is astronomical.

See you on the trail if you can get there to join us - it will take a front locker to make it to our camp though. :)
 
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Jefe

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Sheesh Gerald, how long did that take you to write up? :eek:

I would have read it all, but It'd probably take me all of my lunch break :p
 




GJarrett

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It was post this or work :D

You did get mentioned in the middle of it somewhere, BTW :)
 




Alec

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:D

One thing I don't think you addressed (though partially addressed by the real 2wd mod for the road):

Steering?

How is steering on the trail with all 4 locked?

As for your allusion to the bonsai driving style needed without a front locker, all I've gotta say is I think I'm the one driver that was more aggressive than you sometimes ;)
 




GJarrett

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Steering, that's the point of leaving it in 2wd until needed. If it's a difficult obstacle requiring 4wd while steering I have to deal with it just like any other 4x4 with a locked front does. All other times when not engaging an obstacle I leave the switch off. A couple of times I have switched off in the middle of a manuever to steer and then immediately flipped the switch right back to 4wd. It's a great feeling to have it at will whenever I need it.
 




Alec

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And I guess you don't have to worry about additional stress on the driveline when in 2wd because the driveshaft/tcase disco relieves the stress?
 




Hokie

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So does the locker require incoming torque from the driveshaft before it will engage? (Explaining why the brown wire mod works) Obviously this must be true otherwise you would never be able to drive a front locked truck on the street.
 




JDraper

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Yes, the locker requires torque from the driveshaft to engage. Under coast conditions, it acts like an open differential. When you turn the corner with the 2WD mod done, you might get some slight clicking noises out of the front as it "ratchets", however the driveability is unaffected.

I'm going to be installing one in ExplorerEB96's truck as soon as it arrives. The '95 and '96 trucks have an additional advantage because they have a vacuum axle disconnect on the passenger's side, so it's almost like having an ARB installed up front. I'm in the process of trying to figure out the electrical wiring so I can manually control the disconnect at will. That way, the vehicle can be switched from 4WD to effectively a 3WD on the fly. It's very similar to what the 2WD mod does, but it doesn't affect the xfer case and leaves it engaged at all times.


I will verify what Gerald said about having the locker up front. DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!!! Gerald followed my Zuk (which is well lifted and locked) up a trail called Rattler without much of a problem. DasFrem then followed him and had all sorts of problems (No front locker), even though he has more lift in than Gerald. He made it through the first half with a lot of pushing, shoving, and rock stacking, but passed on the second half. The front locker was the difference.

If you're locked in the back, LOCK IT UP FRONT. Worth every penny, and the powertrax can handle the abuse. I have nothing but praise for Powertrax's lockers. I had one in my X, and now have 'em in my Zuk, and I love 'em.
 




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i thought with the two wheel drive mod:
you had to turn the whole car off once you had clicked it over to two wheel drive and then flip it to 4 wheel and turn the engine back on to go back to 4 wheel

but the once in 4 wheel you can go to 2 wheel at the flick of a switch.

no big deal but i would hate to have to stop on a hill because i can't make it in two wheel. turn off my engine, and flick a swtich then turn it back on just to get 4 wheel drive working.
sorta sucks.

but reading your artical makes me want to get front and rear lockers but i'm almost positive, I'll be getting at least a rear locker. the only thing holding me back from getting a front locker is i know i'll take my truck on trials that will just rip it apart. if i know i can get up them cause i'm locked front and rear on 33s.

how much does a powertracs locker cost?

sweet artical though.
 




Rx4phun

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Lefy that was what you had to do originally. Shot off the truck then turn it back on. SInce the beginning of the beginning of that thread they figured out that you can but the brown wire underneath the driver seat and just put a switch in. This iwll work without having to shut the truck off. I just did this mod about 2 weeks ago or so and it works perfect.
Gary
 




GJarrett

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He's right Lefy... read toward the end of that article and they figured out that cutting the brown wire does not cause that problem. I use my switch almost like an ARB locker now, I just turn it on and back off as I need it, it's great.

FYI, I am so impressed by what this product did for me that I am in negotiation right now to become a dealer in order to get us good prices on Powertrax products. Stay tuned. :)
 




canada74

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so the'96's shouldnt be affected by the 4auto since you have to dial into it?
 




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Originally posted by GJarrett
FYI, I am so impressed by what this product did for me that I am in negotiation right now to become a dealer in order to get us good prices on Powertrax products. Stay tuned. :)


Keep us informed, I just got my gears, and I will be locking front and rear now I suppose :rolleyes: I would much rather give you my money Gerald
:D
 




JDraper

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Well, I just installed a Powertrax Lock Rite in the front of ExplorerEB96's truck, and it definitely works well. Because the '95 and '96 Explorer had the vacuum axle disconnect, I would recommend using the Lock Rite over the No-Slip purely on price. When the Lock-Rite and No-Slips are locked, they work exactly the same. When you are driving on the road, the No-Slip is usually much quieter and tamer than the Lock-Rite. HOWEVER, since the '95 and '96 axles have the vacuum disconnect, the Lock-Rite is completely unnoticable. Off road it works great!! The part # for the front axle Lock-Rite is #2311S2 and they run well over $100 cheaper than the No-Slip.

Originally posted by canada74
so the'96's shouldnt be affected by the 4auto since you have to dial into it?
This is true on the road, you can leave the truck in 2WD, and the Powertrax is completely transparent. I drove around in Karol's yesterday on the road, and you don't have any clue it's there. However, when offroading, it's good to have the ability to cut the power to the nose so it turns better. I would like to figure out how to manually control the vacuum disconnect (via splicing into the electronic control system), but I haven't been able to get my hands on the wiring diagrams for the controls yet. This would allow "3 Wheel Drive" so that you still have power to one front wheel for traction, but none to the other so it turns corners easily. The quick solution is to do the "brown wire mod" that interrupts the power to the xfer case clutch.

 




94ZebraRanger

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Originally posted by JDraper
I'm in the process of trying to figure out the electrical wiring so I can manually control the disconnect at will. That way, the vehicle can be switched from 4WD to effectively a 3WD on the fly. It's very similar to what the 2WD mod does, but it doesn't affect the xfer case and leaves it engaged at all times.
God please post info when you do, I will need to do it when I change to a manual t/c.


I have a question on front lockers. what about driving in snow and ice. I will be using my Ex for work this winter, and will be driving in snow and ice commuting( I drive about 50 miles one way) It is rural so could be bad weather.


Tim
 




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Therein shows while i'll never get a front locker on a daily driven truck. By locking the front, you lose the ability to saftely engage 4x4 in the snow. Lockers are pretty bad in the snow b/c they push you in a straight line around a corner.
 




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Originally posted by JDraper
The part # for the front axle Lock-Rite is #2311S2 and they run well over $100 cheaper than the No-Slip.



The quick solution is to do the "brown wire mod" that interrupts the power to the xfer case clutch.

Where did you order the locker from?
Also, is the brown wire mod possible on a 96? And why did you make this statement, dont you want all 4 to spin..? Thats why its locked right?

EDIT: Ok just read hokies statement. So I am thinking that if the front is locked and you have the brown wire mod, then you will be able to use the 3 wheel drive in the snow? If you do this however, are you only left with 4lo with the locker?
 




JDraper

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When you turn, you need to have the front end open, or it wants to push really badly. That's why you modify the vehicle to be able to release power from the front at will. With the powertrax lockers, if there is no power being applied to it, it releases and acts like an open differential.

Hokie, that's why I'm working on manually controlling the vacuum disconnect in the '95 and '96 Explorers instead of doing the brown wire mod (and I think I have it figured out :D. Just gotta look up some circuit info tomorrow). By being able to manually disconnect the passenger's side wheel, you convert the truck to 1 wheel driving in the front, which is effectively what you have in a normal vehicle when you are in 4WD. This would give it good road manners in the snow while in 4WD, while still being able to have a powertrax in the front. I'm trying to cheat the system and have the best of both worlds. This will work in 4wd hi and 4wd lo.
 
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GaSouthern1

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Originally posted by JDraper
Hokie, that's why I'm working on manually controlling the vacuum disconnect in the '95 and '96 Explorers instead of doing the brown wire mod (and I think I have it figured out :D. Just gotta look up some circuit info tomorrow). By being able to manually disconnect the passenger's side wheel, you convert the truck to 1 wheel driving in the front, which is effectively what you have in a normal vehicle when you are in 4WD. This would give it good road manners in the snow while in 4WD, while still being able to have a powertrax in the front. I'm trying to cheat the system and have the best of both worlds. This will work in 4wd hi and 4wd lo.
.

If, hell lets just go ahead and say when, you figure this out I think that a lot of people are gonna start to realize how capable the Explorer is. By doing this you are taking away all the excuses NOT to run a front locker, I am really excited about it and I dont even have an X anymore. A sport, i use it because it is the explorer best suited for off roading b/c of the wheelbase, with some 35s and lockers front and rear is gonna be able to tear up the trail like no other 2 door "economy" priced SUV can.
 


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JDraper

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What I am working on will only work on the '95 and '96 Explorers with the vacuum disco front axle. It won't work on the 97-up. The brown wire mod is the only way to do it on them, unless you drop a 96 axle into the truck.
 




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