Early Bronco Axles
Types of DifferentialsThere are numerous types of axles.. A stock Bronco comes with either an open differential or a 2 or 4 pinion trac lok. The gear ratios available were 3.50, 4.11 and 4.56 (only with 6 cylinders). Of the above carriers (type of differential) the 4 pinion trac lok is the most desirable for a stock Bronco. However, many people have cracked the actual carrier housing of the trac loks, making them undesirable for HD off road use. However, if you are a street driver and don't do much extreme four wheeling and are not running a tire over 33 inches, they'll do fine.
How the Differential WorksThe open diff is simply that, open. It is sometimes called a peg leg because only the wheel that is easiest to spin will spin. This means that if one tire is in the mud it will spin and the other will not. Also, if one tire is in the air, it will be the one spinning. Hence open diff is not very desirable in low traction situations. They are fairly reliable though, and some people like them for the snow...but plan on finding yourself stuck in no time. They may be the best option if you do NOT do any four wheeling and rarely find yourself in sticky situations. They're nice in the front if you live in snow country.
The trac lok is considered a limited slip (l/s) differential. It utilizes a clutch pack that will send traction to both wheels. However it is not very good at distributing power and normally just functions as an open differential. These can be built up "tighter" than stock, but this will only last for a shirt time, and you will again ultimately end up with an open diff. If you are planning on putting one of these in, the 4 pinion design is the stronger of the two, but normally the weak point is the case of either. These normally run about $150 for a rebuilt unit, though you could pay considerably more depending on where you buy it.
LockersThere are two kinds: The Detroit and the Lock-Rite. These are automatic lockers. This means that both wheels get full power: They must both turn at the same speed when coupled together inside the carrier.
They do lock and unlock for turning though. The Detroit is by far the most popular and reliable carrier for the 9 inch if you are doing HD four wheeling. However, the added benefits of the locker come with some drawbacks. They can sometimes have a "mind of their own." They can really act up on the streets, locking and unlocking and can also be quite noisy. Even with all these drawbacks, most hard core enthusiasts will elect to install one. They do act up more with a manual transmission than with an automatic. Dyneer, the makers of Detroit lockers, have come out with a new soft locker which is suppose to be a lot more cooperative. The price of Detroit is normally around $400.
The Lock Rite is a locker which can only be installed if you have an open carrier. It takes the place of your spider gears. These have some of the same characteristics as the Detroit, but most say it is not as bad. The benefits of the Lock Rite are its ease of installation. The average backyard mechanic is capable of installing it, whereas a Detroit, or any other type of carrier, necessitates special skills and expensive tools. These run around the $300+ mark, though they can be found for considerably less. If you are into hard core stuff, try one up front if you don't want a Detroit. Shop around for the $300 price. Bottom line? The Detroit is stronger.
For the Front EndAll of the above exist for the front. There is also the Power-Lok (priced at around #350) which is similar to the trac lok, just much better. If you have your heart set on a l/s diff, then go this route. It will work for much longer and it will be a l/s for much longer. You can also build these real tight.
There are also some other various types of l/s out there. There is one called the True Trac, which is also made by Dyneer. This is an all gear driven unit, which means it won't wear out and will always function as a l/s type unit, making it perhaps the best l/s you can get. These run in the high $300's.
Another option is the ARB air locker. As of this writing it is NOT available for the 9 inch, but is available for the D-44. This locker gives you an open differential until you hit a button on your dash, which, by way of air pressure, turns your diff into a spool. A spool essentially LOCKS together the two axle shafts. This is more extreme than the Detroit or Lock-Rite as there is no "ratcheting" or give on turns. Some have complained about problems with the compressors that come with it and problems with the solenoid valves. Though others have nothing but good things to say. If you decided to go with the ARB, run a steel type line for the air. If you run a plastic line you WILL break it....and it is useless with no air.
The main drawback of this system is price, which normally runs around $650 with the compressor. Again, many folks love this carrier as you get the benefits of the open diff on the streets (if in the rear of a vehicle) and a locked whenever you want on the trail. It is also nice to be open up front when doing easy four wheeling.
Ring and PinionDue to the conical shape of the pinion, the ring actually WEAKENS with the addition of more teeth. Simply put, the more teeth you put on the smaller they get. Although you now have a larger contact surface, the teeth, by getting smaller, actually weaken dramatically. This is one reason why you should not go with low axle ratios with a strong engine.
The lowest one would want to go is 5.13 in the D-44, though the 9 inch can be reliably built with lower gears. Remember, lower gears are higher numerically.
Ford 9 Inch FactsWhy is the Ford 9" so popular among racers? Aside from the ease of working on a removable carrier, the Ford 9" has several features that make it preferable to the counterparts from Chevy and Dodge.
Axle ShaftsThe 9 inch utilizes 28 spline axles. There are four types of axles that came with the 9 inch:
One must remember that the axles in your Bronco are at least 18 years old, assuming you have a '77. And they could be almost 30 years old if you have a '66. Therefore, they will all be fatigued to some extent. Therefore, if you install bigger tires, you are likely stressing them more than they can handle and run the risk of breaking one. Now if you go ahead and add a locker as well, you are definitely over stressing them and can count on breakage.
If you go even further and add a granny low 4 speed (which will multiply the torque incredibly) you will be lucky to pull out of your driveway without breaking an axle. Obviously, this is a slight exaggeration, but the more you do the higher the likelihood of breakage. Also, the smaller bearings are more prone to breakage than the big bearings.
So what is the answer? Upgrading to 31 spline shafts is the best thing to do! This necessitates changing your carrier (locker or l/s). When you upgrade to the 31 spline it is also recommended that you get the tapered roller bearing, which helps distribute load better. Therefore, if you plan on upgrading axles you must do the carrier as well, and if you plan on upgrading carriers you are better off doing the axles at the same time. Otherwise you'll have to do both later on.
Buy a new axle (if you don't want to go 31) and they will last for a
Front ShaftsThese seem to break most often at the U-Joints. Again, all the additions for added traction and tire size will increase breakage. These are 30 sp shafts if you have the 44. Most offroaders will scrap the D-30; however, if you are not applying a lot of horsepower and do not offroad very often, by all means keep it, but DO NOT dump a lot of money into it. You can just as well get a 44. In other words, if you break a carrier or ring and pinion, don't fix it, just get the D-44.
The EB came with 1-1/16 OD u-joint caps for the front shaft u-joints. Many people break them, so they upgrade their inner and outer shafts to a different shaft so as to be able to run the larger 1-3/16 OD joint (Spicer 297). Inners and outers can be had from many different vehicles. BUT you will need to shave the short shaft a little at the splines (you can do this at home) and the long side shaft will need resplining. Remember, here you are replacing with used equipment. Many of the EB houses sell these upgraded axles in new versions and some sell them in used versions.
All are sold ready to bolt in. If you are breaking shaft u-joints then this may be the answer but if you are breaking the yokes, then this may actually weaken the assembly. In order to accommodate a larger cap it is necessary to have less material on the yoke. Also when replacing these joints use a good quality SOLID joint, made by Spicer, TRW, Neapco, Rockwell, etc. This advice holds true for all joints on the drive shafts too.
One last note is on axle gear oil. The differentials require that you use a GL4 rated gear oil. It is recommended, however, that you buy gear oil rated one level higher (e.g. GL5) than the requirements to allow for degradation. Some of the synthetics are a GL6 rating, such as Torco, which Currie Enterprises suggests for your diffs.
Additionally, if you have a l/s then you want to install a friction modifier whenever you change gear oil. Many of the higher quality gear oils come with it premixed. Friction modifier will not harm an open diff.
Note: The tapered roller bearing was not available on the EB but is a common retrofit and improvement when upgrading to the HD 31 sp axle shafts.
All these part numbers are for Federal Mogul National Oil Seals and BCA bearings.
For additional Axle related information see the following Tech Notes: