Tractech Detroit Gearless Locker
The Detroit Gearless Locker And We Have The Review. Short Cuts

By: Jeff Yokomura - 2/2000

Graphic courtsey of Tractech
The Gearless combines the best attributes of the Limited Slip and Locking Differential

Here it is: the much anticipated Tractech Detroit Gearless Locker. It was scheduled to ship in March 1999, but the locker trickled out from Tractech's warehouse. After calling Tractech, a shipment of 12 was tracked down, and I ordered from 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers in California. My Gearless was shipped out on March 13th, but soon found out I would have to wait longer. The problem was that in 1991, Chrysler decided they wanted to standardize the center carrier between their ABS and non ABS Jeeps. So a 1991-92 Jeep may either have the ABS or non-ABS carrier. All models afterwards use the ABS carrier only. The only difference is that the non-ABS carrier has a larger diameter bore for the side gears unlike the ABS versions. 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers assumed that I had an ABS carrier so that is what I was sent. It also turns out that the only version being shipped at the time were for the Dana 35c ABS. After calling Tractech again, I found out they would be shipping the non-ABS version in a few months. Finally in May, 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers called saying they received my locker and it was ready for pickup. The first locker was shipped from California but was returned to the local store. Instead of shipping another locker directly to me, I had to pick it up at the local store.

The packaging was nice, to say the least. Tractech packaged the locker in a bright black and yellow box with an Instruction Manual, Owner's Manual, VHS videotape, Friction Additive, and a special tool to help with installation. The quality of the videotape was not the greatest, but it got the job done. The Instruction Manual was very useful. It folded out so that it was easy to look at while working. Nice diagrams helped make some of the steps easier to understand. Also, Tractech supplied a supplement for the Dana 35 non-ABS Instruction Manual. The Owners Manual was also done well. The manual walks you through the steps in understanding how the locker will change your vehicle's performance, maintenance and the warranty. There is also a description of the specifics of the locker.

This is how Tractech explains the inner working of the Gearless Locker. "There are 2 clutch members and 2 side couplers. The clutch members are secured to the differential case assembly means of the Tunkenel "V" Power Driver(TM) cross pin. The clutch members contain 14 reaction discs and 12 friction discs that are splined to the 2 side couplers. Unique to each model are inner and outer spacers and thrust washers. The 2 side couplers are then splined to the axle shaft. The clutch members are driven by the engine through the ring gear and differential case assembly. The assembly also includes 2 heavy strength springs that fit into and between the two clutch members."

Graphic courtsey of Tractech
Here is the exploded view of all the working parts.

Installing the locker in the Dana 35c was easy enough. Jack up the axle being serviced; then drain the oil and remove the wheels and tires. Once the tires are off, remove the brake drums and get ready to get dirty. With the differential cover off, you will need a quarter inch, twelve point combination wrench to remove the locking pin, which holds the center-pin in place. With the center-pin removed, I removed the C-Clips and pulled the axles partially out. With the axles out, I removed the side and spider gears from the carrier and cleaned the surfaces a little. To save time, I deviated from the directions indicated in the manual, electing to keep the center carrier in the differential instead of removing it completely. (Refer to your Factory Service Manual for the recommended torque for all bolts and steps in the removal of all parts.)

Be sure the vehicle is safely raised and the tires chocked before working underneath.

One problem I ran into was trying to get all the friction plates and spacers aligned so that I could slide the new side gears in all the way. This made it impossible to reinstall the C-clips because the side gear would not slide far enough to clear the cross pin. A dip into some gear oil gave the plates enough surface tension to keep everything aligned properly. This allowed the side gear to slide through all the clutches and the C-clip to seat properly. With the C-clips installed I was finally able to install the cross pin. Tractech supplies two sets of springs, in case one pair is damages they have an extra set. With the springs installed, I was practically done. I needed another set of hands to help install the springs. One person to needs to hold the spring in place while another person taps the spring into place.

The gear oil was not very dirty since a gear change was done earlier.

Once it's all back together, be sure to add oil to the differential. While you're at it, pour in the friction additive, too. Next be sure to read all the warnings in the Owner's Manual. The Owner's Manual will give you some idea on what to expect from the locker on and off highway. One thing the manual does not mention is that the locker will need some time to break in and adjust. For the first few miles the locker was much harsher than I expected. The locker would click when making slow turns. This also happened when reversing and turning. Another strange quirk associated with the locker was that shifting into first from a stop became difficult but a firm push usually got the transmission into first. After a few hundred miles just about all the quirks disappeared. On-road driving was slightly different but the locker worked seamlessly. Now, only a few times when parking does the locker speak up and let you know it is indeed there.

This was right before removing the spider gears.
...And here is the Gearless installed.

With a few hundred miles on the locker the problem with shifting is also gone. Off-Highway driving was all down hill so to speak. With both tires spinning, obstacles that may have once had me waiting were well behind us. Only time will tell if this is a good enough for the name Detroit, but so far so good. It should also be noted, that soon after the Gearless was installed, Tractech sent out a Manufacturer's Recall on only the Dana 35c Gearless Lockers. This includes both the non-ABS and the ABS versions. This means that all stores which have the Dana 35c Gearless in stock are to ship them back to Tractech. People who already own the locker have a choice: They can either remove the locker for a full refund or else wait for a revision. In either case the locker will eventually have to be removed and sent back to Tractech. The Gearless locker comes with a 1 year warranty on the locker itself, but since this is a new product they are covering everything in the Dana 35c under their warranty. So if the locker breaks and happens to damage more than the locker, Tractech will pay for any and all repairs. Tractech has pinpointed the problem to be clutch housing. Under stress the housing may crack. Again, this is only for Dana 35c applications and no other applications are affected. If youve already purchased a Gearless locker and are worried about its performance, you may want to give them a call. They stand by their products and their Customer Service is very helpful.

The Gearless Locker Highlights:

Contacts: Related Links:
  • Tractech Inc.
    11445 Stephens Dr., P.O.Box 822
    Phone (810) 759-3850

    Fax (810) 759-1645
  • 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers
    801 W. Artesia Blvd.,Compton, CA 90220
    Phone 1-800-421-1050
    Fax (310) 900-5560

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