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Old 03-04-2012, 06:04 PM   #1
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Front locker? How does front 4x4 work?

I am used to having trucks with manual locking hubs. If I had a locker in the front it was invisible with hubs unlocked. With my TJ, I assume the front hubs lock when the t-case is engaged? I am still doing a frame off rebuild and have yet to drive it so I don't know how this works yet. I want an ARB or E-Locker but really have the budget for a lunchbox locker. With a locker in the front will it be "invisible" so to speak when I am not in 4wd? I realize snowy roads could be an adventure but I am not sure I will drive it through the snow and salt when I am done. I also know Jeep had a multitude of 4wd types in the Cherokees--is it the same for the Wranglers or does every TJ have the same system??

Thanks in advance!!

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Old 03-04-2012, 06:07 PM   #2
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The TJ's hubs are not automatic, they are always locked. They have nothing more than a unit-bearing hub.

That said, a front automatic locker like a lunchbox or Detroit Locker gives absolutely zero steering issues when installed into a TJ's front axle so long as you're in 2wd. So long as you're in 2wd, the lockers present zero steering issues. Nada, none. Why? Because the TJ's transfer case is not sending power to the front axle when it's in 2wd.

Only when you shift into 4Hi or 4Lo do will a front locker lock up hard enough that a front locker will give steering issues when on the street.

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Old 03-05-2012, 11:49 AM   #3
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But what about when you are turning and there is a speed differential between the wheels? Won't you get ratcheting, binding or other issues?
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:00 PM   #4
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But what about when you are turning and there is a speed differential between the wheels? Won't you get ratcheting, binding or other issues?

I suppose it's a definite possibility. I haven't run one personally tho. Someone who has should chime in.

If it were me, I would wait till my budget could facilitate a selectable locker or manual hubs.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:01 PM   #5
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But what about when you are turning and there is a speed differential between the wheels? Won't you get ratcheting, binding or other issues?
In 2wd with a Wrangler TJ (not all 4x4 vehicles though), there is no binding or steering feedback whatsoever with a front-mounted automatic locker. None, zero, nada. Most lunchbox lockers including the Aussie, Lockrite, and EZ-Locker click (ratcheting noise) through turns when in 2wd but that's it. The No-Slip lunchbox locker doesn't even click, I really couldn't even tell it was in my front axle when I had mine until I shifted into 4x4. This benign/well-behaved trait the Wrangler TJ has with a front automatic locker is not shared by many other 4x4 vehicles.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:03 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
In 2wd with a Wrangler TJ (not all 4x4 vehicles though), there is no binding or steering feedback whatsoever with a front-mounted automatic locker. None, zero, nada. Most lunchbox lockers including the Aussie, Lockrite, and EZ-Locker click (ratcheting noise) through turns when in 2wd but that's it. The No-Slip lunchbox locker doesn't even click, I really couldn't even tell it was in my front axle when I had mine until I shifted into 4x4. This benign/well-behaved trait the Wrangler TJ has with a front automatic locker is not shared by many other 4x4 vehicles.

There's your answer!
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:25 PM   #7
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To answer your other question. All wranglers 2002 and later and 2003-2006 non-Rubicons have the NP231J. The 231 is a two-speed, chain driven, synchronized, part-time 4wd system with a 2.72:1 low range. 4Hi can be engaged up to 55mph, though highly not recommended on the street. The system doesn't have a differential and splits power equally to both the front and rear. This means it is not recommended to be in 4wd on solid pavement, i.e. asphalt and concrete. To switch to 4low it is recommended to be at a complete stop or rolling 2-3 mph.

2003-2006 Rubicons have the NV241OR and are basically the same with the exception of the 4:1 low range.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:36 PM   #8
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... All wranglers 2002 and later and 2003-2006 non-Rubicons have the NP231J.
That same t-case has been used in all Wrangler TJs from 1997 and newer. The name changed at some point from NV231J to NP231J to reflect new a new name (New Venture vs. New Process) for the same manufacturer but that's it. The 231J has actually been used in all Wranglers including the YJ though the YJ version is a little different from the TJ's 231J in a few regards.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:38 PM   #9
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Will also note that with the stock setup, the front axle shafts, differential and front driveshaft are always spinning this is required to allow you to shift into 4wd at speed. Also at some point the t-case was renamed to the NV231, they are exactly the same they just changed the name. NP= New Process, NV= New Venture Gear.

Edit: Aw you beat me to the name change. Also, when I said wranglers I was meaning for it to cover the YJ's as well. Maybe if I said older instead of later. The CJ's are different though.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:41 PM   #10
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Wait... do I have it backwards? Was it changed to NV or NP.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:47 PM   #11
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Wait... do I have it backwards? Was it changed to NV or NP.
Ha, I can never remember which was first either. I am pretty sure NV came first and now it's NP.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:07 AM   #12
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Ha, I can never remember which was first either. I am pretty sure NV came first and now it's NP.
That one I can answer...It was New Process first and was changed to New Venture in the late '90's.

Thanks for all the good info. I still don't see how the front won't "scrub" but just because I don't understand doesn't mean it isn't so.

The front manual hub conversions are very expensive...I know the 8.8 is a popular rear swap, is there a preferred axle for the front? I just sold a HP D44 front out of an early big bronco that I was thinking I should have swapped...stronger than a D30 with manual hubs as well.

Thanks everyone.
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:01 AM   #13
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Well for our TJ's the best bolt on front axle is the Rubicon d44's. Next are the HPD30's out of XJ's. Look for the axles without the vacuum disconnect. Most will find a 8.8 and HPD30 good up to 37's with a few upgrades.

I actually have a set of early bronco axles that I am in the middle of swapping on and don't really suggest them. They are to narrow and require either wheel spacers or very little backspacing wheels. I got 2" BS wheels on and it is probably back to stock width and clears the coil springs with maybe an inch or more. I was planning on outboarding the shocks but I doubt I will have the room now.
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:08 AM   #14
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I still don't see how the front won't "scrub"
It will scrub with a front automatic locker as you believe it will if you're in 4x4... 4Hi or 4Lo. That is because the t-case sends power through the locker to the R&P which firmly locks up the locker

It won't scrub with a front automatic locker when you're in 2wd because it is able unlock so easily for turns since the t-case is not sending power through it to the ring & pinion gears. Kind of like you can use a key to unlock a deadbolt very easily unless you lean hard on the door to put pressure on the dead bolt where it passes into the doorjamb.
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Old 03-06-2012, 09:41 AM   #15
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An auto locker works on the application of torque. Without any torque being applied it takes very little force for the to unlock, so when you you go around corners the wheels spin at different speeds. Depending on the design, thats the clanking/ratcheting/popping you may hear as the "teeth" slip past each other.

So in 2wd no torque is ever applied to the front axle, only the rear. In 4wd torque is applied to the front and rear axle axle when your foot is down on the skinny pedal.
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Old 03-06-2012, 10:06 AM   #16
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Kind of like you can use a key to unlock a deadbolt very easily unless you lean hard on the door to put pressure on the dead bolt where it passes into the doorjamb.

Nice analogy. I got it now. The last 4x4 I drove was a big bronco with a Trac Loc limited slip in the front and it would bind in 2wd if hubs were locked--I assumed as much from any traction aiding device if unable to allow the front axles to turn independent of the wheels.

Thanks for all the good info--and patience!!

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