Nuts, I'm Confused
Lockers, Front Or Rear
Q I am building on my '87 F-150. It was just a stock 4x4 on 195/60R15s with running boards and a canopy, a real grandpa grocery getter. I got it when I was 18 and have been wrenching on it ever since (I am 22 now). I have since taken out the 302 and swapped in a 351W, and taken out the AOD and swapped in a ZF five-speed, and last year I put on a 6-inch lift and took out the 8.8 and swapped in a 9-inch. Everyone wants me to just build my rig with 1-ton running gear, but I'm trying to keep my pickup different by just running heavy half-ton running gear and prove what low weight, high clearance, and some driving skill can do.
My project for the next two months is the solid-axle swap going into the front. I have a Dana 44 out of a '78 F-150 and am building a custom long-travel front suspension for it. I have the axle ready to get worked on (setting up my 4.10s from the local salvage yard). For someone who uses their vehicle as a daily all-season driver and is looking for a big improvement in trail/mud driving, what is going to be a better option for me, a front or rear locker? I would think a front would be better, as it would help pull my truck along, but at the cost of high stress on the axle and steering components. So would a rear be better? I really want to go selectable either way. That way, driving in winter won't send me on "fun" trips across three lanes of highway.
With the way I'm building my truck, especially with it being my DD, I'm not only building on a budget but want to build it right and reliable. Any help and input you guys at Petersen's can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and keep up the great mag!
Nicholas L. K.
La Grande, OR
A Usually I would recommend a rear locker first, but since this is your daily driver and you are about to spend the time and money on the front axle for a regear, I say just do the front right now. As for which locker, most off-roaders will say to put a selectable up front and an automatic in the rear, but I'm starting to think just the opposite. I don't think the automatic front locker hinders steering that much. In fact, I believe the automatic rear locker probably makes it harder to steer because it pushes the truck straight. By putting a front automatic locker in when you regear the front axle, you'll save some money. (I'm not saying don't put the selectable front and rear if that is what you want.) If you had no locker and were starting from scratch, I'd tell you to put one in the rear first for the reasons you said, to reduce stress on steering joints and help in hillclimbs when the weight transfers to the rear. But in your case, stuff a locker up front while you're in there.