To Drive or Not to Drive
My '87 Suzuki Samurai had a terrible vibration in the rear end that drove me crazy until I figured out the slip joint and splines on the rear shaft were shot. Now that I have the shaft in the shop for repair, I want to drive the Suzi on just the front axle, but I've been told doing so will mess up the frontend. Is this true or should I just drive it for a while?
Except for full-time or all-wheel-drive systems designed for street use, most standard transfer cases come with stern warnings against driving them on the street in four-wheel drive. This is because the front and rear driveshafts are locked together in four-wheel drive, and in normal road driving all four tires end up rotating at slightly different speed when turning corners, which causes drivetrain windup. In dirt, this stress is usually dissipated by the tires scuffing the ground. But on dry, hard surfaces, like pavement, the tires won't skid and eventually something will break. Our last tech story on the NP231 case used in Jeeps and Chevys ("Beefing the 231 Transfer Case," Feb. '98) showed what happens in that situation and how to prevent it. However, with the rear driveshaft off, the rear spins freely, just like disengaging locking hubs on the front. The frontend will operate like a front-wheel-drive car, with slightly different handling characteristics. For that reason, you should be cautious when driving, but there's no reason why the frontend or the transfer case should get damaged or worn if the rear driveshaft is removed.
Submission information: Questions should be as brief and concise as possible. We will answer as many letters as possible each month, but due to the large volume of mail, we cannot send personal replies. Letters are subject to editing for length, as space permits. Always check state regulations before modifying a vehicle with pollution controls or one that will be driven on the street. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, fax 213/782-2704, e-mail email@example.com.