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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I’ve got a little bit of a drawn-out axle question. First, here’s a little background.


My current rig is a 2003 4.0L WJ Laredo with 3.5” lift, IRO control arms, 31” tires.

My old/spare parts rig is a 2002 4.7L WJ SE QuadraTrak. It has fully rebuilt steering including upgraded ball joints on the front axle, new calipers, new front hubs, and new front axle shafts.


Per my research it looks like the 4.7L comes with upgraded(over my 4.0L) steering, brakes, 3.73 gearing vs my 3.55 gearing, and a Dana 44a rear axle vs my 35. So it seems like a no-brainer to swap everything over and get some convenient upgrades.

But I use my rig as a trail/overlanding rig and a way to get around during serious snowstorms. So I drive some pretty challenging rocky and muddy trails equivalent to Class 4 Roads, long highway trips, and snowstorms.

So my question is this: Do I swap all the parts I have over and run an Aussie rear locker(roughly $350) or do I get junkyard vari-lok axles and move over the steering, hubs, and brakes from my 4.7L to go with them. Including rebuilding the clutch packs in the diffs this comes out to roughly $950.

My thoughts are this, going with the locker is probably the cheapest, easiest, best for offroad performance, but is less drivable especially in the snow and on long trips to VT and beyond for overlanding, and creates more wear on the rear tires.

Going with the vari-lok axles(front and rear) is more drivable in all conditions both on and off road, but is more expensive, more work, and probably slightly less capable off-road although the fact that its front AND rear will help a lot.

I’m leaning towards the vari-lok option because it’s more drivable and I don’t do any crazy off-roading and if I were to ever get in serious trouble, I could probably always winch my way out. But what do you guys think? Anyone have personal experience? Thanks!
 

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3rd option: Eaton TruTrac. Drivable and a locker of sorts. Up front cost is more, but its silent, swaps in so you probably don't need new axles, and doesn't lock up on ice and snow like an (Aussie, Spartan, Lokka, etc).

I'd go with the locker if I had to choose one of your options. Vari lok sounds like more trouble than its worth.
 

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Been pondering the same thing...not sure if your 03 has the akebno brakes but that would be an upgrade over the old style. It's also been mentioned on this forum that you can add an extra clutch disc to tighten up the vari-loc and be closer to a locker. Dont have any info on this but would imagine it's out there....I'm leaning towards the vari-loc. I can have the upgrade cheap and build the axles I want later.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the feedback guys! I'll keep thinking on this and let you know what I end up doing.

@wjlizard My current Jeep doesn't but my parts Jeep has the Akebono brakes that I rebuilt a few years ago so I'll definitely be moving those over!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hey guys, just an update on what I ended up doing. I was out wheeling with a few buddies and watched one of them with varilock diffs struggle to get over a downed tree. So I opted to go with an Aussie locker. I just wheeled it for the first time and I'm very happy with my decision. At first on the road it was very loud and prone to engaging but after driving it a few days it's quieted down and become much more drivable. As for off-road, it's incredible. It's like having a super power. Things that I used to have to carry momentum to get over I can now just slowly crawl over. And I love how it's auto engaging so you don't need to think about it. It's just there when you need it. I was already replacing the rear wheel bearings and seals so install was very easy. Considering it only costs $320, it's easily the most performance per dollar of all the upgrades I've done. I highly recommend it for anyone considering doing this mod.
 

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if you use 80-140 weight oil, it will quiet it down a lot more. I run the heavy weight oil in the rear, and the stock 75-90 in the front. I have Spartans in both diffs. Aussie is essentially the same thing. And I agree, makes obstacles disappear. I have been accused of making it look too easy. If you go auto locker in the front, they will bind and bang LOUDLY when loaded on pavement. I have an alley above my house when I come to the stop sign at the end, if I turn slightly when I come to as stop, it will lock. when I let off the brake it will stay locked due to the torque from the turning and the wheels turning at different ratios. so much torque on that locker that I can't straighten the wheel. If I jerk the steering wheel hard enough and burp the throttle, it will come unlocked valiantly and with a BIG BANG! Nothing wrong, just a characteristic of an auto locker. And it makes me smile to watch people on the sidewalk jump. :giggle:
 
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