Suzuki Differential Series: Retaining Stock Backlash When adding a Locker

Suzuki Differential Series:
Retaining Stock Backlash
When adding a Locker
Andrew Stanford
When adding a locker, or mini-spool to a Tracker/Sidekick/Samurai 3rd member, you will
have to disassemble the ring gear from the carrier in order to get at the spider and side
gears, even if you just weld your spiders, to do it correctly, you still need to disassemble
The carrier. Since you will not disturb the pinion gear, or change the ring gear or carrier,
you can get away with doing this yourself, and just keeping the stock (existing)
adjustments for backlash, and preload (carrier bearing preload)
As I was learning to do just this, I searched the Internet to find a tutorial, and some
pictures to guide me along…. I did find a little help, but nothing as specific as I wanted, I
needed something to help me understand what I was doing. Following instructions is all
well and good, but if you do not understand what it is you are trying to accomplish,
mistakes become easy to make, and you won’t even know you made one!
So, as a result, I decided to do a little write up on the subject of backlash, and carrier
bearing preload, the two adjustments that you MUST undo to lock up a set of gears on a
little Zuki.
Let the pictures be your guide, take it slow, and keep everything clean as you work on it.
Air tools are not needed, but sure make it a LOT easier. Without air tools, be prepared to
have a vise and possibly someone to help you out by holding the 3rd member as you
remove and replace components.
Let’s get started. First off, set up a small area to work, a bench or table will do just fine. I
find a coffee can to work perfectly for this work, others prefer a vise, either will do ok.
You will need basic hand tools, namely an impact wrench, a torque wrench and various
sockets. A suitable drift for removing the roll pins retaining the pinion pins in the carrier.
A small hammer, a dead blow or rubber mallet. Socket needed are 12mm 14mm and
17mm (these may vary year to year) I like to have a tray for small parts, preferably with
separate compartments to keep each side separate. I like to use a die grinder/cutoff tool to
mark parts, but a Dremel, or just a file will work equally well.
Photo 01, here is my 3rd member, sitting in the can, ready to work on.
I set the 3rd member in the can, as it sits in the truck. That is, with the left side being the
left side in the truck, and the right side being the passenger side… to keep things straight.
Just sit the 3rd in the can with the 4 upper link mounting holes facing away from you. The
pinion should be offset to your right, and the ring gear being offset to the left, I can refer
to the left side, ring gear side, or driver side, and they are all the same thing. Right side,
pinion side, or passenger side, also are all the same side.
If your 3rd member is stock, never been out of the truck, and is in good general shape,
your goal is to end up with the same backlash and preload that it has now. If your 3rd is
worn, damaged, or otherwise in need of further work. Stop now. This won’t apply to you.
Before getting started, get a feel for the backlash (the amount of “play” in the pinion to
ring gear, look at Photo 02 now. With the 3rd sitting in the can, “rock” the gear back and
forth, There should be very little play as it rocks back and forth, just a “click” each way
before it contacts the pinion. Do this several times, as this is the setting we are going to
try to preserve after you have done your work to the carrier (locker, spool, etc…)
This picture identifies various parts, keep them separate. Mark them! Use a marking
method that suits you. I use two marks on the left side components, and 1 mark on the
right side parts. But that is up to you.
More names, taken from the left side, also shows a couple of my marks, you can see I
used a cutoff tool to make two marks on the bearing cap to lower journal, and two marks
the show me which hole the adjuster lock is in, on the adjuster. (Mark the top center hole)
This doesn’t show up too well, but I have marked the relationship between the ABS
Sensor ring, the carrier, and the ring gear. So they will go back exactly how they come
NOTE, this 3rd is out of a 93 kick, and has the Rear wheel antilock. Some years have the
sensor ring, some don’t, the procedure is the same, and they just look a bit different. The
non-abs units do not have the ring, but there is a top plate in its place… no difference in
Just a close up of the mark on the left adjuster, the right is similar, but just has one mark
After your marks are made, remove the adjuster locks, and bearing cap bolts. You may
have to gently tap the bearing caps loose… a small rubber or brass mallet is perfect.
Shows the 3rd with both caps removed, but the races, and bearings still in place,
everything is loose at this time. Carefully remove the adjusters, bearings and races,
keeping the parts from each side separate
This shows the Adjuster, the Race, and the Carrier Bearing. The bearing will stay on
the carrier, the adjuster and race should be set aside and not be mixed with components
from the other side.
This is my tray, with the left side components on the left side, and the right side
components on the right.
This is the pinion, in the empty 3rd member housing, inspect the pinion for uneven wear,
burn marks, chips, cracks etc.. It is a good idea to clean this assembly well before
Another reason I like the coffee can better than the vise, after removing the carrier/ring
gear assembly from the 3rd housing, set the housing aside, and the carrier assembly sits
down perfectly on the can for disassembly. An impact makes this stage quite a bit
quicker! Remove all bolts from the carrier. This is a later 12 bolt carrier, the earlier ones
are 10 bolts.. There is thread locker on these from the factory, and can be a bit stubborn
to do by hand, air tools… the ONLY way to fly!
Here is the carrier assembly taken apart. (Note, this carrier is empty, the spiders and side
gears have been removed for quite some time.) If the carrier would have still had the
spider assembly in it, you would drive the roll pins (see later in reassembly) from the
carrier, and gently tap out the pins retaining the spider gears in place.
Since this is NOT an article about installing a spool, or locker in particular, I won’t cover
that part of the set up.. that will be covered in the instructions that come with the locker.
If you are installing a spool, simply slip the spool into the empty carrier, and insert the
retaining pins, and line up the holes for the roll pins… Mini Spools are simple… no set
up, no moving parts..
I have installed the Lockrite, and have put in the long retaining pin. I am starting the roll
pin into the carrier, tapping it gently and slowly with a hammer (a brass hammer or punch
is a better choice here)
With a suitable drift/punch I am finishing driving the pin into the carrier.
Install the two smaller pins in the same manner, installing one roll pin for each of the two
half size pinion pins.. This carrier has a three pin set up. One large, held by one roll pin,
and two small, each held with one roll pin.
Here, I have put in the other side gear, note the thrust washer installed. FOLLOW
Now, back to the coffee can. Set your ring gear, gear side DOWN on the coffee can,
taking note of the placement of your alignment mark
Set the carrier onto the ring gear. I used a punch or drift to align the boltholes at this step.
(It saves curse words later) Also, make sure your alignment marks line up. Making sure
the carrier was oriented exactly to the same holes in the ring gear.
If ABS ring equipped (such as this one) set the ring down, (orient marks again!!!) and
line up holes with a punch or drift again.
Here, after cleaning and reapplying lock-tite to the bolts, I snug them down in a crisscross
pattern. And after I get to the last one, I go back and torque them all to specs. (Refer to
general torque specs…)
PHOTOS 21 and 22
Here, I have put the races on the carrier bearings, and have carefully set the assembly into
the 3rd member (which I have stuck back in the coffee can….)
Make sure the whole carrier assembly is pushed to the RIGHT, with the ring gear teeth
meshing with the pinion teeth, as far in as they will go. NO BACKLASH. Double check
a few times that the races are fully seated on the bearings, and the ring gear is fully
against the pinion gear. When errors are made, this is where they happen. Play with it.
You can put the adjusters in, and screw the left one till the race is pushed against the
bearing, and the bearing against the pinion. Then the right one to just push the race
against the bearing. Just make sure it is all seating and sitting in there right.
This is where I slide the LEFT adjuster down into the threads of the left journal. Notice I
keep the original mark straight up. The adjuster should slide in nice and easy, easily
engaging the threads, and it should sit flush with the race. No space should be between
the adjuster and the race.
Here, I have started the two cap bolts before seating the cap. This allows me to use the
bolts as a guide. Take it slow and easy here. Make sure the cap slides down and engages
the threads on the adjuster. When it is sitting flush and tight. Snug down the cap bolts.
Now for the right side, I just slide the adjuster down wherever it likes to seat, note the
space between the adjuster and the race. You will NOT have this space on the left side,
just the right. Don’t worry about where the mark is at this time.
Carefully turn the adjuster in, until it contacts the race and there is no space between the
adjuster and the race. At this point, thread in the two cap bolts, as on the left side and
slide the cap down, engaging the threads on the adjuster, run the bolts down, but not quite
snug, you want to be able to turn the adjuster.
Photo 26 shows the cap slightly snug, the adjuster against the race, and note that the
marks are still quite abit away from lining up. THIS is where you will return the setup to
the preload and backlash it had before disassembly.
After using a spanner wrench, or brass drift, or blunt punch, tighten the adjuster to where
the mark lines up straight up. This spreads the bearing caps, moves the ring AWAY from
the pinion for backlash and adds preload to the carrier bearings.
Rock the ring gear back and forth, and compare to the backlash you felt when you began..
you should be right there! If it is NOT right, you can tighten the right adjuster for more
backlash AND preload, OR if there is too much backlash, you must back off the right
side adjuster a notch and tighten the left side adjuster to compensate for loss of preload.
If you don’t come out with the right setting the first time though.. I would suspect you
have done something wrong… and you might consider having a diff specialist set up your
rear end.
When satisfied that your backlash is correct.. TORQUE ALL THESE FASTENERS TO
This article is only for retaining stock backlash and preload for the carrier only. It does
NOT address pinion depth, pinion bearing preload, patterning, bearing or race
replacement or any in depth Differential work. I still advocate having a differential
specialist build your gears if you are doubtful of your ability to get this right. It is critical,
but not all that complicated. A differential withstands stresses you can barely imagine,
and when preload or backlash is incorrect, you are just asking for trouble.
Please use this article to help familiarize yourself with the workings of this type of diff. If
you have any questions, comments, or corrections, please feel free to let me know
I am [email protected]
Andy Stanford give a yell!
Here is the address of the photographs hosted on the Internet. Feel free to copy download
or distribute, but please give photo and text credits to Quaddawg
I have purposely left out Dial indicator instructions, measurements, and torque specs, as
these can vary from vehicle to vehicle, with varying mileage. This is simply meant to be a
treatise on the general idea of the steps needed to break into your carrier and get it back to
stock, or near stock specs… So far, I have not had any trouble from diffs set up like this..
Thanks for reading! Quaddawg