Of, course you could go the route I did. For less than $10.00 I converted my front axle by modifying the Thermal actuator.
For a quick run down..... Remove your existing actuator, use a hacksaw, or metal cut off wheel to cut the actuator just behind the rubber boot. Grab a pair of heavy duty pliers or channel locks, and pull the electric wire, and it's rubber plug out of the end of the actuator. Once thats out, and the other end is cut, you should be able to push the heating element out through the cut end. Get a large rubber eraser, and a steel tent spike. Cut the head, and point off the tent spike, and cut the eraser down to size to fit inside where the heating element used to be. Pick your favorite method of getting a hole in the eraser (drill, soldering iron) make the hole large enough to be snug when you push the spike through. This is going to be your oil seal. Finally locate a spot either on the hex, or on the round shaft behind the hex, and drill three small holes so that if you look down the actuator they make a triangle around the actuator. Then use a tap, or self tapping set screws to hold your spike in place.
Thread the actuator back into it's home, and push the spike in as far as you can get it. It may help to have the front tires off that ground so that you can rotate them while pushing on the spike to ensure that it's fully engaged. Once you've got the spike in tighten your set screws, and you've just made a solid axle for about $10.00 unless you have the materials at your house, like I did....then it costs $0.00
Lastly don't forget to top off your diff with oil, some will more than likely leak out while you do this. Project time was about 1 hour, since I knew what I wanted to do, but was working it out as I did it. You can probably do it in 30 min, or less.
You'll see that I only put two set screws in, I saw how this was a mistake later, since the spike could move out sideways from between them.
In the last image you can see a multi colored thing inside the TA, that was an old eraser my daughter had. Works great. I've had no leaks, and I did this conversion two years ago.
:!: Note: Undertake this project at your own volition. I will not be held responsible for damage to your vehicle, if you use follow these directions, and fabricate your own permanent lock. There is a certain amount of risk involved when modifying any component on your vehicle, and that risk should be understood by the owner of the vehicle, prior to making any modifications. :!:
It's actually based on the Perm-lok, that Posi-lok makes. It keeps the front diff engaged at all times, but only actively pulls when the transfer case is engaged. http://www.4x4posi-lok.com/app_chevy-k.html Perm-lok is at the bottom of the page.
As far as damage to the diff, I've felt no binding, or differences to the steering, when it's engaged or not. I do suppose it could lead to additional wear, that it would otherwise not get, but I don't believe it would do any damage.
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