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4 Wheel Drive/SUVs/97 Explorer Front Differential

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Question
My question is more general in nature I believe.  Now, this may sound like a pretty screwed up idea, I'm hoping you will know if it's technically possible.  I have a 97 Explorer AWD that has not had the front drive axle connected for about a year now, working perfectly fine, I even drove it from California to North Carolina in December '13 - no issues whatsoever.  What's started happening this past week is that what was a thumping sound quickly progressed to a scraping, then grinding/crunching sound.  I didn't initialy concern myself too much, thinking it was separated brake pads or rotors.  Well I got to a mechanic when it got to sound pretty crazy (truck still moving/running perfectly fine just the new added noise feature) and the mechanic is certain that its the front diff.  Having removed the shaft from the transfer case to the front diff some time ago, I hadn't given much thought to the idea that the gears and everything would keep spinning with the wheels.   MY QUESTION(in case you wanted to skip the explanation);would it be feasable/at all possibe to just remove the synchros from inside the front differential, leaving the drive axles? Could that be done without removing the axle/axles?  I knw it sounds abusive as a responsible owner, but the truck is pretty much rusted out underneath(not typical rust, mechanic afraid to put on a lift type of rust), I'm not sure how much more to invest in the vehicle, and at minimum this would be a fix while I try to locate a compatible front diff and have it installed.

Answer
Marcus,
OK, first of all, there are no "synchros" in a differential.  Synchros are used in transmissions to assist in shifting from one gear to another without grinding.  As long as there was oil in the front differential, there should be no problem.  You need to leave the internal gears in the differential, as they also support the axles.  You may be able to get a manual hub set up off of another Explorer at a wrecking yard.  If you install the manual hubs, then all you need to do is turn the hubs out, which would put the front wheels into a free wheel mode.  This way they wouldn't be turning the axles at all.

Carl

4 Wheel Drive/SUVs

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Carl Brandt

Expertise

Will discuss suspensions, lifts, lockers along with tire suggestions. Trail ratings and possible requirements needed for specific type of trails. Safety equipment and what you should carry with you. Certified off-road instructor. I am not a mechanic, and 4-Wheeling is a hobby, so if I can't answer a technical question it is due to my mechanical knowledge being related to vehicles that I have owned, or have worked on. I do not have manuals on all vehicles, and I suggest that you obtain a repair manual for mechanical problems and do some research before asking your question. Most mechanical questions can't be answered completely without looking at, or listening to the vehicle in person.

Experience

40 plus years of 4 wheeling in a variety of vehicles. At the present time, my major off-road rig is a 94 Jeep Wrangler with a spring over and a 1 1/2" suspension lift. This gives me a total lift of 7" or so. I have lockers front and rear. I have removed the track bars, and sway bar for maximum articulation. I am running a stock 2.5 ltr 4 cylinder with a Jacobs ignition along with a cold air high flow filter. It has 4.56:1 gears with a Dodge NV4500 transmission along with a 3.8:1 Atlas II transfer case. This gives me a final ratio of 105:1 in low gear/low range. Other vehicles I own, are a 96 Ford F-250 with a 6" lift, posi rear end, 36" Hummer tires, 5 speed with a fuel injected 460 ci engine, an 87 Samurai with an 8" lift, Ford 9" rear end with a spool, Chevy Dana 44 front end with an electric locker, 5.88 gears, 16% reduction in high range and a 6.5:1 low range with 35" Baja Claws, and a stock 2003 Grand Cherokee Overland. Trails I have run are the Rubicon (10 times), Dusey Ershim, Fordyce Creek trail, McGrew trail, several trails in Moab, Utah along with local monthly runs.

Organizations
Lost Coast 4x4's Cal 4-Wheel Corva UFWDA Blue Ribbon Coalition

Education/Credentials
Certified off-road instructor - Certificates in engineering/electronics

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