Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » December 17th 2010, 4:33pm

Hi-totally new here.

I am looking at picking up an 03 Astro with AWD. I read here that the transfer case is controlled via speed sensors for electronic lockup. If this is correct (and I could be wrong) is there a way to override the electronics with a 12v switch to automatically turn on (and in the reverse way turn off) AWD?

I live around quite a few roads that I would prefer to have the AWD always on or in the snow always on.

If this subject has been discussed-could you point me in the right direction?

Thanks!
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Philly758 » December 17th 2010, 10:04pm

There is an ATC fuse under the hood that you can pull, this will keep the front wheels from activating. ( Page 320 of this PDF http://www.extendedgmwarranty.com/owner ... Safari.pdf ).

Either way I don't believe the front wheels engage unless there is slipping. There are some claims of increased MPG, but nothing is confirmed nor have I experienced any gains. You are still hauling around the added weight and friction of AWD either way. So yes, you can probably make a switch, but it is probably not worth it.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » December 17th 2010, 11:14pm

Thanks for the reply. This really isn't about MPG. The information I read is that indeed the newer vans sense off the speed sensors. I am assuming that a servo receives voltage and it engages. Just wondering if anyone here has put an inline switch to override that function for purposes for all the time 4WD.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby TheRealDaddy » December 18th 2010, 3:01am

I don't know that anyone has done what you are talking about but then AWD and 4WD are entirely different monsters. I have heard it said quite a few times however that the 4WD transfer case from the S-10s and Blazers of similar years are direct bolt on swaps for the AWD transfer cases. I would imagine that if you got one out of a Jimmy or Bravada that had push button 4WD then you'd be able to wire it up as you were thinking. (This is only speculation as I'm not a 4WD guy)

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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Ambush » December 18th 2010, 6:21am

I've been wondering the same thing. The advantage is being able to "tell" the van to stay ingaged. Many times you wouldn't want slippage to occour before the sensor reacts. AWD can never compete with 4WD when it comes to off-road. With a switch that over rides the sensor you could have AWD or with the flick of a switch "4WD".

I'm looking at a few AWD's in the early 2000's right now and that's one thing I'll be pursuing.
Being a machinist and a "project" guy, I'm convinced that I can fit locking hubs onto an Astro, as well.

Time will tell.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » December 24th 2010, 1:44pm

Well, I looked under my van today at the encoder motor. Pretty straight forward. Just run inline voltage to it and bam! Controllable AWD.

Now, if I can only get a skid plate.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby tedanderson » December 24th 2010, 3:48pm

I am not an expert in this area either but I'd imagine that the possibility of killing the transfer case exists.

I think that if the T-case finds itself in a position where it gets too far out of sync, the switch will force it to remain engaged when it would otherwise need to free itself momentarily to let everything catch up.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » December 27th 2010, 5:39am

Ok. In thinking about killing the case, there are a few possibilities but I wonder how likely they are. It could bind and blow an axle, driveshaft or internally break something. As I understand it, the encoder motor pushes the fork which places pressure on the clutch pack thereby engaging the two "ends" (drive side and power side). The problem I have is that if if the van is in a slip/unslip position, these clutches will engage/disengage many times. I don't mind that for road driving, but if I am heading into a snow filled area, I don't want to cause wear to the clutches.


I don't think the encoder disengages the transfer case if there is binding-why would it? It is controlled by the ECM which detects different wheel rates of spin.

What I need to do is find a plug that I can simply piggy back three way between the encoder motor and the ECM.

Also, in thinking about this...I need to rig up an indicator light to tell me when AWD is engaged. That way I can realistically know when and how the AWD is working.

Fun stuff. :thumbup:
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby tedanderson » December 27th 2010, 4:35pm

Well since you put it that way, it might be a good idea after all.

When I had my 96 MPV, it had an option to fully lock the transfer case and the front differential but there was a stern warning on the sun visor that basically said that this option should only be used on snow, sand, loose gravel and anything else that isn't dry pavement.

So running it in the snow shouldn't be a problem.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby doyoulikeithere » December 27th 2010, 9:11pm

Ambush wrote:I'm looking at a few AWD's in the early 2000's right now and that's one thing I'll be pursuing.
Being a machinist and a "project" guy, I'm convinced that I can fit locking hubs onto an Astro, as well.
Time will tell.


I not sure about newer like 2000, I have a 95. Probably the same....
I found that I can got locking hubs, basically, by exchanging the astro front axle for an S-10 front axle.
The S10 has an actuator that locks the hubs internally, while the astro hubs/axle is locked full time. Completely swappable as far as size etc.
Then, I got a "posi-lok" cable to turn it on and off. so my stro is actually 2wd/4hi/4lo, and the front axle is got internal hubs locked on or off with a pull cable in the cab.
I use an np231 transfer case, not AWD. In True 4wd, dont run on pavement!
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » December 28th 2010, 12:56am

On the full pavement note, I did once ride in 4wd in my Toyota 4runner about 40 miles on dry pavement. It did quite a number on my tires. Other than that, no biggie.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Ambush » January 1st 2011, 12:21am

I not sure about newer like 2000, I have a 95. Probably the same....
I found that I can got locking hubs, basically, by exchanging the astro front axle for an S-10 front axle.
The S10 has an actuator that locks the hubs internally, while the astro hubs/axle is locked full time. Completely swappable as far as size etc.
Then, I got a "posi-lok" cable to turn it on and off. so my stro is actually 2wd/4hi/4lo, and the front axle is got internal hubs locked on or off with a pull cable in the cab.
I use an np231 transfer case, not AWD. In True 4wd, dont run on pavement!


Thanks for the info. Did you get the NP231 from an S10? Any surprises on the swap?

I'm planning to try retro fitting locking hubs as apposed to the S10 axle swap. One of the reasons front end drivelines wear out so fast is the axles are turning all the time. I prefer the good, old fashioned hubs that dissengage on the outside of the axles. Less wear and tear and better milage. Working in a machine shop gives me the advantage of experimenting without laying out much money, just my time. But I have to get the van yet.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby doyoulikeithere » January 1st 2011, 5:30am

Well, my np 231 is also on a 5 speed, so it wasnt just plug n play.
I think the easiest and best true hubs mod for an astro would be a solid front axle swap.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby kennyj » January 1st 2011, 5:57am

I prefer the good, old fashioned hubs that dissengage on the outside of the axles. Less wear and tear and better milage.

Seemed like the earlier 4x4s I owned with locking hubs were generally a real pain. Maybe okay for a dedicated off-road vehicle, but for regular use there is no shift-on-the-fly. Every shift into or out of 4wd requires locking/unlocking hubs. And even if you service the hubs regularly they may not be reliable. I remember many times fiddling with a frozen hub trying to get it to engage.

On the other hand, my 93 Dakota with vacuum disconnect on the front diff, apart from scheduled maintenance, went 17 years without a lick of trouble from the front drive. Shift-on-the-fly is a wonderful thing when it's 20 below and you find yourself in a spot. :D As far as mpg, unlike an awd those front ends disengage from the diff so there's no real mpg penalty. That Dakota, with a 3.9L, got 18-21 mpg. Not bad for a 4x4 pickup...
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby tedanderson » January 1st 2011, 9:09pm

X2 for on the fly shifting.

When I worked in construction, I was always locking the hubs only to realize that I didn't need 4WD because the streets had already been layed. And because of this many times I decided not to lock the hubs ahead of time only to get stuck and having to romp through the mud.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby chaosR » January 13th 2011, 4:17am

Lots of great info here,

I was wondering what the cable and electronic switch was for on the S10 and sonoma trucks that is absent on the Astro. Now i think know.... basicly the AWD Astro transfer case is a limited slip transfer case (cluch). And the S10 is not so the S10 needs the front diff disinguage from the drive via this cable actator for 2wd operation.

What i dont get is the S10 transfer cases also have the 2wd option so the front dosent get power anyway in that mode, so why the cable too?

So my questions are:
If i only swap my transfer case to the s10 unit and leave the asrto front diff it should be a true 4x4 right? Just need to have the transfer case in 2wd most of the time unless on a snowy hiway or back roads correct? And i shouldint need the fromt s10 diff

Also is there any other differances in the s10 front difs vs Astro? Like are any of them equiped with limited slip like the rear G80 diff's?
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby redfury » January 13th 2011, 4:35am

My van is a case of having the transfer case swap. Works like a charm, the push buttons look like they belong right there on the instrument panel bezel.
A temporary fix usually becomes a permanent solution, therefore it does not exist.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby chaosR » February 2nd 2011, 3:42am

Thats cool redfury, i want to do the mod for the low 4wd. So you drive it in 2wd most of the time? Did you swap out the front diff too?

Because there is something i still dont understand, if you have a way to disconect the drive to the front through the s-10 t-case in 2wd, then why is there still a cable lock operated front diff in the s-10? The Astro does not have this in the front diff.

To me if your driving down the road in the Astro on dry pavement the transfer case cluch does not send power to the front. Would that not be the same as having the s-10 t case in 2wd?

So why the cable lock in the s-10?? Is there a differance in the Astro and s-10 diff guts besides the fact of the cable operated disenguagment of the s-10 left axle???

Anybody?
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby redfury » February 2nd 2011, 4:30am

I didn't do the conversion in my Astro. I don't believe the front end was replaced, I just simply push the switch that I want to drive in. I do believe that I have extra wiring ( solenoid control ) under the dash however that probably came from the donor vehicle.
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Re: Adding switch to tranfer case for controllable 4wd

Postby Miserly Man [OP] » February 7th 2011, 8:59am

After batting this back and fourth in both forums, I have become a solid believer in letting the computer do the work. Here is why I believe that. In full time 4wd-the front axle is always live-even when you don't need it. So-here in Colorado, with the snow, I love the fact that the front axle goes to "neutral" when not needed. That way, at least in the snow, you don't get that residual "pull".

After beating the heck out of it the last few weeks-I am sold over regular 4wd. GM got something right. If only they had marketed it so much better than they did. Probably could have creamed Subaru.

So, for me, no switch.
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AutomaticThe purpose of an Automatic Transmission is similar to that of a manual transmission, the auto tranny's primary duty is to allow the engine to operate in its narrow range of speeds while providing a wide range of output speeds.
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