A night in the Green Swamp: Lotarp 100 busted front diff in Richloam Wildlife Management District

Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
60
Location
Lakeland, Florida
On her second voyage out, the Lotarp100 took us on a 35-mile journey on fire roads through the Richloam Wildlife area, about a half-hour from home.



We picked her up about a month ago. Somebody gave her a $200 maaco paintjob complete with runs. It looks great as a background for mud spray, but that's about it. Leaning towards the sand/khaki color, most likely rhinoliner or similar for the entire thing.

The accumulators had been ripped out, Cruiser springs put in the rear. Somebody smashed the torsion bars down to the bump stops, probably to hide the fact that the inner tie rods were shot. Yes the AHC "off" flashes - need to fix that some day. The tilt works, the telescopic doesn't. I'm lucky I have long arms.

The dealer promised new hood struts upon pickup. I put $1K down on her, and said i'd be back the next week with the rest. But for $6K out the door, 178K, and the only other issue being a stuck moon roof, she was ours. I'd lurked on the forum for almost 2 years. I'd driven about 5 different LC/LX's, and as much as I'd have liked to get a 12K "mint" jalop, the idea here was to pay cash. Even with decent credit, nobody wants to give you a loan for a 16-year old vehicle with 200K on it.

We finally sold a Kawasaki Vulcan for $5K. I missed a sale on a mint 212K for 6100, but this one showed up. It had been serviced at Lexus of Clearwater its entire life, got sold to a Hyundai dealer (trade?) then ended up on the auction circuit for almost 2 years. It's a one-owner Florida vehicle (no rust) that looks like it may have had front bumper and lights replaced, but no frame damage or panel damage present anywhere. AC is solid front and rear, engine runs like a top and purrs like a kitten.

The first time the VSC alarm went off going around an S-Curve, I got a bit nervous. I searched the forum and started freaking out when people were saying it was unsafe, etc. Then it happened. At 75MPH on Interstate 4, the front right wheel locked up with the buzzers going off. I immediately purchased and OBDII scanner, spent about 2 weeks figuring out how to get it to run under windows 8 on the lady's touchscreen laptop, and finally started driving it around with scanner graphs trying to figure out if it was the ABS wheel sensor, bearings, etc. I baselined the fluids with Mobil1 Synthetic, did a front brake job and had them check the looseness at 3 and 9. Somebody had forgotten to include the damn lug nut key, so Lexus of Clearwater got $31.50 from me to get a wheel key. Turns out, it was just the inner tie rod ends. $60 in parts, about $200 in labor and I was back on the road with it heading straight down the highway for miles on end. I tossed it into curves and not one buzzer or wheel lockup. One ghost down, 27 to go.

So friday I packed LT100 up with blankets, a full cooler, a full tank of gas and took the lady out for an "adventure picnic". I installed Motion-X GPS and downloaded the maps as I knew we'd be out of cell coverage. I downloaded and printed trail maps. We marked waypoints with photos. We did about 35 miles on fire roads, and decided to take a fork off into a forest. It was fun doing "crawling" over the sandy two-track, and a lack of serious rain in florida meant that most of the mud holes were dried up. I hate mud. Most likely if I'd have waited until we got the KO2's put on, this wouldn't have been an issue.

But it happened. We'd just gone thru 3 puddles, one deep enough that we dislodged and had to replace 4 catfish that got splashed out onto the sand nearby. I've never done catfish replacement before, but we did. We came around a corner and saw a huge clearing ahead. There was a huge mud hole on the right, a path around it on the left. I cut towards the path on the left, and within 5 feet of driving over what looked like a hard, sandy path like everything else in the forest, we were stuck. I looked over at her and said "we're stuck." It was kinda funny, because it's not like we tried hard to get that way. I put it into 4Lo, saw the diff lock light up, and tried to coax her backwards. No joy. As we had driven forward, the hitch and rear tire were now the only thing holding the back end up. The front was buried up to the lower control arms. So I started digging. It was about 7:30 PM. I dug for 2 hours, clearing about 2 tons of sandy, rich loam, bugs, plants, and anything else in the way. I tried it again. The spinning tires, combined with the Liquefaction of the soil turned it into soup as soon as the wheels moved. We were "high and dry." It was getting dark, and we thought we might hike out to FL50, about 5 miles north via some marked trails. We got about 50 yards and started hearing noises that sounded like the Smoke Monster from Lost, or maybe a T-rex. It was most likely fireworks about 10 miles away booming, but we decided to make the best of it, sleep in the truck and hike out in the morning. We were lucky it was about 80, and made it thru the night turning on the engine a few times to run the AC and cool it off. This deep in the woods, we saw Lightning Bugs. In Florida.



We woke up just prior to dawn and had the most beautiful view of the mist clearing thru the trees. I decided that maybe the moisture may have evaporated from the running engine overnight, and we may have a better "bite". I aired down the tires to 5PSI.


I got back in the truck, said some nice words to Pele, the Hawaiian volcano god (i'm from hawaii) and put it into D and managed to move an inch forward. I put it into reverse and managed to move not a bit. I tried drive again, and it moved an inch. All four tires were managing to move, but that was about it. I wasn't gunning it or revving over 2500. Just slow, measured movement. I put it into reverse to try to get more forward momentum. I touched the accelerator, hearing the ATRAC kick in. Then it happened.

CLUNK.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat.
"What's that?" she said.
"I hope it was the traction control kicking in," I said, but thought it was the diff.

So we packed up my medic bag with sandwiches, dumping all the moleskine, bandages, BP cuff, Pocketmask, etc all over the back seat and covering with a blanket. We wrote our cell # in the dust on the rear hatch and the front hood, with the date and time in case a gator got us on the way out.



A hike in the forest early AM is beautiful. This land was lovely. We saw tracks that looked fairly fresh from about 2-3 days prior, so at least we were in an area that had seen humans recently.



We were about 6 miles from the road, as the crow flies. We managed good time, great spirits and ate a publix sub for breakfast, filled both water bottles, I pounded a Hard cider and we moved out. We walked about 2 miles, to the intersection of Center Grade Road and North Grade Road. We saw an ATV zoom by, and tried our whistle to get it to come back. No dice. Just as we approached the intersection, a guy on a Yamaha bike pulls up, we flag him down and he's all like, "What happened!"

He offered to ride us out individually, but we decided that even though he seemed nice, putting her on a motorcycle in a skirt with no working cell phone wasn't a great idea. We started walking the remaining 4.5 miles to 471. A mile down the road, just when she started to get blisters in her hiking boots, a black Dodge pickup showed up and offered to take us to a gas station. Turns out, we only live a mile from the Gas station so at noon on Saturday, we found ourselves back at the home, Sans LoTarp100, to formulate a plan.

We quickly contacted the one person we knew that had a vehicle that might be 4WD and able to pull us out. She arrived about 2:30, and by 3PM we were on our way back North in a 2008 GMC Sierra with a 6" lift kit on it with bald tires that looked like they had 1/32 tread. My tires looked "new" in comparison, but it was what it was. We made it thru the puddles again, this time displacing more fish. We hooked her up, and with two ladies who knew nothing about pulling trucks out of holes, I put the LT100 in neutral, and proceeded with the snatch strap to gently nudge it forward. On the first pull it came up out of the ruts. I jumped in it and tried to move it forward, but it just sank back down. I jumped back in the GMC and bumped it three more times, the third time getting about 30' out of the muck.

We were free.

I started moving, and with each rotation I heard the CLUNK. Unfortunately, we were far from a road where Roadside would pick her up, so I limped it the 5 miles back to the pavement.

So now she's sitting at home and I'm presented with several options. As much as y'all have great ideas, I'm looking for some, if not all of the following:

1) Tires that don't get stuck in 6" of mud. - Thinking of keeping the switched-over stock LC suspension that was fitted in, but at this point, a 1.5" lift so I can run some 35's might be better.

2) Diff replacement. Are you selling yours since you're upgrading to ARB lockers? Make me a deal

3) ARB Front Locker. At probably double the price, but never having to say sorry "we're stuck" anytime soon.

4) Winch. Although the nearest treeline was about 200' away, an extension line and a tree strap could have solved this.

5) folding shovels - what's your favorite trail model shovel?

6) Traction Boards - I think a set of 4 of these would have crawled right out, but unsure due to the level of buried-to-the frame I was. Links to your favorite traction boards?

7) Central Florida wrenchheads who may want to tackle the diff replacement with me. I have a garage, air compressor, and enough knowledge of tearing stuff apart to be dangerous. I also need the street cred that comes from "Swapped my own diff" but looking for anyone who may have done it before.

8) Bumper for winch.

9) Sanity. Now I think i get it.

10) Other options not contained herein. Not opposed to just buying a used diff and having a place put it in. Would like to have vehicle moving again prior to trip to Burning Man end of august-september.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
60
Location
Lakeland, Florida
oh yeah, 11) Best source for CV joints. Noticed front passenger was ripped this morning, still has grease in it but per previous threads about boot issues when rebooting, probably just replace these?
 

Trunk Monkey

Moderator
 
 
Joined
Apr 27, 2003
Messages
9,246
Location
Salt Lake City
Verify that it's the diff before you go too far. Maybe you got off "cheap" and it's the hub or a driveshaft problem. If it is the diff, I'd go ARB before I'd put in another OEM diff. Yes it's more expensive, but it's a final fix. As for the traction devices, MaxxTrax, hands down. I've been saving my pennies for 4 of those. I've gone out with friends that have them and they've bailed me out in sand and snow on more than one occasion. They're a Mud vendor and offer a discount.

Glad you made it out!
 
Joined
Mar 17, 2007
Messages
1,545
Location
Albuquerque, NM
What a bummer! Aside from fixing the front diff first, I would consider these two things first priority:
1.) Baselining al the vehicle's fluids (if you haven't already)
2.) First upgrade on most any 4x4 vehicle to me is tires. If you have road tires, as it looks like you did, they are horrific on anything but hard surfaces, and may have kept you from getting stuck in the first place.

You'll need more than 1.5" lift to run the 35's.. you may want to consider justing going to 33", which will work fine with stock suspension. To get the 35" you'll need a suspension lift, body lift, and those extra 2" also seem to wear out the steering column faster as well. If you can get by with the 33", it'll be less cost and less issues down the road.

Oh, and I have an old military fold down shovel that I keep the LC at all times, check local military supply stores for them. Otherwise, many other vendors make them now, usually called "trenching tool" or "tri-fold trenching shovel".
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
60
Location
Lakeland, Florida
@slimbuddha i agree, not interested in making it more tippy. Probably put on a set of 285 KO2's as soon as I have 1200 free! Yes, the Michelin ATX that were on it are about worthless. We never planned on going mudding/off-roading, or anything. 90% of fluids baselined, need to do the diff fluids,.
 
Joined
Jul 25, 2016
Messages
60
Location
Lakeland, Florida
Verify that it's the diff before you go too far. Maybe you got off "cheap" and it's the hub or a driveshaft problem.
Glad you made it out!
I jacked it up when I got home, blocked it, and let it run in D and R up on blocks. Proper steps to self-diagnose hub or driveshaft issue? The clunking seems to go away with CDL engaged, but can't do that when I jack just the front. Driveshafts appear intact, but I'll drop the front skid tonight and look at it. Thanks!
 

abuck99

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Nov 8, 2015
Messages
3,458
Location
ATL
If you're not a writer, you might have a future as one. Good spin on a bummer 1st Offroad outing. Great "lady" who opted to spend the night in the swamp with ya too- she gets major points.

Glad you made it out, good luck with the repairs
 
Joined
May 24, 2016
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Location
78664
Idk about that SlimBuddha.

Not all tires are created equal.


I ran 315/75R16 Goodyear Fierce Attitude MTs (don't judge me for the barb wire sidewall pattern) on stock suspension with just a little pinch weld lovin.

No wheel spacers either.

If he gets some aftermarket UCAs to get the caster further out he can clear some decent sized tires.

It all depends on what the measured width of the tires truly are. Mine fit, but there isn't too much room left.


OP +1 on Drive flanges. That should be a 15 minute check.

Although I am perplexed as to why it's going away with CDL on when it started doing it in 4 low. The CDL should be on when you have that engaged.

I have a 2 pinion I'm my 99 and it has taken some serious abuse. From what you describe it might be a CV shaft or the like.

Fingers crossed.
 

abuck99

SILVER Star
Joined
Nov 8, 2015
Messages
3,458
Location
ATL
Check out your front axle flanges.
Curious, what condition of the flanges would he be checking that might cause his described issue? Not challenging the suggestion, just want to learn something new.
 
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