What Does “Complete” Really Mean?
Have you ever had to call around town on a Friday to find pinion shims or a crush sleeve so you could be on the trail for the weekend? Working on a rear end is hard enough with the right parts, and can be downright impossible with the wrong parts. A good installation kit can make the job a lot easier and save hours of frustration.
Every distributor claims to have the best installation kits available. I have seen a number of items labeled “Installation Kit” or “Master Kit” that didn’t deserve to be named as such. Since there is really no established standard, the terms will always be used loosely and it is up to the customer to put the sales person through the drill of explaining what is in each kit, in detail.
There are many good questions to ask when ordering. Does the kit include good instructions? Does it include ALL of parts necessary to rebuild or setup the rear end completely? Are both pinion and carrier bearings included in the kit, and are they the highest quality available? Many kits use cheap import bearings and seals. If the salesperson is not certain what kind of parts their kit uses, ask them to open the box and see.
Many kits do not include useful carrier and pinion shims. This is due to the cost of making good shims. Are there just enough shims for one adjustment, or does the kit contain enough shims to setup the rear end from scratch?
In my opinion, a complete “Installation Kit” includes: both pinion and carrier bearings, a crush sleeve or preload shims, enough pinion depth shims to set the depth without having to reuse any of the original shims. For most applications, a complete set of carrier shims. A high quality pinion seal, an OEM quality pinion nut, a gasket or silicone for the cover, Loctite® or thread locker for the ring gear bolts and pinion nut, an instruction manual with pattern diagrams and details that really help, and real gear marking compound. (If you are looking for gear marking compound in a handy tube, try GM part number 1052351.)
It really doesn’t matter which parts a supplier includes in their installation kit, as long as they explain, in detail, what the kit contains. There are many high quality kits out there. Ask a lot of questions and don’t take “I’m not sure” for an answer. Remember, this is your rear end we are talking about.