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By Cole Ford

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Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
Cole takes a demo hit for the team.
“You’re Hung on Your Diff!”
How many times have you heard that one out on the trail? Even the worst spotter is usually bright enough to let you in on that information. The fact of the matter is this - the front and rear differential probably come into contact with more trail obstacles than any other part of your rig. (except for the tires, I hope). Thankfully, most of the differential can take lots of abuse. Unfortunately, the cover is a weak spot.

The differential cover is of vital importance on the trail. Crack, dent, loosen, or flat out smash this cover on a rock and you could be in for a very long night. The cover keeps the life-saving fluid inside the differential. If you loose the fluid you’re stuck. I have even seen covers smashed so badly that the ring gear could not even move!

Several manufactures have come up with solutions to this issue, but I have only seen one that protects against almost all possible trail hazards.

Why Poison Spyder Customs?
As always, I like to explore all of the options before making a decision on a product. Poison Spyder Customs are well-known for their rock buggies and competition rigs. With all the thought that goes into those machines, it seems that the concept of the rock rings is almost obvious.

Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
The "football helmet" style guard (right) can actually hinder your chances of clearing a rock because of their design and how they mount to the differential housing.
Option “A”
We could do what most people do and never even think about protecting the differentials. Drag your rear diff on a rock and peel the cover back just enough to let the fluid leak and you will change your mind quickly. In order to fix something as simple as this on the trail, you will need a catch pan for the fluid, some sort of gasket remover, tools including a hammer and a flat surface, silicone, and new fluid. I would rather avoid the whole problem, altogether.

Option “B”
The tubular “football half mask” style diff guard. They look pretty cool on the diff and do supply some protection from sharp rocks. I ran one of this type for about six months and I soon discovered that it had several drawbacks. The size of the tubes made my differential seem to catch on rocks. I have actually hooked the tube on rocks, preventing forward progress. This changed the “you’re hung up on your diff!” to, “you’re hung up on your diff guard!”

The second problem became the cover bolts. They received very little protection. I shaved them so badly on rocks that when it came time to remove them we had to use some locking pliers. Fortunately, we were able to get them out with a little work.

The last issue with this style is that they only bolt to the lower part of the differential. With a hard enough impact this acts as a lever to extract the bolts and the cover. This, alone, seems like it would increase the risk of a problem and not lessen it.

Option “C”
This option is of similar design to Option B but covers the entire diff cover with tubular protection. This could eliminate the risk of peeling off the cover from leverage but it is still bulky and leaves the bolts open to some risk. This design only works on rigs with lots of axle clearance. In fact, the full mask of tubes would even interfere with my gas tank in the rear of the TJ.

Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
The Rock Ring installed on the Dana 30 front axle.
Option “D”
Maybe we should we just call this one the “Poison Spyder Option.” The rock ring is a ¾” thick ring of steel that completely covers the lip around the differential cover. It incorporates a ¼” center skid plate to protect the center section of the cover while remaining low-profile to clear rocks and vehicle components. The stainless Allen head bolts replace the factory bolts and sit flush inside the rock ring. This keeps them totally out of harm’s way.

The thickness of the ring itself ensures that it can take a beating without letting the cover peel away. The rings matched up perfectly to the curves of the diff cover and bolt to all the holes to prevent it from becoming a lever. The low-profile and flush-mounted bolts make the cover actually less likely to snag on something than with no protection at all.

This option is an excellent idea for both the front and rear differential of your rig. Poison Spyder Customs makes them to fit all of the most-popular axles. We installed them on the front Dana 30 and the rear Dana 35 on Project Cross Trainer. This is added insurance that our daily-driver will make it to work the day after a good trail.

The Rock Rings sell for $128.50 and after using them for several months, we are confident that they are one of the smartest investments you can make for your trail rig - especially if you are clearance-challenged. Their low-profile, great-looking design is not only unique but has proven strong enough to withstand all the abuse we could throw at them during our long-term testing.

Poison Spyder Customs Rock Rings are incredibly easy to install. You don’t even have to remover your diff covers. However, it’s probably been a while since you swapped your fluids, so now is the perfect time.

1. Take out the differential cover bolts. The silicone gasket will keep the cover in place.
2. Bolt on the Rock Ring with the new bolts to factory torque specs for your rig.
3. You’re done! Go play harder now!

Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
Installation is a snap. Remove the bolts and then you can either swap fluids and put on a new gasket or simply install the Rock Ring.
Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
The Rock Ring comes with all new Allen head bolts. These bolts are longer than stock and replace the originals.


Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
Rock Ring (left) and "football helmet" style guard (right)
Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
There is still plenty of room behind the stock Dana 35 rear axle.


Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
This photo shows the abuse we put our diffs through. The stout Rock Ring has withstood more than enough hits to prove its worth.
Avalanche Engineering Rock Rings
Even with the rock rash, we can still fully access the bolts for removal the next time we need to swap fluids.



Poison Spyder Customs
Phone: (303) 777-4820
9844 Titan Ct. #11
Littleton, CO 80125


Cole Ford

Cole Ford is a staff writer for ROCKCRAWLER.com and resides in Littleton, CO. Cole is the owner of Project Cross Trainer.

Contact Ford at xtremjeepn@rockcrawler.com


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