When it comes to high performance musclecars, race cars or hot rods, a popular goal among all enthusiasts is getting the most out of your horsepower. Unfortunately, as the Summit-powered On All Cylinders publication points out, some vehicle owners are actually squandering away valuable power by not equipping their cars with the proper ring and pinion configuration.
Gear swaps can be beneficial in more than one way. Not only will a new gear set, geared more toward your application, allow your vehicle to push more power to the pavement, it will also improve your engine’s top-end speed or acceleration, and even alter your car’s cruising RPM. Check out some of the tips and tricks that On All Cylinders recommends for choosing the right ring and pinion configuration for your vehicle below.
1. Rearend Type
The first thing to consider when swapping in a new gear set is the type of rearend your vehicle has. Conventional or integrated rearends typically consist of C-clip axles and a bolt-on style rearend cover. Common conventional rearends are anything from a GM 10-bolt to a Dana rearend.
Your vehicle could also have a banjo-type rearend, which typically consists of bolt-in axles and a fully removable third member, which is accessed from the front of the rearend housing. Banjo-style rearends include the extremely popular Ford 9-inch, the GM 8.2-inch and the Chrysler 8.75-inch.
2. Series of Differential Carrier
The next step to fitting your vehicle with a proper ring and pinion upgrade is determining your rearend’s series of differential carrier. The carrier refers to the internal portion of the differential that is attached to the ring gear. This is responsible for the distribution of power between your driving wheels and can be determined by looking at the rearend’s original gear ratio.
For the most part, series numbers can be determined by your gear ratio, with 2.73 and lower rearend gear ratios falling in the 2-Series, 3.08 to 3.90 rearend gear ratios falling in the 3-Series, and 4.10 and higher rearend gear ratios falling in the 4-Series. If you don’t know your gear ratio, you can calculate it by taking the number of rear gear teeth in your rearend divided by the number of pinion gear teeth.
When upgrading your gear ratio, you’ll usually want to move up within the same series of carrier but you can also use a ring spacer in some applications to move up from one series to the next.
When using a ring spacer, you should only move up one series, such as moving from a 2-Series to a 3-Series, rather than trying to move from a 2-Series to a 4-Series.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind when choosing a new gear set is what the purpose of your vehicle is. If it’s a daily driver, chances are you’ll want to keep your gear ratio at 3.23 or below for optimal performance and lower cruising RPMs.
For vehicles being used for strictly race applications, 4.10s and higher are popular choices because of the power on demand they allow at the track, a place where cruising RPMs is not usually a worry.
Last but certainly not least, you need to consider whether your vehicle will benefit more from a performance gear style or a pro gear style. Made from hardened steel, performance gears are great options for street, strip and off-road applications. More durable than stock, performance gears can handle higher torque and make for valuable additions to any performance machine.
Pro gears, on the other hand, are much softer and should be used only for drag racing applications. Because pro gears are softer, they can absorb the torque impact of the engine more easily but this also makes them wear out faster than performance gears.
This is not a bad thing when it comes to race applications that get rebuilt regularly, but are more of a pain in a street-use vehicle.
Determining what series of carrier and style of gear you need, as well as what your vehicle will be used for and the type of rearend it has are all important aspects of choosing a proper gear set upgrade. Because in the end, it’s all about performance and the more of that you can get to the ground, the better!