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By Chris Pyle

For those of us who own ATVs with limited-slip front diffs, mud bogging and rock climbing can be a major annoyance when challenging those quads with true "four-wheel drive". All of those annoyances can be kissed good-bye. For the past several months, I have been evaluating the front differential Lockers from DirtyHowie’s. What follows are my impressions of the product and the effect on my Honda 450’s attitude in various riding conditions.

My initial thought upon opening the envelope was, "This is it?" What I received was 4 pieces of paper with the top sheet having two lockers glued to a page with "Dirty Howie’s" written across the top. Do not let this fool you into thinking bad thoughts about the product or the company from the get go. The product appears to be made of a high quality metal. With the assistance of Tom Morphew from American Motorcycles in Cannelton, Indiana, we put the lockers in ourselves. A call to the closest Honda shop made my decision to approach my friend to help with the job. The Honda shop informed me that it would take between 3-4 hours and priced me well over $300.00 for the work. I obviously said no thanks and went to Tom.

The instructions were somewhat lacking, but guys do not need instructions right? A phone call to the owner of Dirty Howie's helped clear things up. He was extremely helpful and told me that they would look over the instructions and see about adding a couple of things that might make the installation easier. The instructions cover the installation with the ATV jacked up. Tom and I (due to both of us having back problems) raised the ATV up onto the back rack. If you decide to do this please remember to turn you fuel petcock to the off position. The only real difficulty we had removing the diff was trying to get the drive shaft out and trying to get the cover off.

After tearing the diff apart, removal of the clutches and replacing them with the lockers is all that is needed. Be sure to put the removed clutches into a Ziploc bag to keep them in case you find the lockers just aren’t for you. Only two problems were encountered during the process: First, one was that one of the lockers took some maneuvering and shoving to get it to seat. Second, one of the hex bolts that holds the gears together snapped off with very little torque. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with a metric bolt with the correct length in Hicksville ™ Indiana on a late Saturday afternoon? Thankfully I did not have to deal with it, as my fiancé was available as a gopher. She came through (Thanks Honey) and we were on our way to 4X4 bliss. Re-install of the locker took very little time and was much faster than the removal. The total time of installation including searching stores for broken bolt was approximately 2 hours and 25 minutes. Not too shabby!

Down to the practical details, how did it perform? The very next day I was off with the Boonie Riders 4X4 Club out of Tell City, IN to French Lick Indiana. One of the club members has private property that caters to the off-road crowd. After scouting the area with one of the Jeep drivers, we found different tests to put the ATV lockers through.

First Test: Rock Crawling
Rock crawling happens to be my favorite type of riding. Unfortunately, there are not many places close to where I live to do this. Last year I happened to attempt this climb through what is for the most part a dry creek bed. The amount of water in the creek was just enough to cause the rocks to have a covering of slime. Last year I could only make it half way up the creek and that was with several exit and re-entries. This year the first half was a cakewalk. Then I came to the second half of the creek. At this point, all but three of the most prepped jeeps turned out at the last chance to exit. Once in this area you cannot get out due to high creek banks and muddy sides. It is difficult at best. So difficult in fact that my fiancé could not watch any longer, as she was so worried that I was going to end up using my helmet as a landing pad for my 600-pound ATV. Nevertheless, as a play on my favorite British phrase "No sir, Ah’ll not ‘ave any of that". I pulled through with my adrenaline pumping hard and did not even have to call in reinforcements. The hard-core jeep drivers were impressed. With my confidence built up from my newfound traction, I tried a serious hill climb without the benefit of a high-speed run. Placing my ATV at the bottom and clicking it into 1st, I began the long crawl to the top. Over rocks and tree roots I climbed. The ATV performed extremely well with only a couple of wheel slips. My ONLY complaint is that the steering is a little twitchy so you must be on your guard.

Second Test: The Mud
While waiting for some jeeps to winch themselves out of a situation they had managed to get themselves into on the trail, I rode to the side and to a mud hole that they have quit taking there trucks and jeeps through. It is constantly muddy thanks to a natural spring up the hill. Another guy there had brought his Grizzly equipped with Swampers. We both made it through the first time with a slight downhill angle. The second time was going to be an uphill section with a steep climb up out of the mud hole at the end. The Grizzly w/Swampers went first and got hung up on the climb out. No problem in this particular mud hole as he could just back out and go around. Could be a problem at other mud rides I have been on. I put it in second and went for it, no problems at all. The 4X4 pulled up and out of the mud hole without any hesitation. With all these tests completed, I decided to do the one test I had neglected, but should have done first, everyday riding. I tried trail riding at slow and high speeds. I tried hard pack, soft pack, and a little pavement.

(Editors Note: ATVs should not be ridden on pavement at high speeds, as the quad is not designed for this type of riding.)

The pavement riding was very very difficult. If you HAVE to ride on pavement for some reason make sure you can give it gas as you turn. Otherwise, you will be very strained. Hard pack riding is difficult at slow speeds. The quad is easier to steer at higher speeds but very twitchy as both front wheels are pulling. Caution must be used when riding fast. After running it to top speed I decided that 25mph was going to be my max on the tight trails I was on. One thing that makes steering easier is to set the toe out a couple of degrees. Not too much or it will pull to one side and be fighting itself. The instructions do not tell you this. After a phone call to Dirty Howies I was assured that they thought it was in the instructions and would make sure that in any future instructions shipped would have this small but important bit of information included.

Overall Impression
I am very happy with the Dirty Howie's lockers. They perform as advertised and happen to, at this time, the most affordable lockers available to the consumer. Priced at $159.00 Canadian (home of Dirty Howie’s) and $105.00 American, you cannot go wrong at that price. They are for anyone that visits mud runs, climb rocks, or traverse other terrain that is extremely difficult with a limited slip differential. They are NOT for those who do a lot of riding on open and hard packed trails. Make sure you are prepared to deal with the heavier steering before you order. Riding your quad with the lockers installed will take sometime to get use to. If you do order and install the lockers, be sure to hang on to your removed clutches in case the lockers just aren't for you or if you decide to sell your ATV the potential buyer may not want the machine locked in "True" 4X4 at all times. This way, you can convert back to the limited-slip if needed.

If you want a truly outstanding 4X4 quad in the territory that the locker caters too, then give Dirty Howie's a call at:

Contact Info:
Dirty Howies
Howie Benderite
Phone: 403.235.3536
Web Site:

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