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Old 12-13-2007, 01:20 AM   #1
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the 4x4 vacuum thread.

a lot of people have problems with their 4x4 not working, for various reasons. one of the common reasons is the vacuum actuator going bad, or the vacuum lines going to it. i have gotten a PM from somebody, and i figured i could share some of the info with everyone.

in s10's, when you put it in 4wd (4hi or 4low) with either the 233 (push button) or 231 (manual shift(also 207)), the transfer case has a switch of sorts that tells the front axle to engage. this switch routes vacuum to one of two places. if you are in 4wd (hi or low), the vacuum goes to the actuator. if you are in 2hi then the vacuum gets routed to an orb where it is just stored. this line also supplies the vacuum.

now, the switch it self is on the drivers side, almost at the front of the t-case. it has three vacuum lines going to it. the switch works similar to a ball point pen, meaning there is a round ball that is either pushed or not. the ball gets pushed by the shift fork inside the t-case, when the case is shifted into 4wd. now, there are three vacuum lines going to the switch. one line supplies the vacuum, and stores it in the orb when not in 4wd. one line vents to the open air, and the t-case vent piggy backs onto it. the other line goes to the actuator. all three lines run together up to the passenger side of the bell housing. then two go one way, and one goes the other. the vacuum supply/orb is the line that breaks from the pack and follows over to the drivers side. the other two lines, the vent and the actuator line, continue to run along the passenger side frame rail where they end near the vacuum actuator. one line plugs into the actuator and the other is just a vent that clips onto the inside of the outer fender well.

the actuator takes the vacuum, when supplied, and has a diaphragm that pulls on a cable. this cable runs down to the passenger side of the front differential, and moves a collar back and forth. this collar either connects the passenger side cv shaft to the carrier, or it disconnects it. this is how the 4wd system works on an s10, and all IFS 4x4 gm products (with a few variants).

now the pictures:

this is the switch installed on a 231. note the vent line coming off the t-case


here is where the t-case vent line meets up with the open air circuit.


you can see the lines running along the trans and bell housing


this line goes off to the orb, and supplies the vacuum from the engine


this line will follow the wiring harness and go the orb, located behind the drivers side headlight


this is the orb, aka the vacuum canister


this is where the switch gets vacuum, off the intake


this is the other two lines that go off to the passenger side


they end behind the passenger side headlight


this is the line going into the actuator


the actuator is under the battery tray




now onto the switch. the switch looks like this


if you look at the top, where the lines go in you will notice a little "key"


this lines up with a similar spot on the female end


the three vacuum lines must be in the right spot in order to function properly. take the female end of the vacuum lines, looking at the open end towards you like in the above pic. if you orientate it to where the key is on top, the lines are as follows


if anyone has any questions, or wants any more pics, just ask.

Last edited by orangesonoma; 03-23-2009 at 11:23 PM.
Old 12-13-2007, 07:08 AM   #2
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Very good write up Don...

The only downfall tho...those vaccum lines and switches on the side of the tcase are not easiest to get to with the body on...It can become a major pain....But you hit the nail on the head...

Last edited by BatwingZ; 12-13-2007 at 07:10 AM.
Old 12-13-2007, 10:06 AM   #3
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

The vacuum actuator on my truck isn't under the battery tray, it's on the wheel well and extremely accessible (which is nice if it ever dies, but thank god it works perfectly still). My '91 parts truck had it under the battery tray before I removed it.


Three years ago before I was into the S10/S15 scene I had a loaner Blazer... I found out the hard way that the 4WD didn't work (vaccuum actuator):




Had to get pulled out by the blue 2WD dodge behind that hideous camper thing, it was quite embarrassing
Old 12-13-2007, 10:57 AM   #4
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

^^That chick is prolly thinkin... "Man, whatta loser"

but yeah... def a good write up donahue! i cringe when i have to explain this whole process to folks... so it's def nice that you were able to get pics of the whole system now that you have your body off! now i can just link to this thread when i get this question! thanks donahue!
Old 12-13-2007, 11:48 AM   #5
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

what happens when you put a solid Axel out front does that affect any thing with the way the t case works or any thing to do with the vacuum set up?
Old 12-13-2007, 12:42 PM   #6
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

when you go sfa, just unplug the lines at the t-case, leaving the switch in there so the t-case doesnt leak atf everywhere. you will want to cap the line coming off the engine so you dont have a vacuum leak. then just remove everything else as it is not needed anymore. that is unless you wanted to hook up the vac disconnect system on a waggy axle or something.
Old 12-13-2007, 01:42 PM   #7
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Can the mods add this to the sticky at the top of the page?
Old 12-13-2007, 03:35 PM   #8
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Is there any chance you could show me where your other vac lines go from the TBI? I have an 86 and the diagram I have is not showing me the stuff for the 4x4 and I think one of my lines is messed up or missing.
Old 12-13-2007, 03:54 PM   #9
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by 85S10Project
Is there any chance you could show me where your other vac lines go from the TBI? I have an 86 and the diagram I have is not showing me the stuff for the 4x4 and I think one of my lines is messed up or missing.
yeah, do you just want a more specific pic of the vac line coming off the intake? you are talking about the one that supplies vac to the t-case right?
Old 12-13-2007, 04:26 PM   #10
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Thanks for the info man! Definatly dont want to replace all thos elines in the near future...
Old 12-13-2007, 04:57 PM   #11
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
yeah, do you just want a more specific pic of the vac line coming off the intake? you are talking about the one that supplies vac to the t-case right?
Yeah I need a better one of the one coming off the Intake and tbi. I'm tring to figure out if all of mine are hooked up to the TBi and intake like they should. My truck for some reason has no power brakes and its running rough so I am thinking that a vac line isnt hooked wp right.
Old 12-13-2007, 04:59 PM   #12
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Also where is your ORB located? I cant seem to find it on my truck.
Old 12-13-2007, 06:12 PM   #13
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by 85S10Project
Also where is your ORB located? I cant seem to find it on my truck.
my orb was behind the driver side headlight by the charcoal canister
Old 12-13-2007, 06:54 PM   #14
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

very good write up. Definatly needs to become a sticky.
I have a question:
The three vac lines @ the transfer case. Do they have to be plugged in a certain way from the Tcase? After I put a trans in my truck, I plugged it back in as best as I could remember, and the 4wd worked. I used it like once. Then it stopped working altogether. Even low did nothing. So I got under there and that three line fitting came unplugged. I plugged it back in (wasn't sure if it needed to be plugged in a certain way), and now my front drive shaft spins, and it goes into low, but still no 4wd.
I know it sounds like the vac act. but if that line is plugged in wrong will the actuator not get what it needs to do what it does? How can I tell how it needs to be pluged in without dropping my Tcase? Trail and error??
Old 12-13-2007, 07:17 PM   #15
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by RickRock
very good write up. Definatly needs to become a sticky.
I have a question:
The three vac lines @ the transfer case. Do they have to be plugged in a certain way from the Tcase? After I put a trans in my truck, I plugged it back in as best as I could remember, and the 4wd worked. I used it like once. Then it stopped working altogether. Even low did nothing. So I got under there and that three line fitting came unplugged. I plugged it back in (wasn't sure if it needed to be plugged in a certain way), and now my front drive shaft spins, and it goes into low, but still no 4wd.
I know it sounds like the vac act. but if that line is plugged in wrong will the actuator not get what it needs to do what it does? How can I tell how it needs to be pluged in without dropping my Tcase? Trail and error??
correct, if they are plugged in wrong at the t-case it might not lock up. plug them in according to this:





make sure you line up the little "key". it only goes on one way.

Last edited by Donahue; 12-13-2007 at 07:18 PM.
Old 12-13-2007, 07:52 PM   #16
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Yeah my truck doesnt have a ORB on it. The air line just stops and has a plug on it. I can take a picture of it if you want.
Old 12-13-2007, 08:48 PM   #17
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by 85S10Project
Yeah my truck doesnt have a ORB on it. The air line just stops and has a plug on it. I can take a picture of it if you want.
apparently there are a few irregularities. but you get the general idea. i didnt even know what that orb thing was or that i had one until i threw it away.
Old 12-21-2007, 01:08 PM   #18
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by crazy91s10
^^That chick is prolly thinkin... "Man, whatta loser"
That's my cousin, she was in the truck with me when the POS got stuck
Old 12-21-2007, 06:41 PM   #19
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
apparently there are a few irregularities. but you get the general idea. i didnt even know what that orb thing was or that i had one until i threw it away.

Vacuum canister
Old 12-21-2007, 07:03 PM   #20
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by neo71665
Vacuum canister
sounds like a better description than "orb"
Old 12-21-2007, 09:06 PM   #21
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

i got a question is the actuator kinda rubbery on the front side?like were u can push in on it.
Old 12-21-2007, 10:40 PM   #22
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by lbcblazer88
i got a question is the actuator kinda rubbery on the front side?like were u can push in on it.
yeah, thats the vacuum diaphram
Old 12-23-2007, 09:23 AM   #23
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

ight thanks.
Old 12-23-2007, 07:44 PM   #24
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

glad i found this again i think this maybe my issue from today when i went wheeling
Old 12-24-2007, 05:19 PM   #25
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

ok so looking under there i only see a plug kinda like the 3 plug thing like above but only had 2 not 3 also only had 1 air hose coming out of it. im so damn lost with this and NEW at it too.
Old 01-30-2008, 02:18 PM   #26
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Thanks Donahue for the excellent write up. I'm rebuilding an S-10 Blazer and these vacuum lines are the last thing to figure out. I had one left ... looks like it's just a vent line. :-) This was a huge help as the Chiltons and Haynes (now the same book) are both worthless for vacuum lines (and not much better for electrical). This info is hard to find.
Old 01-31-2008, 10:04 PM   #27
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

I have a newer s10(2000) and it doesn't have any vacum lines running to it and my 4wd won't engadge any Ideas? the t-casemakes the sound as if it is changing to 4wd but the front axle wont engagde?
Old 02-01-2008, 05:55 AM   #28
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by chevyrules05
I have a newer s10(2000) and it doesn't have any vacum lines running to it and my 4wd won't engadge any Ideas? the t-casemakes the sound as if it is changing to 4wd but the front axle wont engagde?
are you sure there are no vacuum lines? this is a new one to me, this is how all IFS gm's engage the front axle.
Old 02-01-2008, 09:11 AM   #29
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

I am having the same issue with my 4wd on my 2000, if i hit the button about 30 times eventually it will engage, it goes right into auto 4wd, but half the time when i try to go back to 2wd, the 4lo light starts to blink and i have to hit 2wd repeatedly for it to go back
Old 02-01-2008, 02:10 PM   #30
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by 85S10Project
Yeah I need a better one of the one coming off the Intake and tbi. I'm tring to figure out if all of mine are hooked up to the TBi and intake like they should. My truck for some reason has no power brakes and its running rough so I am thinking that a vac line isnt hooked wp right.
i had that problem too, it happened to me in the diamond lane of a six lane highway with stop and go traffic in San Jose.

Dealer said it was EPA (some three letter acronym) valve that had to deal with smog restrictions on the intake that got stuck open. they replaced that, and all the vacuum came back, giving me power breaks, and got rid of the rough running.
Old 02-03-2008, 01:15 PM   #31
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

So a ruptured or broken orb-line will not affect the 4wd?
My 4wd went out last year, turned out the line from the manifold was dry-rotted and worn. I replaced it and it worked fine for the duration of the winter.
It's out again this year. The actuator and line leading to it checked out, however the line going from the T to the orb feels like it has a hole it. Could the problem lie elsewhere? The T case still clicks and the lights on the dash illuminate, but the front wheels remain unlocked.
Old 02-03-2008, 03:03 PM   #32
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

I have a question - any help would be appreciated.

I have a 98 S10 ZR2 Manual. When I engage it into 4wd at coasting speeds it is fine, however, when I accellerate (a very slow accelaration seems fine) there is a clanking noise. The clanking increases in frequency the harder the acceleration. Of course I didn't accelarte very long because of the noise. This noise happened over the course of 2-3 days. It was rather quick. It also does it in reverse. When in 2 wheel everything is fine. I am curious if this could be failure of the vaccum switch or is the whole transfer case likely bad.

Appreciate the help.
Old 02-03-2008, 03:54 PM   #33
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Zuminazx
So a ruptured or broken orb-line will not affect the 4wd?
My 4wd went out last year, turned out the line from the manifold was dry-rotted and worn. I replaced it and it worked fine for the duration of the winter.
It's out again this year. The actuator and line leading to it checked out, however the line going from the T to the orb feels like it has a hole it. Could the problem lie elsewhere? The T case still clicks and the lights on the dash illuminate, but the front wheels remain unlocked.
on mine, the same line that goes to the canister supplies the vacuum to the t-case. so if there is a leak in the line, the t-case will not get the vacuum and therefore you wont have front wheels with power.
Old 02-03-2008, 03:55 PM   #34
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by d4x470
I have a question - any help would be appreciated.

I have a 98 S10 ZR2 Manual. When I engage it into 4wd at coasting speeds it is fine, however, when I accellerate (a very slow accelaration seems fine) there is a clanking noise. The clanking increases in frequency the harder the acceleration. Of course I didn't accelarte very long because of the noise. This noise happened over the course of 2-3 days. It was rather quick. It also does it in reverse. When in 2 wheel everything is fine. I am curious if this could be failure of the vaccum switch or is the whole transfer case likely bad.

Appreciate the help.
is it worse when you turn the wheel? sounds like something is wrong with the front end
Old 02-03-2008, 05:45 PM   #35
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
is it worse when you turn the wheel? sounds like something is wrong with the front end
It makes that noise when the wheel is turned as well. It seems like when there is more resistance put on the wheels (ie. the acceleration) is when it does it. I thought it odd that it only does it in 4WD. I had a "friend of a friend" look at it - he owns and operates a salvage yard - and he said it was the transfer case and he could put a used one in for $760. A bad vacuum switch seemed more logical - from an engineering point of view. It didn't seem to me that the transfer case would go bad. The truck has 125K on it.

I do appreciate your thoughts.
Old 02-03-2008, 11:29 PM   #36
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by d4x470
It makes that noise when the wheel is turned as well. It seems like when there is more resistance put on the wheels (ie. the acceleration) is when it does it. I thought it odd that it only does it in 4WD. I had a "friend of a friend" look at it - he owns and operates a salvage yard - and he said it was the transfer case and he could put a used one in for $760. A bad vacuum switch seemed more logical - from an engineering point of view. It didn't seem to me that the transfer case would go bad. The truck has 125K on it.

I do appreciate your thoughts.
that t-case is worth $75 tops
Old 02-04-2008, 11:25 AM   #37
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

hey don is it worth ditching the vaccum and going with the posi lock cable?
Old 02-04-2008, 02:09 PM   #38
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by project87sdime
hey don is it worth ditching the vaccum and going with the posi lock cable?
its is more reliable, but it also cost a little bit of money. i would probably rig up some sort of cheap system that just always had it pulled or something. my optimum choice would be conventional lockout hubs, but you really cant have those without going sfa.
Old 02-04-2008, 07:08 PM   #39
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
its is more reliable, but it also cost a little bit of money. i would probably rig up some sort of cheap system that just always had it pulled or something. my optimum choice would be conventional lockout hubs, but you really cant have those without going sfa.

well im not sure how the "kit" would hook up ive never seen one but i was thinkin autozone carries a replacment cable for 10 bucks it a universal thing i guess i would have to find a way to keep it engaged but release when need be also find away to just attach it to the cable thats in there now
Old 02-24-2008, 02:06 PM   #40
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
now, the switch it self is on the drivers side, almost at the front of the t-case. it has three vacuum lines going to it. the switch works similar to a ball point pen, meaning there is a round ball that is either pushed or not. the ball gets pushed by the shift fork inside the t-case, when the case is shifted into 4wd.

now, there are three vacuum lines going to the switch. one line supplies the vacuum, and stores it in the orb when not in 4wd.

I have a NV3500 trans and tcase from an 89 fullsize pickup that I am planning on swapping into my 98 S10 blazer. The t case has a two port switch as pictured. Can i simply swap this with the 3 port since my blazer is set up for 3 port?


click link for larger version:
http://www.geocities.com/ducttapeand...s/SANY0368.JPG
Old 02-24-2008, 02:14 PM   #41
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by project87sdime
well im not sure how the "kit" would hook up ive never seen one but i was thinkin autozone carries a replacment cable for 10 bucks it a universal thing i guess i would have to find a way to keep it engaged but release when need be also find away to just attach it to the cable thats in there now

I always thought that If the vacuum locking system went funky on me, then it would be very easy to replace the vac actuator with a cable stop for an ordinary bicycle or hood pop cable. To hold the cable in the locked position I would personally go ghetto fab and use a locking bicycle break lever like the ones they use on those baby strollers.
Old 02-25-2008, 03:15 PM   #42
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by ducttapeandziptie
I have a NV3500 trans and tcase from an 89 fullsize pickup that I am planning on swapping into my 98 S10 blazer. The t case has a two port switch as pictured. Can i simply swap this with the 3 port since my blazer is set up for 3 port?


click link for larger version:
http://www.geocities.com/ducttapeand...s/SANY0368.JPG
i dont know, but i would think it might be different. ive got two 241's one in my s10 and the 2nd in my burb (factory), and the shift pattern is different than the 231 and might hit that switch wrong. but i cant say for sure, it may work i just havent tried it. another thing i figured out that you may or may not know yet, is the stock shifter will not work the the 241 unless you use the shifting arm from the 231 on the 241. http://coloradok5.com/forums/showthread.php?t=222976 shows what i went through, i ended up putting the shorter arm from the 231 on my 241 and i think that will be the ticket for me (i am trying to keep the stock shifter to shift the rear case while keeping the detents)
Old 02-25-2008, 11:38 PM   #43
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

can he use that? i thought the ds was on the other side? GRRR these confuse me. why cant they all be on the same side!
Old 02-25-2008, 11:51 PM   #44
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
i dont know, but i would think it might be different. ive got two 241's one in my s10 and the 2nd in my burb (factory), and the shift pattern is different than the 231 and might hit that switch wrong. but i cant say for sure, it may work i just havent tried it. another thing i figured out that you may or may not know yet, is the stock shifter will not work the the 241 unless you use the shifting arm from the 231 on the 241. http://coloradok5.com/forums/showthread.php?t=222976 shows what i went through, i ended up putting the shorter arm from the 231 on my 241 and i think that will be the ticket for me (i am trying to keep the stock shifter to shift the rear case while keeping the detents)

I noticed rockauto has both 2 port female and 3 port male switches listed for 89 4x4 blazer. If swapping the switches doesn't work, I'll just have to rig a manual cable.

I was not aware about the shifter lengths, since my 700r4 & 231 are still in my truck, I haven't been able to examine them as thoroughly. I will probably swap the arms as well, since all I have is the trans and t case, I'd have to hunt and buy a shifter. How did you hook up the front prop shaft? What did you use to adapt the s10 driveshaft to that round bell shape thing on the 241?

You might want to take a look at my thread on the swap:
http://www.s10forum.com/forum/f13/us...10-4x4-339731/
Old 02-26-2008, 04:09 AM   #45
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by ducttapeandziptie
I noticed rockauto has both 2 port female and 3 port male switches listed for 89 4x4 blazer. If swapping the switches doesn't work, I'll just have to rig a manual cable.

I was not aware about the shifter lengths, since my 700r4 & 231 are still in my truck, I haven't been able to examine them as thoroughly. I will probably swap the arms as well, since all I have is the trans and t case, I'd have to hunt and buy a shifter. How did you hook up the front prop shaft? What did you use to adapt the s10 driveshaft to that round bell shape thing on the 241?

You might want to take a look at my thread on the swap:
http://www.s10forum.com/forum/f13/us...10-4x4-339731/
on my swap, i have two cases, the 231 in the front and the 241 in the rear. my shifter setup will be two stock shifters with one flipped around and the bushing trimmed down from like 2"+ to more like .5". the shifter closest to me (the flipped and trimmed one) will shift my first case with no detents, because the case now only has forward and back for high and low range. the rear case however still has all the stock positions so thats why i wanted to use the stock detents of the 231 shifter. because of my setup, i will not be using any part of the stock driveshaft, mine will be about 5 feet long, and made out of square tube. i may use the front yoke that holds the u-joint because its a 1310 yoke, but the one that mates to the t-case will be from a full size, and it will have no idea its in a s10. my rear shaft will also be a modified shaft from a 3/4 ton, because the 241 has a larger and longer slip yoke, 32 spline instead of 27. my rear shaft will only be about 18" long because of the short WB my blazer has.



Old 08-15-2008, 08:36 AM   #46
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

What is the cause that makes these t-case actuator switches go out? I got the dreaded hissing vacuum leak behind my hvac control panel and read up about the trans oil being spred thru the system due to faulty tcase actuator switch. i replaced it about 5 weeks ago, and temporarily didnt do anything to the hvac. Now i hear from under the truck, the same chirping noise that the actuator switch made when it was bad. the switch went out again?
Old 08-15-2008, 08:51 AM   #47
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Now im just wondering this...couldnt the lines that go to the actuator be rerouted to the actuator on a Wrangler axle when going SFA? Or is the Wrangler actuator electronic? Just curious but im also pretty sure im just going to convert to a Posi lock when i go SFA.
Old 08-15-2008, 11:08 AM   #48
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

I don't see why they couldn't.
Old 08-15-2008, 08:50 PM   #49
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

if the goal is SFA, then a side goal should be getting rid of the vacuum system. it works nice on paper, but it rarely works without issue in the real world.
Old 08-15-2008, 09:13 PM   #50
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Re: the 4x4 vacuum thread.

Quote: Originally Posted by Donahue
if the goal is SFA, then a side goal should be getting rid of the vacuum system. it works nice on paper, but it rarely works without issue in the real world.

So posi lock or hubs it is then
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