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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
OK, in the vein of no good deed ever goes unpunished, I decided to pay some attention to the Tracker today. I have a bunch of full-synthetic 75-90 gear oil (meets both GL-4 and GL-5) that I bought last week just for this purpose. I ran it up on the ramps in the front, and jacked up the back end level and supported on jackstands. I figured that I would start on the front differential first. Right as I was about to pop out the drain plug, I remembered some sage advice once given to me "ALWAYS REMOVE THE FILL PLUG FIRST". Boy, did that little gem come in handy for me today.

To make a long story short - the fill plugs for the front and rear differentials, as well as the transfer case are all frozen in place. The front 3/8" square drive is stripped out, the rear is almost, and the transfer case plug is still in good shape. I attempted to remove the plugs while the components were cool (driven only about 100 feet to the shop). I wrestled with these darn things for over an hour before realizing that I truly just had my butt whipped soundly by three little plugs.

What to do next? Try removing them after driving the vehicle for a while (75 mph speed limit here)? Try heating them with a torch? I used a medium sized cold chisel driven snugly into the widest part of the square drive hole, and tried turning with a box-end 3/8" wrench. No luck. It just tried to walk out of the hole.

Strangely enough, all of the drain plugs are easy to turn. I almost wonder if the last knothead to change the fluids maybe used hardening Permatex or some other sealer on the fill plugs.
 

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The best way I have found to remove these plugs is with an air powered impact wrench with a 10mm square drive. I THINK the front diff might need to be lowered a inch or two to access the fill plug with the air tool. (I had removed it for a engine pull.) If you do NOT use adhesive on the plug as sealant, you should be able to remove the plugs easily in the future.

Something odd about the use of sealant in the instructions in the '94 Tracker FSM. It seems to be called out for both plugs on the transfer case and the drain plug on the REAR differential, but is NOT mentioned for the rear fill or for either plug on the FRONT differential. hummmm.... I'll have to compare with my other FSM's when I have time.

When you have them out, you want to consider replacing the plugs if damaged.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the ideas guys.
I have also considered drilling them all the way through and using an Easy-Out to wrench it loose.

Where do I get a 10 mm square drive?
 

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If it is so secure that you rounded out the plug square, then you'll snap off an Easy-Out, besides having to deal with the pilot hole metal shavings entering the diff. :(

Weld/HEAT brother. ;)
 

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... Where do I get a 10 mm square drive?
Google: "square head drain plug sockets"

The place I got mine was a little local tool store. They sold cheap to pretty good quality tools at prices not much over Internet prices.

Harbor Fright moved in across the street.

Now I can only get cheap tools locally as "my" tool store closed. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Update!

OK, just to prove how slowly things move around here (at least when I have work to do on the Tracker), I just finished the fluid changeouts today.

Yup, that handy-dandy 10mm plug socket was the missing link to success. After firmly tapping it into the square hole in the plugs, I was able to finally get those fill plugs out. Why on earth would someone tighten those things so snugly? I even had to use a torch to heat up the rear differential around the plug before it would relent.

RESULTS:

Front - fluid was already coming out of the fill plug, and it looked good on drain. Light honey color, looked and smelled fine.

Rear - I only got just over 1-1/2 quarts out! It was darker honey colored, but smelled OK - not burnt and sludgy. Put the full amount required by the manual back in, but I had to jack the back end up higher than the front to get the last few ounces in.

Transfer Case - this was strange. The level was at the fill plug, and some came out as I removed it. That is when I noticed that it was sort of a reddish-brown color. Best I can guess is that one of those Speedy Lube type shops had done the PO a favor and "topped it off", but had mistakenly added ATF as many other transfer cases use. It didn't smell any worse for wear though, and wasn't sludgy when pouring it out of the drain pan back into the empty one quart bottles.

All three are now full of 75W90 Full Synthetic (says GL4/GL5 compatible). Just driving it from the garage back to the carport I could feel the extra power and sense the better fuel mileage already! It was almost as much as adding a K&N or Magna-Flow sticker to the back window! I can't wait until the "Got NOS?" window sticker gets here. Those ricers are gonna sure have a run for their money!

NOTE - all fill and drain plugs had threads dressed and were treated to a liberal dose of nickel anti-seize compound. All were gently tightened using a 3/8" drive pearhead Craftsman ratchet only. No gorilla strength applied. I bet they'll do just fine and not leak a drop.
 
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Cool! :)

One concern may be the use of Anti-Seize. That isn't a "sealant" although your intentions were good. It is possible that some leakage may appear at those (tapered thread sealing) plug sites over time.
 

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After the fact, of course, but found this handy little socket that may be helpful with stripped out bolts. (which occurs here fairly often, as people seem to forget that this car is metric - using the 3/8" socket is setting yourself up for failure....)
 

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Why not install new plugs? Ya spent all that money on fancy oil. I had to google 'dayum' BTW, LOL
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Good idea

Why not install new plugs? Ya spent all that money on fancy oil. I had to google 'dayum' BTW, LOL
If the threads were messed up I would have certainly replaced the drain plugs. I expect that I will never have to get them out again anyway. I consider the synthetic lubes to be a lifetime fill - at least as far as the lifetime is left on the Tracker.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Weeping is OK..

Cool! :)

One concern may be the use of Anti-Seize. That isn't a "sealant" although your intentions were good. It is possible that some leakage may appear at those (tapered thread sealing) plug sites over time.
I only used the anti-seize in case there comes a time when they need to be removed again. Hopefully that will be never now. I am not worried by a little weeping from around the plugs. There is so much other grease and grime under there from years of everything else dripping, I may never notice.
 

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i too have had this problem.........

my old man is a long retired mechanic, and he said that even after 40 years of working on rusty cars with parts seized by salt spray and overtightening, he has NEVER seen a fill plug that was as tight as the one on my 97 4door tracker rear diff.

ended up welding on a pawn shop bought 3/8"s extension and using a 3 foot breaker bar plus propane torch and break free penetrate liquid seep to crack that sucker out.

strangely, all the other filler and drain plugs were easy peasy.

can any one here tell me where to buy spare fill/drain plugs for a 1997 4 door Geo Tracker 4x4 base? (front/rear diff fill/drain plugs, and transfer case fill/drain plugs) i like to have GOOD spares.
 

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ended up welding on a pawn shop bought 3/8"s extension
A similar technique to...

 

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I replaced my diff filler plugs with items that had a hex head on them, I don't know if they were standard but they came of an 89 Tracker.
 

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External hex? They may have been replacements.

Typically I've seen only recessed tool engagement configured drain plugs, to lessen the chance of breaking off (hitting something a the trail) a plug which protrudes in any way. Internal hex OK, internal square being the norm for DRAIN plugs.

Fill plugs that are out of harms way make no difference as to head style.
 

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I have always assumed they were after-market. but my '89 (Sidekick) also has external hex plugs in the diffs. (It doesn't have a tranny or transfer-case... or motor for that matter.)
 
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