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Ox Locker Shifter and Cable Write-up


NAXJA Member
My first look at an Ox Locker was almost 20 years ago at the SEMA show when they were a new product and the covers were machined out of a solid billet. I liked what I saw and spent some time talking to the sales guys and playing with their display. I wanted one.

Over the years I have seen a number of criticisms of the Ox Lockers. They seem to have collected a pretty good share of folks who don’t like them. But as I have seen the complaints I have held in reserve a suspicion that many of the complaints were largely founded on poor installation practices. That opinion has become more strongly held as I have looked for install write-ups. I can find very little information about cable routing, passage through the floor or even shifter mounting brackets. All of these details are going to play into a reliable installation. Lacking those details leads me to suspect that most folks are not proud of what they have accomplished on that front. And that leads me to suspect that the complaints are related to that as well.

I decided that I would go ahead and go the Ox Locker route in spite of the opposition. I like the fully mechanical operation, particularly in light of the relatively recent failure of my 18 month old Optima Yellow Top on a trail. Independent systems are more robust systems.

When I received my locker I was not at all surprised at this statement in the instruction manual: “Poor cable routing and shifter adjustment are the leading causes for an inoperative locker.” This write-up is about trying to prevent that situation for as many XJ owners as possible, and it is also a bit of a suggestion for Ox Off Road as to what they should be doing themselves to help their own cause.

I decided that I wanted the shifter mounted in the console to the left of the e-brake. I used one of these cheap Harbor Freight flush cut saws in order to cut the console where needed.

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of this part of the process. It was a figure it out as I went sort of thing, and I didn’t stop to photograph progress that I wasn’t even sure would go anywhere.

Once I had it figured out where the Ox shifter was going to sit relative to the console I was able to make a cardboard template and then a metal base as a starting point. This is the earliest picture I have of this part of the process:


You can see that I used one of the console mounting holes as a starting point for attachment. That particular mounting point happens to be broken off my console anyways, so nothing lost there. You can also see the front mounting point that I am creating and the spacer which will become part of the base. You will also note the second, large hole that I wound up not using. You may also note the overall shape of the base plate and then compare it to the end result. There was a bit more material to be removed.

Here is the fitment over the spacer, note that it has a bit of an angle to it:


The orange tape was an early reference point. It located my inside edge at this stage of the process.

In preparation for welding I just grabbed some random scraps and tried to cover things that I didn’t want getting hit with spatter:


Here is the top side, welded enough to stay put so I could take it out and weld the bottom side:


Again, for this next stage I have a lack of good pictures. I needed to come up with another mounting point. The one large hole that I decided against was too much in line with the other mounting points (not much extra stability to be offered) and would end up directly under the line of the cable coming into the shift lever. I needed some lateral support. I wound up making a bracket that was in line with the console screw that I had repurposed. That had the challenge of being at an angle relative to the top plate. So I bent a piece of steel in a vise, held that down on the transmission tunnel and against the shifter mounting bracket and scribed a line to cut it off. I then made a nut plate (just another piece of steel, but threaded to mount under the shifter bracket) and bolted that in place, then with everything in place on the transmission tunnel I welded the nut plate to the bent piece of steel. That got me to this point:


I then drilled through from the top (being careful not to damage my threads) in order to locate the bracket on the transmission tunnel:


That pretty much established the base for the shifter.

Mounting the shifter was the next challenge. I knew exactly where it needed to be relative to the console, but it is difficult to mount something inside the console when the console is installed. But I could clamp the shifter to the base with the outer part of the console in place:


I removed the console and then pulled out the shifter base with the shifter still clamped in place and tack welded the Ox shifter bracket to the new base.


With that done I was able to remove the shifter from the Ox bracket and drill through those four holes in to the new shifter base, then cut the tack welds. That got me the precise location I needed and the ability to unbolt the shifter from the new base.

The last issue was the possibility of the base flexing in use. I took care of that by adding an edge along the side of the console. This edge was then threaded for my mic mount and an extra screw was added further back to make up for the missing mounting location at the base of the e-brake lever.

Here is the finished bracket:




Looking at the end result it would have been better to have started out with a bent piece of sheet metal. I am going to guess it would require the capacity to bend 110 degrees. I don’t have that capacity, but for someone else who may be considering doing something similar, that would be a rough estimate of what is needed.

This is it fully assembled:



Next up is the cable routing. And I suspect this is where many of those who complain about Ox Lockers have really blown it, and where Ox Off Road has blown it too.

The first question in my mind was “How do you gracefully run a cable through the floor pan at an oblique angle?” I went hunting for images and write ups and came up with zilch. Okay, fine. Lets reinvent the wheel.

The car manufacturers have been doing this for decades with e-brake levers and cables. Most of what I can think of that is relevant involves a well of some sort stamped into the floor pan. I toyed with cutting out something like that in the junkyard, but there is then the problem of how to mate it up with the XJ floor pan. The smaller I could keep its footprint the better off I would be. And whatever piece I selected from the junkyard would then need to somehow work with the Ox cable, and I was not sure what sort of problems that would lead to. What I really wanted was just a perpendicular surface in which I could install a grommet for the cable.

I went through my assortment of grommets and found one that measured 1 ¼” overall dia for placement in a 1” diameter hole and had a through hole that was 1/16” less than the OD of the Ox cable. I decided that was going to be my ticket to solving this problem. I also found that I had some 1” thinwall tubing that would just clear the hardware on the end of the Ox cable. The 1” OD on the tubing and the 1” hole size for the grommet were a perfect match. Now I just needed to make a pair of flanges that I could mount on the end of the tubing.

I cut a scrap of steel in half and laid out some holes:


I bolted the two pieces together and drilled them out such that all the holes would stay aligned:


I then threaded the outer holes of one of the plates and bolted the two plates together using those outer holes:


It was then off to the lathe where the 1” hole was cut through and a recess for the grommet was first machined on one side:


And then the one plate was flipped over and the same recess was machined again on the other side:


Excess material was trimmed off and after a bit of smoothing with a belt sander I had my pair of flanges:


(Ox Off Road: Are you guys paying attention? These are parts you should be selling. Not everyone has a lathe handy you know.)

Next up was figuring out just how my flanges were going to get mounted.

The first step was figuring out where that oblique passage through the floor pan needed to happen. With the shifter mounted and the cable attached to the shifter I played around with what seemed a reasonable amount of bend and how long of a slot would be needed. This happily coincided with a relatively flat spot on the transmission tunnel:


I don’t know how universal this spot may be on XJ’s over the years, and I suspect this spot may not be gracefully used on the ‘97+ XJs because of where their e-brake is mounted, but on my ’96 this worked out perfectly. I determined the distance I thought I would need from where the bottom of the cable would first touch the floor pan to where the top of the cable should finally pass through. That dimension told me the length of the cut that I needed to make on my 1” tubing. (IIRC it was on the order of 4”)

The most graceful way I could figure out to lay out that angled cut on a piece of round tubing was to lay it out with a piece of masking tape and try to keep the angle grinder perpendicular to the edge of the tape.


Here is what the cut yielded me:


Had I planned ahead better I could have wound up with two usable pieces. Not that I needed two at the moment, but still a point to note.

I then needed to lay out my cut in the floor. I started by drilling a hole at one end (to avoid stress risers/cracking down the line) and drew the outer profile of the end of the tubing (reverse it end for end to get the full profile—it should be symmetrical).


Then I drilled a second hole at the other end and drew in by hand what I intended to cut out:


I used a Dremel and about a half-dozen cut-off wheels to cut the inner opening.


I cleaned up the undercoating and grease off the bottom:

I got all my pieces cleaned up:


I played around with my positioning and clocking from underneath, marked with a Sharpie how I wanted things oriented and then had to use a mallet to drive them home (perfect fit in my book).


Then it was time to tack things into place from underneath. And set fire to the carpet up top. Oops.


This is what I should have done:


The bulk of the welding I did from above. The factory sheet metal is really thin and burns through very easily. The closer you can match the tubing to the profile of the floor pan the better.

I used aluminum foil to help manage the sparks while grinding:


A mostly finished view:




And from below:

I routed the cable (took several tries to find a path I liked) and mounted it up at both ends so I could mark it for where I needed the grommet to be installed and where I needed heatshield material.





This is the product I chose for the heatshield material:


Once I received the locker I saw that Ox Off Road recommends header wrap. I am not impressed with that suggestion. I see that as a pretty awkward product for this application, whereas this product seems to have been designed for the application. I could not be happier with the simplicity of installation and the fitment.

I knew my grommet installation was going to be tight, but I wanted it that way. I was hoping I could stretch the grommet over the 7/8” nut at the end of the cable, but that just wasn’t going to happen. I had to settle for cutting the grommet to get it onto the cable. I then used the same trick the windshield installers use to get things assembled:




I wound up needing a bit of extra help from a small screwdriver too:


Folks may want to note that evidently Ox made a design change in 2014 and cable adjustment is done a bit differently now. This is the new cable adjustment spec:


With everything installed and its final position I was not happy with how the cable was just barely contacting a shock absorber. I needed to do something to get it off the shock absorber, yet still allow for some freedom of motion. I decided to copy the factory’s method of keeping the e-brake cables out of the way: A spring. But first I needed a way to mount the spring. A simple bracket made of angle iron did the trick:


After a little refinement:


And installed, in the red circle:

The rest of these pictures are of the routing that I am running. Lacking a lift these are all taken by laying under the Jeep, and that doesn’t give much perspective, so I have taken shots from multiple angles. Some of it is probably redundant, but I hope it will give the next person a better starting point than what I started with.
















Additional notes: The Ox cable I am running is the 78” cable. I would like a couple more inches of length, but I am not sure if I can make the 84” cable fit without getting into interference in some other fashion. I have yet to see how this cable behaves on the trail.

Also, as you look at the pictures, know that I am running crossed 91 Wrangler e-brake cables, not the stock cable arrangement.

For Ox Off Road, someone needs to seriously consider improving customer access to the necessary parts for a quality installation. I would suggest an install kit containing flanges, heatshield, parking brake cable springs (a couple of different types) and perhaps a bracket or two for mounting the springs. Make it easier for customers to be successful with your product, and you can probably make an extra buck or two in the process and improve customer satisfaction at the same time. And add to your website some installation details for some of the more popular platforms. I think you have a great product, but it needs to be more approachable so that more folks can succeed with it.
Nice writeup, Tom. Thorough, as always.

As you know, I've given up on the Ox cable shifter and am very happy having converted to a pneumatic actuator.(http://www.naxja.org/forum/showthread.php?t=1140375). I'll be curious to know how your setup performs for you in the long run.

Do you plan to run an Ox on your front axle? If so, I think you'll find the cable routing to be more challenging.

I have paid attention to the fun you have had.

Perhaps on a long arm setup, running the cable along those long arms, a front cable locker might make sense, but I see the challenges with the stock geometry and I don't think it is likely to be successful. The exhaust will always be a challenge on that side of an XJ.

The rear I think should be fine. The factory e-brake cables seem to be trouble free.

I just think folks are not taking the time to study how the factory ran cables and then investing the effort in a comparable quality of installation.
Thank you for your write up! I am going with Ox lockers on my 95' XJ. Yes, both front and back. Also, going to use the air actuators, as I have a new twin ARB air compressor. Like you, I see the main issue with problems, of the Ox locker, to be the installation of the actuation of the locker, not the locker it self. Will try to post up my install, maybe it will help someone else, just as your post did me.
Bumpin this up top because this thread has the best insight into what it takes to set this system up properly. This is exactly what I needed.

Still unsure if I'd rather go through this or setting up onboard air for an ARB. OBA has other uses, but I was hoping I could put that project off for awhile.

You still have this rig and locker? How has it treated you other the years? Anything you have done or would do different?
Still have it. It is my daily driver.

Still very happy with the cable actuated OX Locker. I grab that before I grab 4wd. It has been 100% reliable.

I am planning to run an OX Locker up front too. From Nimrod's experience I understand it is not practical to run that one as cable actuated, so I decided to go electrically actuated (trying to avoid dependence on an air source). We will see how that goes, as it turns out that still requires a cable. I just don't have to route the cable all the way into the interior of the Jeep. Still looks like I am going to have to find a way past the coil springs. That will be the challenge.

I strongly believe the crux of the issue with running an OX locker is cable routing. Study OEM emergency brake cable routing. Pull from a junkyard the springs used to keep the cables out of harm's way and yet still allow for axle movement. Get protection from heat.
I enjoyed the write-up as well, and while I've not played with lockers myself, your logic on the whole cable routing/adjusting issue seems sound.

However, I popped into the thread to boggle at the fact that I saw a rear swaybar in the pictures. I thought most people got rid of those (I did after having my first lift installed, and I've never noticed any real difference).

If you still have it on there, is it because you tow with this Jeep?
It is gone now.

And no, I never noticed a decrease in handling when I removed it.