Quick-change rearends are an incredibly useful tool for racers. Instead of going through the laborious task of tearing down the center section to change out the ring-and-pinion every time you need to make a gear change, a quick-change rear allows the same result by simply removing the rear cover and swapping out a smaller set of gears which only requires a few minutes.

But in order to do this a quick-change rear must have a few extra components. This doesn't make the rearend any harder to operate, but it does require a few considerations to make sure everything is operating smoothly. For more information, we went to Keith Brightbill, Bulldog Rear Ends' resident expert for closed-tube rearends. Bulldog has long been a leading manufacturer of live axle quick-change rearends for Sprint Car racing, and now Bulldog has recently released it's very successful CT-1 closed tube rearend for stock car racing. We hit Brightbill with some of the questions racers most often have when first dealing with quick-change technology and here are the answers he gave us.

There are a variety of different quick-change gears I can purchase from my local speed shop or racing catalogs. How do I determine which ones are the best quality?
The best way to determine the quality when searching for a set of quick-change gears is basically by the material used. I don't ever recommend anybody run the 8620 steel in their gears. It's the cheapest steel out there used for quick-change gears. Everybody makes them, but for anybody racing with 500 horsepower or more I definitely don't recommend using them. Gears made with 8620 steel are just going to lead to long-term headaches.

Instead of the cheaper 8620 gears, I definitely recommend spending a little bit more for the 9310 grade steel. You can basically tell what you are getting by the price. It's just like everything else in this world; you get what you pay for. For the quality stuff, you're probably never going to see it below $130 racer cost. On the other hand, the lower quality 8620 stuff is going to be anywhere between $60 and $75.

I just had a customer about six weeks ago who had to send his rearend back for some pretty serious repairs because he tried to save a buck by buying gears made from the cheaper steel. He blew out a set of quick-change gears, and he wound up wiping out everything. When the quick-change gears tore up, that metal went everywhere and basically ruined everything inside the case. In fact, it even cracked the gear cover side of the center section, so for the 60 bucks he saved buying the cheaper 8620 gears he basically ended up spending $1,200 to get his rearend fixed.

But don't I have to buy a bunch of quick-change gearsets to cover every possibility? Won't that cost add up?

If you're smart, you really don't need to own every quick-change gear in the catalog. This is especially true for guys that aren't travelling. If you're racing at the same track every week, conditions may change if you are racing on dirt, but even then, the size of the track never changes. I really don't know of many guys in that situation that are doing a lot of gear swaps. And it seems the guys that do change gears a lot are the guys that are trying to compensate for a bad setup. You should probably need only two or three gears at the most for any given track. So, when you look at it that way, it is really not hard to justify the expense for the better quality gears.

Any tips for avoiding mechanical troubles?

Really, the only secret is a good visual inspection. Even if you don't change your gears, you need to inspect them every week. If you leave the gear cavity closed and never open it up, then you not only aren't checking your quick-change gears, but you are also missing internal bolts and the bearings in the gear cover, as well as a lot of other components in the rearend you need to keep an eye on. Opening up the gear cover for a quick visual inspection also allows you to check the condition of your gear oil.