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Discussion Starter #1
I wanted to post feedback on my recent experience and dealings with Inchworm.

Background: In December of 2009, I purchased an Inchworm Lefty Case with 30 spline Chromoly outputs through one of their dealers, Bud @ BudBuilt. I had multiple issues with the initial order and parts supplied, but I will not dive into those as Inchworm corrected the issues and I was satisfied with Jonathans and Jims service overall. I installed the case in January of 2009 and ran it in my daily driver FJ for about 9 months. The transfer case was used offroad at the Toyota Jamboree @ Barnwell Mountain and in Colorado & Moab during the summer. At Wheeltoberfest at Hidden Falls adventure park my transfer case failed. Attempting a hill climb over a ledge on the third try my front wheels gained traction and then locked up/I heard a loud clunk. After winching the FJ back down the incline I noticed that the 4Lo gear set had failed. 2Hi & 4Hi both worked fine, but one of the gears associated with the 4Lo gear set failed.


Dealings with Inchworm:
Following the failure of my transfer case I called Inchworm Gear the following business day. After leaving several voicemails and an email I called a third time and got Jim on the phone (turns out they are working in the shop the majority of the day and only doing office work in the afternoon to catch up on orders – I have no problems with this and fully understand their objective).

When I spoke with Jim I came away quite disappointed with the product support and customer service which I received. I noted that the 4Lo gear set had failed on my Inchworm Lefty transfer case which had been shipped from their headquarters. Jim said he was sorry to hear about the issue. When I asked him what the options were for correcting the issue he quickly turned the conversation from his product and blamed the dealer (BudBuilt) and the gear supplier (Marlin).

Jim stated that since I did not order the case directly from him/Inchworm Gear he would not perform the labor for disassembly/reassembly under warranty. He said that Bud sold me the case so I would have to work out a deal through Bud to see if he would cover Inchworm’s labor costs. He also said he wasn’t sure if the gears would be covered under warranty and that it was up to Marlin. I had already spoken with the folks at Marlin and they had no problem warrantying the failed gear set which I brought to his attention. None the less he was adamant that since I did not order the case through him he would have to charge me for labor on the tear down and rebuild. He put all the responsibility on the Inchworm dealer, Bud, and the gear supplier, Marlin. At no point did he show genuine concern over the issue or offer a solution which I felt was appropriate for the circumstances. Especially since he had just received a case a few weeks earlier that was sold through Bud and experienced a similar 4Lo failure.


My concern is that I believe the inherent failure mechanism on the FJ, when a Lefty is installed, is moved from the front IFS to the 4Lo Gear Set in the transfer case itself. I know of 3 FJs which have had the 4Lo issue and brought this to Jims attention, but did not receive any feedback or major concern on the product that he was putting on the market. In the end Jim said I could either send my case back to him for repair (speaking with someone else who had done so this would have cost around $700 (1/3 the cost of a lefty case)), order the gear set and do it the repair myself, or buy a new case from Inchworm.


At this point I felt that Inchworm was supplying an inadequate product and that they knew it, but failed to acknowledge the issue. I know that the original product had issues with output shaft failure which many had experienced, but appeared to be corrected with the chromoly output shaft, that they were now offering on the inchworm cases. However, I believe all this has done is move the failure point from the output shaft to the 4Lo Gear set. I know myself, CrazyHermit, & Werpogo have experience similar 4Lo gear set failures. I don’t know what type of failures the other FJs, Tacomas, or 4Runners who have had issues with their Leftys have had and whether they were output shafts or 4Lo gear sets.

I recommended to Jim that he spec Marlin’s 4Lo Competition Series/Chromoly gear sets in any future Lefty cases which he sells. I’m not sure if Inchworm plans to do so or not, but I was happy to hear they stopped selling cases with Trail Gears (which they did through 2009 - without mentioning to buyers what internal gears they were receiving) and instead are using Marlins product for all new cases. The only way a buyer of the product would have known was to look at the transfer case input shaft and see whether it said AME (Marlin) or TG (Trail Gear). The Competition Series Marlin gear sets have a significant yield strength increase & hardness over the Marlin XD Series which is typically supplied in the Lefty Cases (2010 Cases....Earlier cases may have Trail Gears as noted above).


Overall I was quite disappointed that Jim failed to support the product which he assembled and shipped to me. I was even more surprised that he threw his dealer under the bus and put them on the hook for the failure. To my knowledge Bud is not building these in the back of his machine shop. My case came directly from Inchworm and they should have better addressed the issue. Personally I would not order any products from Inchworm in the future because of the issues that I and others have experienced with their customer service…and lack of understanding of alternative options (the other person who had their case fail and sent it back to inchworm was not even made aware of the superior chromoly gears which were offered and had his case replaced with the XD series that had already failed him).


Since I didn’t see this as an issue for BudBuilt (they were only the middle man in purchasing the case), I dealt with Marlin directly. Even though this was not a case built or purchased through Marlin they offered superior customer service options to those which Inchworm provided. Marlin is rebuilding the case with the upgraded 4Lo Chromoly gear set and is not charging me for labor like Inchworm wanted to. I am quite happy with Marlins service and am much happier with their acknowledgement of product issues compared to my experience with Inchworm.

I would highly recommend giving Marlin a call if you are interested in a Lefty and ensure that they provide you with Chromoly outputs and 23 spline Chromoly 4Lo Gear Sets.

While I understand that all Inchworm provides, whether they build a case or provide case components through Marlin, is the interface plates....I was very dissapointed with their customer service and acknowledgement of the product which they sold me. I would not order another product from Inchworm after this experience.


I hope that Inchworm/Jim seriously considers specifying Chromoly 4Lo Gear Sets into all future Lefty's which he sells. It boggles my mind as to why this wasn't done already as I would think it would not only hopefully move the weak point back to the IFS, but also save Inchworm and Marlin significant product warrenty issues in the long run.
 

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Glad you posted this. I was one of the guys helping you that day to get your FJ back down the hill. I was wondering what you ended up doing. I was looking at getting a lefty but had some consern after your break and some of the others I have heard about. I think I'll keep looking for now and stay posted to what you have to report later on. Are the lefties available straight from Marlin? Do you think it is still a good mod?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I do believe that the Lefty product can offer a great solution for the FJ Cruiser. As others have mentioned it is a tool and has to be used with that in mind. It definitely won't be stronger than the OEM chain driven case.

However, I hope that the upgraded 4Lo Chromoly internals will move the failure point back to the IFS. It is much easier to swap out CVs than Lefty cases. The Chomoly gear sets have been used in Marlins V8 competion Tundra since 2008 without issue. Overall the Chromoly gears better align with the the FJs weight & power than the XD Series which have been traditionally supplied in Lefty cases.

I think Marlin is now aware of this and plans to put full Chromoly internals in future Marlin Lefty Cases. I have spoken with several of the folks at Marlin (haven't got Marlin himself on the phone yet) and they are aware of the issue and have made the recommendation on chromolys in future FJ/Tacoma/4Runner cases. I hope Inchworm improves their product support and offers the same in the future.

Overall I still think the lower gear ratio is a great mod as it offers much more control. It is a fairly simple install compared to an Atlas case and doesn't require nearly as much modificaiton.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
. I was looking at getting a lefty but had some consern after your break and some of the others I have heard about. I think I'll keep looking for now and stay posted to what you have to report later on. Are the lefties available straight from Marlin?
Cases are available directly through Marlin or Inchworm. Either way Marlin supplies the internal gear sets and Inchworm supplies the interface plates for the lefty cases.

You order a case through inchworm and they order Marlins gears and assemble the case with Inchworm interface plates. Or you order a case from Marlin and he orders Inchworms interface plates and tosses his gears in.

However, my experience has shown that Inchworms product support is lacking compared to alternative companies which offer the Lefty case. Others may have had better luck than me with Inchworm, but I apparently wasn't as fortunate in dealing with them.
 

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Doesnt shock me at all. Seems like the way they like to run their business.

My Story. When I was at MAF i decided to have MAF ebcome a distributor for Inchworm. We got all the paperwork done, and ordered both a lefty tcase and a double t-case w/ lefty as well as several other things (flanges, wheel spacers, etc).
I told them id pay them straight up but they did not want any money.

Jonathon there told me it would be a month. No problem. A month later, no word from inchworm. I give them the benefit of the doubt, and call them. After a while i get Jonathan again - oh yeah, your order is going to be another 3 weeks. I again told him if i pay him will it get done he declined saying they didnt want me to pay him yet.

OK im a bit bummed, my FJ is sitting for almost 2mths now doing nothing waiting on a t-case, and my customer is also wondering where his stuff is. 3 weeks later, you guessed it, no word from Inchworm. Again i call them - apperantly they havent started any of my order yet, but can start it straight away, if i want to use marlin componants instead of inchworm. I tell them whatever - i dont care, just build my order. He says not a problem, will be a month. We know where this is going. Again asked if my money would speed it up, did not want to take it.

Another month goes by of having two vehicles sitting in my shop with nothing able to be done to them. I called them and this time I get Jim. He tells me that they havent been able to start my order because they are having some manufacturing issues or something. I'm pissed. The company couldnt even be bothered telling me the truth or contacting me on a big order. Jim says they fixed the issue and can have me something by the next 3 weeks, which would be september. I sshouldnbt have but thinking they were a reputable company i trusted him.

a few weeks later i Had to call them back again. Still no initiative on there part to call me. Jim answers, says that they had another issue and i will have to wait another month. I was done. Cancelled my entire order, pissed off as all hell at this company. If they told me from the start - or contacted me via email, phone, pigeon, whatever that they were experiencing delays - whatever, I would be fine. But leaving me in the dark and requiring me to do all the leg work to spend money with them just isnt on. My Fj had 4 mths of downtime waiting on t-cases, my customer had 4mths of waiting for parts never comiing.

I ordered us both Atlas t-cases. They didnt have 4 speeds then so we both got 2 speeds. Advance Adaptors knows how to run a company. They contact you, they are there for tech support, and we had our cases, adaptors, and other stuff we ordered in 2 weeks.
 
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