With just a few months behind the wheel of our stock '97 Jeep Cherokee XJ, we're ready to begin the transformation from daily-driver wagon to multiterrain race/trail recovery vehicle. Since we'll be tackling increasingly difficult terrain in the rig, the axles were in need of some bulletproofing to ward off damage, and positive locking engagement to further its crawling capability. Desiring the best, we looked to two well-established companies, Alloy USA and ARB, for the upgrade parts we required to take our Cherokee to the next level.
The grande behind Alloy USA's Grande 30 axle kit is in the axleshafts, which are constructed from high-tensile-strength, 4340 chrome-moly alloy steel and then double heat-treated for increased strength. Also, the Alloy USA 30-spline Dana 30 axleshafts are much beefier than the stock 27-spline shafts, measuring 1.34 inches in diameter compared to 1.16 stock. The Grande 30 kit includes two 27-spline outer shafts, two 30-spline inner shafts, and two inner shaft seals. The inner and outer axleshafts are pre-assembled using 760X U-joints and are custom machined to accept full-circle C-clips. The Grande 30 kit also fits '97-'04 Jeep Wrangler TJs with the Dana 30 front axle, and Grande 44 kits are available for models with the Dana 44 rear axle. The axleshafts also include Alloy USA's exclusive No Questions Asked 10-year manufacturer's warranty.
Being that we'd increased the axle spline count of the inner shafts, we required a new 30-spline differential. Selecting ARBs for the front, as well as the rear Chrysler 8.25 axle, was a no-brainer. Considering the company's long-standing reputation for quality products and based on our own experiences with ARB Air Lockers,we knew that we'd have positive axle-locking engagement at our fingertips for many years to come. A final upgrade we'll install to the front axle is a set of Alloy USA axletube seals. The axletube seals are great aids in keeping contaminants such as water and mud out of the axletubes and away from the axleshafts.
The Alloy USA rear replacement shafts for our Chrysler 8.25 axle offer the same spline count as the stock shafts but are manufactured from 1541 H high-grade alloy steel. The shafts receive the same double heat-treating as the chrome-moly front shafts and are said to be 35-percent stronger than stock. Alloy USA replacement rear axleshaft kits include new bearings, seals, and wheel studs, and offer a 5-on-4-1/2-inch single bolt pattern. The replacement axleshafts can be installed with the stock carrier or an aftermarket locker, such as an ARB Air Locker. If installing a new locker, this is a good time for pre-'97 Cherokees with the 27-spline 8.25 rear axle to upgrade to 29-spline shafts. For Cherokees with Dana 35 rear axles, Alloy USA offers its Grande 35 kit, with all the same great benefits of its other Grande kits.
Since we'd be increasing tire size to 33x12.50 in the coming weeks, we opted to replace the stock gears with 4.56-ratio ring-and-pinion gears from Precision Gear. The 4.56 gears will offer ample low-end power while still maintaining highway speeds. Precision Gear also supplied a Master Installation Kit.
For installation of the Alloy USA, Precision Gear, and ARB components, we looked to the qualified crew at the FourXDoctor in Burbank, California. The FourXDoctor offers full 4x4 service and repair along with custom fabrication, including rollcages, shock mounts, body armor, bumpers, and more. FourXDoctor also manufactures a line of rocker guards and fuel-tank skidplates for Jeep vehicles and differential guards for many axle applications.