While driving home from an amazing week of wheeling at the Moab Easter Jeep Safari 2008, I noticed that the steering wheel on our '07 two-door Jeep Wrangler Rubicon was slightly off-kilter. It could have been the three feet of air that we got while driving the sand dunes with the Mopar Skunkworks crew, humn? What I thought would be a simple wheel alignment, turned out to be a bent axle with the increased chance of it bending even easier on the next trip out.
Two axle straightenings and wheel alignments later, we were looking for a cure for the "JK smiley-face syndrome". After speaking with several other JK owners, we found that we weren't the only one with this conundrum. There are two choices on the market today to cure the "smiley-face syndrome"; one is to install one of the many aftermarket weld-in axle strengthening kits or replace the entire housing. Our dual-sport JK doubles as a rock crawler, desert prerunner and back country adventure vehicle, so we need a front axle that will handle everything that mother nature dishes out. Fortunately for us, Dynatrac Products has solved the "Smiley-face syndrome".
Everything about the ProROCK 44 axle housing is beefier; brackets are twice as thick, steering knuckles are redesigned for more strength and heavier gauge tubes and gussets are just a few of the things that make this axle housing bulletproof. It truly is the ProROCK 60's little brother! The beefy ProROCK 44 front housing is the ultimate insurance against bending your JK, TJ and YJ front axle. The problem with the stock axle housing is, after installing oversized tires and lift kit, the front Dana 30 (or 44 on the Rubicon) is just too weak to withstand the extra pounding of the suspension. Even though the Rubicon edition has the Dana 44 internals in the front axle, it still has the weaker Dana 30 thin wall axle housing.
We went to the experts at Off-Road Unlimited in Burbank, who handled the installation with ease. ORU has been in business for over 20 years and their axle techs are some of the best in the business. One of the big advantages of the ProROCK 44 axle housing is that you can re-use your existing or aftermarket JK Dana 44 front internals; everything from the electronic locker to the axle shafts. Since we recently increased our tire size from a 34" to a 37" tire diameter, we decided to swap out our ring and pinion to match the stock shifting points. With a 34" tire diameter, the Superior Axle & Gear 4.88 ratio was right on the money, but when you add a 37" tire size, the Superior Axle 5.13 ratio is what you need to get the engine rev's in the meaty part of the torque range.
In the process of swapping out the ring and pinion, we also changed out our stock axle shafts with Superior Axle & Gear's Evolution Series Super Alloy axle shafts, which are highly recommended when running 35" or larger tire sizes. If want to lower your chances of breaking an axle shaft, the EVO's are bombproof. The Chrome-Moly Alloy is dual heat treated for high ultimate and yield tensile strength. Last, but not least, we installed a new Poly Performance Chrome-moly tie-rod, made from 1 3/8th, 4100 Chrome-moly. Our stock tie-rod has taken a beating over the last few years, so it was overdue for a replacement. Follow along, as we pump up our pumpkins on our 2-door JK Wrangler.
In a word, amazing! On the street, after installing the Dynatrac ProROCK 44 housing and driving our JK around the block to check settings, you could literally feel the tightness of the rock solid front end. Of course, the new ball joints and tie-rod helped, but you could really tell the difference between the stock axle housing and the ProROCK 44. The new 5.13 ring and pinion gave the JK more RPM's where you really need it. On the trail, it's reassuring to travel deep into the backcountry without worrying about limping out with a bent front axle housing or breaking an axle shaft due to oversized tires.