There are a number of vehicles we see with long-travel front suspensions that still employ an unimpressive factory setup in the rear. This can really inhibit the smooth ride a long-travel suspension is supposed to give. Trucks like this can sometimes lawn-dart across the desert with even the smallest bump in the road. All too often, the rear axle and suspension are often tossed on the back burner when it comes to upgrading to long-travel suspension, and unfortunately this Ford Ranger wasn’t any different. So, we finally got around to upgrading the rear suspension and replacing our stock 8.8-Inch axle to help the rear suspension keep up with the front.
With the idea that we wanted a 9-Inch rear axle as well as a Detroit Locker, we headed over to Currie Enterprises in Corona, California, to talk to the experts on 9-Inch axles. After discussing what kind of use our truck would be put through, it was decided that their fabricated F9 axlehousing was the right choice for our desert-romping Ranger. Since our only motivation under the hood comes from a lowly 3.0L V-6, we stuffed the F9 with 4.86 gears from Superior Axle & Gear to help keep our 35-inch Nittos spinning through silt-filled sand washes. After gathering all the parts we needed, we headed up to Armada Engineering in Chatsworth, California, to install their bolt-in bed cage with our Currie F9, Deaver leaf-springs, and King bypass shocks.
With the Currie F9, Detroit Locker, and 4.86 gears installed, we were able to immediately feel the power difference thanks to the proper gearing. While the Deaver springs offer a much smoother ride with the bypass shocks, they do need a session of tuning to get closer to perfection. The bed cage keeps the shocks in an ideal location and has left as much usable space as possible, especially since it is still a daily driver.
Step By Step
Before: With the stock rear end and our 4.5-inches-wider-per-side front end, you can see the difference in track width. The proper track width is achieved with the Currie F9 installed.
After: With the stock rear end and our 4.5-inches-wider-per-side front end, you can see the difference in track width. The proper track width is achieved with the Currie F9 installed.
We started with removing the stock 8.8-Inch axle and leaf springs as a complete unit. The stock Ford axle served us well in the desert but had limited travel and minimal strength, and to be honest, it was likely already bent because the axle seals started leaking after beating on it during our last desert trip.
Once we had our old axle out of the way, the modifications began with flipping the stock shackle hangers. Igor Dorojinski took a die grinder to the head of the rivets and cut them off and used a punch to remove the reaming pieces.
With the stock hangers removed and cleaned up, we flipped them 180 degrees to a tension shackle set up for more travel.
The Deaver F31 leaf spring packs were installed and went in without a hitch. This leaf pack will give us more useable wheel travel as well as a better off-road ride.
The Currie F9 axle was prepped with a super clean brake line install with the lines tucked close to the axle truss for protection against the occasional creosote bushes that like catching rides in our undercarriage.
We used a proportioning valve along with the rear disc brake swap on our axle. The valve is mounted close to the master cylinder for easy adjustment and proper braking pressure.
While the axle was being built by Currie, we had them drill the axles and brake rotors for 5x4.5 and 5x5.5 bolt patterns to eliminate another step when we convert to a 5x5.5 lug pattern at a later time.
The bolt-in bed cage from Armada Engineering is available as a DIY kit or a fully welded piece. We had them fully TIG-weld it together for the ultimate in strength, durability, and rugged good looks!
Check out the spectacular welds that Timmy at Armada Engineering laid down—talk about stacking dimes!!
We needed to cut a few holes in the bed before we could install the bed cage. The kit includes a cutting template that limits hole cutting to a minimum and allows for more useable bed space. We can still fit our dirt bike in the bed without any trouble.
We test-fit the bed cage with the first set of holes drilled, and it fit like a glove.
With the bed cage fitting properly, we bolted in our Currie F9 onto the leaf springs and finished the axle install.
It is important to install new U-bolts anytime you change leaf springs and torque to the proper specs while the vehicle weight is on the ground.
The Superior Axle & Gear Nodular Iron third-member is stuffed with 4.86 gears as well as a Detroit Locker and a 1350 yoke. We had to use a 1350-to-1330 conversion U-joint to attach the factory aluminum driveshaft.
Off Road Evolution supplied us with a set of 16-inch-stroke King 2.5-inch triple-bypass shocks, which are the perfect fit with the shock mount on the axle.
We cycled the suspension and checked for clearance after both shocks were installed.
With everything fitting properly, we installed the bed cage and shocks for the final time. Thanks to the CAD design, laser cut, and CNC-bent tubing, the cage went in easy and flush with the top of the bed.
The frame mount allows for easy bed cage removal if need be, once the two large main bolts are loosened on either side. As an added bonus, this style mount also allows us to only have to cut a few small holes into the bed, giving it a clean overall appearance.
Putting the tires back on allowed us to see how much wider the Currie F9 axle was. It’s a whole heck of a lot wider—4.5 inches wider on each side! Needless to say, high-speed cornering will be easier to handle from now on.