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June 2009 Your Jeep

Posted in How To on June 1, 2009
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Ford -ton brackets shown

Wacket Bracket?
I own an '86 CJ-7 with an original Dana 44 rear end. I have added gears and lockers to make it go with bigger tires, now I would like to be able to stop. I added a power brake booster and that helped a little. Next up is a disc brake conversion. Do you know a source for a disc brake conversion? I have looked on line and called a couple different companies and they tell me the seal retainer is unique for this axle. If that is the case, I assume the new disc brake caliper mount has the seal retainer built onto it. My question is, if the seal retainer is built onto it, can it be cut off and ground smooth so I can use the old seal retainer? If so, what kit would I need now? This is my daily driver so like with all my upgrades I need to be able to do it over the weekend; in other words I need the right kit the first time.Bruce Bryantvia e-mail

The axle seal retainer bolt pattern isn't too weird. It has a vertical bolt pattern of 2 inches and a horizontal pattern of 3 5/16 inches. Contact The Streetrod Manufacturing Company (TSM) at and inquire about its PN 2591 rear disc brake kit that includes the necessary brackets, bolts, spacer plates, and new rotors. You'll also need calipers, which can be ordered through TSM separately. I've used products from TSM on several of my personal vehicles and have found them to offer a quality product.

The company offers parking brake-equipped Eldorado calipers, but it's been my experience that they don't hold very well and are more difficult to set up than the standard calipers without a parking brake. I'd recommend a Mico-Lock or perhaps a T-case mounted parking brake if you really need one.

Affordable Axles
I currently own a '00 XJ with a 4.0L and five-speed. It has the stock Dana 30 in the front and the weak Dana 35 in the rear. I have a donor '98 XJ with a 4.0L and five-speed, Dana 30 front axle, and Chrysler 8.25 rear. Can I upgrade the '98 Dana 30 and install it in my '00 XJ as a direct swap? My other question is, can I disconnect my ABS to install my upgraded front and rear axles from my non-ABS '98 XJ? I think the ABS system is junk and doesn't work well. Plus, when I go off-road I find it annoying. I'm planning on junking it in the swap.Aaron Grimmvia e-mail

I'm surprised you've got a '00 with the Dana 35. By then most XJs were equipped with the Chrysler 8.25 axle. Regardless, there's a chance that the axle ratios may be slightly different in the donor axles. Most auto-equipped XJs received 3.55 gears, while five-speed models got the 3.07 gears. It shouldn't matter since you're swapping both the front and rear from the same vehicle and since both are five-speed models, but it's something to consider if you swap one axle and then wait a bit to do the next.

As for bolting them in, the '98 axles will plunk directly in place of the '00 axles with two minor exceptions. The first difference will be with the ABS sensor plugs for the tone rings at each wheel. Your '98 axles won't have them. Just leave them unplugged and pull the light bulb from the dash if the ABS light bothers you. The second difference will be some slight variances on the E-brake cables between the Dana 35 and 8.25 axles, but if the 8.25 has the e-brake cables attached they'll hook up to the XJ's actuating cable on the unitbody. Otherwise, the mounts, brackets, steering, and so on is all directly the same.

Come hell or high water my son and I are going to one of the Jeep Jamborees this coming July/August on the Rubicon. We live 3 hours from the "Holy Grail" of Jeep trails in the Napa area. It beckons hard to us. We'll be working up my '01 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4.0L to meet the challenge (hopefully).

Presently it is lifted 2 inches via a coil spring spacer lift. A 1-inch body lift and 1-inch-lift motor mounts will be installed this coming weekend (as per a recommendation from you previously, thanks). Then the 33-inch tires can go on.

Reviewing the trail requirements, I see skid plates are a must. I also see there is a wealth of skid plate combinations available through the mail order places. I'd like your opinion on what/which ones are needed.

As always, any and all assistance you can provide will be greatly appreciated.Ron CarrNapa, California

I've used several types of skids in the past. On my '97 TJ, I installed Kilby Enterprises parts. I did the company's fuel tank, steering box, and rocker panel armor. I also did the company's stubby front bumper and a M.O.R.E. rear bumper. Regarding all of the above parts, the fit, finish, and overall quality was top notch. I mean, you couldn't ask for better. Some of the components were pretty expensive, but you get what you pay for.

As for the Rubicon trail, I'd think you'd be well-advised to run some form of rocker protection, even if it's nothing more than some factory Rubicon TJ take-off skids. If weight is an issue for you, Quadratec has aluminum rocker protection made from 1/4-inch-thick aluminum. I installed a set on my '89 YJ, although I've got to say the fit of the Kilby pieces was far better.

You'd also be wise to run a fuel tank skid plate. As I said, I like the Kilby, but there are several available. The factory fuel skid isn't durable enough to take a hard rock hit without possible damage to the plastic tank and pump. Most aftermarket ones are 3/16-inch-thick steel and are very durable.

I think you could hold off on bumpers, a steering box skid, and even a T-case skid plate. I'm sure your factory T-case skid plate will get dented a little, but it should still be useable by the end of your trip. If you do choose to upgrade the T-case skidplate, avoid the high clearance ones that raise the T-case if you don't want to do some exhaust modifications. The high-clearance T-case skid will also raise up your T-case about 1-inch, which will negate the improved angle from your 1-inch lift motor mounts. In the end, it's not a bad option, but I just wanted to make you aware of it.

That's Not a Jeep
I know you deal mostly with Jeeps, but I'm sure you can answer this question for me. I'm interested in getting an International Scout. Is the 345 engine worth a crap, or should I plan on swapping it out? And how hard and expensive is it to find parts for these original engines? I am a Jeeper and have an '05 Wrangler that we have tons of fun with.Dan ScottRio Rancho, New Mexico

The International 345 (or the 304 or 392 for that matter) are old-school designs. The cylinder heads have small ports developing a lot of low-speed velocity that proves a good match for the engines' relatively small bore/long stroke architectures. In laymen's terms, they're torque motors designed more for low-speed grunt than high-horsepower sprinting. Think of them as tractor engines.

As for whether or not to keep the 345, as long as it's in good condition and serves your purposes I say keep it. However, if it needs a rebuild, I think you'd be much better served cost-wise in swapping in a small-block Chevy. The SBC will cost about half as much to rebuild and will provide way more power per dollar. Replacement parts are everywhere and anybody and their brother knows how to work on them and rebuild them. Plus, the 345 is a monstrously heavy engine. No sense hanging on to it if it's in poor condition.

Comparing Apples to Bananas
I read "Junkyart-Built, Real Dana 44s for your Wrangler" on I thought Verne Simons' article on building a junkyard Dana 44 was really good and well thought out. You mention everything it takes to do the swap. It's interesting how you mention the more common, but not commonly used, donor vehicles.

My one concern is how much you spent. I think it was like $2,500! I mean, you can by a custom Dana 44 already welded with a locker for about that much. Plus you specifically say that you don't have "the green" for a custom axle, yet you spend the same.

I am considering an axle swap with a Ford 8.8:Axle w/good disc brakes of an '00 Explorer-$200M.O.R.E. TJ conversion brackets-$200Brake lines-$40Used Detroit Locker-$150

Again, great article, the pricing just seemed a little off for a "junkyard" build.Austin AubinoePotomac, Maryland

That's not really being fair. For starters, the $2,649 price tag was for the front Wagoneer Dana 44 set up with new 5.89 gears, a new Detroit Locker, Dynatrac suspension brackets, and so on. Every cost to get the axles under the Jeep was accounted for. The rear Rodeo axle came in at less than that.

As for your 8.8 swap, you left out the conversion yoke to go from the Ford 8.8 weirdo driveshaft flange to something that'll hook to a Jeep driveshaft. Don't forget the wheel spacers to keep the tires out of the inner fenders (they'll rub without them) and you're assuming the gears that come in the 8.8 will match your front axle and you won't need to regear it. And a used locker?

We could've cobbled some used parts list for the D44 and knocked the price in half, but I think Simons did a good job including everything needed for the swap that most writers would have left out.

Regardless, as for your idea, if you don't want to scour for a Dana 44, the 8.8 should do you very nicely. Like most guys who swear by the 8.8, I think you're being a bit optimistic in your total expenditures. I bet you're within a couple hundred of that $2,500 price by the time you get it installed and driving in the vehicle. Hope I'm wrong. Shoot me an e-mail when you get it done to let me know how close you got.

Got a tech question you're just itching to get answered? Send it on in to Jp magazine, Your Jeep, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, or e-mail

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