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Build a Better Dana 30

Ben Stewart | Writer
Posted July 1, 2000

Here’s How to Make Yours Almost a 44

Step By Step

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  • The Warn front-hub conversion kit comes with everything you’ll need to do the swap, including high-strength outer axles. Our Jeep required new front-brake rotors, because all TJs are equipped with composite rotors that cannot be machined to accept the larger hub assembly.

  • Though the hub conversion comes with high-strength outer axles, we opted to install Warn’s high-strength inner axles as well. The Warn axles (bottom) are made from 4340 nickle-chromium-molybdenum alloy steel, have a hardened shaft and yoke, can accept full-circle clips for the U-joints, and are rated at 60,000 lb/in. For comparison, the stockers are 1040 carbon steel rated at 40,000 lb/in; only the shaft is hardened, and they are machined only for stock C-clips. Additionally, as this shot shows, the Warn shafts are larger in diameter before necking down and have a longer spline engagement.

  • Notice how the Warn outer axle is machined to clear this full-circle clip. It’s a much stronger way to install the U-joints.

  • Our Dana 30 has had a rough life over the past four years. As such, it took a bit of heat to loosen the three bolts that held the original unit-bearing assembly.

  • Once the stock wheelbearing assembly, brakes, and axles were removed, we assembled our new Warn inner and outer axles with fresh U-joints and installed them. Be sure to slide the axles carefully into the diff without damaging the inner seal.

  • Conejo Off Road then assembled the new Warn spindle with the secondary spindle seal, nylon thrust washer, and the thick rubber V-seal with plenty of grease.

  • We installed the brake dust shield and spindle along with the new threaded spindle studs.

  • We had to replace our factory composite rotors with these full-cast rotors (ITT Automotive PN 65225). The pilot hole was machined to 3.575 inches (+/- 0.015 inch) to fit the new hub assembly.

  • Next, the new wheel hub is pressed over our modified rotor via the wheel studs.

  • The inner and outer wheel bearings are now installed. Be sure they are greased thoroughly between the needle and cage. The inner wheelbearing seal can be pressed in or tapped carefully using a mallet and block of wood so you don’t damage the bearing seal.

  • Now the new rotor and wheel hub assembly slides over the spindle.

  • Next, the inner wheelbearing spindle-nut washer and adjustment spindle nut can be installed. Torque this nut to 50 lb-ft, then back off 90 degrees and retorque 3-5 lb-ft.

  • We then installed the second lock washer and the outer spindle nut and torqued them to 125-150 lb-ft.

  • Slide the splined thrust washer down the axleshaft until it hits against the nose of the spindle. Then put the C-clip into the groove of the axle and install the locking hub assembly.

  • Once the brake calipers were installed, our new heavy-duty Dana 30 was complete. Make sure your wheels have a center hole of at least 2.78 inches so they will clear the new locking hub, and be sure to check torque specs after the first 50 miles or so.

Let’s face it—drivetrain breakage is a natural part of four-wheeling. And for many Jeep owners, one of the first steps to combat this is to install a Dana 44 front axle. However, this may not always be necessary. Dana 30s in newer Jeeps have the same-size U-joints as Dana 44s: the 5-297X. This is the most common weak link and broken part on an axle. Though Dana 44s have a larger ring-and-pinion and larger-diameter inner axles, a Jeep running 33-inch tires and a fairly stock 4.0L would have a hard time breaking these components on an OEM Dana 30—especially if the driver is reasonable with the go-pedal.

With the release of several new products from Warn, owners of stock model-30 axles have the opportunity to make a good axle even better—without ponying up the big bucks for a custom Dana 44.

One of our first steps to building a better 30 was to install a Warn front-hub conversion kit. Dana 30s in newer Jeeps are a full-time unit-bearing design. This means that even in two-wheel drive, everything in the front axle turns all the time. Our frontend is equipped with a Lock Right locker, and though we have not felt any negative feedback on the street in our full-time frontend, we were excited about the prospect of our TJ tracking and steering better with the new locking hubs. Additionally, when we do break another U-joint (which is inevitable considering the trails we drive), it is comforting to know we can simply unlock that hub and limp back to camp in three-wheel drive to fix the part—without damage to the axle. Since we were going to delve into the hub conversion on our Dana 30 anyway, we decided to install Warn’s high-strength alloy axles at the same time. The hub conversion comes with high-strength outer axles, so we ordered the inner axles to match. In addition to the added strength in the axle material, the Warn shafts are machined so that full-circle clips can be used to install the U-joints. This increases the durability of the U-joint assembly and is a worthwhile upgrade for any front-drive axle.

This front-axle upgrade was handled by Conejo Off Road in Thousand Oaks, California, and it required a full day to complete. Our TJ had composite rotors, so we needed to purchase new front rotors and have them machined to accept the larger hub assembly. It should be noted that the track width increased by ½ inch per side after the locking hub conversion. Once everything was tight, we piled on a little more than 75 miles before we returned for retorquing. Though we noticed our steering was slightly lighter on the street with the hubs unlocked, it was not dramatic. We would imagine that on a daily driver with less aggressive tires, the difference would be more noticeable.

On the trail, everything worked just as we expected. After a few runs, we can report the setup works well, and we haven’t broken anything yet. Since it took us almost 4 years to break our first U-joint on this vehicle, we anticipate many more trouble-free miles with this much-improved Dana 30.

Sources

Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
800-543-9276
www.warn.com
Conejo Off Road
Thousand Oaks, CA
805-495-RACE

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