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Do-It-Yourself Dana

Posted in How To on March 1, 2002
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Changing your own axle gears isn’t as easy as installing a CB radio and it is certainly more difficult than bolting on a lift kit. But if you think you have the ability (and patience) then you would run into your first problem way before the scent and stains of gear oil pollute your clothing. You can’t just go down to Joe’s Auto Parts and find the tools you need to tear down and rebuild an axle. You could drive around town and chase one of those specialty tool trucks but don’t grab your keys and a map just yet. Matco Tools now offers its complete line on its Web site. You can easily order tools from your computer at work, home, or at a buddy’s house. And don’t worry, we’re complete computer idiots and we could easily get through the online catalog.

We called West Coast Differentials for the ring-and-pinion and other internal parts and to get some advice for our first gear swap. Since we were working on a Dana axle and it still had the original Dana gears in place, West Coast Differentials recommended that we use genuine Dana replacement gears to make setup easier. With some ratio swaps it will be necessary to change the carrier but we didn’t need to. We also ordered a complete master install kit and an extra set of bearings (we’ll explain why later). The kit comes complete with bearings, shims, marking compound, ring-gear bolts, a new pinion nut, and an installation manual with all kinds of cool tech info on many different axles.

There are four measurements that need to be correct for a ring-and-pinion to be set up properly: pinion depth, pinion bearing preload, carrier bearing preload, and backlash. Once you have the correct pinion depth, the rest of the install kind of falls together and makes sense. To make sure we didn’t screw up, we ordered video number 1600 (Differential Rebuilding) from Technical Video to get some more info. The video shows shortcuts along with the teardown and buildup of several more popular axles. After reading, watching, and thinking, we headed out to the garage to get dirty. Here’s how we set up our gears at home and how the tools are used. Don’t forget to check out the “Tool Town” sidebar to get a description of each tool that you’ll need and how much it will set you back.


Matco Tools
Stow, OH 44224
West Coast Differentials
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742

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