Answering Your Top Tech Questions
I currently own a ’97 Jeep Cherokee XJ equipped with the 4.0L, AW4, NP231, high-pinion Dana 30 front and Dana 35 rear. It has a 4.5-inch Rough Country lift and 31-inch tires on 15-inch wheels. I have recently acquired a Dana 60 rear axle from a Ford F-series for $75. My plan is to swap in a 318ci V-8 along with the Dana 60 rear. I am still not sure what axle I will get for the front. For now, I would like to know what I need to do to make the Dana 60 rear work under my Jeep. And should I keep it full-width? I am open for ideas and suggestions as far as the best swap and axle for the front.
It sounds like you have a great starting platform and some ambitious plans. The Dana 60 rear that you scored is a huge upgrade over the stock Dana 35, but it’s not exactly a quick and easy swap. Given that your XJ is still running leaf springs out back, the fabrication needed to get the Dana 60 housing under the Jeep won’t be too bad. You’ll need new spring perches, spring plates, and U-bolts, along with shock mounts—most of which you can source through Parts Mike (www.partsmike.com).
You’ll most likely need a new driveline and/or a conversion U-joint and replacement yoke. If the axle has drum brakes, you can run them, but I suggest swapping over to disc. Look for a disc conversion that will allow you to run a factory-style parking brake. Parts Mike also offers parking brake conversions for the NP231 transfer case as well.
Given that the axle is most likely a full-float 60, you’ll need new wheels. I wouldn’t spend the money to narrow it, unless you wheel trails with width restrictions or live in a state where the majority of the tire has to be covered. Keeping it the stock width will make it easier to find ’shafts when you snap one with your newfound V-8 power. Depending on your tire size, I would suggest trying to secure a high-pinion front 60 to match the axle out back. You may be able to find a high-pinion 44 more easily, but if you plan to run over a 37-inch tall tire, the 60 will be the better investment.
I am in need of knowledge and expertise. I am a recently retired wounded soldier looking for a daily-driver that could still get to my folks’ house in the Texas hill country whatever the weather. This task took me to Jeep, but the incentive programs didn’t apply to wounded vets. This left me kind of up in the air on what vehicle to choose new or used. If you have any knowledge of manufacturers that offer discounts to wounded vets, that would be a great help. Moreover, if you have any suggestions on used vehicles, I would appreciate that as well.
First off, thank you for your service—it’s greatly appreciated. Incentive programs seem to change from one day to the next. The new and used car market can be a frustrating jungle filled with rebates, holiday-inspired sales, and obnoxious advertising gimmicks. I live relatively close to a military base in North Carolina and have seen discounts advertised for active and ex-military personnel. It may take a few calls to find the right dealership in your area, but I am almost certain that one would be willing to provide you with a discounted rate for serving in the military. It seems un-American that they wouldn’t.
As far as a good Jeep 4x4 that can serve as a competent daily-driver, weekend wheeler, and is solid in inclement weather, both the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are great options. If you are spending more time on-road than off, then the Grand might be the better pick for you. The V-8 models are equipped with an all-wheel-drive system that will make traversing through the mountains more sure-footed and enjoyable. The ’93-’04 models are equipped with front and rear solid axles, multi-link suspensions, and have great aftermarket support. The ’05 to ’10 models are equipped with an IFS front, while the ’11-to-present ones are fully independent. The later models have a more limited aftermarket, but are very solid vehicles. If you have the time and patience, see if you can look for a ’05-or-newer Grand equipped with the diesel engine. The diesel models are very powerful and extremely fuel efficient.
Outside of the Jeep brand, the Toyota 4Runner is a great option as well. I am a fan of the ’96-and-newer platforms, due to the refinements both inside and out. The used Toyota SUV market tends to be pricier over the Grand Cherokees, but there are plenty of good deals to be had. The late model 4Runners also have a strong aftermarket following.
I’m in the process of swapping the axles and suspension on my ’71 CJ-5, and I’m trying to figure out if I have any other options as far as wheel bolt patterns are concerned. I’m installing the axles from a donor ’74 Jeep Cherokee (standard rotation Dana 44s), and I’m leaving the axles at full-width. I’ve been told that I can (and it seems feasible) swap the knuckles from a Ford Dana 44 up front, to stay with the 5-on-5½ bolt pattern. It’s the rear axle that has me really stumped. I was wondering if it would be possible to swap the rear axleshafts out (probably not a horrible idea on a 40-year-old rig), and order them with a 5-on-5½ pattern?
I know it would be a lot easier and cheaper to just live with the 6-on-5½ pattern, but all the guys I wheel with run 5-on-5½ wheels, and I have three sets of 5-on-5½ wheels. For the record: no, I’m not succumbing to peer pressure to run 5-on-5½ wheels—but on more than one occasion, I’ve had to borrow or loan a spare to somebody who already has a flat or has managed to damage their spare. So for the sake of convenience, I’d like to stick with the old CJ pattern. Then again, if this is going to potentially cost me an arm and a leg, or if this is going to lead down a quixotic path of madness, I’ll just live with the Cherokee pattern.
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(Editor John Cappa responds:)
It can be done. The absolute least expensive way to do this is with wheel adaptors (spacers). Unfortunately, they will add two inches to your wheel backspacing. You can source a set through Billet Wheel Adapters (www.billetwheeladapters.com). The other option is to have Currie (www.currieenterprises.com) cut you some new rear ‘shafts with the correct 5-on-5½ pattern. Up front you can keep your knuckles, stub axles, locking hubs, brake calipers, and brake caliper mounts, and convert to 5-on-5½ using a combination of parts.
Those would include:
-Small bearing Dana 44 spindle (your early FSJ axle may already have these, so double- check)
-’79 Ford F-150 4x4 hub and rotor assembly (other years work, too)
-Small bearing Dana 44 wheel bearings
-’79 Ford F-150 wheel seals
That combo is the easiest way to get five lugs on your Dana front axle using common bolt-on parts.
I have a ’10 Jeep Wrangler JK two-door Rubicon that is great, except for the lack of power. I understand that there are superchargers available for these rigs. Are they a realistic thing to add to the Jeep? What about California regulations? Any thoughts?
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(Editor John Cappa responds:)
Great timing, we recently installed a Magnuson (www.magnacharger.com) supercharger on our 3.8L JK. It made a huge difference in power. The kit should have a CARB number soon so it will be legal in California. Our Jeep is fairly heavy with HD axles, 37-inch tires, steel bumpers, rocker guards, and so on. It also has 5.38 axle gears. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to the kit. Good news is that it’s a lot less expensive than a Hemi swap, but it’s no replacement for a V-8 if that’s the kind of power you crave.
We can pull very steep grades in Sixth gear (manual transmission) at about quarter throttle. It’s a night and day difference in power. Bad news is that it requires 92-octane fuel. In our Jeep we can muster about 12 mpg on the highway and about 10 mpg around town. One bummer is that the intercooler system blocks the radiator area. The engine still runs cool, but the already-anemic early-JK A/C system will now never produce cold air on an especially hot day. The oil fill on the valve cover is a little more difficult to reach, but Magnuson is said to be working on a bolt-on extension.
Those are the tradeoffs that we have noticed so far—keep an eye out for a full write-up in an upcoming issue of Four Wheeler.
I own a ’10 Nissan Xterra with the off-road package. It has a six-speed manual, NISMO intake, and cat-back exhaust. Do you have any suggestions as to how to improve the gas mileage? I have installed a computer that monitors the vehicles performance and operating parameters. I also drive with a light foot. Overall, in the summer I get 17 mpg around town and about 19 mpg on the highway. There must be something I can modify to get about 25 percent more fuel economy.
It appears as though you are getting around the EPA estimated fuel economy numbers, which isn’t bad. A 25-percent increase is no easy task. You mentioned that you are already taking a light-footed driving approach, that’s the best idea. If your Xterra is equipped with a mechanical fan, then swapping to an electric fan will help as well. While there may be other ways to tweak out more power from your engine, spending a lot of money on more high-end and complex-power adders will be counterproductive to your money saving plan.
All-terrain or more highway-friendly tires will net better mpgs over mud-terrains and heavy off-road cleats. Also, a set of aluminum wheels will help the cause. Barring gutting the vehicle of seats, carpet, and bare essentials, it’s a real challenge to net the gains you are looking for.
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