A Bulletproof 4340 U-Joint For Dana 44s And GM 10-Bolts
Not too many years ago, any Dana 44/GM 10-bolt size axle with 35-inch tires or larger was at the mercy of a busted U-joint and/or axle. On a hard-worked rig with low gearing, even 35-inch tires might be too much. Snap, crackle, pop ... and it ain't Rice Krispies!
Well, back in the late '90s, chrome-moly alloy front axleshafts began appearing and that solved part of the problem, but left the U-joint a lot weaker than the weakest part of the new alloy shafts. The millennium brought cures for that problem as well in the form of super-strength U-joints and, since then, the market has been expanding to offer four-wheeling consumers more choices. The newest entrant in the battle to put big axle beef into small axles is the Yukon Gear Super Joint.
The cross is built of thru-hardened 4340 chromoly with a titanium nitrate coating (the gold color), giving it super wear characteristics by reducing the coefficient of friction. This allows it to ride directly in the induction-hardened 4140 chromoly cap with very tight clearances and without a separate bushing or needle bearings. Needle bearings are one of the main weak links of conventional U-joints. Because they have more clearance, the roller bearings can get cocked under a heavy load as the cross distorts slightly. That will often shatter the needle bearings, pop the clips, move the cap and begin the major failure event. Without the need for a separate bushing or needle bearings, the trunnion can be made larger in diameter as well, adding to overall strength. The trunnion on the Super Joint is some 5 percent larger than a Dana 60 joint (0.935 versus 0.892 inches).
Still, a needleless or bushed U-joint is not for every four-wheeler. Needleless and bushed U-joints do not wear as well long term as those with roller bearing caps. Yes, frequent lubrication helps, but long life is the trade-off for brute strength. You definitely would not want to use a needle-less joint on full-time 4WD rigs, or a part-time rig that is used in four-wheel high often. To answer these applications, Yukon is designing a Super Joint model with needle bearings. It will be somewhat weaker than the current unit, but easily stronger than a standard U-joint. Yukon has a lifetime warranty against breakage on the current model.
Yukon injects some interesting design elements to counter the inherent wear issues of a needleless joint. The slippery titanium coating is one. A lube chamber with a spring-loaded piston is another. When you push grease into the joint at each of the four caps, the piston and spring compress and it holds a reservoir of grease under pressure. This continually feeds lubrication to the cap and trunnion over a longer period and wear is reduced. A special 200,000-psi compressive strength copper-based grease and a nifty little grease gun is included with each set of Yukon Super Joints. It's the only grease you should use in the Super Joint.
As with any of the super-strength joint manufacturers, Yukon recommends installing them only on high-strength alloy front shafts, either those from Yukon Gear or another manufacturer. They are compatible with all current manufacturer's alloy front shafts. Installing them on standard front shafts is not recommended. The full circle clips supplied will not fit an OE axle anyway, and hopefully that will keep people from doing something stupid.
Yukon Gear currently offers U-joints to replace the 297-sized ones found in many axles (Dana 44, GM 10-bolt front, some Dana 30s and a few others) and a Dana 60-sized 332 size joint is close to completion. A 260 size is on the drawing boards.