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Jeep Wrangler TJ Dana 35 - Making Stock Survive Part 2

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on April 1, 2009
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This is our donor TJ prior to adding the axle upgrades. As you can see, the stock Rubicon wheels and 32-inch Goodyear MT/R tires leave much to be desired for serious trail work. The JKS J-Spec 4-inch short-arm suspension we installed back in May '08 will accommodate a 35-inch tire without issue, so we thought the axles should do the same.

Last month we showed you how to make a front Dana 30 survive with 35-inch tires on a trail TJ. This month we're continuing our coverage on stock axle survival tactics by beefing up a rear Dana 35 found under the same Jeep Wrangler.

The majority of failures on a Dana 35 axle relate to weak 27-spline C-clip-style axleshafts. The factory never intended for these shafts to last with larger than 33-inch tires. So it is no surprise that Superior Axle and Eaton teamed up to build a Super 35 kit that increases axle spline count to 30 and axleshafts made of a much tougher chromoly-alloy material. Coupled with Eaton's virtually indestructible Detroit Locker, these shafts are the hot setup for TJ owners with busted axle blues.

In addition to the added strength afforded by Superior's Super 35 kit, we thought it was a good time to address braking safety. Everyone knows it takes more brake force to stop a larger tire, but not everyone chooses to address the issue prior to adding bigger meats. Luckily, TeraFlex manufactures a complete rear disc-brake conversion kit that allows TJ owners with drum brakes to gain significant rear-end braking improvements via improved cooling. The configuration uses OEM-style parts, which makes it super easy to find pads later on down the road. This installation was performed by the capable hands of Dustin Chernoah, owner of DC Customs in Ukiah, California, a family owned and operated business that specializes in bolt-on Jeep modifications and custom fabrication.

This is the Super 35 kit from Superior axle. The kit includes either an ARB or Detroit Locker (your choice), left and right axleshafts with Timken roller bearings, seals, and Grade-8 thread-in wheel studs. We like the fact that these axles feature dual lug patterns and a protective DuraCoat finish to help resist corrosion and to maintain a smooth surface finish. Another nice feature of these shafts is the "rolled splines" which are known to be upwards of 35-percent stronger than cut splines found on other axles available today.

Superior also hooked us up with 4.88:1 gearing and a master install kit to ensure Dustin had all the necessary parts to perform the gear swap. Upon receiving these parts we immediately sent the gearset out to Cryo Science of Oceanside, California, to have a cryogen treatment process performed on them. This process should remove any microscopic fractures in the metal and provide a 100-percent gain in strength over stock. The reason for this is simple; with the stronger 30-spline chromoly axleshafts, the weak link would likely be the pinion gear. We don't want our donor Jeep stuck out on the trail with a hard-to-change gearset, so, increasing the gear strength should in theory move the weak link to the driveshaft U-joint-a much easier fix to deal with while on the trail.

This is the complete TeraFlex disc-brake conversion kit for the Jeep Dana 35 and 44 rear axles found under all TJs from '97 to '06. This kit is ideal for anyone wanting to increase braking performance both on and off pavement. Designed as a complete bolt-on upgrade, the kit provides an internal drum parking brake, which provides outstanding holding power when compared to other disc-brake conversions. The whole kit installs in about four hours and is recommendable for anyone running larger than stock tires. Be sure to order a pair of new emergency-brake cables separately for your particular application.

PhotosView Slideshow
PhotosView Slideshow

A Better Shaft
Tom Wood provided a stout CV rear driveshaft featuring his 1330 Gold Seal U-joints and 2-inch tube. We like Tom's shafts because he uses thick-wall tubing and his U-joints feature a warranty that covers the shaft as well. In other words, if a Gold Seal universal joint should fail, Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts will also fix damage to the driveshaft.

Eliminate the C-clips!
As of press time, Superior Axle had another trick axle upgrade for TJ owners with Dana 35 C-clip rear ends. This C- kit eliminates the dreaded C-clip axles and allows the customer a much more reliable axle retaining method. Never again will you have to worry about the dreaded scenario of breaking a C-clip axle on the trail. The shafts are made from the same high-strength chromoly alloy we showed you at the start of this story, and the whole kit bolts in with no cutting or welding. These kits include 30-spline dual-lug pattern axleshafts and retail for right around $600. We plan to upgrade to this kit in the near future.


Superior, WI 54880
Cleveland, OH 44114
Rugged Ridge
Murray, UT 84107
Superior Axle
Cryo Science
DC Customs
Tom Wood's Custom Drive Shafts

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