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Junk Yard 4x4 Axle Swaps - Axle-Swap Bummers

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on March 1, 2008
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Photographers: Courtesy Of Currie Enterprises

If you can put your Ford, Chevy, Jeep, or Dodge ego down for a moment, maybe you can face the fact that most companies don't always engineer components to the best of their abilities. Then consider that the corporate bean-counters start each fiscal year figuring out how to slash the cost of vehicle production for increased profits. What does this mean for us? It means that components like the axles have in some way or another taken a hit in performance and dependability.

We aren't here to tell you that the axles under your rigs are junk, even though they may fall into the undesirable category. What we are going to tell you is if you're going to swap out your axles, there are some that are better left to rust away in the junkyard. Take this information with a grain of salt, because we all know that just about any axle can be modified for bulletproof performance. It's up to you to decide whether it's worth it to put the additional time and money into one of these axles when another will take half the effort and half the hard-earned dough.

However, many of these axles listed below work perfectly well under normal driving conditions. But in our experience, once these axles see some serious off-road use and abuse, more power after an engine swap, and larger wheels and tires, they end up right back at the scrap yard.

The axles we look for when scrounging through the salvage yard are the ford 8.8-inch, dana 44s from '73-'78 Chevy pickups, dana 44s from Jeep Wagoneers and Cherokees (SJ), and dana 60s from '67-'95-and-earlier Chevy or dodge trucks. You also have to be very careful when searching for a rear dana 60 axle. keep in mind that they are usually sitting under a truck that has been used heavily for towing or as a work truck, so they've likely been used and abused. one well-respected axle builder said he is only able to use about 2 out of 10 dana 60 rears brought to him from a scrap yard.

AMC Model 20

AMC Model 20-The Jeep CJ model 20 rear has a two-piece axle, and the smaller-than-normal axletubes have a tendency to separate and rotate in the housing. However, the later 20s from Jeep Wagoneers are good candidates for a swap because the shafts are one-piece and flanged.

Dana 28 TTB (Twin-Traction Beam)-The Bronco ii has a small and weak 6.625-inch front ring-andpinion. if you are going to go to the trouble of swapping your axles, you may as well do it with an axle that offers strength and is supported with plenty of parts from the aftermarket.

Dana 35 Rear

Dana 35 Rear-This axle's weak differential housing has a tendency to bend and has a small ring-and-pinion. The small 1.18-inch 27-spline axle is adequate for stock vehicles under normal driving conditions, but not good for larger tires and high-performance engines.

Dana 35 Front-This '93-'97 Ford Ranger four-cylinder axle is built with the smaller, weaker dana 28 ring gear. it comes with 1-inch-diameter 23-spline axleshafts, which aren't strong enough for high-performance vehicles on oversized tires.

Aluminum Dana 44

Dana 44-The infamous aluminum differential found in the Jeep grand Cherokee is noisy and problematic with spun bearings and a weak differential housing. It also has a ring-gear offset that is not the same as a regular dana 44.

Dana 44-The '75-'79 Dodge 1/2- and 3/4-ton used unit bearing (live spindle) in the front knuckle for economical manufacturing purposes, and they are expensive to replace when worn out. The oddball knuckles are not compatible with other dana 44s or parts.

Ford Late-Model Dana 60

Dana 53-These semifloating axles are found in Jeep J-series pickups, Jeep fC vehicles, and gladiators. There aren't many parts available from the aftermarket for this axle.

Dana 60-These '05-and-newer ford front axles are great swaps for the same year and newer fords. The axle has extremely large suspension and bracketry mounting points-one is cast into the housing-and they are difficult to modify and remove for other applications.

Dodge 8 1/4 Inch

Dana 61-These Ford rear axles have a very limited selection of aftermarket ring-and-pinions available. They also have a different ring-gear offset and specific carriers to this axle only.

Dodge 8 1/4-inch-Watch out for the axle that was used on the rearend of the dodge dakota midsize pickup and has a small ring-and-pinion, which is weak and not well suited for extreme off-road abuse.

GM 10-Bolt

GM 10-Bolt-This axle has a weak and wimpy housing, and the cast integrity is very poor. The axle's other issues are C-clips, and the axletubes bend easily and have a tendency to slip out of the housing.

Eaton HO 52 And 72-These axles have extremely limited aftermarket gearsets and repair parts available. even though it's really beefy looking, there is no point in swapping in this axle since it's a big, oversized banjo-style. This axle is the predecessor to the 14-bolt.

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