Backyard 1-Ton Dodge Ram Axle ConversionPosted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on July 1, 2010
"Work hard and play hard" is an expression we've heard for decades and something most truck owners live by. While many wheeling enthusiast often push their 1/2-tons to the limit, a few actually manage to break beyond the light-duty drivetrain's capabilities. This is often the result of larger tires, power upgrades, or a general no-nonsense approach to driving and heavy-duty work expectations. So what's a 1/2-ton wheeler to do?
When buying a new 3/4- or 1-ton truck isn't in the budget, most turn to the junkyard for a beefier set of 1-ton axles. Since 1-ton axles are of a full-float design they can handle extra weight, power, and oversized tires more easily. And when you factor in bigger brakes and massive differentials it's easy to see why dropping a set of 1-tons under your 1/2-ton pickup is a worthwhile investment.
Though flashes of fabricating axle brackets and new suspension components often scare many away from attempting a heavy-duty axle conversion, a few light-duty platforms allow 1-ton axles to practically bolt in place.
A great example of this is the '94-'01 Dodge Ram 1/2-ton 4x4. Since both second-generation light- and heavy-duty Ram trucks use a coil-sprung solid front axle and a leaf-sprung rear, they are relatively easy to interchange.
To test this theory we stripped the axles out from our buddy's '94 Dodge 1/2-ton pickup and replaced them with a Dana 60 front and Dana 80 rear from a second-gen 1-ton Dodge. While this swap is mostly bolt-in, a little cutting and welding are required. Overall, it is possibly one of the easiest 1-ton axle conversions we've ever encountered and a great upgrade for the '94-'01 1/2-ton Dodge.
There always seems to be a catch when a swap is going too smoothly. Ours came in the form of a mismatched gearset. Luckily, we were looking to regear, so we upgraded the ring-and-pinions with 5.13 gears from Superior Axle & Gear. For the driveshafts we had the front shaft shortened by JE Reel Drivelines, and the rear shaft was pulled from under a '98 1-ton Ram we found in the salvage yard.