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Jeep Wrangler Axle Swap - Smashing Pumpkins

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on October 18, 2006
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Photographers: Jeff Nasi

For many of us, it doesn't matter if we've actually broken our stock axles, we know that we probably will. Bigger tires, lockers, and higher-output engines all conspire to wreck stock axles. Often, before we go pouring money into the stock axles, we'll upgrade them whether we need it or not. Here's a list of axles that you may or may not need but make killer swaps into a Jeep.

1. GM Corporate 14-Bolt Rear
Upside: Cheap, plentiful, and subject of many risqu "shaved" T-shirts. It's a full-floater - it's got a massive ring-and-pinion and gigantic axleshafts.

Downside: Few aftermarket lockers and axles, as well as gearing limitations when compared to the big Dana axles. Also, unless you shave the housing and ring gear, it hangs lower than a Dana 60, and no matter what you do, it's a heavy pig.

Good in: A Jeep that wants a full-width axle and bulletproof strength for cheap. If you aren't afraid of cutting almost 2 inches out of the housing and getting the ring gear diameter turned down, it offers decent clearance.

Avoid: The 14-bolts that don't have full-floating shafts or removable pinion supports.

2. XJ or TJ Rear Dana 44
Upside: It's the right width, right bolt pattern, brake lines will bolt in, gets rid of the C-clips, and provides 1.31-inch, 30-spline shafts.

Downside: They are often pricey, the XJ 44 isn't a direct bolt-in for anything but another XJ, nor is the TJ unit a direct bolt-in for anything but a TJ, so some fab work will be required.

Good in: Any Jeep with a 60-inch axle width that just wants to be rid of C-clips and gets the stronger shafts and ring-and-pinion compared to the D35.

Avoid: Paying too much for it if the gears aren't right, brakes aren't good, and it won't bolt into your Jeep.

3. XJ High-PinionDana 30 Front
Upside: Will bolt into TJs and ZJs with no problems. Stronger high-pinion design and correct bolt pattern for most Chrysler Jeeps.

Downside: While your Dana 30 lockers, shafts, and whatnot can be reused, the gears can't be.

Good in: Any YJ, TJ, XJ with a low-pinion or CAD-style housing.

Avoid: The vacuum disconnect units at all costs.

4. Narrow-Track Wagoneer or Early Bronco Dana 44 Front
Upside: Get a real Dana 44 front axle with real hubs and heavier-duty brakes without having to narrow the unit.

Downside: None of your brakes or anything else will swap over. Also, many of the Wagoneer axles have six lugs and will need to be swapped with other Dana 44 front parts for a five-lug pattern.

Good in: Any Jeep looking for an axle with 60-61 inches of width with real Dana 44 (non-Rubicon) issue parts and has no problem outboarding springs or moving spring perches to make it work.

Avoid: If you don't want to narrow the housing, shafts, and incur more costs, stay away from the wide-track Wagoneers and J-Trucks.

5. Dynatrac Pro-SeriesDana 80
Upside: Will stand up to anything. Absolutely anything.
Downside: Hangs down low and probably isn't for anything under a 40-inch tire.
Good in: Any fullsize Jeep with huge tires or even a Jeep tow rig.
Avoid if: You like worrying about your axles or you're running 35-inch or smaller tires.

6. Scout Rear Dana 44
Upside: It's the right width for the Jeep, and the 5-on-5 1/2-inch bolt pattern is what any true Jeep should have.
Downside: They are hard to find, don't have the best brakes, and you'll still have to weld on spring perches and shock mounts.
Good in: Any Jeep going to a 5-on-5 1/2-inch bolt pattern which will see no larger than 35s and moderate wheeling.
Avoid if: The person selling you the axle is a Scout fanatic. You'll still have to do some work to get this in, not to mention gears and whatnot, so it isn't worth top dollar.

7. Currie-Built Front and Rear 9-Inch housings With True Hi9 Third Members
Upside: Well built, high-clearance housings, shafts, and brakes that will bolt into your Jeep with third members that will take the new bigger than 35-inch tire standard.
Downside: No scrounging around in junkyards with your tools. Possible driveshaft interference with underbody components from the ultra high-pinion.
Good in: Jeeps with up to 38-inch tires that want the ultimate in driveshaft clearance without going to a portal axle.
Avoid if: Custom, non-junkyard availability scares you.

8. Any Dana 60, 70, or 80 RearUpside: For tops in gearing and brute strength, these axles have it. Good gear selection and good locker selection are among the many benefits.
Downside: They hang low, they won't bolt into your Jeep, and you will end up running eight-lug wheels for any of these axles that are worthwhile.
Good in: Any Jeep with big tires, hot engine, or driver with a heavy-stupid pedal foot.
Avoid if: You are on the fence about going above a 35-inch tire. With 35s or less, the pumpkins are anchors.

9. Any Ford 9-inch Rearend
Upside: Ridiculous gearing options available, cheap to narrow, easy-to-find 5-on-5 1/2-inch bolt pattern, and easy to setup third member-type design.
Downside: Stamped steel housing needs beefing and skidplating if you plan on bashing it, and low-pinion design is problematic in rocks.
Good in: The weekend warrior-type Jeep that doesn't see massive rocks but wants a stout axle on a budget.
Avoid if: You aren't handy. This axle is a handy man's dream with all the widgets and do-dads for it. Also, changing and checking of fluid levels is rough.

10. Spidertrax Spider-9 Front Axle
Upside: Built to your specs with a 9-inch centersection and Dana 60 outers, it's a great combination of clearance and axleshaft strength.
Downside: Basically, the only downside is the dent it will put in your bank account.
Good in: Anything.
Avoid if: You don't want killer clearance with ridiculous strength.

PhotosView Slideshow


Currie Enterprises
Corona, CA 92880
Huntington Beach, CA 92647
Weivoda Auto (True Hi9)

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