Rear Axle Wrangling
We've had our '01 TJ in the fleet for 10 years now. Way back when we ordered it, the Dana 44 rear axle was the big thing to get. Historically, a Dana 44 was the last axle any Jeep would need, and we figured that would be the case for the TJ. When we ordered Red in 2000, not many had blown up or dissected the TJ Dana 44 rearend.
We now have about 150,000 miles on our TJ, and we've been fighting to keep the rearend together and leak-free for 100,000 miles of it. We have been through three different aftermarket lockers, countless axleshaft seals, and we recently blew the ring and pinion up. Our initial reaction was to rebuild it again, but after some quick measurements, we found the axlehousing was bent and that the price of a rebuild wasn't attractive at all. As it turns out, the TJ Dana 44s really aren't that much better than the Dana 30 and Dana 35 they replace. The big increase in strength comes from the ring and pinion and the carrier, but this strength is often negated by the weak housing and tubes. Much of that stuff probably popped because of the weak flexible housing.
Since this wasn't a newly-built Jeep, we needed to take what was already there into consideration. The front axle is stuffed with 4.56 gears and an ARB Air Locker. The wiring and most of the air lines are still present for the rear axle from a previous install, so it would be easy to put an ARB in the rear and our gear ratio was already chosen for us.
It became a game of whether to straighten the axle we had by retubing it or ordering a new one from one of many quality aftermarket vendors. Thinking there would be a big difference in cost, we considered several axle options. Here is what we found.
This Jeep is a daily-driver/weekend warrior and we don't really need Dana 60s in it, but we do need something better than a stock Dana 44. If we were to keep the TJ Dana 44, we'd need to beef it up. We'd re-tube it and then put a 3/16-inch TnT Customs truss with optional mounts and coil buckets on it to keep it from bending again. It would get an ARB Air Locker, 4.56 gears, and would need all new brakes and seals. Currie Enterprises does some good work rebuilding axles, so we'd drop the whole pile of parts off with them. This is what it would cost us to have Currie put our rear back to usable shape using TnT parts and bearings and seals from Randy's Ring and Pinion.
|TnT Customs Truss||$438|
|ARB Air Locker||$806|
|Master Rebuild Kit||$200|
|Gear and locker install||$175|
|New seals and axleshaft bearings||$85|
|New bearing install||$50|
|New brakes shoes and hardware||$75|
|New brake drums||$60|
Pros: •Making the most of what we already have on hand •Truss will fix the bending issue
Cons: •Basically the same Dana 44 axle we've already destroyed several times •Does very little for gear strength •The splines on our stock shafts already have a bit of the twisted-barber-pole effect