JK Wrangler Front Axle FailPosted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on September 1, 2011
Have a JK Wrangler? Running big tires and heavy wheels? Wheel it? Yes? You’re hosed. Lately it seems that nine out of 10 JK Wranglers with bigger tires or heavy armor have a bent front axle. That goes for 2WD all the way up through the Rubicon models. It’s more prevalent in the heavier four-door Unlimiteds, but the two-doors aren’t immune. Furthermore, stuff like the front ball joints, track bar bracket, and sway-bar brackets are normally hashed. The rear axles are a different story, so we’ll focus on the fronts here.
When the JK Wrangler came out in 2007 it addressed a lot of the shortcomings of its TJ predecessor. Better suspension and steering geometry, improved stability and handling, and even upgraded axle strength (in some areas) are all now in its playbook. The pedestrian Dana 30 front is high-pinion for better gear tooth contact in a front application. The Rubicon Dana 44 front is high-pinion with a bigger 8.8-inch ring gear, a larger pinion, and larger 1350-size axle U-joints. Both use the same knuckles with much better steering geometry and huge 12-inch brakes. Sounds good, right? Well, it’s all packed into a housing that’s as frail as a 90-year-old woman. Thankfully, the aftermarket has addressed many of the issues and there are solutions. But there’s no free lunch. Before throwing metric tons of money into your factory Mopar axles, consider your ultimate build plans, wheeling style, and level of abuse so you can build appropriately the first time.
Many other aftermarket manufacturers are jumping on the JK axle-fix wagon. Here are just a couple offering components to upgrade and bolster the JK front axle.
JKS Manufacturing: Heavy-duty brackets
Skyjacker: Bolt-on lower control arm skidplates
RCV Performance: CV-style chromoly axleshaft assemblies
Poly Performance: Heavy-duty replacement ball joints; 3-inch axletube kit; heavy-duty brackets
Reid Racing: Heavy-duty replacement knuckles
Superior Axle & Gear: Chromoly axleshafts