A Little On The Side
Who doesn’t like a little something on the side? You can pay as much attention to it as you want or completely ignore it for a while. Your real life can go on as it always has until you are ready to make the switch over to the other thing. You can buy it gifts as your budget and time allows and it is always happy to receive them, no matter how much or how little time has passed since the last gift.
Of course we are talking about building an axle as your time and money allows. What did you think we were talking about? One of the big problems when hunting for replacement axles for a coil-sprung Jeep is that either you need to plunk down a big chunk of change all at once for a quality aftermarket unit with all the correct brackets, or you need to take the Jeep off the road while you figure out where to locate the brackets on the junkyard axle you just dragged home.
Our front Dana 30 was getting tired, and truth be told, we were just plain tired of putting money into it. The small tie rods and tie-rod ends, small ring-and-pinion, thin-wall (and probably bent) axletubes, the ball joints that seemed to last for fewer and fewer miles every time we replaced them, and the marginal brakes were but a few of our gripes with our factory-sourced front axle. The problem was, we had bills to pay so we couldn’t dump a ton of money all at once on a complete aftermarket axle assembly, and we needed our Jeep to drive to-and-from work so we couldn’t take it off the road for a week or so while we figured out the perfect locations for all the control arm mounts on a heavier-duty junkyard axle.
There are many options to consider when choosing a new axle. We wanted 1⁄2-ton-sized parts, wanted to stay close to the factory width, and needed a driver-side drop to work with our NP231. The ’81-’91 Jeep Wagoneer has a heavier-duty Dana 44 front axle that is about 61-inches wide and features a driver-side drop. We had no problems finding and pulling one from a junkyard. We then stopped dumping money into our Dana 30, and over the course of a year or so, accumulated all the parts we’d need to get a Dana 44 under our Jeep without taking the Jeep out of commission for a long time.
T&T Customs builds weld-on truss kits that greatly simplify putting just about any axle into a coil-sprung Jeep. Welding a truss to a front axle isn’t a big deal. That is, unless the truss also features control arm mounting points. You don’t want to mess around with the things that hold the axle under your Jeep unless you are a very good welder and have done this sort of thing before. Rather than take the risk of messing it up ourselves, we took our Dana 44 and pile of well-aged parts down to the experts at Off Road Evolution for a worry-free truss and gear install and axle reassembly. Here’s how we got a little on the side.