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How-To: Beef Up JK 44 Axles

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on March 13, 2018
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The stock Dana 44 axletubes found under the Jeep Wrangler JK are a light-duty version and feature a 2.50-inch OD tube diameter and a relatively thin wall thickness of 0.25 inches. Severe off-road activity can bend these front axletubes and create steering, alignment, and tire issues. Hammer the frontend for very long, especially after moving up to tires in the 35-inch–plus range, and your front axle can bend or break at the end forgings where the steering knuckles attach to the housing.

There is an inexpensive and easy-to-install remedy. Aftermarket kits to put sleeves in the axletubes or weld gussets on the end forgings are abundant. We decided to create a superstructure around the end forgings, and worked with Dunks Performance fabricator Casey Castle to walk you step by step through the installation of a set of TeraFlex’s upper (PN 4990800) and lower (PN 4990910) knuckle gussets, and to give some professional tips on this easy upgrade for the factory Jeep JK Dana 44 axlehousing.

TeraFlex JK knuckle gussets come in pairs; one set for the upper support of the cast end forging, the other to strengthen the lower area. They are laser-cut to match the contours of the castings.
It’s very important to make sure the castings are sanded down to bare metal or else the welds will be weak, negating the benefit of the gussets. Cleaning and prepping the housing took us as much time as the actual welding.
We used a deburring tool to get down to bare metal and clean areas where a flexible sanding disc couldn’t reach. You don’t want any dirt, rust, or other impurities in the areas being welded. This tool also helped make a closer fit between the gussets and our JK’s housing.
TeraFlex’s gussets closely matched the contours of this JK’s Dana 44. We used the deburring tool to grind away any factory welding spatter so the upper (and lower) gussets fit close to the tube and cast forging.
Stitch-welding in the gussets with cooldown periods in between is important. Castle alternated welding top and bottom gussets on the front of the driver side of the casting, then moved to the passenger side to do the same. After waiting a few minutes for the cast forgings to cool down, he came back and finished up welds on the backside of each.
When the TeraFlex gussets are in place they nearly double the working thickness of the end forgings, ensuring a long, bend-free life—even under harsh use.
It’s easy to see how the design of the knuckle gussets strengthens the integrity of the cast JK Dana 44 end forgings. Such an upgrade helps handle the stress of running taller, heavier tire/wheel packages that can cause issues with the stock forgings under more extreme off-roading.
Casey Castle always applies several coats of rust-inhibiting paint after the installation of any parts that require sanding or welding.

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