Most shops have one rate to fix a problem and another, higher rate if someone else tried to fix it first! Our secondhand Dana 60, destined for service in a decommissioned 1985 CUCV army truck, would have fallen into the latter category, having been subject to military-grade repairs and a less-than-organized disassembly by the previous owner. But beggars can’t be choosers. As any junkyard scrounger can tell you, the Dana 60 axle tree has been all but plucked bare. Even a thoroughly beaten core commands significant cash. Our specimen had already been tampered with, but the price of the truck was right, and so it came home—various buckets, baggies, and loose bolts in tow.
More mud than metal, the axle was in need of a total overhaul. While gears and axles from G2 were on order, we wasted no time rebuilding the Dana 60 from the outside in, beginning with the kingpins. If you’re unfamiliar with kingpins, they are the collection of components that allow a Dana 60’s knuckles to rotate and turn the vehicle. In later iteration of axles, they were replaced by ball joints; however, the kingpin variants have remained the more sought-after specimens for their off-road ruggedness, ease of high-steer arm options, and wide range of aftermarket support.
Rebuilding kingpins isn’t a tremendously hard job, but it does require a precise order of operations and some careful attention to detail. What follows is a complete guide to kingpin replacement and reinstallation on a GM Dana 60 front axle, but Ford and Dodge are virtually the same.
Next, drive the lower bearing race out of the inner C. This race supports the bearing that the knuckle assembly pivots on when turning.
With the axle apart, clean all of the mating surfaces of corrosion and grime and chase all of the bolt holes with a tap.
We sourced a kingpin rebuild kit from Yukon Gear & Axle. The kit comes with gaskets, seals, bearings/races, bolts, and all of the other assorted hardware required for the job. Note: One kit (PN YP KP-001) is needed per side.
With the lower bearing cup clean, install the oil/dust shield with the dome side facing the upper kingpin (we’re working on the axle upside-down). The shield simply sits in place and will be held firm by the bearing race (next step).
Using a bearing race/seal driver, install the race into the axle cup.
The completed assembly will look like this.
Pack the lower kingpin bearing with grease and set it into the race. We like red tacky tractor grease.
This oil seal will install on top of the bearing. We used a piece of tubing to drive it in so as not to damage the pronounced seal lip. Make sure it goes into the bore evenly to prevent damaging the seal.
Next, the actual kingpin can be installed in the axle. This job requires a torque wrench that will support 600 lb-ft or torque (or, if you’re like most of us, a breaker bar and a long length of pipe). Not many have the correct kingpin socket, but editor Hazel recommends using an extra-deep 1-ton 9/16-inch lug nut inside a 7/8-inch impact socket. Others have good success welding up a tool using a 14mm lug nut.
Slip the grease/dust seal over the kingpin.
At this point the knuckle can be set over the kingpin. Flip the axle over again, making sure the knuckle doesn’t fall off.
Install the lower kingpin bearing cap and four bolts with lock washer. Installation shouldn’t take much force, and the bolts need to be torqued to 85 lb-ft.
Place some grease on the kingpin, then install the nylon kingpin bushing.
The spring retainer sits on top of the nylon bushing like so. It helps spread the load of the spring so the nylon doesn’t crack or wear prematurely.
This is the upper kingpin cover. Install the spring inside it and the gasket on its mating face, then set it over the kingpin. Because the spring requires preload, it’s taller than the cover and will not sit flush.
Use a clamp of some kind to gently compress the spring and suck the cover toward the inner C. Don’t try to draw it down via the bolts, as that could warp the cover and lead to leaking grease or dirt contamination later.
Thread in and tighten the Zerk fitting on the top of the kingpin cover, and fill the cover with grease.
Here is the completed, rebuilt kingpin installed on the axle housing. With the axle out of the vehicle, the whole process takes about an hour. The next step will be installing a fresh set of 5.38 gears from G2 Axle & Gear, chromoly axles, and an Eaton Detroit Locker.