Bomb Proofing Our Dana 60 Front Axle
After nearly a three-year hiatus, the Baja Bomber is back in action and ready for service as a desert racing support rig. But before we head south to chase Trophy Trucks through the silt of Mexico, we figured it would be a good idea to fortify our Dana 60 front axle. After all, nobody wants to deal with a broken front-end in a foreign country, especially where spare parts are scarce and vehicle abandonment usually results in a scavenger free-for-all.
To complete this project, we turned to the very capable team of axle builders at Right Gear and Axle of Salinas, California. For over 15 years, Right Gear and Axle has been building high-end axle assemblies for everything from agricultural harvesting equipment to mud drag racers. Follow along as we address some of the weaker points of the Dana 60 front axle found in Dodge Ram 3/4- and 1-ton pickups built between 1994 and 2002.
The first thing we wanted to address was the weakness of our factory Dana 60 housing. Unfortunately, Dodge used a central axle disconnect (CAD) setup on all second-generation 3/4- and 1-ton front Dana 60 axles. The arrangement consisted of a large cast-iron housing installed on the longer of the two axle tubes. This unit housed a vacuum-operated axle disconnect device designed to engage the front drive system whenever four-wheel drive was selected.
While this setup is convenient for most drivers, it splits the long-side axleshaft and axle tube into two individual pieces-not a good thing for serious trail work. To fortify the weak area, we added a three-dimensional axle truss fabricated from laser-cut steel plate and tubing. This setup tied each portion of the axlehousing and CAD housing together for significant improvements in strength. This one-off axle truss was custom-built by a well-equipped fabrication shop and cost around $600 to complete. Once the truss was completed, the whole axle assembly was powdercoated to protect it from the corrosive saltwater common to Baja's low lying peninsula roadways.