Tearing into our 2 1/2-ton Rockwell axles.
Don't even think of running Rockwells on your Jeep unless you're flogging tires that are 42-inchers or larger. In the last issue, we started the suspension on our budget big Jeep project. The finishing touches on the suspension will be covered in the next issue. Our J-truck is getting 49-inch Super Swamper Irok tires, so we needed some cheap axle beef that could stand the weight of our J-truck and the leverage of the tires. Our 304 V-8 is hardly a drivetrain ripper, but lesser axles would have cost us more in the long run.
There are only four reasons to run 2 1/2-ton axles on your Jeep: They're cheap, easy and inexpensive to modify, and not likely to break. The Rockwells already come with 6.72 gears, which are perfect for big tires, they have huge nearly unbreakable components so you don't have to spend a mint on custom wizardry, and they are easy to find and inexpensive when compared to what you might pay to purchase and build a heavy-duty front and rear axle combo. For more info on how to pick the right Rockwells, check out "Deuces Wild" (May '03).
Running the heavy stock drum brakes on an off-road Jeep that will see mud and water didn't seem like a good idea. Plus, we didn't like the extra 320 pounds that the four-wheel drums added to our axles or the wheel selection limitations. To keep our axles cheap and light and even allow the use of 15-inch wheels, we went for the USA 6x6 pinion brakes. They feature Wilwood pads that are designed specifically for the extra heat that a pinion brake can produce. They're also less grabby than conventional brake pads commonly found on regular automotive applications. The main downfall of pinion brakes is that you can pretty much kiss street use goodbye. The pinion brake rotors spin 6.72 times faster than wheel-mounted rotors would. They make a lot of heat when the brakes are applied. If you plan to drive on the road, then USA 6x6 also offers several street-friendly wheel-mounted disc kits for substantially more coin.