A question we seem to get a lot is from readers wondering if it is better to order a custom axle for their 4x4 or to buy a used housing and rebuild it to their own specification. It is a question that we didn’t always have an immediate answer for, but were curious about ourselves. So we decided to do a little research and put together a comparison as apples-to-apples as possible to help answer this lingering question: “Is it better to buy a custom axle or rebuild a used one?”
For the purposes of this story, we imagined a Chevy K10 pickup or K5 Blazer with 38-inch tires. The owner has already swapped an eight-lug rear axle in, and has now turned his attention to the front with the idea of having a stout, but not crazily overbuilt, front axle that has an eight-lug bolt pattern to match his rear axles, thereby keeping his wheels the same.
Depending on year, this generation of GM truck came from the factory with either a 10-bolt or a Dana 44 front axle, and for our fictional truck we would require a Dana 60 or comparable axle. It just so happens that Dana 60 front axles were available on 1-ton Chevys of the same vintage and are a nearly bolt-on affair, giving us two options for our exercise: choose an OE Dana 60 from a mid-’80s Chevy K30 or order a custom-built Dynatrac ProRock 60 to spec. Because we thought of the subject of this story as being a dual-purpose rig that would see pavement and dirt, we spec’d out both axles with a selectable ARB Air Locker. Also, keep in mind that much of the information contained in this story will apply to other vehicles, especially Dodge’s of the same era.
So what would the differences be between the junkyard axle and the custom axle? To answer these questions we headed over to axle manufacturer Dynatrac in Huntington Beach, California, to get a better understanding of what Dynatrac has to offer in a custom axle. Armed with that information, we then contacted the driveline experts at West Coast Differentials (WCD) in Rancho Cordova, California, and put an order in for our fictitious axle as if we’d be dropping it off to their service shop to be rebuilt.
Read on to see what we discovered.
Dynatrac axles aren’t cheap, but they are among the highest quality aftermarket axles in the business and they are made here in the U.S. using parts from U.S. suppliers and raw materials that can be traced back to U.S. origins. All of the machining, heat-treating, finishing, and final assembly is done right here in the U.S. with the final product strictly screened for quality control. So what do you get when you purchase a Dynatrac axle?
The standard Pro Series 60 front axle comes with a high-pinion centersection, 31⁄8-inch-diameter, 1⁄2-inch-wall tubes, 1310 yoke, your choice of gear ratio, OE ball joints, 35-spline 1541 steel shafts, 35-spline stub shafts, 1480 U-joints, Warn Premium hubs, a Dynatrac nodular iron diff cover, and 13.1-inch brake rotors with two-piston Ford calipers. This basic open-knuckle axle is available for $5,395.
For that price, you also get a level of customizability, not available with an OE axle. Dynatrac can adjust steering geometry, as well as spring pad angle, and even overall width to give you exactly what you need and ensure your caster and pinion angle play nice with each other.
Many stock ½-ton trucks came from the factory with Dana 44 front axles. While the 44 is a
Extra-cost options that we decided to include on this build were the additional $299 to turn it in to a high-clearance ProRock 60 housing, the installation of an ARB Air Locker for $854, and a 1350 yoke for $29. Those items bring the total cost of our custom axle to $6,577.
Other options available that we did not include in our fictional build were Dynatrac’s massive 14.5-inch brake upgrade ($895), 4340 axleshaft and U-joint upgrade ($1,295), DynaLoc hubs ($429), and Dynatrac ProSteer rebuildable ball joints ($569).
No matter what upgrades you choose, Dynatrac offers a 12-month/unlimited mileage “no fault” warranty as well as some of the best customer service in the business.