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Building Axles for Traction & Toughness - One-Ton Axle Tech

Dana 60 & 14 Bolt Upgrades

Kevin McNultyWriterChris HamiltonPhotographer

No doubt 2½- and 5-ton axles are the meat-and-potatoe axles of built mud rigs. They are cheap and tough compared to other common axles that are available. The only downside to Rockwells is that they are huge, bulky, and heavy. That statement will have to be taken with a grain of salt because we can’t really say the large Rockwell/military-style axles are a hindrance to performance because they are commonly installed on competition-winning mega trucks. Whatever the difference is between a Rockwell and other common axles like 1-tons, they both can be fitted with gearing and lockers. However, the smaller 1-ton axles like the Dana 60 and 14-bolt axles are more common, have performance attributes related to their smaller size, and have more aftermarket performance parts available.

Dana 60 and 14-bolt axles can be found on many common production trucks spanning decades. Any good wrecking yard should have some lying around and ready for the taking; just look for the larger trucks. The benefit of these 1-ton axles is the bevy of performance parts like gears and lockers. They also allow more uptravel because there is no top hat/pinion sitting on top of the axle.

We needed to upgrade the axles on our buggy—the stock 1-ton axles just weren’t cutting it. We were looking for lockers for additional traction, gears to even out the buggy’s final drive ratio, and a conversion kit to get rid of the Dana 60’s vacuum-actuated axleshaft disconnect. We checked out Yukon Gear & Axle’s website and ordered up 4.88 gears, chromoly shafts for the front and rear, and a Zip Locker and vacuum disconnect conversion for the front Dana 60. We pulled the axles from the buggy and took them over to our buddies at Bigg Boy Auto for a little help with the install. These guys are the experts for gears and repairs in our area. Installing gears and lockers can be complicated but not so much that the average mechanically inclined home mechanic can’t do the job himself. Follow along as we walk you through our gear and locker install.