Junkyard Jeep JK 1-Ton Axle Swap

We salvage and rebuild a Ford Dana 60 and GM 14-bolt to beef up this Jeep JK

Mike MagdaPhotographer, Writer

Spending the down payment on a new house for custom bulletproof axles is a great way to shore up the drivetrain on any off-road vehicle, but there is a much less expensive alternative. Josh Huntley visited his local salvage yards to find a Dana 60 front axle from a 2006 Ford Super Duty F350 and a GM 14-bolt off the rear of a 2004 Chevy Silverado 2500. Total cost of the used axles was $1,100. The axles were intended for Huntley’s 2013 Wrangler Sport that had already been modified with plenty of salvaged parts, including a 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 from a Durango, a 6-speed manual transmission from a Dakota, and a Rubicon transfer case.

“I like the later model Ford axles because earlier ones had smaller unit bearings, and I’ve been building my Jeep up for four years using mostly junkyard parts,” Josh told us. He’s not shy about driving his rig cross-country to get dirty, either. “I’ve done a 4,500-mile round trip to Rausch Creek, and gone to Moab.”

Both axles came with 4.10:1 gears and open differentials. Lockers were needed, and the original gears could have worked, but Josh wanted the added ground clearance that a Ballistic Fabrication shave kit would provide on the rear 14-bolt. Cutting off the bottom of the axle housing means that the factory ring gear would have to be machined to a smaller outside diameter to clear the bottom plate, or a special ring gear would have to be ordered. Huntley chose an available 4.88 from Ballistic that would fit inside the housing and added a Yukon Grizzly locker. Up front the matching 4.88 Sierra gear was installed with an Eaton ELocker. The differential and gear installation was performed at Dakota Customs. Josh used an Artec swap kit to facilitate the installation. This kit came with the necessary brackets to mount the links and springs from the Synergy long-arm kit that had already been installed. It also incorporated a truss to strengthen each axle.

His off-roading buddy, Pat Helgeson, directed the bracket welding and shave-kit installation. Key to the effort was never letting one area of the axle tube heat up during the stitch welding of the brackets, and maintaining a 450-degree metal temperature of the housing while welding the shave plate and wear plate.

Final installation included swapping in Reid Racing knuckles on the front axle and switching to Adams Driveshafts for the front and rear. Josh also added wheel spacers in the rear so the axles would have matching track widths. The GM axle was three inches narrower than the Ford. The spacers also matched the Ford’s front bolt circle so that all four wheels could be ordered with an 8 on 170mm pattern. The rolling stock on Josh’s rig includes Pro Comp 17x8.5 steel wheels with 37/12.5–17 Pit Bull Rocker tires.

“Otherwise, I would have to machine the front hubs to match the GM in the rear,” Josh said. “If something broke, then I would have to machine it again. Now I can get the pieces from a dealership or parts store.”

The only other machining required was on the rear hubs to accept the ABS tone ring that was supplied by Artec. Spacers were also machined to properly align the tie rod on the Artec hi-steer kit. Overall total cost for the project (axles plus all other parts included) was estimated at $8,500, and the project took approximately three weeks to complete, mostly in his spare time and weekends. Here’s how it went down.

Amazon Affiliate links are our attempt to show you real-world pricing and availability for the products we review and install, and while the Amazon links are separate from editorial and advertising, the Four Wheeler Network may receive a commission on purchases made through our posts.