By Christian Sturtz,
Photos by Christian Sturtz
Originally Published in Issue 26 of 4Low Magazine
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Big axles have become popular lately. However, in many instances one-ton axles are not needed or may be overkill. The TJ that we are working on has a 4-cylinder engine, automatic, with 33” tires. The only future upgrade is to get more power out of the 4 cylinders and possibly increase the tire size to 35”. With these modifications and some rough terrain it could push the stock short low pinion Dana 30 past its limits. But, does the TJ need one tons? No! Even if the vehicle were equipped with a 6 cylinder, a one-ton axle would be too much.
So what should we replace it with? We are looking for something that is stronger than what we have, affordable, and readily available. At first, we looked at the TJ Rubicon 44. In our part of the country, they go for about $1,000 – $2,500 at a wrecking yard in an unknown condition. That is not affordable, because it leaves us with too much invested to have any funds leftover for upgrading. Next, we looked at the high-pinion non-disconnect Dana 30, found in various XJs, which is also a direct bolt-in. High pinion front axles push on the drive side of the ring gear; compared to low pinion fronts, which push on the coast side of the ring gear. Pushing on the coast side can cause gear deflection leading to gear failure.
The decision was made to go with the high pinion 30. Its high pinion design helps with gear strength, proves driveshaft angles/clearance, it’s inexpensive, and readily available. We were able to pick one up at a local wrecking yard for $150. So, what can we do to make it better? Coil sprung Jeep Dana 30s as well as 44s are known for having a tendency to bend tubes and “C’s”. To fix this we are going to beef up the tubes and gusset the “C’s”.
First, we must strip down the axle and prep it for the work we will do, starting with removing the knuckles and ball joints.
After the knuckles and ball joints are removed, we will remove the internals. Wow, were we surprised! You never know what you will get from a wrecking yard. This axle was a mess!
Knowing that the axle will be gone through, this did not discourage us. The ring gear was missing, the pinion was junk, and the bearings were cooked. After making sure the bearings were not spun in the housing we moved onto removing the plastic vent and cleaning the tubes and housing.
After reading all the directions, we laid the parts out.
The original housing brackets were cut off and ground smooth.
We laid out the holes for the Iron Rock sleeve kit, drilled them, inserted sleeves, and positioned them.
Next, we tacked the sleeves into position, welded the plug welds, and the ends of the tubes towards the “C’s”.
Then we moved on to the Artec parts. Some of these parts require pre-assembly and welding. We pre-assembled and welded the long tube side of the upper control arm mount on the truss, the lower control arm mount cam guides, and the track bar bracket.
The Artec “C” gussets were fit, positioned, and tacked.
Next, the framework for the Artec truss was slipped together, positioned, and welded on the inside. Top plates were installed, long side upper control arm mount was tacked, along with the rest of the truss.
The Artec lower control arm mounts were positioned and tacked in place. What we love about these mounts is their self-jigging design. It is only necessary to make one measurement. They must be rolled up against the coil/shock mounts, flat along the axle tube, and spaced ¼” from the side edge of the coil/shock mounts. We used a ¼” thick tab to get this spacing. To finish up the Artec products we squared up the track bar bracket and tacked it into place.
Then the welding begins! For best results preheat the housing, according to the directions, there is also a cooling procedure. We welded, slowly jumping from spot to spot, careful to not overheat one area.
After the housing cooled, we installed the Metal Cloak sway bar brackets. They need very minimal trimming to work with all our additional truss and gusset work. They were test fit, tacked, and welded.
The housing was wire brushed to clean up all the welds and the berries were knocked off. The housing was then painted. We also wire brushed the knuckles, repaired wear marks from brake pads, and painted them.
To finish the whole project, new Spicer ball joints were installed, the knuckles were slid into position, and then the ball joints were tightened to spec.
Finally, the upper Currie Johnny Joint control arm bushings were installed.
Iron Rock Off Road Inc. Metal Cloak
12906 Ventura Court, Ste 6 2484 Mercantile Dr.
Shakopee, MN 55379 Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Spicer Parts Gearwrench
1.800.621.8084 Apex Tool Group
www.spicerparts.com 910 Ridgebrook Rd, Ste 200
Sparks, MD 21152
585 N. 700 W., Ste C
North Salt Lake, UT 84054
Axle Sleeves (10131)
“C” gussets (TJ3010)
Lower Control Arm Mounts (TJ3011)
Track Bar Bracket (TJ3013)
Truss System w/ Currie Uppers (XJ3001)
Extended Sway Bar Tabs (7190)
Spicer: Ball Joint Set (706944X, qty 2)