4WDrive - - Contents - Words and pho­tos by Bryan Irons @Bryanirons

The ever-tran­spir­ing game of off-road “catch up” has us strap­ping on big­ger tires, bolt­ing on heav­ier ar­mor, ap­ply­ing more power and up­grad­ing driv­e­line com­po­nents to our rigs in or­der to keep up with the crowds in the woods with turn key trail slay­ers and home­brewed mon­sters alike.

As such, the “chicken or egg” quandary of­ten rears its ugly head. Heavy ar­mor? Yes, have plenty of that, as the scales tell no lies. Power? Ya, a ni­trous huff­ing, fuel in­jected le­viathan that makes enough torque to twist a Prius like tin­foil. Tires? 150 lbs a cor­ner of 37” Pit­bull Rock­ers and BAD Bead­locks are at the ready. Axles? Well, be­tween the weight, power, tires and gear­ing… we can snap rear Dana 44 shafts at will, and the well of junk­yard spares were gob­bled up long ago. It’s time to fix that.

If the first thought you had was “time to swap in one ton axles!” we’re go­ing to dis­ap­point you greatly, but with good rea­son. A Scout Dana 44 ended up in the rear end of our trail steed with a width only a few inches nar­rower then our front axle, and the same 5 on 5.5 bolt pat­tern. At a nar­row ”ish” 58” wide from wheel mount­ing sur­face to wheel mount­ing sur­face, it was per­fect for fit­ting through tight trails while main­tain­ing enough ground clear­ance. We re­ally didn’t want to change these di­men­sions much.

Af­ter a few brown pop in­fused brain­storm­ing ses­sions, we dreamed up a high strength, 4.10 geared, disc brake equipped Dana 44 with a width of around 60”, and a 5 on 5.5 bolt pat­tern. Now it was time for ac­tion, but we’re mar­ried and don’t have a big enough al­lowance, so we’re go­ing to have to pick up pieces one at time. For the base of our axle foun­da­tion, we scooped an­other rear Scout Dana 44, af­ter all, we know the axle de­sign works for us, and we

just need to spruce it up.

It may seem odd to start with a bear­ing pack­age, but Jantz Engi­neer­ing just south of the bor­der is renowned for in­no­va­tive ways of keep­ing a Dana axle to­gether. Namely, their K4 in­stal­la­tion kit which al­lows for a much larger Jeep JK Dana 44 ring and pin­ion to be placed in our old school Dana 44 hous­ing, for a claimed strength in­crease of 44%. Jantz kits re­quire spe­cific ring gear car­ri­ers, but the in­stal­la­tion bear­ing kits are com­plete and use only top shelf brands such as Koyo, NTN, SKF and Timken.

A 35 spline ARB Air Locker was or­dered next in a 3.73 and down (nu­mer­i­cally) car­rier size (PN RD147). A se­lectable locker such as the ARB takes wheel­ing trips to the “Epic” plateau by lock­ing both left and right axle shafts to­gether for max­i­mum trac­tion at the flick of a but­ton and the slight hiss of air. We have heard sto­ries of leak­ing gas­kets and air seals, but in our ex­pe­ri­ence, avoid­ing this headache in­volves start­ing with a straight hous­ing, keep­ing it that way, and proper in­stal­la­tion tech­niques. To date, we have had ex­actly “zero” is­sues with any of our ARB in­stal­la­tions.

To match the 35-spline locker, we need 35 spline shafts… there are “Scout” spe­cific 35 spline shafts, but this can end up cost­ing more then our afore­men­tioned al­lowance al­lows. Plan ‘B’ was to scoop later model (think Jeep TJ and XJ) Dana 44 cut to length, 35-spline Chro­moly Yukon shafts from Randy’s Ring and Pin­ion (PN YA WD44-35-32.0). The beau­coup beefier 4340 al­loy shafts would en­sure we would have to try pretty hard to snap them, and the ad­di­tional beef from jump­ing from 30 to 35 splines will make it a true feat of ut­ter stu­pid­ity if we do.

The Scout Dana 44 hous­ing outer bear­ing pock­ets use stan­dard “set 10” bear­ings, which work for our new 35 spline shafts, BUT the dis­tance be­tween the bear­ing and the axle flange is about 1.25” longer with the new TJ/XJ style axle shafts. This lit­tle SNAFU meant we needed a so­lu­tion for the brakes. A trip to the lo­cal junk­yard yielded a set of late 90’s Nissan Max­ima calipers with a built-in emer­gency brake. A set of Suzuki Sa­mu­rai front ro­tors fit like a glove with some CAD (Card­board Aided De­sign) mount­ing brack­ets to match. The bracket sets were cut at a lo­cal shop out of 3/8 steel plate. Some drilling, tap­ping and coat of paint al­lowed the brack­ets and calipers to bolt to the fac­tory outer hous­ing and hold the calipers se­curely.

Also, from Randy’s Ring and Pin­ion we or­dered a set of 4.10 axle gears (PN YG D44JK-411RUB) for a Jeep JK as de­scribed in the Jantz in­struc­tions. The pin­ion shaft OD of the JK gearset is on par with its big brother the Dana 60, and the ring gear di­am­e­ter much larger and closer in strength to a Dana 50, and we were happy to get this kind of strength up­grade. The ring gear bolts are also stepped up a size, so be warned, you may have to drill out your locker/car­rier mount­ing bolt holes to fit.

With the in­ter­nals sorted, we needed to turn our at­ten­tion to mount­ing the axle and keep­ing it safe. TMR cus­toms in New­mar­ket, On­tario had ev­ery­thing we needed for our metal fix. Their 2.5” U-bolt elim­i­na­tor kit (PN 1363) al­lows for a 2” stretch and negates our U-bolt hang­ing un­der the axle, which can catch on the trail in our “Spring Un­der Axle” con­fig­u­ra­tion.

We also sourced out a su­per beefy dif­fer­en­tial cover (PN 1188) from TMR. In the past, we have built these in our shop but couldn’t achieve the same qual­ity as TMR and ended up chas­ing leaks for far too long. TMR cuts, bends and welds the 3/8” thick cov­ers be­fore ma­chin­ing the mount­ing sur­face per­fectly flat. The mount­ing holes are cut flat and new stain­less hard­ware is sup­plied. All made in Canada!

Our last, and most nerve-rack­ing piece to pick up was a com­plete axle truss, again from TMR. While generic brack­ets for Dana 44’s are avail­able, we wanted all the beef we could get. Since Dana 44 hous­ings come in many dif­fer­ent shapes and con­fig­u­ra­tions, we se­lected a JK spe­cific Dana 44 truss (PN 1293) and mod­i­fied it slightly to fit our Scout unit. We took our time and welded the brack­ets on slowly so as to not warp the hous­ing. Look for an up­com­ing is­sue in 4WDrive where we take a closer look at the process.

End of the day thought… Could you build a stronger axle for less money? Yes, most cer­tainly but you will have to make trade offs. With­out the abil­ity to fi­nance a crate axle, we had to build ours piece by piece as money and time would al­low. In the end, we landed on the per­fect unit for our needs. One that will get us fur­ther down the trail with­out hear­ing the sound of shrap­nel fly­ing be­hind the dif­fer­en­tial cover. Now onto how it all went to­gether…

Jantz Engi­neer­ing – www.jantz4x4.com

TMR Cus­toms www.tm­r­cus­toms.com

ARB – ar­busa.com

Yukon Gear and Axle www.yukongear.com

Randy’s Ring and Pin­ion www.ring­pin­ion.com

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