The transformation from 1/2 ton
to 1 ton is complete!
Read below for all of the stats, here are some pictures.
Left to right: Me, Tree with The Beast, and Justin
Front Dana 44 axle removed, preparing for Dana 60
Front ARB Air Locker and 5.13 Spicer gears installed
Axle installed, awaiting hub assemblies and brakes
Hub assembly and EGR slotted rotors, severe duty blueprinted
calipers, braided stainless extended lines, and carbon kevlar pads.
Swapping from 1/2 ton axles to 1 ton
axles is very important to a lot of off roaders.
Too often, you will see a lifted truck with huge tires and tiny axles (or worse, even
IFS!). A person simply cannot run large tires on a stock truck without modification.
I am a firm believer in doing things "right" and not cutting corners. I knew that once
my truck was on 38 inch tires, I needed to get rid of the crappy axles I had, specifically
the front Dana 44 axle. The Dodge Dana 44 is a uniquely craptacular axle because it
is super weak. Not only does it have unitized hub bearing assemblies, the inner
shafts are freaking tiny and one of the shafts even necks down for no reason! This
is a very weak spot in the front axle. The hub assemblies are also dangerous because
when they go out, they can go out without warning! They typically will start to make a
grinding noise before they go bad, however this is not always the case. If the hub
assembly goes out, your tire can fall off, and the damage can be moderate to extreme,
depending on where you are. Hopefully it happens when you are off roading, but it
can happen while driving down the highway at 55 or 60 mph.
Anyway, enough preaching. I wanted
to man up and swap axles so I bought a Dana 60
front axle from a 97 Dodge Cummins diesel and a 98 Dana 70 axle from a different Dodge
3/4 ton truck. The Dana 60's are in all 3/4 and 1 ton Dodge diesels and V10 trucks, and the
rear Dana 70 can be found in 3/4 tons only. The Dana 70 is used in automatic transmission
applications and the Dana 80 is used in standard transmission applications. The Dana 70
is more desirable because it is practically as strong as the Dana 80, however it is not nearly
as big physically. The Dana 80 "pumpkin" or differential hangs down very low and you will
need monster size tires in order to gain ground clearance from this swap. And the Dana 80
is not much stronger than the 70. The 70 uses 1410 U joints, what does that tell you! It is
unbreakable as far as I'm concerned. A normal one ton 14 bolt rear axle only uses 1350 U
joints, so you can see that the Dana 70 is much stronger. It has 35 spline shafts that are
1.50" diameter! Enough said! For more information and specs, check out this site:
I keep getting off track. So I got the Dana 60 and 70. The Dodge Dana 60 is not as
strong as a Ford kingpin high pinion Dana 60 from the 77-79 model trucks because
the Dodge 60 does still have unitized hub assemblies, but they are much stronger
than the Dana 44 version. The shafts are pretty big, they are 30 spline and 1.31"
diameter, but they do not neck down like the Dana 44 shafts do. The 98 - 01 front
Dana 60's are 32 spline, for those interested in knowing, and the 00 and 01 models
have dual piston calipers stock if you can get them with the axle.
I got off track again... actually, I'm
so far off track, I would consider this "de-railing."
So you keep reading and I'll keep typing whatever comes to mind. :-)
I said I got the axles and I said they
were important and why. Sounds good, right?
Now I just had to install them. And pick what gears to get. And should I lock them?
Front and rear, or just rear only? Wait, I wonder if the axles will bolt right up...?
The answers to these questions all came
to me in a vision one night. No, actually,
I got all of the info I needed from Pavementsucks.com I had a chance to talk to a
lot of experienced guys on there (experienced with trucks, certainly not experienced
sexually! haha!) about what gears to go with and all kinds of fun crap. What it boiled
down to was that I was going to run 38 and 40 inch tires, so I wanted 5.13 gears. This
would give me a lower gear ratio than stock with those larger tires, which would mean
more low end power and better acceleration basically. Then I made up my mind that I
wanted to lock the rear and then I would lock the front later on in a few years. So I got
a Detroit locker for the rear axle. It is the most bulletproof locker you can get and works
automatically. They are available for practically every application you can think of.
A few months later, I had some extra
money and decided to lock the front while the
gears and stuff were still being installed. I would rather do it all at once instead of
having more down time on the truck and having the front locked later. But I didn't
want a full time locker up front because I don't have manual locking hubs, so I put
an ARB air locker up front. I control it from a switch on my dash. You have to buy
a compressor to use with this locker and that has extra benefits, like being able to
blow up Mystic, my blow up doll from my bachelor party, and of course air up some
I paid for the axles in November of 2003
and didn't put them in until May of 2004
because my friend Tree was too busy to come up until then. He is the one I bought
the axles from and he installed the gears and lockers for me at no charge! Hell of a
deal, so I thought I better not whine about him taking so long to come up here. Anyway,
he came up in May sometime and we took two days and installed the axles. I had help
from three other friends, Justin, Britt, and Dale from Springfield (ruffram). We started
about 11 AM on Saturday after I got off work that morning and swapped out the rear
axle. It took most of the day because the brakes on the Dana 70 were screwed up and
we had to take the parking brake cable off of the old 9.25 rear axle and put it on the
70. Thankfully Justin had a clue about brake work so we let him do it all. It took several
hours to complete that one task. Then we simply bolted up the leaf springs and shocks
and I tried to put my rear driveshaft on. I found out that it was the wrong driveshaft!
The whole plan was to not have any down time at all, so much for that plan. It was
Saturday afternoon and I had no way to drive the truck. Thanks for nothing, Arizona
Driveline. I'll elaborate on this story more later.
So we decided to start on the front
axle. It actually went better than the rear did.
We unbolted everything and pulled the old axle out, and slammed the new one
under there. You only have a few things to undo to swap the front axle. You have
the control arms (4 bolts), the track bar (1 bolt), the steering (1 bolt) and the shocks
(2 bolts). Then you just put the new axle in there and bolt everything up. It's really
easy. Then I had to bolt up the new brake stuff from EGR, which is top quality.
Everything bolted up just fine except one of the control arm mounts was bent
so we had to beat the crap out of it to straighten it up a little. We worked until
about midnight and then called it a night and resumed work Sunday afternoon.
All in all, I think it took about 8 good hours of "work," which meant we completed
the swap in about 20 hours. We sat around and talked and joked so much that
the time just flew by. Not to mention I cooked over 20 hot dogs in one day.
After the swap was done, my truck still sat in the shop. I had no rear driveshaft.
We hooked up a tow strap to the truck to drag it into the front yard with Britt's
XJ so we could take pictures after mounting the 42's up. This is all because the
guys at Arizona Driveline are morons. I called them Monday morning and had
them overnight a new driveshaft with the correct ends. Guess what? It showed
up 2 days late and was still wrong, it was 5 inches too long! I called up Tom Woods
and said I need this length and I need it tomorrow, he said no problem. It was
here the next day, he even painted it for me. It fit right the first time and he even
saved me about 400 bucks by telling me that I really didn't need a high angle CV
on the rear shaft since it is so long.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I put 42's
on... but earlier I told you that I was going
to run 38's or 40's. So what happened there? Well, a couple weeks before the
axle swap, a friend of mine in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (MadRam) decided he would
sell his 42 inch TSL's and wheels for a good price. So I sold my old transmission
and used that money to buy his wheels and tires. They were cupped and worn
but I wanted to see if I could fit 42's and needed something bigger to drive around
on anyway. It turned out that the 42's didn't rub on the road but did rub big time
off road, so I had to extend the long arms and now they do not rub at all. But the
time has come to get new tires, so I am going with 40 inch Boggers this time. I
would still run 42's except Boggers aren't made in that size. The 5.13 gears are
a little doggy for 42 inch tires but the truck does run better than it did stock, it
accelerates faster than stock. I just wanted more than that. So that is why you
see I am building a 408 Stroker now. I need more power! I plan to run these 40
inch Boggers until they wear out, then I will lift a few more inches, get 44's and
hopefully the motor will be done by then so I can still get up and go real fast.
For those interested, I would recommend 5.13 gears for 40's but 5.89's for 42's.
42's are some big freaking tires.
Well, that's my 1 ton swap story.
If you have any questions, feel free to
email and ask. The swap is a great thing to do if you are running tires
over 37's on a 1/2 ton truck. I will add more photos, I took a ton of them.
Copyright: Danny Gaston, 2004-2007