Article courtesy of Steven Hunt (AKA
We all have read and seen the many many postings
about upgrading our axles. All we hear about is the 14 bolt this and 14
bolt that. Well thatís all fine and dandy that we upgrade our rear
axle to a 14 bolt, but what about the front axle that is still 6 lug?
Not everyone can afford the time/money to swap it for a D60. So we are
left with either carrying 2 spare tires (1 per axle) or researching on
how to upgrade our front axle to 8 lug.
In this article I will explain how to swap a D44 6
lug axle into an 8 lug version. It will work the same for the 10 bolt
axles that some of you have. There
are 2 versions of Dana 44 axles in which the later version you can still
use the 1/2 ton spindles, but the earlier version you must upgrade to
the 3/4 spindles. One call
to Border Parts (address & phone number listed below) will tell you
which version you have. It
is by far is one of the easiest upgrades Iíve done. The hardest part
is obtaining all the necessary parts to complete the job. To eliminate
any confusion, a list of parts follows:
1: D44 ĺ Ton spindles.
2: D44 ĺ Ton backing plates (also known as Caliper
3: D44 ĺ Ton hub/rotor assemblies. (can be
purchased separately, but easier just to get them together).
4: D44 ĺ Ton bearings/races.
(Timkens are the only
brand I use, but its your own preference here).
5: New seals for the axle shafts should be
considered, especially since they are only $5 each side and also come
with the necessary bushing that goes in between the spindle and axle
6: 2 locking nuts and washer per side which also
come in a pack for around $13.
7: Your existing locking hubs can be used on the ĺ
ton hubs no problem as they are the same diameter.
8: Last but not least, some good marine grease.
Marine grease is recommended as it has fantastic water repelling
properties which are very useful for water crossings, mud holes, etc.
that we encounter with what we do out there.
All these parts can be obtained NEW from local
parts stores that KNOW what they are doing. I found mine at a shop in
San Diego called "Border Parts". They ran me roughly $575 for
everything. Now I know that every part listed can be found in the local
junkyards for a fraction of the cost that I paid, but keep in mind that
certain things should just be bought new regardless, i.e.
bearings/races, and seals. I had NO luck at all finding a donor axle in
any of the local junkyards around me. After searching for over a year I
just said to hell with it and bought it all new. Grim Reaper can vouch
for me on that (especially since I bugged him every time I saw him to
keep an eye out for these parts)Ö thanks anyways Grimmy.
Tools required to do this swap arenít extravagant
or complex. Most of your basic tools will get it done, but the most
important tool to have, and if you donít have it then donít even
bother starting this job is the Hub socket. It can be purchased from
your local parts store, NAPA carries it, and even JC Whitney (who I
bought mine from) carries the socket. Costs around $15 and itís a
necessity. Youíll need it in the future to repack your wheel bearings
or to do a simple brake job anyway, so ya might as well get it.
1. Find a nice level area and park your rig with
the parking brake on, or if ya donít have one then put blocks in front
and back of your rear wheels. Remember, Safety firstÖ
2. Jack up the axle and put it on jack stands.
Remove your wheels, then the calipers and secure them out of the way.
Donít just let them hang from the brake line, actually secure them as
that could damage the brake lines.
3. Remove the locking hubs with an allen wrench,
then use a small screw driver or pick to remove the inner and outer lock
rings to get the inner splines out. Then use a couple of the allen bolts
that held the locking hub in and screw them in so you can pull out the
4. Now hereís where you grab your Hub Socket and
take off the first lock nut. Remove the washer and the second lock nut
and you can pull the rotor/hub assembly right off. At this point you can
see the 6 nuts that hold the spindle & caliper support onto the
knuckle. Remove the 6 nuts and the small bolt (if equipped still) that
holds the splash shield to the knuckle as well.
|Remove 6 Spindle Nuts
5. Now depending on how long that spindle has been
on there, you might have to get a rubber mallet and give it a couple
whacks to break it free from the knuckle. I have no rubber mallet so I
used a 2x4 so it wouldnít damage the spindle.
|Removing Spindle Nuts
6. Once you get that out of the way you should see
a bare knuckle. Take a scraper and remove any rust, crud, mud, or
whatever that might be on its flat surface. You want it to be clean so
when you put the ĺ ton spindle on, it mates flush with the knuckle
surface. I used some WD40 and a scrub pad to get it cleaned up.
7. Also, now is a good time to replace that rubber
seal that is on the axle shaft. Clean up the surface where the seal
mates as crud could prevent it from sealing up right.
|Replacing Rubber Seal
8. Now get your ĺ ton spindle and put a handful of
grease on its backside. You will see an outer lip, you want to fill it
with grease up to the lip. Thereís no such thing as too much grease
here. When you mate that spindle, all that grease will be pressed into
the spindles bearings and also make it easier for the next time you need
to get that spindle off.
9. Put the spindle on the knuckle first, then the
ĺ ton backing plate/caliper support. Before you put the 6 nuts back on,
itís a good idea to put some lock-tight on the bolt threads. Those
bolts are critical as they are what hold your wheels onto the axle. Now
you can tighten up the bolts in a back and forth sequence. The same as
you would your tire lug nuts. So you get an even fit.
Spindle to Knuckle
10. If you got your parts new youíll have to
install the bearing races into the hub assembly or if you got used ones
from the boneyard now is the perfect time to get new bearings/races as
well. You can tap out the old races with a punch, but when you put the
new ones in you MUST use a brass drift so you wont damage the new races
as they could chip.
11. Once you get the races in, you just pack your
bearings with some fresh marine grease and put the inner bearing in the
hub with the seal tapped into place. Now you can install the hub onto
the spindle. Put the outer bearing in and start threading the inner
locknut. (inner locknut has a pin that points outward). Other than that,
they look the same so donít get them confused. There is a particular
torque setting that is applied when you initially tighten up so you
properly seat the bearings. Youíll have to consult your Haynes manual
for it but Iíll give the general description. Tighten the first lock
nut while spinning the wheel so the bearings seat properly, tighten till
its snug (not too tight where the wheel wont turn anymore) but tight
enough that the wheel starts to slow down a little bit after you spin
it. Then the tricky part comes where you play "Line up the
ducks" with the washer. You might have to tighten or loosen up the
lock nut to align the pin with the washer but once you got that youíre
set. Outer lock nut goes on and then you can put your locking hubs back
on. Donít forget the inner and outer lock rings (been there, donít
|Packing Bearings with
12. Now all thatís left is the caliper. New pads
would be a good idea as everything else is basically new. After you get
the calipers on youíll have to put the 8 lug rim up there to see how
much of the caliper you may need to grind off, if any. It looked to me
that the top edge of the caliper and part of the caliper support needed
to be grinded off, most cases you will not need to grind unless you are
installing a Dana 60 with the larger brakes.
Between Rim and Caliper
Need a Little Grinding
13. After the grinding is done and you get the
wheel up there with out it touching anything your job is now done. You
can break out the beers and pat yourself on the back for you did an
excellent job and upgraded your front axle once and for all. Well maybe
not for all, you might want to bother with a D60 one day.
Like I said in the beginning, this upgrade was by
far one of the easiest I have done. I can now carry only 1 spare tire
and have the peace of mind knowing everything is done, and done right. I
added strength to my axle by way of 2 more lugs, larger bearings,
thicker spindle, and beefier caliper support.
3875 BANCROFT DR, SPRING VALLEY, CA 91977