Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

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Brly
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:50 pm
Location: North Central PA

Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby Brly » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:33 am

In 4WD, my front axle is real noisy (I don't run it in 4WD, just testing things out). I haven't opened it up yet, but I'm guessing pinion bearings from what I've read.
This is the stock Dana 44 closed knuckle, drum brake axle. Started reading about swapping a different front axle in and saw the posts about an early 80's Dodge D44. I found an '87 Ramcharger D44 on craigslist pretty local to me. It's a CAD axle so I understand I would have to do the CAD delete and put locking hubs on it. The axle has been sitting out for about 15 years, so the whole thing needs to be gone over, new parts, etc. I also understand I would have to weld new spring perches on. He wants $100 for it.
My biggest concern is re-gearing it to match the 4.09 I have now. I've never done this before, but reading about it, I think I could handle it. I saw some discussions about swapping the whole carrier assy from one axle to another, assuming the splines match. Couldn't I put a new ring and pinion into the Dodge axle as another option? Anyone have any suggestions?
The other option is to replace the pinion bearings and whatever else is needed in the axle I have now. But then I still have a closed knuckle, drum brake axle.
Just looking for some information from someone who has done axle work. Trying to estimate costs of the different options too.
1966 Jeep J3600 Gladiator - AMC 327/T18/D20

Herk
Posts: 187
Joined: Mon Mar 25, 2013 8:14 pm

Re: Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby Herk » Tue Dec 04, 2018 7:25 pm

Rebuilding the differential will be the same with either unit, about $400 in parts. Disk brakes are easily adapted to closed knuckes. The axle you have now already fits your truck without welding. CAD...

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Brly
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:50 pm
Location: North Central PA

Re: Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby Brly » Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:29 am

Herk,
Thanks for the response. I've been lead to believe the stock axle is weak and should be replaced. However, I have also read posts saying they're fine with some upgrades. The only other issue is turning radius. I won't be wheeling this truck and the turning radius hasn't bothered me yet.
Decisions, decisions...
1966 Jeep J3600 Gladiator - AMC 327/T18/D20

rocklaurence
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Posts: 1400
Joined: Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:53 am

Re: Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby rocklaurence » Wed Dec 05, 2018 6:53 am

IMO, I wouldnt invest in the old axle unless you want to keep it original. Wait for a Disc FSJ axle to replace yours. If yours has the post mounted springs, I'd move them under the frame at the same time. This will open up a lot of lift and spring possibilities.

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tgreese
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Location: Medford MA USA

Re: Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby tgreese » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:21 am

The closed knuckle axles for this app aren't plentiful but they also aren't valuable much beyond scrap value. I would spend a few weeks looking for another axle in good shape. Jake's is still open, but they won't ship. Might be worth a road trip from PA to NC to pick up an axle.

Even if you swap the carrier (case), you'd need to set the pinion depth and gear mesh. This is pretty much the same as fitting new gears. Not much advantage in using one over the other.

The main issue with the closed knuckle axles is the spindle studs pulling out. There are plenty of articles online about replacing the studs with bolts or headed press-in studs. The shafts will have a lower spline count than a later axle, which makes the shafts weaker than a later axle, but that should not matter unless you plan to wheel the truck like a rock buggy. The open knuckle axles will have a tighter turning radius.
Tim Reese
Maine beekeeper's truck: '77 J10 LWB, 258/T15/D20/3.54 bone stock, low options (delete radio), PS/PDB, hubcaps.
Browless and proud: '82 J20 360/T18/NP208/3.73, Destination A/Ts, 7600 GVWR
Copper Polly: '75 CJ-6, 304/T15, PS, BFG KM2s, soft top
GTI without the badges: '95 VW Golf Sport 2000cc 2D
Dual Everything: '15 FCA Jeep Cherokee KL Trailhawk, ECO Green

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Brly
Posts: 63
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:50 pm
Location: North Central PA

Re: Closed Knuckle Axle Swap

Postby Brly » Thu Dec 06, 2018 11:25 am

Thanks for the replies. This isn't a daily driver, but I don't want to go too long without 4WD. If I don't find a better axle in the next month or two I'll probably just fix what I have.
1966 Jeep J3600 Gladiator - AMC 327/T18/D20


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