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XJ Dana 44 Axle Preparation

Author: ThePhantum

This writeup will cover the preparation of a Dana 44 out of an 87 XJ. The second and third parts will describe the modifications and the subsequent installation of that axle into a 97 XJ. The axle received new alloy shafts and a disc brake conversion. It was not regeared nor locked (both will come at later dates). There's a lot that has been "glossed over" in this writeup. If you have any specific questions you can either post them or just PM me.

***DISCLAIMER - Please note that this writeup reflects my experiences only and anyone using it for reference or as a guide, etc. does so at their own risk. You may link to this writeup, but you must obtain my permission to re-post it elsewhere.***

History and Objective

After our March wheeling trip, the XJ was brought in for an alignment. When it could not be dialed in correctly, the owner of the shop did some checking with a tape measure and level bar and discovered that the drivers side tube on my 8.25 axle was bent. Total deflection was approximately 1 inch. Rather than just replace it with another 8.25, I began looking into upgrade options. A Ford 8.8 was briefly considered prior to settling on a D44 out of an 87-89 XJ.

Since this was an unexpected expense, after juggling some finances the decision was made to install alloy axle shafts, do a rear disc brake conversion and install a truss as well.

Some of the photos during the assembly were the first taken with a new (to me) camera. The light meter on it reads incorrectly and the pics came out a little underexposed.

Parts Acquired

The axle acquired is a D44 out of an '87 Cherokee with 3.54 gearing. It is completely open, which in the longer term is not an issue as it will receive a locker (and re-gearing) when the Jeep gets it's next lift. The axle shafts were obtained from Superior Axle and Gear. New shaft bearings and seals were also installed as well as a new pinion seal. For the disc brake conversion, I went with caliper brackets from The Streetrod Mfg., calipers (with e-brakes on the calipers) from an EL-Dorado (among other GM vehicles), and rotors also from a variety of GM vehicles. Steel braided lines from Rubicon Express were used for the calipers as well as an extended line to replace the stock line from the body to the axle. A Warn diff skid was also installed and new 9/16"x8" U-bolts (thicker and longer than stock) were used to secure the axle to the springs.

Coming soon for the axle will be a custom truss assembly from DozerDan that will bolt on to the diff and weld onto the tubes.

The following tools were used for this project:

Teardown and Removal of axle shafts

After removing the brake drums, it was time to remove the old brakes, axle shafts and and backing plates. Before any of that though the axle was placed on saw horses to help make it easier to work on.
Support the axle
First, the bendix tool was used to remove the main springs. Then the shoe retaining springs were removed, allowing the shoes themselves to be taken off. This was followed by removing the remaining hardware as well as the e-brake cable, and the brake cylinder.
Remove the brakes
Next it was time to go after the axle shafts themselves. After applying copious amounts of PB Blaster, the retaining bolts were removed.
Remove the retaining bolts to pull the axle shafts
Then the highly specialized and hard to find "beater bar" was used to actually remove the shaft (this could also be done with a slaphammer but mine is currently and mysteriously MIA, so I had to improvise). The bar was slipped through the hole where the brake cylinder once was. After 2 or 3 firm taps with a hammer, the shaft popped right out.
Remove the axle shaftsRemove the axle shafts
Finally the drum backing plate was removed by simply tapping it with a hammer to remove it from the studs.
Remove the drum brake backing plateThe axle tube with the brakes removed
The same exact procedure was used to do the other side of the axle.
The axle without brakes

Continue to the axle buildup

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