'93 Sport Expo/ trail rig build | Page 6 | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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'93 Sport Expo/ trail rig build

1987 spindles were unique as well and are undesirable from what I remember.

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I've finally gotten my spindle situation figured. I've verified that 1996 spindles were 1 year only production started around 6/95. Fortunately I was able source 2 good spindles from 2 different wrecking yards.

Now I'm on to sorting out how I'm going to mount the knuckles. Despite apparently many people doing this swap, finding good clear info on adapting the ball joints is really tough.

Here are the different methods I've found:

1. Per @Brian1, ream the D35 LBJ hole at 1.5in/ft to fit the D44 ball joint. Then machine a custom camber adjuster to adapt the D44 UBJ to the D35 upper hole

2. From this thread: Dana 44 Knuckles on Dana 35 TTB - Ream the D35 LBJ to fit the D44 LBJ, then use the D44 camber adjuster and UBJ in the D35 beam, tightening the D35 pinch bolt to take up the difference in diameters between the adjuster and the hole in the beam.

3. Ream the D35 beam for the D44 LBJ, then have a spacer machined to fit in the D44 UBJ hole to allow install of a D35 UBJ. Per my measurements, the D44 UBJ hole measures 1.750", the D35 UBJ measures 1.630". (I've seen a few variations of this method including welding in spacers)

4. There was a thread claiming the the D35 UBJ will mount in the D44 knuckle. So far I cannot find any way this is possible. I've looked at all years of D44 TTB and D35 UBJ specs and cannot find any capability without a spacer.

5. Lastly, there's several methods of adapting D44 spindles to D35 knuckles. At this point, I'm not pursuing any of these methods.

So, I attempted what appeared to be the easiest method, #4, and that didn't work. So, next attempt will be method #2. I'll take good measurements and post what I find as I go.

pretty sure #2 is the preferred method
It would be nice to retain the d35 upper ball joint, camber adjuster and stock pinch bolt situation.
Thanks for going down this path, this is something I might do in the future...

I replied to that thread but I will copy over that info below from my post found here - Dana 35/ 44 hybrid simplified

I've always had a suspicion that the original info in that post is wrong. When I did mine I spent a lot of time measuring to come up with the best solution to do the swap and never once did I see the ball joint swap as being possible.

I just went out to measure the ttb 44 knuckle and a ttb 35 knuckle upper ball joints side by side. The 35 is 0.100" smaller +/-.005. Ttb 44 is 1.725-1.730" and the ttb 35 is 1.631 +/-.005. These are fairly accurate measurements but the ball joints were installed in both knuckles so it was hard to get a precise reading. Still, 0.100 is a big enough difference where it obviously won't work.

I consider the method on TRS to be a hack-job way of doing it because of how much is cut out which weakens the structure and building up weld outside is just a Band-Aid to that issue not to mention the heat you put into it. That just leaves my method of machining an adapter or using the 44 bushing and pinch bolt.

There is another method I saw when doing mine and that was someone TIG welded a piece of tube inside the D35 adjuster to give it enough meat to then ream out to fit the D44 tapered ball joint. They re-cut the slot once it was reamed. I think this is a good alternative to mine and easier since all you need is a welder and the reamer and not machinery. Using the D44 adjuster I think is a little weaker because, as I recall, it doesn't fit all the way down in the bore of the 35TTB upper ball joint holder.

@Brian1 thank you for the input on this. You've confirmed my suspicions on the deficits in some of the other methods of getting this done.

I like the idea of welding a tube in the D35 UBJ adjuster and reaming to fit. I'm going to take a close look at this. It would be nice to keep my variable adjusters.

I also want to explore pressing a sleeve in to the D44 knuckle a little more. I know it's common practice to sleeve aluminum control arms for ball joints. 1.75 x .065 4130 is pretty close to the right od/id. I'm not sure if a sleeve that thin has enough structure to be turned and work in this application.

Ideally I'd like to keep the explorer UBJ simply for the fact that I'd have a better shot of having a shop so my alignment.

After the holiday I'll be able to work on this a little more.

I appreciate everyone's input!

Time for some updates on this. I'm slowly making steps forward;

I'm pretty sure I've got my spindle/ hub/ seal situation figured out. Fortunately my local truck wrecking yard was patient and found me a good set of the 1 year only spindles. It also took some work with Napa to get the correct seal kits. I'll post m more specs on that stuff later.

On to the upper ball joints. I chose to go the route of sleeving the upper ball hole in the D44 knuckle. To do this I used 1.75" x .065 wall tube. My supplier only has HREW in this wall thickness. DOM may have been a better for dimensional consistency. But, the HREW worked:

New Explorer UBJ

Old D44 UBJ

D44 UBJ hole

1.75 HREW OD


Cut and cleaned up:

Ready to press:


ID after pressing:

Worked over the ID with a brake cylinder hone and a 1.25" cylinder flap disc. In hind site, I needed to take a little more out of the ID. I honed until the UBJ would pass through and sit on the first shoulder.. It was very hard to press. I don't think it will ever come out if I need to replace it in the future.


Here's the UBJ in place


Bottom side. You can see where I tacked the sleeve with my TIG


A few thoughts on this;

I'm confident in this set up holding together. Yes, machining a perfect sleeve would have been better, but I believe that any dimensional inconsistences caused by my honing and sanding were taken up when the ball joint was pressed in to the sleeve. With the amount of force I put in to setting that ball joint, if the sleeve were going anywhere, it would have then. I think this is a solid solution for using an Explorer UBJ.

Now to see if I can get it mounted on the beam!

FYI, I'm doing one side at a time. Don't want to waste a bunch of time if it's not going to work!

Quick update on this;; I'm doing all the prep I can before I make the Explorer inop by tearing down the D35 knuckles.

I'm taking my time to sandblast and paint everything I can to protect against future corrosion.

Speaking of corrosion, the D44 axle shaft u joints were rusted up really bad. Being a little careless with the new press I managed to crack an ear on an outer shaft. So, I'll have to find a new one of those.

I got the knuckles reamed and sleeved to swap the TRE's to the top side. I'm happy with how that turned out.

1.5 in per ft reamer. Used my cordless drill running it very slowly and using lots of oil. I had to take it pretty easy to keep from chattering, but all in all it went well.


Sleeve installed. I left it about 1/32 high after reaming then tapped it home with a punch


Here's the sleeves I used


I bit more progress;

Got the LBJ hole reamed in the beam and test fit the knuckle. After doing some measuring, I found the distance between ball joints was about 1/8" bigger on the D44. This made me concerned that the D35 UBJ would seat too deep, or stick up out of the adjuster too far. So I was pretty conservative with how deep I reamed the LBJ hole. I just went deep enough to get the lock nut on the lower ball joint fully engaged. This puts the snap ring on the UBJ adjuster about 1/32 above the adjuster. Since the LBJ carries all of the vertical load, I'm not concerned about the snap ring "floating" a bit.

Mocked up:


Knuckle inference with back side of the beam:


Beam clearanced:



Lower ball joint (not tightened down yet):



D35 UBJ:


For reference, here's a 91-96 5 bolt spindle on a D35 knuckle. This will bolt up if you want to figure out rotors and callipers


Here's the '96 D44 spindle next to the D35 spindle. That comparison is reason enough to do this swap.


After an unexpected hospital stay, I'm finally back out in the shop.

Passenger side is all wrapped up, except for waiting on a new caliper.

I'm really happy with how this turned out


Got it all done! I'm really happy with how it turned out. I've got some miss matched rollers I'm going to throw on it while I'm figuring out my new tire and wheel combo.


Next things on the agenda are:

- F350 master cylinder if needed
- Rear bumper/ tire carrier
- Exhaust

Making slow but steady progress!


I have a mid to late '90s F350 master cylinder in my parts stash. Let us know how it works if you do it.

Those look way better than the ones they show on Amazon. I got the ATs. Now I’m second guessing my decision.

Falken wildpeak MT! Nice choice....loving watching this truck come together
I've been beating on my TTB trucks lately....they just keep kicking ass!!

Falken wildpeak MT! Nice choice....loving watching this truck come together
I've been beating on my TTB trucks lately....they just keep kicking ass!!

Thanks! I'm really enjoying this build. It's a real practice of attention to detail and taking time to get things right instead of a last minute jam session to get it good enough.

Stretch goal for it is be tested and all sorted to go to Moab in 2021! I'm thinking Rubicon in 2022.

Doing a rough alignment and getting ready to road test



Size difference between the worn out 33" BFG's and the Falken's is pretty impressive. The Falken's measure out at a true 33"


Improving my steering geometry was one of my motivations for doing this swap. The drop pitman arm that came with my 5.5" Duff kit wasn't quite enough. I'm super pleased that the D44 knuckles with the flipped TRE's raised my rod ends just enough to get my steering where I want it.


Here we are, all wrapped up and road tested! Alignment is actually pretty close. It drives great. The brake pedal feel is no different than before the swap. I'm very happy with how this came out.


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That looks good.
I’m glad to hear your brake pedal is still good. I just swapped the D44 Knuckles on mine.