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Dana 44, axles, engines

Tate Myrick

Active Member
September 13, 1999
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  • Truckhaven
    [*] Dana 44 Front Axle Swap
    [*] Ford 9 and Other Rear Questions
    [*] Engines
    [*] Ending Note


I just picked up the July issue of Four Wheeler and I noticed the article on Truckhaven. It is great to see the Explorer finally getting its deserved recognition. :D I remember Rick saying something about having to send the pictures to Four Wheeler and I noticed that the pictures were the same. I was wondering if any other magazine or any other sort of publication was there. Hopefully I can come out next year.

Dana 44 Front Axle Swap

However the main reason I started this post was because I noticed that Rick mentioned a Dana 44 swap on this board and I noticed in the write up of the Truckhaven trip that Rick stated that his Dana 44 is sitting in his garage. I think Rick mentioned posting the pictures when the install is complete. Rick, I was wondering if you were going to include all of the specifics. Rick, are you going to use the Fabritech kit? A recent Four Wheeler highlighted an install on a late model Bronco. I went to Fabritech's site and saw that they offer kits for Broncos, F150s, Rangers, and most importantly ;) Explorers. Dead Link Removed Some of the kits came with large enough brackets and springs for 12 inches of lift. With new springs and/or shackles in rear you could fit some big meats. I was wondering if, Rick, you were going to go for the huge 12, or stick with about what you have now (5.5) and go for the six. Also is it still going to have 4.56 with the ARB. Did you get this axle from a yard or a company? I think everyone is going to love to see how this project turns out. Has anyone else performed this swap? I have included links to various pages with information on this swap and others, however many of these swaps have been performed on Rangers.

Ford 9 and Other Rear Questions

Another issue I was wondering about was our rear ends. I know that our rear ends are fairly strong and there are many locking and gearing options for them. After all the Ford 8.8 has been used in the Mustangs for some time and many serious draggers still use them. In the same issue of Four Wheeler that the Truckhaven write up was in, they illustrated the installation of Warn’s new full floating kit for the 8.8. I also remember reading about a unit called the "Ground Pounder" initially built for the Mustang. It is supposed to strengthen the diff by strengthening the bearing caps. It also has a large cover for more fluid and I think it is supposed to run cooler. Dead Link Removed I was looking through a Ford SVO catalog at a dealership and noticed many items (from covers to gears) that Ford offers for the 8.8. I found an online listing here. Has anyone performed any of these mods or has anyone installed a nine inch? Does anyone know what size the axles are for the 8.8 and the 9? I found out that the 9 axles have a 5x5.5 bolt pattern and the 8.8 has 5x4.5 to match the front axle. Does Torq-Lite make a 9 inch axle with a 5x4.5 pattern?


My last question and curiousity concerns engine swaps. The new Explorers offer an engine that I think many of use dream about having in our Explorers. Yes, I am talking about the 302 5.0 V8.:D I must say that Rangers have us beat hands down. :( When I was looking for information on a swap I found mainly information on swaps for Rangers. I even found a SHO Ranger prototype. (I think Ford did it.) Remember the Ford Taurus SHO. It had a 24 valve dual over head cam six. RangerSHO I also found information on putting in a 3.8 liter. I know I saw on someone’s web page that they were doing this, but they were going to super charge it. I remember the guy had a 79 Mustang. Anyways, the info is here. Of course I found various information on a V8 swap. James Duff even had a full explanation. The three sites I found are listed below.
I also found this Ranger site that has helpful information on everything from swaps to straight axle conversions. TheRangerStation Has anyone helped in any of these swaps, performed these swaps, or seen any of these swaps?

Ending Note

I hope that the questions in this posting are questions shared by other users of this board. I also hope that the links will be useful. For those users that have performed these swaps, let us know the complications of the installation and the final result. Thinking about final results, how are the Atlas II transfer cases working for you guys running them? Did you go with the 3.8 or the 4.3? All I can hope for now is a winning lotto ticket. Maybe a sponsor (hint), but usually you have to participate in an event and I have no idea what that would be. Have fun wheelin’ !!!!:D :cool:

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Dana 44

I think we started discussing solid axle swaps before anyone even knew of the fabritech kit. As I recall, Rick was going with a custom install with a cut Dana 44 from TriCounty Gear, or some diff shop like that. There is at least one person on this board who did the swap, on an explorer, I don't recall his name though.

Ford 9"

The 8.8 is a fairly strong rear under a mustang or a similar vehicle, even a stock explorer. Most people won't agree with me here, but I wouldn't expect an 8.8 to last long under a modified explorer. There's a lot more torque to deal with down there in a modified explorer. The rear end cover with the bearing cap support is probably the best thing you can do to keep your 8.8 running. The 8.8 has somewhat of a history of deforming under load. As far as the 9" goes, I can't tell you much about installing one in an explorer till I find another narrowed one (luckily they didn't steal the limited slips). Biggest advantages are weight, easy to work on, easy to find and find parts for, strong, and beaings will support a light truck reasonably well. Don't go thinking they are ideal for a 3/4 ton truck or anything though.


The 302 swap s supposed to be relatively easy, campared to anything else. All parts are readily available. Bellhousings for a variety of transmissions, transfer cases for many transmissions, tons of aftermarket engine performance parts, EFI models, etc. Problems are cost (not that much, but not to be ignored), installation (computer/EFI wiring swaps can be a pain), ut the most prohibitive, for most people at least, is emissions law compliance. For instance, if you have a 94 explorer, and need to install a 94+ engine setup, you may have some difficulty.

Atlas II

Only people I know of that have them are Rick and Paul Bredehoft. Paul has the 3.8 and Rick has the 4.3. The 3.8 is geared :) toward average wheelers and those with autos, and the 4.3 is mainly for demanding rock crawlers and manual transmissions.

Hope I was able to fill you in on things a little


I started the Dana 44 swap into my Navajo about a year ago. I got laid off and the money stopped so the project was put on hold. I do have the 44 under the vehicle and in-place except for the track bar, but no wheels have been put on. I was going to use an adjustable track bar but do not have it yet. I just finished installing the F-150 brakes/hub assy this afternoon, on the 44 and should have wheel on it soon. I have a nine incher in the rear, that was easy, but no drive shafts. Once the wheels are on I can concentrate on removing the 4.0 for its bigger brother swap.
This install is completely custom without the ad of any kits. Everything is from either an Early Bronco, (Dana 44, Spring Towers), F-150, (Brakes, Tie Rods), or F-250, (Shock Mounts). So far so good, time and money is all that is holding me back. Should not take to much longer.

Oh ya, The FabraTech unit, I only read the article once and that was a little wile ago, but it looks to me as if the front end would have a major limiting factor, the track bar mount is directly over the diff area. (That is if I remember correctly). One of the problems when installing a Dana 44 in the Explorer is the cross member interference with the Diff, this limits the movement of the diff upward. I am modifing mine to remove as much as possible of the cross member but that another story.

Tnx for listening and good luck.

Tate, I'm not using the Fabtech kit like Sandy mentioned. It is going to be a custom 4 link setup with heim joints on the links and on the steering. The axle was custom built at Tri-County gear and it will be setup with 4:56 gears and an ARB. The brakes are from a full size Blazer and the spring towers are going to be relocated and modified. Overall height should be close to the same as it is now.

The 8.8" rear axle is a good axle. I believe to truly benefit from a substantial upgrade you need to either convert the 8.8" to a full floater or go with a Dana 60. A Dana 60 is a brute, it's big, heavy and it's designed to support a lot of weight. My Explorer now weighs 5600 lbs and it will weigh even more when the front axle conversion is complete. 5600 lbs is actually over the manufacturer suggested GVW. If / when I break another rear end I'll go with a Dana 60 and a Detroit Locker. As for axles, you can get custom axles from Moser for about three hundred dollars, any size any bolt pattern. I need a set in order to match my rear axle with the Dana 44's 5-5.5 bolt pattern. I already have 6 new wheels ready to go.

I have yet to see a V-8 Explorer conversion. I would love to post one on the website.

My Atlas II has been great. It makes driving the 5 speed much easier off-road. The control is fantastic. You can let the clutch out at an idle and start to pull away even at extreme angles. No more revving the engine and slipping the clutch. I have yet to find a downside to the conversion.

[Edited by Rick on 06-13-2000 at 11:30 PM]

Weatherman, why do you feel the 3.8 is more for autos and the 4.3 is for manuals? I think it is based more upon your wheelin' style. I now that when I put it into low, I am getting serious, and regardless of the fact that I have an auto, I would want the 4.3.

Rick, they are custom spring towers, right? Have you had any problems because of the weight? What potentially could occur? Did you go through many clutches with the stock transfer case? Where would you get the Dana 60? Sorry about the large amount of questions.

Sandy, are the Dana 44 and the Ford 9 the right length or are you just leaving them long? I have seen Jeeps running this setup with no cutting. The wheels really stick out, but I guess it increases stability. When you say "its big brother" are you referring to a 302? What a place for Ford to put the cross member. I know it provides the strength for the TTB, but it makes front axle and engine swaps more difficult.

Thanks for your responses. Hopefully this information has helped everyone. One idea I had, and wondered if it was feasible (I am not an engineer) was the removal of the cross member. I have not crawled under recently, but would it be possible to make custom oneS. Place one in front and one behind the current location. I know that this would also help for the installation of a 351. I do not remember who offers it, but there is a custom oil pan available for the Explorer 302 swap. It is curved to fit over the cross member. Happy wheeling to everyone ! :D

[Edited by Tate Myrick on 06-16-2000 at 03:07 PM]

The reason the 3.8 is for auto trannys, is because with 4.3, you wouldn't be able to stop the truck, except for putting it in neutral. The 4.3 has too much torque for an automatic.

The spring towers are going to be modified with the new suspension.

The extra weight overloads the axles. As Gloria had mentioned ine a previous post the bearing surfaces are not very hard. I really scored up my first set of rear axle shafts. I still have stock axle shafts, but they will be swapped out in favor of Moser axles at the same time I do the Dana 44 swap. The reason... I need matching bolt patterns. The Dana 44 uses a 5 - 5.5" instead of the stock 5 - 4.5".

Actually I did pretty well with the stock clutches. I did smell clutch several times, but the stock one still lasted about 70,000 miles then I replaced the second one at 130,000 miles with a Centerforce Dual Friction. Still, slipping the clutch doesn't get you anywhere. Engaging the clutch fully and using the ultra low range gearing is the way to go.

You can get a Dana 60 from old Ford F-250s and cut them to size. Or you can get one custom built by Tri-County gear http://www.tricountygear.com or Dynatrac http://www.dynatrac.com

8.8" retooleed to 9"

I called Currie Enterprises ( Dead Link Removed ) a while back, and they said that they could retool my 8.8" to 9" ends, and in the process, eliminating the C-Clip axles. the cost they quoted me was $775 ($250 of it is parts). If I was going this route, I would go with Currie's Extreme Duty Housing with Extreme Axle Kit (No Studs). The Extreme Axle Kit includes 31 to 40 spline forged alloy axles with 45mm a bearing journal for only $929.95 (31-35 spline) or $939.95 (35 or 40 spline). I suggest ordering their free catalog and giving them a call.

They also carry Dana 60's, and Chevy 12 bolts (with Ford 9" ends).

Dana 44 / 9"er

OK here I go again...
The 44 and the 9" can be used straight out of an Early Bronco,(EB), i.e. 66-77. They do not stick out in fact I am finding that they are a little shorter than I would have wanted. I used a 9"er out of a '79 pickup and had it cut to the EB size.
The cross member, also the engine mounting system can be cut and reduced in size if the right person got it into their head to remove it. Anything can be done if you want to do it.
The plan I intend to follow is as follows: Weld support braces across the frame to hold the frame rails in place. Bolt in the adapter mounts from L&L Products and cut out as much as possible of the cross member leaving enough to support the motor mounts. Box in the remaining portion of the cross member. Make a new cross member that is not as deep as the original out of 2 x 4 inch 1/4 inch wall square tubing. Using my Ranger conversion as a gauge, I have almost 3" between the oil pan and the cross member, so the top of the new cross member can be two inches closer to the oil pan. Also, you do not have the additional lip that hangs down on both the front and the rear of the cross member. I believe there is four to five inches to gain from the method.
I have seen the cross member notched to allow room for the diff but that isn't the best method, mine may not be either but it should be strong.
When boxing in the motor mounts, it may be beneficial to weld bolt to the flat areas to use to bolt the cross member in and remove it for oil pan removal.
I know this is not an easy task but it is where I want to be.
Now if I can only get some money.

The axle that people use for the jeeps that stick out are from full size vehicles, I am not sure of the value, I always thought that a narrower vehicle would be better. What ever floats your boat.

I refer to 5.0L/302 as the 4.0L's big brother. According to a number of conversion houses I have talked to, they all say the Ranger/Bronco II conversion kits are the same as the '91-'94 Explorer. I like the L&L Products Kit, strong and the headers and the motor mounts have a life time warranty. A bit pricey.

The Currie axles, I think if you can aford them then go for the Currie units. By the time I cut down the 9"er and purchased axles I could have bought a Currie 9"er. There is nothing wronfg with a preped 8.8 either. A Dana 60 is big and heavy, I am not sure if I would gain anything from using a 60.

Good Luck with all of the projects going on here at Explorer Central. Plan out the job, get the parts and get started.

My feelings about the Dana 60, 8.8" or 9" situation is that the Dana 60 is built for a heavy duty truck meant to see a lot of loading both verticle and lateral. The 8.8" and 9" were never used in F-250's and larger they were built for a more moderate service than the Dana 60.

I feel an 8.8 or a 9" would work great in a Jeep, but not under a 5600 lb+ Explorer. Sure it works, but is it really an upgrade to spend 3,000 on a Currie 9"? I would rather spend the 3,000 on the Dana 60 and know the thing will be practically bomb proof.

I have a dilemma of my own right now. My new front axle takes a 5-5-1/2 bolt pattern and my rear disc brake setup isn't big enough to drill for the larger bolt pattern. Since I just put a new 8.8" under my Explorer with a new ARB and other goodies. It looks like I'm going to be returning to my drum brakes and then run the new Warn full floating axle kit. That will give me a nearly bullet proof axle shaft, but the housing is still susceptible to flex unless I have it trussed and welded.

It's always something!

Rick there is always that option of sending me your old rear axle and getting yourself a Dana 60 and then you would be happy! Then I would have a spare and you would probably not break that 60 with the 4.0! :)

If you pay for what I've put into the 8.8" already, I'll do it :D

I had this sinking feeling when I went to pick up my truck from the shop after the T-haven incident. It was like "I could have had a V-8" or in this case I could have had a Dana 60 for what I spent to get another 8.8" setup. Actually it would have cost more, but not that much more.

I had the same sinking feeling after I ordered my Dana 44. Should I have went with a Dana 60 front axle and made it as strong as a cement truck?

I just have to face it... I'm never happy and my Explorer will never be a finished project.

Well I probably couldn't match what you got into yours so... :D So do you wanna talk $$$ on those rear disc brakes? Or do you not want to give those up quite yet? Let me know I would be intrested.

Ah the disc brakes. That's something I will hate to part with, but it looks like I'm going to have to. :(

I'm swapping the brakes back to drum myself, so I need to wait until the truck is back home. Let me think about a price for those.

Currie, Wheel adapters

I mentioned the Currie axles because some of us ('95-'97) aren't able to swap out axles as seamlessly as you TTB owners. My knowledge in axles is still pretty amateur, but I can't find a good source of info without having to ask several people for each subject.

Also, Rick, in regards to your bolt pattern dilemna, couldn't you just pick up a pair of wheel adapters and a pair of wheel spacers at Performance Wheel & Tire( http://www.performancewheel.com/adapters.html ).

... my 2 cents....

... or are we using the means to justify the ends here, and we HAVE to have a new axle?

When I get some money, I go 4x4ing. If I have any money left after that, then I buy food.

Wheel spacers aren't an option unless I want to cut my rear quarter panels. Pushing the tires out another inch would put them right into the sheet metal when the suspension is compressed. Wheel spacers also put extra loading on the axles and wheel bearings. More distance from the bearing surface means more leverage.

I have tried the cheap approach on past projects and almost always ended up getting bitten in the butt when I had to shell out twice the money to re-fix the cheap fix.

'95 -'00 owners could always run a solid axle and it wouldn't be anymore difficult than what is being done to my Explorer right now. Just cut out all of the IFS stuff and hang a solid axle from the frame rails.

'95+ Solid Axle Swap

Do you know if anyone on the board has completed a '95+ solid axle swap? I've got about $4k coming to me when I sell back some leave. I believe it would be easier/less expensive to lift in this manner wouldn't it? I have no idea where in Idaho i'd go in order to have this done. It's a daily driver as well, so I can't part with it for a long time.

[Edited by Nate on 06-19-2000 at 06:39 PM]

No one on the board has put a solid axle under their rig...yet. It would be a great mod though. I can't tell you where in Idaho to go for the work. If you look through some old 4x4 magazines you just might see a shop in your area.

I wouldn't trust that kind of job to anyone though. Try and find a shop that builds the baddest 4x4's in your area.

BTW 4k for selling leave? Am I missing something here?

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Selling Leave

I'm an active-duty Marine. I have saved up 60 days of leave I can sell back, pro-rated at my base pay rate. ($2003.40 per month times 2 months = $4006.80) Lots of toys!