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How To: Early Bronco Style Solid Axle Swap

Dannyboy

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This is becoming a pretty popular topic. I thought it would be time to make some resources available to those who really need to see what it takes.


I'm not going to get into why you should go solid axle vs. the TTB nor will I get into the debate of leaf springs vs. coils. Also I will not tell you that this is the absolutely best solution to a solid axle swap but to the likes of myself, Froader, Stic-o, KirbyN, JTX, Diff Whack Daddy, Muddwhore, and others there is proof out there this is a good solution that will put your Explorer or Ranger in Big Dog category and I believe I will be able to show you every part you need to get there in a bolt-on application.

What this topic will discuss is essentially a "Bolt On Solid Axle Swap"

Parts list (if you find a donor axle still on the vehicle at the junk yard you can get most of the parts or search the early bronco sites)

1) axle $50-500

Early Bronco Dana 44 or 70's style F150 Dana 44 without cast wedges cut down 6" (for info on cutting down look here http://www.4wheeler.ca/index.php?showtopic=391) If you get this at a junk yard take as much of it as you can get.



1) set of early bronco or F150 Radius arms (included in axle - $500

aftermarket arms like CAGE may also work at the same location. Get the retaining rings for your coil springs at the bottom as well. These are different from year to year and can be hard to match up.



This is a wristed arm, not hard to do and will gain flex, but not absolutely necessary.



1) set of 7 degree c-wedge bushings $55
http://www.wildhorses4x4.com/category/front_end




1) Crossmember $100-200
for radius arms to bolt up, Ford Explorer/Ranger skyjacker extended radius arm cross member is a bolt on application. Also radius arm mounts for a 78-79 F150 will bolt up as well.

(this photo is on a TTB truck, but thanks to DeRocha it shows how a nice clean extended radius arm setup is mounted)




2) Early Bronco/F150 Coil Spring Buckets $129
these will take some cutting out with a grinder to clear the bulge of the frame on the drivers side (you will see if you look at a bare frame after you cut off the stock coil buckets.

http://broncograveyard.com/bronco/i-13211_new_coil_spring_towers_1966_-_77_pair.htm


2) Late 70's style F250 Shock Towers $39.99
http://www.wildhorses4x4.com/product/Long_travel_shock_towers/Front_Shock_Mounts




1) Ford Explorer drop pitman arm for 6" lift $65
http://www.jamesduff.com/broncoII/radiusarms.html

2) extended brake lines with fittings for the Dana 44 calipers $100



2) 12" travel shocks any brand

2) Coil springs for Early Bronco 5.5" lift $159
http://www.wildhorses4x4.com/product/Rock_Crawler_5in_pr/coils

1) 70's style Bronco or F150 track bar with frame mount $129 + $ 35
here are a couple options from Wild Horses for not a bad price
track bar- http://www.wildhorses4x4.com/product/Adjustable_Trac_Bar/Trac_Bars
frame mounting bracket- http://www.wildhorses4x4.com/product/Trac_Bar_Drop_Bracket_7677yr/Trac_Bars

(note I braced my track bar to the engine crossmember, this elimited a major amount of stress that a track bar mount has to handle)




Steering $150
Some may not like my ideas on steering but I will share what I did.


1) 12' section of DOM tubing 1 1/4" diameter with 1/4" wall thickness for steering
4) 3/4" heim joints

I used castle nuts with a cotter pin and drilled out my knuckles and never had a problem. I have seen heim joints fail so I tried to use a large washer to retain the steering in the event of a heim failure. I've heard Chevy 1 ton is pretty good steering and the above mentioned early bronco websites will make custom steering.

refer back to the photo above of my steering to see it as well, my truck is winched down in this photo to a trailer so angles and coils look a little off





Tools & Misc parts $150

I purchased a box of grade 8 bolts, washers, lockwashers and I suggest nylock nuts plus I used locktite.

1/2" drill bit and a good drill because you will drill 4 holes in the frame per coil bucket, 2 for each shock tower, 1 in the engine crossmember for the track bar mount, 3-4 for the radius arm cross member. I attempted to use the same size bolt in each hole if possible, makes it easy to prep the truck if everything is a 3/4" nut.


******************************************************

My setup used a little different approach, I extended the radius arms long enough to replace the transfer case skid plate with a crossmember and used heim joints. I paid a fab shop about $150 to weld up that crossmember after I had it completely designed to bolt up in my existing transfer case skid plate mounting points.

This shows my equipmet which will someday hopefully be seen under RangerX's Ranger. I enjoyed it and it worked quite well.



What you see in this photo

custom crossmember that bolts to t-case skid plate mounting locations

track bar (I chopped the F150 one that came with my 44, drilled it out and tapped it to make it adjustable with heavy duty threaded rod. If I were to do it again I would have chopped it in half and had that threaded with a long hex nut (don't know what the real name is but it would look like this)


steering with spacer between tie rod and drag link to reduce binding

radius arms extended by welding a solid piece of stock to the radius arms and tapping for heim joints.

You should use jam nuts with heims to keep them tight and avoid damaging threads from vibrations.





I will try to add up the price of all this stuff to help those guys out that are trying to pull this off. For the rear I used my same spring over axle you see in the $32 thread, I purchased 1.5" wheel spacer adapters for about $100 to make all of my wheels 5x5.5 that the disc brake front axle came with.

Once you get to this point you will need to get gears and probably a locker, you should really go through that old axled with a full rebuild if you plan to go out in the middle of nowhere and go wheeling.

My front drive shaft bolted right up to the Dana 44 and cleared, it came close to the engine crossmember.








also here is a comparison of a full width with 15x10s on 36s vs. stock width 15x8 on 37s.
 

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Tbars4

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...Cool...:cool:

...It's nice to have a nice writeup with everyting in 1 post and easy to find...:biggthump ...I may have some questions in the future
 

Dannyboy

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Adding up the prices from the sites and assuming that you found an axle with radius arms for about $250 a swap for parts before shocks, wheels, gears, balljoints, brakes and rear wheel adapters would run you about $1400.

If you stripped down a Junkyard F150 or Early Bronco it would save you more money for sure but if you want to start a SAS project I would say expect to spend $1000.

I'd be interested to see if someone could break down a leaf spring job that works well as well as add anything for full width.
 

DB_1

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Nice write up Dannyboy:thumbsup:

One thing to mention about the Early Bronco axle is that it is pretty much the perfect width if you are using the stock rear with spacers.

I went a different route with my EB axle by fabbing my own long arms and added coilovers but for pure simplicity I dont think you could do an SAS on a RBV any simpler than using an EB axle with radius arms.
 

RangerX

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This shows my equipment which will someday hopefully be seen under RangerX's Ranger. I enjoyed it and it worked quite well.

Hey, is that my driveway? :p:

It all will someday be seen under my Ranger, just won't be as soon as I'd like! :rolleyes:

:thumbsup:
 

Dannyboy

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Good point Dave. Your truck, Jefe's, Ricks and Michael's all stick out in my mind as SAS Explorers that have better cycling suspension with the coilovers and 3 or 4 link vs. the early bronco style.

The early bronco F150 style are more of a 2 link, basically the angles, cyling and flex only get better with longer arms and wristing them.

This is merely a parts list and price estimate for guys looking. I keep hearing about $300 solid axle swaps but can't think of one I've seen complete :)
 

DB_1

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OK, time for a blast from the past...my SAS right after it was finished using the Fabritech kit (garbage). I'm suprised these are the only guys after all these years who ever produced a bolt on SAS kit and it blows in every aspect but that's for another discussion.

From '01...notice the prestine OG paint, undercarriage looks bling too:p:



 

Stic-o

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You can also use a full width F-150/78-79 Bronco axle. This adds six inchs to the total width though.

I'm using Chevy one-ton TRE's add they work great ;)

 

Stic-o

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I was asked to elaberate on frame mounting points...

My axle is dead stock, I moved nothing. My long arms are custom. I belive they we're Fabritech at once, then renforced and lengthed another 12". They were also made to use EB Springs. This puts my rear mounting point right at the t-case. These are my rear mounts, they are made from a factory F-150 mount, cut in half, fliped sides (driver to Pass, and etc,) and then reinforced. I currently have no crossmember here. I plan to remove the trans mount. and build one complete thing....someday:rolleyes: The holes use the previous t-case skid plate mount holes.;)



This prior to reinforsement, but gives you Idea of what's going on.



Here you can see where they line up, on the outside of the frame...unlike the EB 44 axle which lines up under the frame.



The coil buckets were, spaced out from the frame a 2" each side...I think:scratch:

The final outcome, is the tires do stick out wider, however I went to a different backspace when I changed to the JP mobile, and it is not as wide now.



I'll be happy any other questions:thumbsup:
 

Dannyboy

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Thanks Steve-o

My extended radius arms were also mounted up at the t-case crossmember. It sounds like it's way too ong but this was to put the radius arms swinging on the same line as my front drive shaft.
 

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Stic-o

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^ in that pic, your buckets sit a good 2-3 inches lower then mine. My truck sits at about 6' 6" with 37's. Keeps the CG down and it still fits in the garage:D
 

james t

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I would like to add-

Tracbar

The tracbar needs to be parallel with the draglink. To do this you either lower the tracbar mount off the frame, or raise the tracbar mount at the axle. It has been my experience that its always best to raise it up off the axle instead of lowering it down on the frame if you can.

Why?

The forces on the tracbar are linear, and push/pull on the mounts. Because the axle housing runs parallel with the force it sees, you can build a nice strong mount because you will be bracing down the length of the axletube. At the frame, you cannot do this because the frame is perpen... perpindic... runs the other way of the force. :p: You cant really brace the frame mount properly. The lower the frame mount hangs down, the more force it sees at the frame because the mount itself is a lever... the longer it gets the more stress it puts on the frame.



Now, im not saying the extended frame mounts are bad, or no one should be using one, but if you can build up and axle mount then id say go that route first. In the long run the extended frame mount may or may not cause problems... the extended axlemount on the other hand is pretty much there for good.

My 0.02 cents, and good writeup Danny. :)
 

Dannyboy

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^ in that pic, your buckets sit a good 2-3 inches lower then mine. My truck sits at about 6' 6" with 37's. Keeps the CG down and it still fits in the garage:D
good eye. I had a 3" body lift on that truck;)

One thing I did notice on my buddy's Ranger when I swapped over to the F150 coil buckets was when I cut them down and drilled them in the top was angled up more forcing the coils to bow out. I think he is going to weld in a wedge behind them and re-mount them.

Also KirbyN. had a great point about cutting down an axle and only sliding the wedges back in about 2.5" instead of 3" to help with bowing coils.
 

dansnyder22

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I have some questions. . . I bought my explorer with a 6 inch lift already, but I want a SAS, it currently is just the lift with stock TTB, I obviously wouldn't have to get the drop pittman arm or new shocks because the ones I have right now qualify for your shopping list, but do I still have to get the bronco 6" lift springs, or will the explorer 6" lift springs that I already have work?

also, the brake lines have already been extended, but what is the difference in fittings for the stock explorer calipers and the dana 44 calipers, if any?

I am sure that there is a good reason, but why cant you use the stock spring buckets and shock towers on the explorer?

Does the 70's F150/bronco use a different lug pattern?

Isn't there a difference in gear ratio on the stock rear explorer axle and the front bronco axle, if so will the rear differential out of the bronco bolt into the stock rear explorer axle?

Answer might void previous question but should I swap both front and back axles at the same time with the rear axle off of the same bronco?

I am looking for a wider stance anyways, is "cutting down" the axle necessary?

also, I definitely enjoy taking my truck off road but it is still a commuter when there is snow on the groung and i don't want to take my sports car out, will it still be road worthy without sway bars?

I am looking to have a SAS completed within a couple months

Great writeup Dannyboy and everyone else who contributed to this glorious stockpile of information
 
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Dannyboy

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I have some questions. . . I bought my explorer with a 6 inch lift already, but I want a SAS, it currently is just the lift with stock TTB, I obviously wouldn't have to get the drop pittman arm or new shocks because the ones I have right now qualify for your shopping list, but do I still have to get the bronco 6" lift springs, or will the explorer 6" lift springs that I already have work?


your pitman arm will work, stock shocks use the "stud" style, you will need to switch to the "eye" style, not extending shock towers severely limits the uptravel of your suspension

also, the brake lines have already been extended, but what is the difference in fittings for the stock explorer calipers and the dana 44 calipers, if any?

I needed new brake lines as the calipers use a different mount


I am sure that there is a good reason, but why cant you use the stock spring buckets and shock towers on the explorer?

TTB springs have a rate of like 350lbs, way too stiff where solid axle springs have a spring rate of like half of that, I mentioned shock towers before, and some guys have modified the coil bucket, but it just really doesn't line up that good for the early bronco coils. The early bronco coil is much wider at the top. I "fixed" a ranger that used stock coil buckets and shocks, no lie, it was limited by uptravel by 6" that was gained after going with a longer shock tower.

Does the 70's F150/bronco use a different lug pattern?

yes, 5x5.5 vs. explorer stock 5x4.5

Isn't there a difference in gear ratio on the stock rear explorer axle and the front bronco axle, if so will the rear differential out of the bronco bolt into the stock rear explorer axle?

most guys swapping in solid axles are doing so to run 35" or larger tires and favor 4.56, 4.88 or 5.13 gears, my stock Bronco axle had 3.55s

Answer might void previous question but should I swap both front and back axles at the same time with the rear axle off of the same bronco?
depends, some guys go 44/9" combo, some guys keep the stock 8.8, everybody has an opinion about what is strongest. I never had an issue with my 8.8 on 37s

I am looking for a wider stance anyways, is "cutting down" the axle necessary?
no, you can go full width, look at the photo again and look at Stic-0's truck

also, I definitely enjoy taking my truck off road but it is still a commuter when there is snow on the groung and i don't want to take my sports car out, will it still be road worthy without sway bars?

with the correct shocks, yes, I drove my truck on the freeway for 100 mile trips all the time. It's no sportscar, but it does the trick. If this was an issue, spend a few more bucks on shocks and you'll be in good hands

I am looking to have a SAS completed within a couple months



Great writeup Dannyboy and everyone else who contributed to this glorious stockpile of information Thanks, glad to help
 

dansnyder22

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Thank you so much for your help, I am now definitely headed in the right direction for my SAS.

Just if your curious I am going to leave the axles long and swap both front and rear axles.

Going tomorrow to look at a bronco this guy is parting out that he says already has a 6" lift he only wants $400 for the whole truck, I will probably buy the whole thing and bring it to the junk yard after I take everything I need. That will give me the wheels, axles, springs, and a few other things I need, but I will be using new shocks, bushings, tires, U-bolts, and all the other misc. things that wont be on the bronco. I might rebuild the axles before I put them in too, or rebuild them later if the total bill starts rising too far.:p:

once again thank you for your help, I may pop into this thread time to time asking questions while I am in the process of the swap.
 

Dannyboy

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$400 is a STEAL, you can get your steering, track bar, coil buckets, radius arms, RA mounts, etc and maybe even brake hoses. Start up your own thread with lots of photos on the "Projects" section of the forum.
 

dansnyder22

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$400 is a STEAL, you can get your steering, track bar, coil buckets, radius arms, RA mounts, etc and maybe even brake hoses. Start up your own thread with lots of photos on the "Projects" section of the forum.
went to go look at it to buy it and he had already sold the front axle, so kinda pointless to buy it now
 
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im currently doin a SAS on my 92 Ranger, Im usin a 78 fw dana 44. I have removed all the old ttb junk an bolted my radius arm mounts. However iv ran into a problem, Im ready to mount my coil buckets but im not sure how to make the driver side bucket fit because of the bulge in he frame. What should I do? thanks
 



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