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Semi-floating or full-floating?

From the factory, stock axle assemblies came in either semi-floating or full-floating designs. On a semi-floating axle, the wheel attaches directly to its outer end, and the weight of the vehicle, as well as its engine power, are channeled through a single bearing set at the end of the axle. The full-floater, the stronger of the two designs, attaches the axle to a separate hub, and two larger bearing sets support the weight of the vehicle. This means that the axle is only used to drive engine power through the axle. The upside to the semi-floating axle design is that the aftermarket has responded with a full-floater conversion for almost every type of semi-floating axle.

 

Ford Axles:

Ford 7.5-Inch
Photo:
Application:  Rear
Type: Semi-floating
Axle Shaft Diameter: 1.2 Inches
Spline count: 28
Ring Gear Diameter: 7.5 Inch
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 33-inch
Strong point: Approximately the same pinion diameter as a Dana 60, mass availability.
Weak point:  C-clips.  
Notes: For more on Ranger rear axles click HERE.
Ford 8.8-Inch
Photo:
Application: Rear
Type:  Semi-floating
Axle Shaft Diameter:  1.31 Inches
Spline count: 28, 31
Ring Gear Diameter: 8.8 Inch
Factory ratios: 2.47:1 through 4.10:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 37-inch
Strong point: Approximately the same pinion diameter as a Dana 60, mass availability
Weak point: C-clips
Junkyard jewel: Look for fullsize Ford trucks made after late '86 with ABS because these axles had a larger 7/8-inch-diameter cross pin. Also look for late-model Explorers equipped with these axles because they have disc brakes and 31-spline axles.
Building secrets:  The stock diff cover is very thin, so replace it with a quality aftermarket cover. Also, apply silicone to the pinion splines because some builders have found that they're prone to leaking
Aftermarket alternatives: Currie Industries, Custom Differentials, DTS Custom Service, Mountain Off Road Enterprises
Notes:   An Explorer 8.8-inch is a popular swap for TJ Wranglers because it's almost exactly the same width as the stock Wrangler axles and thus requires no width modifications. Further, Alan at Mountain Off Road Enterprises says that the Explorers used the same wheel bolt pattern as a TJ. Other vehicles that used the 8.8-inch axle included Ford -ton trucks from '80 to present, and Mustang GTs.
Ranger VS Explorer:  The Rangers use a 28-spline 8.8-Inch axle on 4.0 Liter engine applications and a 31-spline axle on FX4 applications.  All Explorer's are equipped with a 31-spline 8.8-Inch axle.
Notes: For more on Ranger axles click HERE.
Ford 9-Inch
Photo:
Application: Rear
Type: Semi-floating
Axle Shaft Diameter:  1.19 and 1.33 Inches
Spline count: 28 or 31
Ring Gear Diameter: 9 Inch
Factory ratios: 2.50:1 through 4.56:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle:  37-inch
Strong point: Removable third member allows for easy upgradeability, can upgrade to larger-diameter pinion
Weak point: Difficult to remove third member if an axleshaft breaks, stock pinion-shaft diameter is smallish
Junkyard jewel: They're hard to find, but some Ford -ton 4x4 pickups were equipped with an optional nodular-iron 9-inch, which was stronger and offered less chance of bearing-cap failure
Building secrets: Replace the crush sleeve in the pinion bearing with solid spacers and shim kit. This eliminates the movement of the pinion shaft under hard load
Aftermarket alternatives: Currie Enterprises, Custom Differentials, DTS Custom Service, National Drivetrain Inc., Randy's Ring & Pinion
Notes: Be careful when hunting for a 9-inch in junkyards because they are cosmetically similar to the weak (and expensive) Ford 8-inch axle. Also beware of the 9 3/8-inch axles in Lincoln cars because they also look similar but take a different axle length on one side due to their slightly offset housing.

For more information, click HERE.

Ford 10-1/2
Photo:
Application: Rear
Type: Full-floater
Axle Shaft Diameter:  1.5 Inches
Spline count: 35
Ring Gear Diameter: 10.5 Inch
Factory ratios: 3.08:1 through 4.10:1
Maximum tire size for stock axles:  44-inch
Strong point:  Large teeth on ring-and-pinion, mass availability
Weak point: Ring-gear bolts tend to loosen
Junkyard jewel:  Use an axle out of a '99-or-newer Ford truck because they sported disc brakes
Building secrets: The stock ring-gear bolts are notorious for loosening due to their design, which omits a shoulder on the bolts. Custom Differentials uses Dana 70 ring-gear bolts, which have shoulders and won't loosen
Aftermarket alternatives: Custom Differentials
Notes: This axle debuted in the early '80s in - and 1-ton Ford pickups and vans, including dualies. Their popularity with builders took awhile to grow, due to the slow availability of aftermarket gears and parts. One of the reasons was that most Sterling axles manufactured after '87 used ABS senders in the differentials, which limited their upgradeability. One of the neat things about Sterling axles is the unique O-ring design on the axleshafts, which are less likely to leak when compared to standard gaskets

 

Dana Axles:

Dana 28 TTB
Photo:
Applications: Front
Axle Shaft Diameter: 1.0 Inches
Spline count: 23
Ring Gear Diameter: 6.625 Inch
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 31-inch
Strong Points: Light weight making it good for mud.  Can easily be made to produce very good articulation with only the addition of longer radius arms and custom coils.
Weak Points:  Outer axle shafts break.  Radius arm bushings- especially passenger side frequently need replacing due to being too close to the catalytic converters.  Brakes have a tendency to warp and/or crack the front rotors.  Steering the stock steering set-up is very poor for a lifted truck. Severe bump steer is usually the result, in the higher lifts (4" and up)
Notes: For more information on Dana 28's and Dana 35's, click HERE.

Dana 30

Photo:
Application:  Front
Axle shaft diameter:   1.16 Inch
Spline count:   27
Ring gear diameter:  7.2 Inch
Maximum tire size for stock axles: 31-inch
Weak points: Very weak.  Should be replaced with the Dana 44. For more information, click HERE.
Dana 35
Photo:
Application: Rear
Type: Semi-floating
Axle shaft diameter: 1.16 Inch
Spline count: 27
Ring gear diameter: 7.56 Inch
Maximum tire size for stock axles:  33-inch
Dana 35 TTB
Photo:
Applications: Front
Axle Shaft Diameter: 1.16 Inches
Spline count: 27
Ring Gear Diameter: 7.56 Inch
Maximum tire size for stock axle:  33-inch
Strong Points:   Same knuckles and u-joints as Dana 44.  7.5" R&P are very strong. Have heard of virtually no failures.  Can easily be lifted.  Can easily be made to produce very good articulation with only the addition of longer radius arms and custom coils.  Good aftermarket support, with many companies making lifts of all different sizes.  Actually has hubs.  Entire assembly is very strong
Weak points: Wheel bearings- though large, are placed too close together.  Automatic hubs- prone to grenading, or giving up when you need them most. Also, only very coarse adjustment available for wheel bearings.  Radius arm bushings- especially passenger side frequently need replacing due to being too close to the catalytic converters.  Brakes have a tendency to warp and/or crack the front rotors.  Steering the stock steering set-up is very poor for a lifted truck. Severe bump steer is usually the result, in the higher lifts (4" and up)
Notes: For more information on Dana 28's and Dana 35's, click HERE.
Dana 44 & Dana 44 TTB
Photo:

Applications:  Front and rear
Type: Mainly semi-floating, although there were some very rare full-floating units
Axle Shaft Diameter:  1.30 Inches
Spline count: 30 (after '72; prior to '72, some were 19-spline)
Ring Gear Diameter:  8.5 Inch
Factory ratios: 2.76:1 through 5.89:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 35-inch
Weight (solid axle): 240 Pounds
Strong point:  Wide availability and significant aftermarket support in parts and upgrades
Weak point: Carrier and spider gears, U-joints, ring-and-pinion
Junkyard jewel: Find a front axle out of an early '80s Dodge 3/4-ton because they were equipped with locking hubs. Also, a front axle out of a '76-or-earlier - or -ton Chevy has steering knuckles that are cast flat and easily adaptable to crossover steering
Building secrets: Upgrade the stock carrier and spider gears because they're notoriously weak. Also, if you've indexed the axle to improve pinion angle, use a diff cover from a '78 or '79 Ford -ton high-pinion '44 because it allows for a larger quantity of lube and a higher fill point
Aftermarket alternatives: Currie Enterprises, Custom Differentials, DTS Custom Service, Dynatrac
Notes:  They came in both low-pinion and high-pinion models, and the centersection was even used in '80-and-up Ford Twin-Traction-Beam applications. They were offered in 5-, 6-, or 8-lug bolt patterns.

Dana 44 TTB information - Click HERE.

Dana 44 information - Click HERE.

Dana 50 TTB
Photo:
Applications: Front
Axle shaft diameter:   1.31 Inch
Spline count:  30
Ring gear diameter:  9.25 Inches
Maximum tire size for stock axles: 36-Inch 
Dana 60
Photo:
Applications: Front and rear
Type: Semi- and full-floating
Ring Gear Diameter 9.75" (Rear) 10.10" (Front)
Spline count: 16, 23, 30, 32 and 35
Factory ratios: 3.54:1 through 7.17:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle:  38.5-inch
Weight:  505 Pounds
Strong point:  Available in a variety of widths, most of which were full-floaters
Weak point:  The driver-side carrier bearing was known to spin on the carrier and this often spun the race, which can damage the housing
Junkyard jewel:  A heavy-duty front '60 can be found on '78 and '79 -ton Ford pickups equipped with the snowplow package. Some late '70s and early '80s Dodge trucks had 35-spline '60 rear axles. Rear '60s are easy to find
Building secrets:  The spider-gear roll pin is small and hollow, and is prone to breakage. Builders often double up the roll pin for extra strength (slide one inside of another). Also, replace the pinion yoke with a 1350-series yoke for extra strength. Finally, be careful about the spline count. Look for the 32- and 35-spline axles, avoid the 16s and 23s
Aftermarket alternatives: Currie Enterprises, DTS Custom Service, Dynatrac, Custom Differentials
Notes: The venerable '60 has been available in either high- or low-pinion designs and was never used in an IFS application. Custom Differentials warns to steer clear of the rare but virtually identical Dana 61 because most of the parts are not interchangeable
Dana 70
Photo:
Applications: Front and rear
Type: Most full-floating with some rare semi-floating in commercial applications
Spline count: 23, 32 or 35
Factory ratios: 3.54:1 through 7.17:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 44-inch
Strong point: Large teeth on ring-and-pinion
Weak point: Small diameter pinion shaft (same as found on Dana 60)
Junkyard jewel:  Rarely seen but known to exist are open-knuckle front axles with disc brakes. A rear heavy-duty '70 was fitted under '73-'91 Chevy dualie pickups, and it has larger-than-normal carrier bearings
Building secrets: When rebuilding, make sure that any stock oil-restricting device is left in the pinion area. This keeps lube in the pinion-bearing area at a higher level and retains it longer. Custom Differentials says that a number of '70s come to them with the oil-restricting devices removed
Aftermarket alternatives: Dynatrac, Custom Differentials
Notes: One of the benefits to a '70 is that there are a number of different pinion yoke sizes available, including a 1410-series yoke. Be careful though, because different housing castings used different sizes of pinion bearings due to different sizes of pinion bores.

 

GM Axles

GM 10-Bolt
Photo:
Applications:  Front and rear
Type: Semi-floating
Spline count: 28 and 30
Factory ratios:  2.56:1 through 4.56:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle: 35-inch
Strong point: Strong ring-and-pinion for its size, large ring-gear bolts, spider gears and pinion diameter (when compared to its competition, the Dana 44)
Weak point: Avoid the centrifugal-force-triggered Gov-Lok locker
Junkyard jewel: Find a 10-bolt-equipped Chevy Blazer or Suburban built after November 1989 through 1991 because it will have 30-spline axleshafts
Building secrets:  The axletubes can spin on the centersection, so notch the housing where the axletube meets the centersection and re-weld
Aftermarket alternatives: Custom Differentials.
Notes: Unfairly, this axle has been the redheaded stepchild in the family of GM axles. Why is this unfair? Because it boasts an inner pinion bearing that is stronger than the one found in a 12-bolt axle, and the pinion-shaft diameter is also larger. Before you run out and snag a 10-bolt, though, be aware that GM offers seven different variations of this axle.
GM 12-Bolt
Photo:
Application: Rear
Type: Semi-floating
Spline count: 30 (after '68.)
Factory ratios: 2.50:1 through 4.56:1
Maximum recommended tire size for stock axle: 35-inch
Strong point:  Larger-diameter ring gear than 10-bolt (8.875-inch)
Weak point:  The pinion bearings are small and fail often
Junkyard jewel: Some '76-or-older Chevy -ton trucks had a good Eaton coil-spring-type limited-slip
Building secrets: Some ratios allow the use of a 12-bolt automobile gearset, which, interestingly, uses a larger-diameter pinion shaft
Aftermarket alternatives: Currie Enterprises, Custom Differentials, DTS Custom Service
Notes:  This axle was manufactured in both 5- or 6-lug bolt patterns. If you trash the 12-bolt in your '73-to-early-'80 4x4 Chevy truck, you'll be happy to know that you can simply install your 6-lug axleshafts into a two-wheel-drive 12-bolt axle and return to the trail.
GM 14-Bolt
Photo:
Application:  Rear
Type: Semi-floating
Spline count: 30, 33
Factory ratios: 3.23:1 through 5.14:1
Maximum tire size for stock axle with 10-inch ring gear: 44-inch
Strong point: It features a removable pinion support and a pilot bearing at the end of the pinion shaft for added strength
Weak point: The left-side carrier cap is known to break through the bolt hole
Junkyard jewel: Find one on a '73-to-current - or 1-ton Chevy truck. The newer the axle, the better
Building secrets: Replace the Gov-Lok diff with an aftermarket unit
Aftermarket alternatives: Custom Differentials.
Notes: The GM 14-bolt came in both a 9-inch ring gear and a 10-inch ring gear, and they're totally different animals. The latter is the more desirable, and its only resemblance to the 9-inch is the number of cover bolts.

 

Rockwell

Rockwell 2-1/2 Ton
Photo:
Application:  Front and rear
Type: Full-floater
Spline count: 16
Factory ratio: 6.72
Maximum tire size for stock axles:  40-inch and above (limited by gear ratio)
Weight:  640 Pounds
Strong point: There are many, but for builders, the high entry position of the driveshaft is a major plus when engineering the drivetrain and it offers improved ground clearance
Weak point: Only one ratio available.  
Junkyard jewel:  Find a later model that is equipped with Spicer U-joints and avoid the earlier models with Bendix and Rezepa axle joints.
Building secrets:  Add a Detroit Locker
Aftermarket alternatives:  Boyce Equipment, Chuck's Trucks.
Notes: 

What can you say about an axle that has been used by the military for years, is readily available and can stand up to just about any abuse you can dish out? Sure, it's heavy and only comes in one gear ratio, but for the serious 'wheeler who runs big tires on brutal terrain, it's the Holy Grail.

Visit Boyce Equipment and Chuck's Trucks for more information.

 

Unimog Portal Axles

   
Photo:
Application: Unimog 404, 406, 416, 435
Type: Portal axle with reduction hub
Factory Ratio [406, 416, 435] 6:52  [3.14 Ring Gear + 2.07 Hub Reduction]

6:06  [3.14 Ring Gear + 1.92 Hub Reduction]

5:31  [ 2.55 Ring Gear + 2.07 Hub Reduction]  [High Speed Axles]

Factory Ratio [404]: 7.56  [3.54 Ring Gear + 2.13 Hub Reduction]
Maximum tire size for stock 404 axles: 42-inch
Wheel Bolt Pattern: 6x205mm
Strong Point: Strong axles. A lot of ground clearance
Weak Point: Expensive. Hard to find. Hard to find parts for.

 

 

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