Thread: Axle Building Practice with a Dana 30

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  1. #1 Axle Building Practice with a Dana 30 
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    Jan 2016
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    This and every other jeep forum is awash with bickering back and forth about the merits of the Dana 30. Some swear they knew a buddy whos cousin ran a spooled 30 with 40 tires for years and others scoff at the idea of putting any effort whatsoever into building this axle up. Well it is my opinion that the dana 30, while not the most capable axle ever made, is sufficient for what I want to do with it. And building it within reason is a great opportunity to get some fabrication practice under my belt. Some of the money I plan on sinking into this axle will not be transferable should I chose to upgrade in the future but a decent portion will. So for now, Im going to build my 30

    Heres a list of my build plans

    Rebuild diff
    Replace brackets
    Truss the Cs and diff underneath the axle
    1 Ton Crossover steering linkage
    Hydro Assist Ram

    Ive been tossing these plans around in my head and now its time to write it down.

    Rebuild Diff
    I havent gotten a straight answer about the WJ variant of Dana 30 but supposedly it was dubbed the super 30 by dana corp (not to be confused with the aftermarket 30 spline kit). Im not entirely sure what makes it so super but there are some differences. For example upon removing the carrier I found 1 master shim on the outside of each carrier bearing. This I assume is for ease of assembly at the factory. The Pinion also had 1 very thick oil slinger to serve as an inner shim rather than the pack of shims.

    I am seriously hoping that it is just a matter of replacing the bearings and reusing the shims to get a good pattern the first shot. At the time of writing this Rock Auto has TIMKEN rebuild kits for $49.

    I also have two pinion nuts and two crush sleeves should things go south the first time around. Other tools I have include a 50-300ftlb torque wrench to set the nearly 250ftlb torque spec to crush the crush sleeve and a 0-60inlb gear wrench (beam style preload wrench) to set the pinion bearing preload. Ill be using a press and a carrier cage to get the old bearings off and new ones on.

    Replace brackets
    The stock bracketry that came from the factory is adequate for the stock suspension linkage but I have a custom link setup and need to make some adjustments. I am using the Coil bucket/LCA brackets from Ruff Stuff Specialties to replace the rusted coil buckets I recently cut off while doing my cut and turn (more on that later). The track bar brackets is integral to the passenger side coil bucket so I will be replacing it with the axle centerline tower bracket from ruff stuff as well. Since my link system only has one upper, I have cut the passenger side upper mount off and will use a uniball from IRO in the cast mount on the pumpkin.

    Coil Bucket/LCA brackets
    Panhard Bracket

    All of the ruff stuff brackets are cut for 3 OD tubes. My Dana 30 has 2.5 OD tubes so I bought a foot of 3x .25 wall DOM from my local metal supplier for an adapter tube. This also simplifies things when it comes to welding the brackets to the axle tube eliminating the need to weld in tight spaces while being mindful of heat input.

    Since I will have essentially bare tubes to work with, my possibilities are endless as far as strengthening the housing and tubes. I am opting for an under axle truss. My reasoning for this is I can get away with much thinner material (aside from the bash bar at the lowest point) since the truss will be in tension rather than compression. I wont have to worry about buckling strength and the added weight from thicker pieces. I plan on fabricating large gussets on the underside of the inner C and to the tube and the same at the housing, then tying the two together with a thick piece of tubing and boxing in the resulting gap.

    Lets talk welding. I am not a certified welder and know very little about the profession at large but I have spent countless hours studying metallurgy while in college. The center section of a dana 30 is Nodular Iron. Cast Iron is IRON that is CAST. There are different types of cast iron and the type used for the dana 30 is Nodular Iron. Generally it is unadvisable to weld to any variant of cast iron meant to see a force. The reason for this is that heat cycling the cast iron heats it past the point at which martensite forms and unless post heated that martensite gets frozen and does not dissolve back into the material. Martensite is very brittle and results in the joint cracking at the edge of the heat affected zone in the cast material. Another problem with welding to cast material is that cast irons and mild steele contract at much different rates upon cooling, resulting in a cracked weld. There are a few ways to minimize this martensitic formation and distortion cracking. Pre heating the joint will decrease the range of temperature increase when the arc is struck causing less localized distortion. Post heating allows the martensite that has formed on the heat affected zone to dissipate back into the material. High nickel electrodes are often used because they allow for large amounts of distortion when cooling without cracking. This is not an exhaustive look into cast metals and welding to them, just information I have gleaned and am passing on. Feel free to correct me if im wrong about any of this.

    I chose Royal 44-30 from Crown welding supplies because it is a high nickel MIG electrode. The composition is available on their website. Its $85 for a 2lb spool but I like welding and I figure I can gouge a few buddies to weld their trusses in the future.

    1 Ton crossover steer
    The crossover steering linkage that came from the factory is great for highway driving and mild offroading. Its a vast improvement over the Y link setup on a number of other vehicles. But I would like to have hi steer and some beefier tie rod ends so I opted to go with a GM 1 Ton crossover kit from Ruff Stuff Specialties. The taper on the factory knuckles is much smaller I will be drilling out the tapers with a 7/8 straight drill and using stainless steel 7/8 tapered inserts to get the correct taper. Ruff stuff sells these tapered inserts as well.

    Hydro Assist Ram
    Since I will have a thick DOM tie rod and 1 ton rated TREs, I also want to piece together a hydraulic assist ram. In order to do this, I will have to tap my steering box to run hydraulic lines to a double acting ram mounted between my passenger side axle tube and tie rod.

    The steering box I have has 165k miles on it and still feels pretty solid. Since I will have to remove the box to drill and tap it, I decided to rebuild it while it is on the bench.

    The 99 WJs came with an electrical cooling fan and a standard TC style Saginaw power steering pump. The 01-04 V8 wjs came with a hydraulically controlled cooling fan run off of a high flow TC style Saginaw pump. Both pumps have the same mount and Im hoping that the added flow rate will solve the slow response issues of running a hydro ram on a stock pump.

    There is a small inline cooler on the return line to the PS reservoir that I also plan on upgrading as well.

    As for the ram, I plan on sourcing a ~7 throw x 1.5 bore double acting ram from

    The fittings at the box will be NPT to JIC 6 fittings and the ram will have SAE 6 to JIC 6 fittings. The hoses will be 4000psi rated JIC 6 swivel fittings and I plan on keeping a spare along with a few bottles of PS fluid should I need them. That along with 2 JIC 6 caps to cap off the box fittings should catastrophe strike and I am forced to remove the ram.

    Link about upgrading to the WJ high flow boxes on an XJ

    I will update this thread with pictures as I complete things. I'll post what I have already done as soon as I get to my shop to take pictures if it.

    Stay tuned folks!
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  2. #2 Re: Axle Building Practice with a Dana 30 
    Senior Member Ken L's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
    Arvada, CO
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    I look forward to seeing this!
    Ken L
    '96 ZJ with stuff
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  3. #3 Re: Axle Building Practice with a Dana 30 
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    Feb 2016
    E-town PA
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    Great start on the write up. I'm looking forward to seeing how this goes for you. The d30 isn't a terrible axle, especially in high pinion form. The weakest point of most is the vacuum disconnect housing. Now the d35 rear, on the other hand...
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