Axle Beef! Dana 60 Rebuild & Install

Apr. 01, 2000 By Shawn Spickler
We wanted a strong front axle for our project Blazer. The old Dana 44 never gave us any problems but we wanted something that could take some hard abuse on the trail. With the heavy vehicle weight, large tires and soon to be locker in the front, the Dana 60 seemed like a good choice. The Blazer also runs a high torque big block which can take it's toll on a weaker axle. The Dana 60 axles are almost bullet proof and strong enough to withstand the most demanding conditions. Existing straight axle model 44s, IFS44S, IFS50s and GM 10 bolts, cannot compare to the strength and durability of the Dana Model 60. In fact, the increased strength of the Model 60 is unsurpassed by any other front axle for vehicles with less than 10,000 lb. GVW. Consider these features of the Dana 60:
  • Increased axle diameters resist breakage
  • Larger wheel bearings last longer when running bigger tires
  • Bigger and thicker housing resists flex
  • Larger pinion and side bearings provide durability as well as ring and pinion support
  • Larger ring and pinion gears offer strength, even when using low ratios
  • Larger locking hub assemblies resist breakage under severe stress
  • Heavy duty disk brakes
  • Dana 60 axles are still in production today.
  • Parts are plentiful and reasonably priced from many sources. Many after-market posi and locking differentials are available.
  • Other than the Dana 70 and GM 14-bolt, model 60s use the largest pinion and carrier support bearings compared to other axles.
  • The Dana 60 uses a 9-3/4 diameter ring gear.
  • The Dana 60 housing is made from nodular (ductile) iron which is much stronger than standard cast iron. The housing offers impressive rigidity and strength over other axle housings.
  • Can use 30- and 35-spline axle shafts

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If you don't have the time to go through an axle, you can buy a rebuilt unit from Boyce or Dynatrac. This one is from Boyce. Expect to pay a premium for the Dana 60 since it's rare.
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Searching for a used Dana 60 is not easy. Since the axle is rare and only found on the 1 ton trucks, chances that a salvage yard has one is slim. You can buy reconditioned axles from Boyce and Dynatrac but you WILL pay for them. Since our budget didn’t allow for that, we decided to buy used. A used Dana 60 might not be in premium shape but any part on the axle can be replaced. Be careful not to pick up a dually Dana 60 since it will cost more than it’s worth to convert it to a single wheel setup. We were told a Dana 60 from a Dodge would work but this was not verified. The Ford Dana 60 pumpkin is on the wrong side and would not work for our swap but would be perfect for a straight axle conversion on the later GM trucks since the transfer case output is on the drivers side. After browsing the local newspaper, we found a used Dana 60 for $1000. This axle was not the greatest deal and it wasn't the golden axle you always picture in your head but no others could be found. When we first saw the axle, we could tell it had seen better days. There was a date stamped on the axle tube so we could tell it was from a 79 GM. It looked like it had been used hard. The knuckle u-joints were shaken by hand and we found major play in them. This meant new joints. The locking hubs have seen better days and 1 would not turn. The pumpkin cover looks like it met with a few rocks in its life and had previously been welded. The bottom of the pumpkin also showed signs of scraping. The ring and pinion still looked good. No chips, cracks or missing teeth were found. The important thing that it was complete. The calipers, rotors and everything else was still attached. The minimum thickness on the rotors should be 1.465 which was overlooked on this axle. All joints were checked by moving them and they all seemed fine. After pointing out the problems, the seller knocked $200 off so total was $800. In case you don’t know, the Dana 60 is extremely heavy and it’s almost impossible to pick up one side without hurting your back. Getting the heavy pig home requires a little planning. We could have picked it up in the Blazer but with the shell, it would have been difficult. We were able to persuade our friend Dave in putting his new Ford F150 to good use and help get the 60. Luckily the seller had an engine hoist and was easy to get it in the back. Be sure you bring some tie downs to prevent the axle moving around and making some new dents and scratches like ours did in the new F-150 (sorry Dave). After getting the axle home, we had no access to a engine hoist so a plan was devised to get the 60 out without giving us hernia. Luckily there's a large steel beams running across the garage ceiling so we rigged up a couple chains and used a standard come-along to lift it out the bed of the F150. We then pulled the truck forward and carefully set the 60 on the floor.

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A custom mount was made out of some old 2x4's. This helped to work on it and we were able to use the jackstands to support the Blazer.
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Once on the floor, it's difficult to work on it unless you have on some jackstands. Even with jackstands, it difficult to move it without it falling off. We would need the jackstands to support the Blazer when the axle is installed. Some old 2x4's were lying around so a stand was made that would be able to support the axle. The stand was kept low to the ground so it's not that tall and top heavy. Basically it’s the length of the axle tubes with two 6" pieces sticking up and are notched for the tube. A few support legs are attached to keep it from tipping. Getting the clean 60 inside and out wasn't easy. To avoid contamination of the bearings, everything must be cleaned. A little dirt can do major damage. The first thing done was to take a pressure washer and try to get as much dirt and grime off. Make sure you don't do this in your new driveway though since it's a little messy. Close attention to the cracks is needed. A small wire wheel brush with a drill is taken to the outside to scrub off any stubborn dirt/grease.

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A drill and a small wire wheel does wonders for getting stubborn dirt and grime off. This also removes rust.
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The old axle shaft seals (located by the carrier) are removed by placing a large pry-bar at an angle and forcing them out.
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After the outside was cleaned, the axle was put on its stand and then taken apart. Make sure to take good notes and keep the parts with the same side. After the hubs and spindles are removed, the shafts are taken out. Be sure to keep the camber shims in the same posistion. The carrier is then removed along with the pinion. Be sure to keep the shims with the correct side. Take the time to put the shims in a separate marked bag for each side. All internal parts were soaked solvent and scrubbed. To clean the axle tubes, a 2" wire wheel brush was used. The back half of an allen socket was used to hold the wire brush and several long extensions were used and attached to a drill. This got most of the grime out of the tubes. Next, an old, yet clean towel was wrapped around a broomstick with a few pieces of tape. Brake cleaner is used and the tubes are finally clean. The inside of the pumpkin is cleaned with several rags and cleaner. There was galley under the pinion shaft that had some crud in the bottom. Since our shafts needed new u-joints installed, we took them down to our favorite drive shaft shop (Englwood Driveshaft) and the u-joints were replaced. We were surprised when the shop quoted the price. $114 seemed high but after price quote from a couple autoparts stores for $110 (parts only), we thought Englewood Driveshaft shop should have charged me more!

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New joints were installed in our existing shafts. These joints are larger than a 1350 u-joint.
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One faulty bearing was found but with bearings being inexpensive, 4 new bearings for the hubs were purchased. We've heard good things about Timken so thats the brand we chose. New seals were purchased as well. This included the pinion seal, 2 carrier seals, 2 spindle seals, 2 hub seals and diff gasket.

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New brake shields were ordered from GM.
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The spindle seals included new outer axle shaft bearings that mounts inside the spindle. The carrier seals needed some encouragement from Mr. Pry bar. With the carrier being out, you can stick the pry bar in the old seals and just pry them out. The brake shields were badly dented and rusted in some spots so new shields were purchased. The shields are a dealer only item. Calipers actually looked in good condition but the brake bleeder valves must have been welded by the Corrosion God since we rounded the head on one and broke the other clean off. Instead of drilling them out and possibly contaminating the inner piston, we decided to buy new calipers at $27 each (with exchange). This will assure all calipers are the same and each caliper will have the same pressure. Pulling will result if the calipers do not have the same pressure when braking.
New calipers had to be ordered since the bleeder valves were almost welded in the calipers.
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Raybestos high performance brake pads were selected for better stopping power. The old pad is at top.
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                  Not measuring the Min. Thickness and assuming the rotors were still good, we took them down to the local machine shop only to find that they were too thin to be turned. Now it’s time for new rotors (it's always something). The old studs must be pounded or pressed out. The studs cost $8 each so care must be taken when doing this. Since a press was not available at the time, a brass block was used to protect the studs from the hammer. We tried a piece of wood the first time but had no luck since the wood kept splitting.

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New Timken bearings were installed.
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New bearings and races are purchased for the spindles. There was only 1 bad bearing but all 4 were replaced. The faulty bearing had black spots from the heat and did not roll freely against the race. The total price on the bearings and races was $50. New races had to purchased separate for the larger bearings. The old races are hammered out using a long screwdriver. Working back and forth will eventually get the race out. The new race are installed using a wood block at first then carefully with a screwdriver. A press would be a better option for this.  

New brakes pads were required. Raybestos Performance pads were purchased for the quest of better stopping power. The brake pads are thicker and have better friction material that will give you a better stopping power. For even better stopping distance and better control in wet weather, you can get your rotors slotted and crossed drilled. This puts holes and grooves in your rotors to shed the water. This also works great for dry weather since the stopping distances are shorter. With the cost of the Dana 60 is already over-budget, the rotors were left alone. Since the axle is going under a 6" lift, a raised steering block was purchased. Warn was one of the few that make these and again www.carparts.com was the cheapest.

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A Warn steering block helps the angle of the drag link for caused by lifts.
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Before the new steering block was installed, it was a good time to replace the upper kingpin bushings. These are white Teflon cylinders with a cone shape inside to fit over the kingpin. In time they get warn out so for $22, they were replaced. Your friendly local dealer should have these.

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The old king pin bushing was serverly worn and broken in half.
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New King Pin bushings were ordered and installed.
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  The old hubs looked trashed so a new set was needed. Warn just came out with premium hubs for the Dana 60 so we purchased a set from www.carparts.com. The premium hubs are known for their durability.

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Since the old hubs were trashed, new Warn hubs were installed..
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The old diff cover was dented and looked like it had been welded at one point. A new chrome cover was purchased at 4 Wheel Parts Wholesalers. This was cheaper than going through the dealer or any other place to try to replace it with a regular (paint to match) cover. The chrome cover is just as thick as stock. To provide better protection, a differential protector was ordered from www.fourxdoctors.com.

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The old diff cover was dented and welded in a few places. These chrome units are available and were just as thick as stock.
New u-bolts had to be ordered. The Dana 60 uses larger u-bolts than the previous Dana 44 plus it requires some large bolts that mount in the pumpkin on the passenger side. Rancho has a part # for these and any off-road shop should be able to get them.

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Always think SAFETY! Four jackstands are used to support the Blazer while the axle is installed.
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Installation was actually a breeze and everything lined up perfect. The Dana 44 was first removed. The tires are taking off so the u-bolts can just be loosened and the axle is lowered to the floor. BE SURE TO THINK SAFETY! Extra jackstands are placed underneath for safety reasons. The tires are also placed underneath the vehicle to add more protection. After the brake lines, front driveshaft, steering linkage and the vent hose was removed, the 44 was lowered and then removed. Now is a good time to grease the leaf spring bushings since no pressure is on them. Next comes installing the Dana 60. The plan was to keep it on the stand so the thin disk sheilds are not bent. The Blazer is jacked up just enough to slide the 60 under the sprngs. After the axle is under the springs, the new u-bolts are installed and the stand can be removed. The axle can now be jacked up and the tires are installed. Everything else is re-connected. The front driveshaft u-joint fits perfect in the yoke.

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The Dana 60 requires different u-bolts. A Rancho set was ordered.
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We had to replace the stainless brake lines since the caliper line bolt was a different size. Since we had to purchase new lines, longer lines were acquired to achieve more flex. After the brakes are installed and bled, a final check for loose bolts is performed. Last thing was the grease and gear oil. Since this axle will be going through water crossings, marine-bearing grease was purchased at the local marine store. This grease is safe for disk brakes so it can be used on any vehicle. It repels water and has better corrosion protection. Royal Purple synthetic gear oil was purchased. Be sure to get the grease in the cracks of the bearings otherwise bearing failure will occur. After everything is installed, we take the Blazer down to the alignment shop and we are good to go!

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New brake lines had to be ordered since the older 3/4 ton Dana 44 lines had a different size line bolt at the caliper.
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After driving the Blazer with the Dana 60, everything feels the same. Even with the Dana 60 being heavier than the Dana 44, it didn't feel any different than the previous setup. The heavy duty unit should be able to take any off-road punishment which we will soon be planning!
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