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Project In Too Deep – Building 1-Ton, Heavy Duty Spyntec Dana 60 Axles 

Spyntec Dana 60 axle 

Giving our old Jeep CJ5 hybrid tube buggy conversion the name of “Project In Too Deep” may be one of the biggest understatements that we’ve made in the past decade. You see, it’s not that we’re not capable of tackling these jobs; it’s just that even the best laid plans keep getting trumped with “Ooh! I could do this”, which is why we find ourselves in too deep to begin with. You know the story – kid in the candy shop, beating the Jones’s, being the first kid on your block with a big block in a CJ, 42” tires are better than 35’s, yadda yadda.  The reality though, was that the constant repair and replacement of the old ½ ton parts was just getting frustrating.  The jump to 1-ton Dana 60 axles was the next logical step in the ongoing battle to build axles that could handle the constant abuse. 

In the search for more strength, our goal was to build and install a set of Dana 60 axles that could take the pounding of a recently acquired 454 Chevy engine while spinning 42” tires. We knew that this couldn’t be done reliably with a set of junkyard Dana 60 axles, and to keep with the mantra of going “In Too Deep” and overdoing everything on this project, we settled on a custom set of Solid Axle Engineering Dana 60 axles. Up front we went with a custom king pin axle, and out back a full floater. 

Spyntec LLC acquired Solid Axle Industries a while back and continues to produce top quality axles and components you have come to expect from them.  We chose Spyntec for a few reasons, really. First, after visiting their shop, we were super impressed with the quality of workmanship and raw materials they use, not to mention the level of engineering that they put into their axles. Second, Spyntec axles are designed to Solid Axle by Spyntectake just about any abuse that you can dish out from professional rock crawling competition to the King of the Hammers type racing.  We have witnessed this abuse first hand from some of the best off road racers in the world.   While nothing is completely unbreakable, we feel confident that our new Spyntec Dana 60’s can soak up the big torque and big meats that will be part of our hybrid tube buggy Jeep. 

The Build Plan

When most people spend this much money on a custom set of axle housings for their rig, they usually kick out enough coin to get them fully assembled and ready for installation. Call me a glutton for punishment or just a cheap skate, but I ordered my axle housings with just the center sections assembled, i.e.: Detroit lockers installed and 4.88 gears.  The rear housing was ordered as a full floating variant, while the front was ordered with just the inner C’s welded in place. 

Both housings where built to provide a 64” track width (wheel-mount to wheel-mount) when fully assembled. Since the rear housing is of the full floating variety, installing the wheel hubs, bearings, etc. is very similar to assembling the front housing. The rear housing uses the same hubs, bearings, seals etc, making future maintenance a breeze. The front housing is a king pin Dana 60 as opposed to a ball joint style. The king pin version takes a little more maintenance over the life of the axle, but the gain in strength over a ball joint style is worth the extra effort. 

Follow along as we show what it takes to assemble these custom Solid Axle Dana 60 axles. I am not going to cover every little step or attempt to rewrite your Haynes and Chilton’s manuals, this is simply an overview of how ours went together to hopefully give you a few tips and tricks when you build your own.

Installation/Build – Spyntec Dana 60 Axles
Time: 2 weeks 
Tools Needed: Impact gun/sockets, wrenches, standard sockets, ratchet, allen wrenches, lug-wrench, screwdrivers, brake line wrenches, pry bar, seal seater, etc. (You’ll need a full compliment of mechanics tools)
Difficulty:

Front  Spyntec Dana 60 Axle Assembly

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60As with any project, take stock of what you have. Tools, install kits, parts and assemblies. Read the instructions and put a build-plan together in your head.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Since I was starting with a bare housing, I wiped the knuckle and bearing surfaces down with a rag and some lacquer thinner to clean out any grit and grime. Make sure that everything is clean and shiny; you don’t want your axle to start off life with dirt and grit on the bearing surfaces, it will find its way there later.

 

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Start by installing the lower dust cap, and bearing race onto the inner C. I would suggest using a brass drift or renting an installation tool from your local auto parts store. I used a small brass drift and was very careful with the hammer taps so I didn’t mar the bearing surface. This can be done by lying under the axle and tapping up with the hammer; I was working on a housing that wasn’t installed, so I just flipped it over and tapped it in straight down.

 

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Next the king pin can be installed. If you are rebuilding an old Dana 60 axle, removing the old king pin is a bear.  It usually takes allot of penetrating spray left over night, some heat from a torch, along with a long breaker bar, and enough profanities to make a sailor blush. I wouldn’t wish this job on anyone.  Since I am working on a brand new housing I could just install the new one. The tricky part is that it must be torque torqued to 550 ft/ lbs. Since my torque wrench only goes to 350 ft/ lb, I simply tightened to the max of my torque wrench and then went after it with a 4 foot piece of .120 wall tubing slid over a 7/8” Allen wrench that I bought from 4wdfactory.com. I also used a liberal amount of permanent thread locking compound on the king pin threads. After I felt the kingpin was tight, I then had a buddy pull on the tubing while I wacked the Allen wrench a few times with a hammer just to be sure. I wouldn’t say this was the most accurate way to tighten the king pin, but I sleep well at night knowing it won’t come lose.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Once the kingpin is tight, install the small seal over the kingpin and place the outer knuckle over the kingpin. With the outer knuckle in place you can install the lower kingpin bearing cap and bearing. I put some bearing grease on the bearing to hold it in place, and then used a bottle jack to hold the lower bearing cap in place while I installed the bolts. Torque the lower bolts to 80 lb/ ft. Now move back to the upper joint, smear some grease on the kingpin itself, and install the plastic bushing. The bushing indexes with a slot in the knuckle, so make sure you don’t force it in otherwise.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Now move back to the upper joint, smear some grease on the kingpin itself, and install the plastic bushing. The bushing indexes with a slot in the knuckle, so make sure you don’t force it in otherwise.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60The spring retainer goes in place next, along with the spring. In the photo, I have the spring and retainer upside down just so you can see the retainer; the retainer goes below the spring. In stock applications, the upper spring is retained by a metal cap, in our application we’re using Solid Axle high steer arms and a billet aluminum king pin cap. The steps are the same regardless of the parts used.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60There are a few ways to get the spring compressed enough to start the bolts on the cap. One method is to use a large clamp and compress it. I didn’t want to mar or scratch the anodized finish on the upper spring cap, so I simply took a trip to the local hardware store and bought 2 longer bolts. I started these bolts on opposite corners so I could compress the spring enough to start the correct length bolts.  No marks and no scratches on my anodized caps… I know, genius.
One of the great features about the Solid Axle outer knuckles aside from the huge increase in strength over stock is the addition of the machined upper surface with machined keys. This prevents the steering arm bolts from sheering under the load created by the steering. The indexed upper arm and keyway keeps all the force off the bolts and allows the bolts to just clamp everything in place. This is a super strong design and has been copied by many other companies in the industry.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Install the axle shafts into the housing. We used Yukon chromoly axle shafts and Yukon Super Joints to handle the 42” tires that the buggy will be rolling on. Be careful not to force the shafts into the housing as you can damage the inner seal in the center section. Once you have the axle shafts in place you can install the brake mounting plate, spindle, and wheel hub. I preassembled the wheel hubs, by pounding in the wheel studs and mounting the brake rotors. Your set up may differ in these steps, as the design of the Solid Axle industries wheel hub uses the pressed in wheel studs to hold the brake rotor in place. I also pressed in the bearing races and bearings on the work bench. You will also need to press in the spindle studs to the outer C. I used a drift pin and a hammer to seat the spindle studs.   

 

The brake mounting plates are held on with the same nuts and bolts that retain the spindles, so you will need to set them in place prior to bolting the spindles together. They are index drilled so there is a left and a right, and there is only one way to install the mounting plates – even I couldn’t screw this one up.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Next, lube the bearings in the wheel hubs and slide the hubs over the spindles.  Start the large inner spindle nut by hand and get it as far as you can before putting the socket on it. You will need a special socket designed for the Dana 60 spindle nuts, but you can pick one up at your local auto parts store. I usually snug the inner nut down until I can just barely turn the hub by hand. Next install the lock washer with the small pin facing in toward the inner hub nut. This is a little tricky and will take some retightening of the inner nut to get the lock washer to line up and sit properly. Once the washer is in place simply install the outer nut, torque to spec, and it’s on to the Warn locking hubs.

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60We chose Warn premium hubs for the front Dana 60 over front drive flanges since this Jeep would see some street time to and from the trails.  Even with 42” tires, the Jeep is still registered and street legal in Arizona – spinning gears, lockers, and axle shafts does take its toll on parts. And, I still like the option of unlocking the hubs when needed.  Warn provides straight forward and easy to follow instructions on installing their top quality hubs.  A very light coat of water proof grease is all that’s needed to install inner lock collar, the retaining clip, the spring and the outer locking mechanism. I always use blue loc-tite on the threads of the allen retaining bolts just to be sure they don’t come loose.

Rear  Spyntec Dana 60 Axle Assembly

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Because we used parts from Solid Axle industries, the rear assembly is the exact same as the front, from the spindles out.  The rear housing uses the same hubs, bearings and seals as the front. So simply install the bearings, seals, brake rotors, and wheel studs then slide the whole assembly over the welded on spindle. 

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60Installing the brake backing plate is a bit different than on the front, as the rear backing plate must be welded onto the axle tube.  To do this, simply assemble the brake caliper with the pads, bolt it to the backing plate and slip the whole thing over the rotor to get it lined up. Once it is in place, simply weld the backing plate to the housing. 

 

Spyntec Solid Axle Dana 60As mentioned earlier, our rear housing is a full floating design, meaning the weight of the vehicle is resting on the wheel hubs and not on the axle shaft itself. The axle shaft simply floats inside the axle tube and its sole job is to provide the turning force for the Jeep. There are two ways to connect the splined axle to the wheel hub; we could use Warn hubs just like on the front and have the option to unlock each wheel independently, a great feature if you’re going to flat tow your rig, or option two, drive flanges, which we chose. Drive flanges simply lock the axle shaft to the wheel hub in the same method as a front locking hub, using a splined drive slug and an outer plate.  The 35-spline axle shafts slide into the housing, and the drive flanges are installed. Installation is the same as installing a pair of locking hubs.

 

Spyntec 1-ton dana 60 axlesThe Verdict

Building the front and rear housings from scratch took me the better part of several weekends to complete. The great part about building both assemblies as opposed to buying them fully assembled is that maintenance will be a breeze, and I saved more than a few bucks in the process.  While building a set of junkyard Dana 60’s would have saved some cash, the increase in axle tube strength and housing strength was well worth the investment in Spyntec housings.

With Solid Axle housings and components, Warn hubs, Detroit lockers and Yukon components, we know that these axle assemblies will be able to handle the torque of our mighty 454 big block and the heft of those 42” tires.

Stay tuned as we start connecting the suspension components to our super strong Dana 60’s.  

SpynTec Industries LLC.
11501 South Avenue
North Lima, OH 44452
Phone: 888-290-AXLE
Web:
www.solidaxle.com
Yukon Gear & Axle
Web: www.solidaxle.com
Email: info@yukongear.com
Warn Industries, Inc.
12900 S.E. Capps Road
Clackamas, Oregon 97015
Phone: 1.800.543.9276
Web: www.warn.com
Eaton (Detroit Locker)
Web: www.eaton.com

 

About Rick Webster

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