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Sams Off Road Axle Upgrade

 Project OVer Easy Axle Upgrade


Axle Upgrades: Alloy Shafts, Deep Gears, a Rear Locker and Premium Hubs

During our last Axle article we shared with you our decision on the appropriate axles for the Project Over Easy Scrambler and how we went about sourcing those axle assemblies through TexomaJeeps (www.texomajeeps.com). We chose a set of CJ7 wide-track axles for our Scrambler and now we needed to address the weak points of the Dana 30 and AMC 20 (a.k.a. Model 20). We needed stronger-than-stock axles shafts in both axles and lower gears to help turn the bigger tires Over Easy will soon be shod with. The lower gears will also help better deliver the torque of our fuel injected Chevy 350 to the ground and reduce stress of the rest of our drive train – not to mention assist our fuel economy.

For the installation of our new alloy shafts and especially the proper set-up of our new ring & pinion and rear locker, we needed the help of professional off-road shop. We knew just who to call, Sam Patton, owner/operator of Sam’s Offroad Equipment in Tulsa Oklahoma.


About Sam’s Offroad Equipment

Sam's Off Road EquipmentMany of you may already be aware of Sam Patton and the great team at Sam’s Offroad Equipment. For those of you not familiar with this off-road ambassador, we can tell you that Sam is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Period. He’s also one helluva off-roader with a Top-Truck Challenge trophy on his shelf.

Sam Patton opened Sam’s Offroad Equipment in October 1984 and has been providing parts and service for all types of vehicles ever since. Located on historic Route 66 in Tulsa Oklahoma, Sam has built his business into a comprehensive parts and service center capable of routine 4X4 maintenance or the custom construction of championship winning off-roaders. From brake service on your stock Jeep to doing high-end custom conversions and builds, Sam’s Off Road in Tulsa is truly a one-stop shop for all of your 4-wheel drive needs. But, it was another one of Sam’s specialties that we were interested in… Custom axle builds. We needed to tap Sam’s expertise to upgrade our “gently used” set of wide-track axles from a 1984 CJ7, to include welding the axle tubes to the third member – something that most can’t accomplish correctly. Our goal was to apply targeted upgrades to these axles and address their known weak points to prepare the Scrambler for off-roading.  


Step 1: Quality Components

The first step in our mission to build stronger-than-stock Dana 30 front and AMC 20 rear axle assemblies was sourcing internal components that would be able to stand-up to the rigors of off-roading. This included the selection of high quality axle shafts, gears, locker and overhaul components from Yukon Gear & Axle as well as WARN Premium Manual hubs. 

Yukon Gear & Axle Components

Yukon Gear and AxleThe Yukon Gear & Axle division of Randy’s Ring & Pinion was selected as the provider of our internal axle components. Yukon Gear & Axle’s mission focuses on the production of high-quality components offered at competitive prices. These products are designed to support the needs of customers ranging from the do-it-yourself off-roader to championship off-road competitors. 

The 4X4REVIEW.COM team is no stranger to Yukon Gear & Axle. We’ve used their products in the past with great results. For the Project Over Easy, Scrambler axle build, we needed quality components that would both improve the performance of our CJ wide track axles while keeping upgrade costs to a minimum. Yukon Gear & Axles quality components delivered on all points. 


Rear Model 20 Axle Components:

  • One Piece Wide Track High Alloy Jeep Axles
  • 4:10 Gears
  • Lock-right Locker
  • Bearing Kit/ Master overhaul kit

Front Dana 30

  • High Alloy Axles 4340
  • U-Joints
  • Inner Axle Seals
  • Master overhaul kit
  • Spider gears 
  • 4:11 Gear

Warn Premium Hubs

Warn Premium Locking Hubs

In keeping with the bolt-on upgrade approach, we selected a set of WARN Premium Manual Hubs (Part# 9062) for our front Dana 30 axle. This required a retrofit of the stock ‘81-86 5-bolt hubs with earlier, ’72-80 6-bolt Jeep hubs to accept the WARN Premium Manual Hubs. 

WARN Hubs are the standard of the industry and a great upgrade to any CJ still running the stock manual hubs. The WARN Premium Manual Hubs are built to handle the rigors of off-roading with full metal construction (inside and out) and have the added benefit of a limited lifetime warranty.



Step 2: Expert Assembly

Having sourced the above high-quality components, we were off to a great start with the Project Over Easy axle build-up. That said, the real effort was yet to come. These components would need to be installed and properly set-up by a drive-train professional. This is where Sam’s Offroad Equipment steps into the lead role in this axle build-up. 

Sam’s Offroad Equipment has decades of experience in improving the performance of Jeep vehicles. Sam’s team of Jeep experts have built-up quite a set of tricks to improve the durability and performance of Jeep axles over the years. A prime example of this tribal knowledge includes their process of carefully welding the steel axle tubes to the cast iron center sections of both the front Dana 30 and rear AMC 20 axle assemblies. This careful process requires the even heating of both the cast-iron center section and the steel axle tubes to prevent cracking and/or warping. The end result is a super-strong axle housing and a cure for one of the AMC 20 weaknesses (axle tube spinning in the housing).

Once the axle housings had been welded and then allowed to cool, the Sam’s Offroad Equipment team made short work of the front and rear 4.10 gear set installations, ring and pinion set-up, alloy axle shaft installations and general axle assembly. Again, this is where expert assembly comes into play. The proper set-up of the ring and pinion is critical to the performance and durability of these new components. 

The end result of Sam’s Offroad Equipment axle build-up with Yukon and WARN components are a set of wide-track axles that will be beefy enough to take everything that we plan to through at them. Next up, the axle installation…


Installation - Swapping In Our Upgraded Axles
Time: 16 hours 
Tools Needed: Impact wrenches, standard wrenches, sockets, ratchet, lug-wrench, screwdrivers, brake line wrenches, catch-pan, jack, jack-stands, paper-towels / rags.


Work began by prepping the Jeep for stock axle removal. This included loosening all lug-nuts, jacking vehicle up for secure placement on jack-stands, removal of brake lines and emergency brake-cables. The wheels and tires were left on the axles to ease axle assembly removal (by rolling the axles out from beneath the vehicle). 

Our axle removal effort was further simplified as we performed a suspension lift installation in parallel with the upgraded axle installation. Rather than unbolt the stock axle assemblies from the leaf springs, we simply removed the springs, shocks and axles as a unit by disconnecting the springs at the frame and shackles. These complete axle assemblies were carefully rolled out from beneath the Jeep to make room for the upgraded axle assemblies.

Installation of the newly upgraded wide-track axle assemblies was quite simple as it was largely a reversal of stock axle removal process. The one variation was that the new suspension was partially installed (springs bolted to frame mounting points) before rolling the upgraded axle assemblies into position, raise the springs and then bolt-on the shackles, U-bolts, steering gear and brake lines.

The final installation step was to bleed the brake hydraulics. This task was made easier by Sam’s Offroad Equipments installation of new brake components.


The Verdict

During this course of this build, we leveraged high-quality, cost-conscious parts. No 35-spline shafts needed here. By focusing on quality upgraded components for the stock CJ7 wide-track axles, we were able to improve the front and rear axle strength and durability while improving the off-road readiness of our CJ8 Scrambler project vehicle.

From the Yukon single-piece rear axles, locker, front alloy shafts and high-quality ring and pinion to proven WARN Premium Manual Hubs, the internal components selected for this project should far exceed the capabilities of the stock axles assemblies. Furthermore, the efforts of Sam’s Offroad Equipment to strengthen the axle housings and perform the axle build and gear set-up procedure will provide the Project Over Easy Scrambler with axle assemblies that that are both more durable and more capable than the stock set-up.

If you are considering axle upgrades but do not want to take out a second mortgage for custom axle builds, you might consider the route we took with this project. This budget-minded approach combines the strengths of industry leading parts and service providers including Yukon Gear & Axle, WARN Industries and Sam’s Offroad Equipment to build a set of Dana 30 front and AMC 20 rear axles that will perform better than stock on and off the road while not emptying your wallet on the way to the trail.


Sam’s Off Road Equipment
4345 South West Blvd
Tulsa Oklahoma 74107
Phone: (918) 446-5535 Local
Toll Free: (800) 446-5503
Web: www.samsoffroad.com
email: contact@samsoffroad.com
Yukon Gear & Axle
10411 Airport Road
Everett, WA 98204
Phone: 800-292-1031
Fax: 425-347-1440
Web: www.yukongear.com
email: info@yukongear.com
Warn Ind
12900 S.E. Capps Road
Clackamas, Oregon 97015
Phone: 800.543.9276
Web: www.warn.com

About Rick Webster

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