Jeep D30 to D44 on a Budget

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For years many have said that I am running on borrowed time with the front axle in my CJ. The stock D30 has been in my CJ since I got it in 1997 with the only modification since then being the 4:10 gears installed a few years ago. I was told it would never hold up to the abuse it gets but it has never let me down. It was abused for several years with a V8 304 and 35 BFGs. Until recently the old weak D30 still hadn’t died but I knew it would eventually and thus began to look for an upgrade.

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There are so many choices out there. Complete axles, ready-to-bolt, costing more than my Jeep cost originally. Some of my wheeling buddies suggested a junk yard conversion with a D60 or a Rockwell but I felt both were costly set ups that were overweight and over kill.

After lots of research it looked like my best option for performance and price was a Dana 44. I knew that I wanted to keep my stock axle width because I like the stance it currently has. This allowed me to pick from whatever make I wanted as long as I was willing to have it cut down. The hunt was on and it took several weeks to find the right axle at the right price. The donor axle would be a Dodge D44 found on  the Rausch Creek’s parts forum. It was from a late 70s Dodge truck and had the right gear ratio, flat top knuckles, and was in good condition. The best thing was the price: $150 including a new Warn differential Guard.

At home, it was time to completely disassemble the axle, pulling everything from the knuckles out. The plan was  to keep the CJ bolt pattern for easy tire swaps and looks.  The next step was finding a company experienced in cutting down full sized axles, getting the pinion angle right and welding the spring perches in the correct places. One name kept coming up: A to Z Fabrication in Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania. Not only do they have a great reputation for axle fabrication but they have an extensive online store with just about everything a Jeep builder could need. After speaking to Zach at A to Z, it was time to get all of the parts together and deliver them to their shop.

My Dodge D44 had flat top knuckles and it only made sense to take advantage and go with a high steer set up; however, the passenger side one would have to be machined to work. I placed a call to Matt at Virginia 4X4 and besides custom fabrication of Jeep goodies, he could mill my knuckle at a very reasonable price. The knuckle was sent out to Matt and a week later it was back at my door. Very nice job and looked brand new. Needless to say, I was very pleased.

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