Wagoneer Dana 44 Swap In A YJ

By: Louie Belt

    I recently installed a Dana 44 front axle out of an 82 Jeep Grand Wagoneer in my 89 Wrangler.  Since I have had many requests from other about my experiences with this swap, I decided to publish my experiences on the Web so that others can refer to them (remember this advice is worth what you paid to get it).  I would like to thank David Lepp (Metal Fusion) for his technical advice.  He was the one who suggested this swap to me and was even able to give me bearing part numbers off the top of his head.

Axle width:

    I did not narrow the front Wagoneer axle, The YJ's axle is 60" wheel face to wheel face, the Wagoneer's axle is 62 1/2" wheel face to wheel face (out of an 82 Grand Wagoneer) so I did not see a need to narrow the axle.  I run a Spring Over Axle setup.  The Wagoneer axle is almost a direct bolt in if you still have your springs under the axle.  The perches are correct as are the shock mounts.


    Since I was going with a SOA setup, I was able to set my caster as I welded on my spring perches.  After talking with the Engineers at Jeep, they informed me that a stock Wrangler has around 5 degrees of caster for a manual transmission and nearly 8 degrees of caster for an automatic transmission.  They suggested adding another 3 degrees caster for a spring over axle setup. (8 degrees minimum for a manual and 11 degrees minimum for an automatic). The caster for a spring under axle is already correct with the stock perches for a manual transmission and needs to be shimmed 2-4 degrees for an automatic.

Track Bar:

    You will need to fabricate a track-bar onto the axle since the Wagoneer axle does not have one.  I used a dual steering stabilizer mounting bracket (about 10" long with u-bolts to fasten it to the axle) and mounted it vertically and welded it into place to attach the track bar.

Brake Lines:

    The brake lines from my Wrangler worked to bolt up to the Wagoneer's calipers, but I had to use the brake line bolt from the Wagoneer (SAE for the Wagoneer, metric for the Wrangler).

Drag Link:

    I also had to have the Wagoneer's drag link turned down at a machine shop to fit a CJ-7 adjustment sleeve so that I could bolt it into my pitman arm. (I understand that Currie has a pitman arm that fits a Wrangler's steering box, but is drilled for the Dana 44 drag link - wish I'd have known that a few weeks ago because this makes for a stronger drag link)    Another option is to have a machine shop drill a larger tapered hole in your existing pitman arm.  Because I am running a SOA setup, I also had to bend the drag link to keep it from hitting the spring.  This wouldn't be necessary for springs under the axle.

Wheel Bolt Pattern:

    If you are comfortable with the 6 on 5 1/2" bolt pattern of the Wagoneer, nothing else needs to be done.  If you want to get a 5 on 5 1/2" bolt pattern (To match a CJ or Scout Pattern) you will need to get hubs and rotors from a Ford PU or Bronco. (most any year that runs a Dana 44 front will do).  I used the hubs & rotors from a 1980 Ford F-150 4X4 but any late 70's, early 80's Ford hub & rotor should work.   You also need to get the bearings & seals for the same model Ford.  You need to get the spindles from a 74 - 77 Cherokee, J series pickup or Wagoneer or from a late 72 - 77 GMC/Chevy 1/2 ton K series 10/15 or Blazer/Jimmy.  The spicer part number for the spindle is 706528X.  Since I purchased an 82 Wagoneer axle I needed to get different spindles.  
Locking Hubs:

    I used Warn premium manual locking hubs (internal) to replace the automatic hubs that came with the Wagoneer axle.  they were a straight bolt in.

Steering Stabilizer:

    The old Wrangler steering stabilizer would not work so I purchased a steering stabilizer with a bracket that mounts to the axle.  If you are not using a SOA setup, the Wagoneer's stabilizer should work fine (It has a bracket that mounts on the u-bolts and on top of the spring plates)

Other Observations:

    Since the tie rod is on top of the steering knuckles, the angle of the drag link is greatly reduced virtually eliminating any bump-steer (provided you have a drop pitman arm with a SOA).  For those not wanting a Spring Over Setup, you could add a 2 1/2" or 4" lift without the drop pitman arm due to the added height of the tie rods on top of the knuckles.  For those running SOA, the tie rod does come very close the the springs (about 1" clearance) but does not seem to make contact even under full compression.  If you wanted to get a bit more clearance, you could do so by adding another short leaf to your spring pack.

    The conversion was very straight forward and fairly simple.  I am very pleased with the result.  In addition to getting a stronger front axle, I am also free from the troublesome vacuum disconnect system that comes in the Wranglers.  This means that I can run a front locker without having my front driveshaft constantly turning while in 2 wheel drive.  My YJ now handles better, is a bit more stable, and is actually quieter running down the highway (since I have fewer moving parts when my hubs are unlocked).

If anyone has questions they can contact me (Louie) via email at louieb@netmatter.com


This page last modified 07/10/03

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