4x4Wire Product Review: CTM Racing Dana 44 U-Joints
By: Ron Hollatz
|CTM Racing's Dana 44 U-Joint|
Here is a story many of you can appreciate. So you spent the money on a custom Dana 44 with all the bells and whistles for the front of your Jeep. Now that you have progressed to the extreme trails, you discovered you need to step up from the 33" tires you are running. Now you break front axle u-joints regularly. So what are your options? The obvious one is to break open the piggy bank holding your kids college fund and buy a custom Dana 60 front end. But going that route you add a lot more weight and lose ground clearance. Of course you can buy one of the new high-clearance Dana 60s, but you will probably spend more than you did on your first car. Recently Jack Graef from CTM Racing came out with another solution, unbreakable u-joints.
During the build up of Project Money Pit, a high-pinion Dana 44 was built and installed. The axle received all the best equipment available at the time. A Detroit Locker, Warn alloy axle shafts, Warn premium locking hubs, and a Precision Gear 5.13 gear set. The low gears combined with a 700R4 automatic and Atlas 4.3 transfer case, put a lot of torque to the 35" Goodyear MTRs. The result was a lot of broken u-joints while rock crawling. Any time I had to crawl with the wheels turned, I was in fear of breaking another u-joint. After the time and expense that went into the front axle, I really didn't want to replace it with a Dana 60. While trying to decide what to do, I heard about the new u-joints from CTM Racing. Since I had nothing to lose, I gave the folks at CTM a call and ordered a set.
|The CTM version has a lot more material in the body||No more slippery needle bearings to lose||The old u-joints took a little effort to get out|
I noticed the difference between the CTM u-joints and a standard 5-297X u-joint as soon as I picked up the box. These things are heavy! The alloy body of the CTM u-joints is massive when compared to the standard u-joints. The CTM u-joints are also solid instead of hollow. One of the keys to their durability is the use of bronze sleeves instead of the usual troublesome needle bearings. Anyone who has spent time crawling around the floor looking for stray needle bearings will appreciate that. Since CTM uses a solid body with the bronze sleeves, greasing is done through a needle grease fitting in each cap. Keeping them greased is the key to the longevity of the u-joints. Since the joints are designed to use full-circle retaining clips, they must be used with aftermarket alloy axle shafts. I'm using them with a set of Warn high strength axle shafts.
|Ready to be installed||Don't forget the grease||Testing them out in Moab|
The install goes pretty much the same as a standard set of u-joints. Since I was doing the swap the day before we planned on leaving for the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, I took my YJ over to High-Tech Auto and Truck in Chantilly, VA, for the install. The trick is to put the full-circle retaining clips on the u-joints before you press on the caps. I learned that one the hard way during a previous install. The u-joints are a bit tougher to get into the axle yokes due to their oversized bodies. Once they are lined up, however, it is easier to install the caps since they don't have any needle bearings to worry about. The last step is to install the grease zerk into each cap, and fill with grease. Adding grease to the u-joints should be on the list of maintenance items before each off-road outing.
I tested the CTM u-joints on our yearly trek to Moab for the Easter Jeep Safari. Our first day out we had the chance to participate in the ARB Friends of the Industry Run. During the run, which included parts of the Helldorado Trail, I was able to give the CTM's a real workout. I tried all the moves I know that would put the u-joints in jeopardy. I tried forward and reverse full throttle maneuvers with the steering wheel at full crank, and I even pinned a wheel at full crank and tried to pull it over a rock. I was so into it, I even laid my YJ on its side at one point. The CTM u-joints worked perfectly.
I would highly recommend the CTM u-joints to anyone who has a well built Dana 44 in the front. If you are considering a Dana 60, CTM also makes u-joints for those. That would have to be the ultimate combination.