Shaving a Dana 60 for Clearance
Adding Strength Without Sacrificing Ground Clearance Short Cuts
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By: Steve Friend - 2/2001

Photo by: Steve Friend
This is the only picture that turned out of the cut housing and differential cover.
Photo by: Steve Friend
First Steve cut a pattern for the new bottom of the differential. A plasma cutter made short work of it.
Photo by: Steve Friend
Here's the new lower plate and what will be the new diff cover bolt attachment.
Photo by: Steve Friend
Test fitting the plate and bolt location.

Last June I decided it was time to upgrade to a stronger axle. Not that I was dissatisfied with the Dana 44. No way - that axle had taken me over some of the toughest trails this side of the Mississippi. But it was a narrow axle and I was constantly running those 15" wide Swampers into the frame and having to pay extra close attention to the exhaust - there was not much room to run it between the tires and the spring hanger and not hit anything. So...I really wanted wider axles and as long as I was changing, why not the Dana 60?

The 60 has one "huge" problem. And I say huge, the pumpkin is huge and it hangs down over an inch more than the 44. Now, I have been driving a 44 for way too many years and I know what obstacles, rocks, etc. that I can clear by experience. To reduce that clearance was going to cause me heartache, especially after all the other stuff I have done to the Jeep to increase that clearance. So, while I was down bothering Jason at Tri County Gear about this, he suggested that it was too bad that I could not shave the bottom off. Well, I grabbed an empty axle, had him install a throwaway ring and pinion and pondered the situation a bit. I returned the axle to Jason and told him I could do it. I need to have the rear shaved to within " of the ring. And, while we were at it, he suggested we shave it at 16, the amount necessary to correctly position the rear end for my lift. Now, I could have done this with my handy dandy grinder at home, but being a lazy engineer, I used a machinist that does work for Jason on occasion. I had him install the differential cover as well so it was trimmed the same.

The result was an interesting cavity that had to be covered. I trimmed a 3/8" steel plate to fit the opening, giving me enough clearance around the perimeter so that I could weld the devil in place. I contacted a welding consultant to see what rod would be best for this application. He suggested a UTP 85 FN/94 high nickel rod that is mixed with iron. I bought a pound and it was expensive, but the advantage is you do not have to pre-heat the casting before welding. The result was a very nice weld that was easy and filled in nice. It burned into the steel as well as it did the casting material. I know that you can use a regular high nickel cast iron rod but you have to preheat the casting and later on, while talking to the welder at Tri County Gear, he suggested that he has done lots of these housing with just a Mig welder. The reason I found is that these rear end castings are more like forgings than castings and take to Mig welding well. This would have saved me some money as the rod that I bought cost about $3.00 a rod.

Now came the tricky part. Since I spend most of my time dragging the Jeep over rocks, I was concerned about the diff cover being pealed back and draining gear oil out on the ground. So, I made a 1" square block and fitted it where there was clearance beside the ring gear. I then took a 1" hole saw and drilled thru the cover directly in line with the block. Then I inserted a 1" tube with the bottom welded in, and drilled with a clearance hole for a 5/16" bolt. I bolted the tube in place, installed the rear cover and welded the tube to the cover. I then added a sliver of steel to the bottom of the cover to cover the 3/8" plate and welded that in place.

If I was to do this again, I would have left the cover alone and trimmed later, after I had welded in the 3/8" plate. That would have caused me some extra grinding, but it would have saved me having to fill in the larger hole created while machining it at the same time the diff. was shaved.

A friend did exactly the same thing with his Dana 60, except that he did not add the extra bolthole. This made his job easier and he re-enforced the cover with a plate all the way around. So far, he has no leaks, so this might be an option I did not think about at the time. I still like the extra bolthole for mine.

After Jason added the 4.30 gears and Detroit, he went ahead and installed the axle for me, did I mention how big that darn thing was? The result is a Dana 60 with almost exactly the same ground clearance as the Dana 44, within a 1/16" that is. And finally, I made the trip to the Hammers just after Christmas. I was amazed at how well this rear end did. I had a friend following me and said that I just cleared so many rocks, and I drove the rig like I had a Dana 44 under it. I found out that there was an interesting added benefit to this modification as well. I had added a smooth skid plate to the rear end that allowed me to slide over rocks where the casting configuration on the 44 would occasionally hang me up.

Needless to say, I am very happy with this addition. Jason is marketing this mod now, so if you are planning to add a Dana 60 anytime soon, ask him for the Steve Friend shaved rear end. He will smile, I am sure. If you are a "do it yourselfer", it was not that hard to do, especially if you already have a Dana 60 setting under the rig or already have one that you are going to install, or if you have a friendly shop like Tri County that will work with you like Jason did with me.

So if you like things a bit different than other folks have, this will bring lots of comments from passersby. I have had lots of strange looks and lots of folks dropping under the rear of the Jeep, pointing and asking what kind of rear end is that? I love it, and so will you.

Photo by: Steve Friend Photo by: Steve Friend Photo by: Steve Friend
Fabrication gets serious - here you see the new plate welded to the bottom of the diff. Here's the outside of the new bolt location on the diff cover... ...and here's the inside view.
Photo by: Steve Friend Photo by: Steve Friend Photo by: Steve Friend
The cover ready to be bolted in place. The shaved D60 diff will only hang down about 4" below the housing - about the same as a D44! Painted and under the Jeep.

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