To Top

January 2008 Dana 44 Taking it apart

• CATEGORIES: Biscuit, Features This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

The Goal .. take apart my Dana 44 housing and install a Detroit Locker along with new bearings and seals.  Sounds easy enough, right?

When building my last jeep, I did not have to rebuild either of the axle housings.  In the rear I had a Dana 44 from a mail jeep.  Mail jeeps come with detroit lockers:  note that the housing is a little narrower than a standard jeep by approx 2".  To fix this, you can have some shims machined that will allow you to use standard flanged jeep axles.  

Fast forward to the new jeep.  I had a Dana 44 I knew nothing about and a detroit locker I wanted to install inside it.  I figured this would be a good opportunity to learn about ring and pinions; and, learn a thing or two I did!

The First Issue – Broken teeth

Naturally, the first step was to pull off the housing cover and examine the condition of the gears.  Unfortunately, the news was not good.  I quickly discovered that I had a very broken tooth on the ring gear.

Interestingly, there was no evidence of broken pieces in the oil.  This lead me to suspect that the previous owner may have discovered the damage while changing the gear oil and 'forgotten' to mention it to me.  Also, once I pulled everything apart, I would also find the pinion gear broken as well.  

Despite this auspicious beginning, I forged ahead.  Rather than purchase a new ring and pinion, I searched craigslist and discovered a Dana 44 (actually two of them) with 3.73 gears down the road in Nampa.  Even better, it would only cost me $20 (no axles).  
The Second Issue – Taking it apart

Since I had never taken apart a R&P before, I decided to start with the $20 housing.  I had read that sometimes a housing spreader was necessary to pull the R&P out of the housing.  Not having that tool, I chose to use my hoist to hold the R&P and use gravity to help slip the R&P out.  Sure enough, this worked fine.

NOTE:  I recommend taking a closeup picture of the R&P prior to pulling.  This helped me to reinstall the bearing retainers correctly as I forgot to label them.

Once I got the R&P out of the $20 housing, I inspected the ring gear closely and was satisfied it was in reasonable shape.  Next, I popped out the pinion. 

When the pinion came out, the shims on the pinion popped off.  I carefully rounded them up and labeled them.  Next, I pried the flange seal on the front of the housing, then I carefully tapped out the two bearing cones from the housing.

NOTE:  The cone on the interior of the housing has shims.  This helps manage the pinion depth.  Make sure to gather these up with the other shims, especially if you are putting the R&P back in the same housing.  

Now for My Dana 44 – removing the axles and brakes

Satisified I was now an 'expert' at taking apart a R&P, I turned my attention to my Dana 44.  First, the brake drums came off.  That was easy enough. After that, the axles needed to slide out.  In order to take the axles off you will need to pop out the metal stopper that covers the hole in the axles (shown to the right).  This will pop out towards you.  This hole provides access to the bolts that hold the retaining plate and the brake backing plate to the axles housing.  Once these bolts are removed, you can pull the axle out of the housing.

Once the axles were pulled out, I expected the brake backing plates to fall off.  For some reason, mine were on their pretty solidly.  After some careful tapping around the sides, the plates came right off.

The axle bearing cones inside the housing were next.  After pulling them, I pried out the inner axle seals (only some Dana 44 housings have inner bearing seals), in fact, I believe it is only on the flanged axles '72 – '75 .. please correct me if I'm wrong). With the axles out, I took out the R&P.  Using the same process and method I describe above, the R&P came out easily. The final task was the removal of the bearings and the bearing retainer from the axle.  Easy enough, right?  

Removing the Bearings from the Axle

Wrong.  After playing with the axles a bit, I quickly discovered that the axle bearing and retainer are difficult to take off.  After a few web searches, I found a website (which I can't seem to find now) that described a method for removing the bearings by first cutting into them and then tapping them with a sharp wedge to crack both the bearing and the bearing retainer.

Unfortunately, when I tried this, I couldn't easily get the retainer or the bearing to crack.  I had to grind through almost the entire retainer and bearing to finally get the things to crack.   See the pic to the right which shows how much I had to grind.  

Note: when I did this, I hadn't yet obtained my dad's bearing press.  Sliding these off with the press would have been much easier. I'll show how I used the press to put the new bearings onto the axle.

TOMORROW:  The Installation Process

Helpful Links for both taking apart and installing R&Ps

I couldn't have done this without the help of these websites:

    * Common Jeep Axle Specs
    * Installation Instructions Differential Ring and Pinion Sets
    * Precision Gear Patterns
    * Detailed installation instructions from Mike (lastname?)
    * R&P installation from
    * Locker install from


One comment on “January 2008 Dana 44 Taking it apart

  1. Pingback: Specs of My Build | eWillys

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe without commenting