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Installing your own gears in a Dana 60

Installing your own gears in a Dana 60

One of the most intimidating things that a progressing Off-Roader does not want to tackle is setting up their own gears. I had always had mechanics do my gear swaps for me for a price. Not knowing anything about the process and the concern of ruining a set had always kept me out of it. The problem with this is finding a good gear person and saving up the money to do it. After two separate trips to Moab and some type of front gear problem on each trip with limited knowledge about what to do, I decided that it was time to dig into it.

Now this is the process I used. I sure it could have been better, but in the end, I saved money, ended up with the tools that I would need for future installs, and its held up to many good wheeling trips. So it works for me.

The first thing you should do is read and read. Do a search on line and find all the articles on gear swapping you can find. I found several and read through them. Look at the end of the articel for a great link to some online information. Also, find a gear manufactures site and see if you can find an install manual. I found one for Yukon gears that was pretty good. In fact, it was great. Read it a few times. Also, this isn't for the beginning mechanic, I'm not going to cover all the points, just the major stuff that I hit when putting these gears in. what I do want to show is that you can do these yourself in your garage if you are willing to do some research and pick up a few things.

The next thing to do is gather the tools that you do not have. I went to my local Harbor Freight store and loaded up. Usually these tools are not that great but for something that I am only going to use now and then, they should be fine. Here is the tool list that I used:

  • Dial Indicator - Also get the magnetic base for it. This is used to check your backlash.
  • Calipers - This is to measure your shims.
  • Press - Bearing press or I used a 6 ton floor press.
  • Bearing puller
  • Foot pound Torque wrench
  • Inch pound Torque wrench. I didn't get one of these, I estimated it be feel but that isn't always easy.
  • Tools to do the work. You should already have the regular tools to do this. If you don't then, maybe you should not do this.
  • Pinion depth tool - I didn't get one of these either. I did it by trial and error until it good.
  • More pinion nuts- The nut that you use to set it up should be trashed on the final install. They do wear out and can pull all of the threads out in a bad moment. Trust me. You want a fresh pinion nut on the final put together.

For the first timer, this process can take some time. You will want a place you can have your rig down for a bit. I spent a good three days off and on to get the whole job done. This should be pretty similar in most Dana axles.

Next thing I did was order up a ring and pinion and an install kit from Shane at HBRK4x4. The install kit came with a bunch of carrier and pinion shims, a seal and an oil sling for the pinion. It also came with yellow marking dye to check the gear pattern.

The next step was to tear everything out and clean it all up. The last explosion had left bits of the old pinion all over the place. So after removing the axles, I pulled out the existing carrier. You will want to keep the order of the bolts and the bearing caps in the order that they were pulled off. I then removed the pinion nut and the yoke and pulled out the pinion gear. Then I cleaned everything out with carb cleaner real good. This is also a good time to take a look at both carrier bearings and the pinion bearing. I elected to keep the same carrier bearings as they looked good but I changed out the pinion bearing as it was all twisted up. I also got the gear indicator oil ready. All of my reading showed that the yellow stuff that comes with it is not that great but you could cut it with some gear lube to make to go better. So I put it all into a little cup and mixed in some gear oil to thin it out. This did work out really well and I recommend doing it this way. You also get more to work with.

Now for the fun! In getting this completely correct, You might have everything in and out a dozen times. So be ready for that. Or you might get lucky, you never know. Anyway, for a baseline I pretty much through everything back together with what shims were already in there to see where I was at. The only difference I made was in removing the oil guard from the pinion. Most of my driving was not down the freeway but is slow stuff and I wanted the pinion bearing to get all that it could. Maybe that's wrong but my research showed that was the best logic. Anyway its been good for some time that way.

I pulled off the old ring gear and installed the new one. I reused the bolts but I did use locktite on them. These are not bolts you want to loosen up! I also looked at the pinion. Sometimes that will show an offset number stamped into them to give you an idea of where to start. Mine had a + and then something small so I didn't worry about it. It could be helpful is installing a near carrier at the same time though. I also used the press to put on the pinion bearing as it was pretty tight.

When you get everything back in, you can see how I set up the dial indicator to check the backlash. What you are measuring is how far there ring gear can move between the teeth of the pinion gear teeth. This is where the magnetic mount comes in handy.

Try 1: Backlash at .008. Pinion Tension was loose, Carrier Tension was loose. Pattern showed that the pinion was too shallow at .038 thickness on the pinion shims.

OK, Now the backlash was right where we needed to be. Just nothing else was. Clearly the first step is to get the pinion in closer. However, this will tighten up the backlash at the same time. Also, the pinion tension is handled by another shim pack on the outside of the pinion bearing, so a balance has to also take place. Fun!

Try 2: Backlash at .011. Pinion Tension was tight and the shims where now at .051 thickness. It still showed that the pinion was too far away.

OK, I moved some shims around on the carrier trying to compensate for the reduced backlash with the pinion coming in closer. What I did was pull the carrier away from the pinion at the same time. Without that, backlash would have gone down.

Try 3: Backlash at .04. Pinion tension was easy. The pinion depth was still too far away but its now getting better. I had the shims at .069 of spacing now.

OK, now we are starting to get somewhere. I idea is to get the pattern looking good with the right backlash AND tension on the pinion and the carrier. What that is, is the amount of force it takes to turn these things on their own. This is where you would use the inch pound torque wrench. I just used my calibrated wrist.

Try 4: Backlash at .009, Pinion Tension was good. Pinion depth looked good on the pattern. Carrier tension was a little loose.

OK, We are almost there! It all was right were I wanted it but the carrier was a little loose. I pulled it all apart and added two thin shims to each side and put it all back together and got...... lucky. Everything else stayed the same. I replaced the pinion nut with a fresh one and started the assembly process.

Well two years later its holding up great with no leaks or anything. I also have all the tools and I spent less then if I would have had them setup by a shop. But, if you are not confident that you are ready to do this, then don't by all means.

Technical Reference.

This is a must read link. This is a great source of info for the first timer and even the many timer. It will cover everything that you did not see here.

Install Information at Randy's Ring and Pinion.

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