Upgrade Your Dana 30 Front with an ARB Air Locker
[an error occurred while processing this directive] Short Cuts

By: Bryan Archambeault- 6/2000


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ARB on the left, old carrier (EZ-Locker) on the right
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Drill hole in the housing for air line fitting
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Housing with carrier removed. Note hole drilled in bearing cap for air line.
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Test fitting the ARB
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Final backlash measurement
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ARB installed and plumbed

I had been considering swapping out my Dana 30 and Dana 35c axles for some time.  I really wanted to find a set of Dana 44's or maybe a Dana 44 for the front and a Ford 9" for the rear.  However, the Pro-Comp Coil Conversion Suspension kit that I have did not offer any axle options other than the stock YJ Dana 30 and 35c.  In fact, now that the kit has been out for almost a year, they still don't offer any other choice, and according to their tech department (at least at the time of this writing - May 2000), they aren't going to offer any other choice.  So, I decided if I want to have a stronger front end, I was going to have to bite the bullet and upgrade my Dana 30.  I had already replaced 2 of the non-serviceable hub/bearing units on it, and I wasn't really happy with the Detroit EZ-Locker when it came to tight turns on the trail.  So I decided to put an ARB in there (already have one in the rear) and get the Warn Hub Conversion kit.  Since I had no idea how to setup a front end with an ARB, and I didn't have some of the tools necessary for the hub kit, I turned to my friend Jess, who never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge of mechanics and his vast array of tools.

Below are the paraphrased ARB installation instructions:

Steps 1-3:
Remove axle from vehicle and remove carrier. I began this project by removing the front end from my Jeep.  I drained the gear oil and proceeded to remove the hub/bearing units and the axle shafts.  Then I removed the gears/carrier/EZ-locker, making sure that the carrier bearing caps were marked so I could put them back on the same way they came off.  

Step 4:
Remove bearings and shims from old carrier. The ARB kit comes with replacement bearings and shims for the right hand side, but not for the left hand (crown wheel) side.  However, when I ordered my kit from Drive Train Direct, I also had them send me a new bearing for this side.  I did not, however, ask for new shims.  The instructions tell you to reuse your original ones, plus any additional ones needed for correct backlash.  Of course, Jess had some shims that I could use.

Steps 5 - 6:
Remove ring gear from old carrier and install on ARB carrier.  Apply loctite to the bolts and torque to specs.

Step 7:
Drill 7/16" hole and tap 1/4" NPT thread in differential housing for the brass bulkhead fitting that the air line will go into.  We did not pick the best place to do this.  The brass fitting is not very long, so we picked the narrowest part of the housing to drill our hole.  While we thought we were picking the best spot, it turned out later to be very difficult to get a wrench in there to tighten the compression fitting.  Jess actually had to take my Craftsman 3/8" wrench, heat it and bend it, and modify the boxed end in order to get it to work in that tight space.  My friend Berkeley is getting ARBs installed on his XJ Dana 30, and Jess will probably do the install, so maybe we'll find a better place at that time.

Step 8:
Trial assembly of the ARB carrier.  Normally you'd have to put the shims on, press the bearings on, test the backlash, then press the bearings off and try again.  However, Jess has setup many differentials before, so he always buys a set of carrier bearing for the setup he's working on and bores out the the bearings so they slide on and off relatively easily.  Makes setup quick and easy.

Steps 9 - 11:
Remove ARB carrier and drill 1/4" hole in non-ring gear side bearing cap for air air tube.  Backlash from step 8 needs to be +/- .010" before you do this to make sure the hole is in the correct position.  Bend and cut air tube to fit through the two holes.

Steps 12 - 15:
Press on real bearings and reinstall ARB carrier, setting final backlash and preload.  Install the bearings caps and the bulkhead fitting, using thread sealant for an oil tight seal.  At this point we also tested the ARB by putting air into the bulkhead fitting to make sure we could hear the unit engage and disengage, which it did.

Steps 16 - 18:
Reinstall axles and diff cover, and refill with oil.  We did not do this yet, as our next project was the Warn Hub Conversion kit.

All of this actually took us two nights after work and part of a Saturday.  We had some trouble at first on step 8, as the ARB carrier was not going into the housing very easily once we got close to the .010" of backlash.  Jess had a differential spreader that we could have used, but he said he does not like to use them because they can damage or weaken the housing.  And, like I said above, we also had lots of fun trying to get that compression fitting tightened!

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