Inside of my failing Dana 44 Rear Axle…

I decided it’s time to take a break from just blogging about politics and figured I would discuss issues I’ve been having with my rear axle recently. Here’s some background about my 4×4: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 3.6L V6 Pentastar engine, WA580 automatic transmission, stock 3.73:1 gears, Teraflex R44 front housing,Teraflex LCG lift kit with 3″ Evo Plush Ride coils, and LT285/75R-17 Toyo M/T’s on 17×8 steel wheels.

The first rear axle problem to occur was a leaky pinion seal. When the seal was replaced it was noticed that there was play in the pinion bearing, thus indicating failure in the near future. A few weeks later the bearing was replaced. When the pinion bearing was pulled a lot of pitting was noted on the bearing, as if it was not properly lubricated and overheating. During a conversation with the manager of Off-Road Warehouse in El Cajon, CA it came up in my discussion that I had started using Royal Purple for gear oil. He stated that if Royal Purple was used again any warranty on the work performed would be void as he’s seen several axles suffer similar fates after using Royal Purple. Obviously, I stopped using it. Shortly after re-building the differential I experienced a sudden loss of power, as if something was fighting my throttle input. After stopping the Jeep, I touched the hub-flange and it burnt my finger. Taking a look at the passenger side of the rear axle I saw a bunch of gear oil, the axle seal had gotten hot enough to fail. The rear axle passenger side wheel bearing had seized up. I didn’t bother taking a picture as the rollers just kind of fell off when the shaft was pulled.

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Shortly thereafter I started to hear a metallic noise coming from the rear-end. I didn’t think much of it at first. Then one day I used the lockers off-road, the front locker disengaged in a few seconds while the rear took almost an entire minute. A few days later I got around to checking the fluid level in the differential, and noticed that there were metal shavings on the non-magnetic fill plug but did not think about what that might mean until the next day. When I pulled the drain plug the next day a shard of metal was on the magnet and quite a number of metal shavings came out with the gear oil. When the cover was pulled there were no more metal shavings to be found. I rotated the pinion and aside from some very slightly chewed up gear teeth, nothing was amiss with the gears. The locker assembly itself failed and part of it was torn up by the gears. The Jeep still drives, no skipping gear teeth, and no apparent loss of power. The noise is also gone. I’ve decided it’s not worth throwing more money at a rear Dana 44 and am buying a Dana 60 from Dynatrac. If anyone has any thoughts, suggestions, or insight please let me know. Have fun on the trail!

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