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somemoore 10-12-2009 02:46 PM

Dana 30 - repair or swap?
OK, so I just had the 90k service done on my TJ - they changed all the fluids and noted that there was some "bearing material" in my front differential. The guy at the shop recommended having the differential bearings replaced before something bigger breaks and the repair goes from relatively minor to something bigger.

The dilemma is that it's just the stock Dana 30 axle - do I spend $1,000 fixing it (new bearings, maybe gears, yoke, R&P, etc), or spend 3-4x to upgrade to a Dana 44 (seems like that swap is a $3-4k investment).

Questions for you all - my trusted Jeep advisors:
--I don't plan on pushing my jeep to it's max offroad capability any time soon - is the D30 so anemic that it will piss me off later in life should I choose to start wheeling my rig more?
--The current axle isn't leaking or making noise yet - could the bearing material be a one time grind/accident vs indicating a problem?
--This is my daily driver and I'm not a mechanic, so I don't want to tackle replacing the axle myself - what should I expect to pay to have a good shop swap to a D44?

Thanks for your help! I don't want to be one of those guys who has to have other people always working on his cars, but right now I don't have the time to invest in fixing this on my own :banghead:

jdhallissey 10-12-2009 02:52 PM

first thing first. What is the biggest tire you want to run? d-30 with chromoly's will handle 35-37's pretty easily. Anything bigger and they will start breaking things. They found metal as in one flake or many? If you regear one side you better regear the other too. A dana 44 front will run you 900 for a housing bare then the parts to put in it. Your looking at 3k for a built dana 44. Not including the labor to put it in. I would not worry bout the front yet. Save some cash -- figure out were you want the jeep to be in a year and wheel it.

somemoore 10-12-2009 03:00 PM

Forgot to mention that I run 33's now and don't think I'd go bigger than 35's in the future.

I honestly don't remember what he said about the metal volume (this was actually 2 months ago) - my sense is that he didn't find a handful and wasn't alarmed, just noting that it may indicate the need to fix it.

Do you all think I can let this sit for a while, or should I get on it sooner rather than later?

Jerry Bransford 10-12-2009 03:03 PM

While I disagree that a D30 can support 37" tires even with chromolly axle shafts, for very long that is, I would just rebuild what you have. Labor should be no higher than $250-300 at the VERY most and a rebuild kit with all new bearings should only be $75-90 or less. I would only go to a 4x4 shop that does ring & pinion gear installations, a traditional axle shop is likely to charge a lot more because their customers are less "astute" when it comes to having axles/differentials rebuilt. :)

jdhallissey 10-12-2009 03:07 PM

I mean I personally would not worry about it. IF you eat a bearing it eats a bearing. When it comes time to replace I would rather have them replace everything at once then to do it 2 and 3 times. the 2nd and third time get to be extremely expensive. A dana 30 can handle 35's no problem when you do chromoly's. IF you feel it might be getting worse you can pull the cover and inspect yourself. Takes 20 mins or so to drain the fluid and clean everything up ready to go back together. tools needed. 10 mm socket and a 3.8 drive extension.

somemoore 10-12-2009 04:00 PM

Thanks for the advice guys - I'll keep an eye on it for now. I'll probably change fluids again in a couple months, so it will be a chance to see if there's any more metal in it.

4Jeepn 10-12-2009 04:45 PM

option #2 look for a HP dana 30 out of a late model XJ. This will be a good upgrade vs the dana 44, and cost way less. Front drive shaft may need redone, but any drive shop can do that.

Moabjeeper 11-19-2010 02:16 PM

I broke a pinion tooth on my Dana 30 LP so I wanted to upgrade I just picked up a Dana 30 Hp out of a 96 Xj in great condition 100$. New ring and pinion with install kit 279$. I'm having 4wheel parts put it in plus my old ARB locker. labor 480$ New parts for the locker, oil seal, o rings fittings etc 120$. New ball joints about 100. It adds up. I have 33's and never plan on going bigger then 35's. Just an ideal of what you might spend if you do the Dana 30 hp swap. Labor might be less 4wheel parts is charging me more to rebuild the locker.

BigEZ 11-19-2010 02:24 PM

I wouldn't change a thing until you need to change it, as in when it breaks. The "metal shavings in your ______ fluid" (diff, tranny, trans case) is an old mechanic's trick. Not saying it doesn't happen, but it literally is one of the oldest tricks in the book.

burton160w 11-19-2010 05:54 PM

I agree with what's been said. I don't think the HP30 swap is a value-wise investment based on what I've previously read. The strength increase is roughly 30% but not worth the value (don't quote me, just what I picked up on pirate 4x4) unless you can find it for CHEAP $100 is a great deal I would think.

But I think you're being had by the mechanic. Definitely an old mechanics trick. If you're not experiencing problems now, and he couldn't give you an explicit issue besides some gear shavings (which are normal), then I think he's trying to take you for a sucker. Since it's been two months, give it a check yourself. It's a simple unbolt, release the fluid and reseal with RTV and you're good to go.

Realistically, you can do a lot of the maintenance work on the axle yourself. There are a ton of guides on replacing bearings and pretty much every component. It's a few hour job and the parts are cheap enough. The only tricky one is R&P setup. The shop by me charges a flat $350 an axle + parts ($1400 for both axles :rolleyes:).

jonrjen 11-19-2010 08:46 PM

I'll take a little different approach with my first question back to you. You said it was the 90,000 mile service, when was the last service done....30K ago....45K ago....90K ago. It maybe nothing at all to be concerned with.
I know a month after I purchased my new to me 03 TJ with 43,000 miles on it, I took it into a Kwik Car oil change location and just asked if they would check the oil level on the diffs. They told me tha the level was fine, however that both the front and back diffs oil was dark and showed signs of metal shavings. The then said I should get them changed ASAP. Boy was I lucky, it was also a special for that week only $165 per diff.
I passed, went to Wal Mart picked up some RTV and gear oil, went home drained and replaced both front and rear for an out of pocket cost of maybe $15. And OH YEA, the gear oil I drained out was almost just as clean and pure in color as the new oil I pumped in fresh from the jug.
One of the smartest things you can do owning a Jeep is to get dirty and learn how to do some of the maintance basics yourself. It will save you some big money, plus it is almost as fun as driving your TJ.

PAWheeler 11-21-2010 11:52 PM

i have been looking at upgrading my dana 35 and 30 in my tj. whats the difference between hp and lp??? how much stronger are the hp axles. what year of cheerokes have the hp axles?

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