After a recent trip to Moab Utah with my father I decided to turn my non-running 1997 ford work van into a 4×4. After a good deal of research on the web I decided upon using a Dana 60 Axle up front. The Web told me I needed to locate a late 90′s – early 2000′s Dana 60 from a F250 or higher series 4×4 pickup. Surfing Ebay I found an E350 dually axle list at $600 two states away and I made him an offer 0f $300 not expecting him to accept it. To my surprise the next time I checked my e-mail he agreed to the $300 offer. Shipping was going to be rather expensive so I borrowed a friends pickup and drove 6 hours to pick it up near Rochester New York.
Photos from the original Ebay Dana 60 listing
If you’ve never seen one in person I have to tell you these things are HUGE, especially with the dually gear on them. This thing barely fit in the bed of my friends mid sized pickup. Two big guys could not lift it. We needed to use a fork lift. Did I mention the seller also had an NV273 transfer case from the same F350 for sale for $600? I offered him $450 cash which he also accepted, which was a dumb move on my part. I needed a NV271 which is the mechanical shift. The NV273 is Electric Shift and will be a real pain to get working. Anyone want to buy or swap an NV273 with about 69,000 miles on it?
NV273 Transfer Case Ford E350 for sale or swap for an NV271
Once I got home the first challenge was getting it out of the pickup by myself, the second was cleaning up all the rust.
Don’t waste your time with rust dissolver as I did. All it does is turn the rust black and make it more difficult to sand off. I then pussy footed with a light weight random orbit sander before I smartened up and used a 4 1/2 grinder with a wicked roll of steel coils on it. Make sure to wear a long sleeve shirt. long pants, safety glasses and a dust mask. I skipped the long pants and paid for it with dozens of projectiles being launched into my skin and making a bloody mess.
Crappy rust removing chemicals suck. Use a grinder.
This thing chews up rust but not the metal below it. A++
I’ve got a decent set of tools but almost everything on this front axle uses larger than I had laying around. I had to buy a few extra large sockets and a heavy duty pickle fork because I broke three cheaper ones trying to get the ball joints off. I wasted two afternoons babying the Ball Joints with pickle forks & ball joint removal tools when what finally worked was three hits with a 25lb BFH (Big F*cking Hammer)
BFH used to remove ball joints.
My plan is to tear this Dana 60 down 100% and then build it back up with mostly new parts. I’ll be painting it tomorrow with POR15 to keep it from ever rusting again. The outer 30 & inner 35 spline axles themselves are in good condition but I’ll be replacing the U Joints, Ball Joints, calipers, break pads, seals, WARN locking hubs and diff cover. My Riddler Diff Cover just arrived yesterday and I’ll be painting it with POR15 tonight. All in all I expect to spend between $1200 – $1500 on the front axle rebuild and have almost a week of part time work into it (evenings and weekends) I contemplated going with the larger/stronger 35 spline outer axles but they will add almost $500 to the project and this is not going to be a rock crawler, just a van I can drive on beaches, through deep snow and mild 4×4 trails in and around places like Moab Utah.
Tools you may need:
Cheater Bar – Buy a 4 foot length of 1″ Diameter Black Pipe from Lowes or Homo Depot for about $5.00
Sledge Hammer AKA: BFH – The bigger the better.
32MM Wrench to loosen Ball Joint Nuts.
1 5/16 Thin wall socket to remove pinion nut. The first one I bought from KD Tools was too Wide. The Cheaper one from Harbor Freight fits just right.
Dana 60 pinion nut socket
4×4 Ball Joint Kit from Harbor Freight. I’m skeptical about the quality of anything from harbor freight but this seems to be decent quality and had lots of good reviews from other Dana 60 enthusiasts.
Harbor Freight 4x4 Ball Joint Kit in Action on my D60 U Joints
KD 3316 Ford Ball Joint Cam Tool – Quite honestly I had better luck with the BFH but at least the KD pickle fork /Cam Tool could take a beating unlike the crappy ones I purchased from Harbor Freight and broke 15 minutes after I unpacked them.