So, you’ve got an off-road rig you want to beef up, or maybe just a tow pig that needs some beefing up. Maybe you’re building a low buck rock crawler and can’t decide what axles you want to throw under it. Either way, I’m going to tell you about the differences between the Dana 44 and the Dana 60.
Dana 44 vs Dana 60: Axle Housing
The axle housing is what holds everything together. The strength of the housing is important if you plan on bombing around through the desert. Where I live (Phoenix, Arizona), there is a lot less rock crawling and more of going fast through the desert. But, if you plan on just rock crawling, then the strength of the housing isn’t super important.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are tow pigs. If you’re towing a bunch of weight, you want the biggest and best rear axle available. For this reason, lots of diesel trucks come with the Dana 70 and Dana 80. The larger the housing, the more weight it can support.
Dana 44 axle tube diameter ranges from 2.5″ to 3″, while the Dana 60 axle tube diameter is 3.125″. So, while the Dana 60 has a stronger housing than the Dana 44, it’s not by a massive amount, especially for the larger Dana 44s.
Dana 44 vs Dana 60: Center Section
When I refer to the center section, I am referring to all the gearing, as well as the center section housing. The center section housing is what holds your differential, so the housing doesn’t have to be super strong unless you have a bunch of power.
The gears in the center section of the Dana 44 and the Dana 60 are very different. Like I said earlier since There are many different versions of both axles, so I’m going to give the general information of the center section for both.
- The Dana 44 ring gear diameter ranges from 8.5″ to 8.8″, and comes in gear ratios from 2.72:1 to 5.89:1.
- The Dana 60 ring gear diameter is 9.75″, and comes in gear ratios from 3.31:1 to 7.17:1.
Both axles can be found with factory lockers, depending on the year, make, and model the axle is pulled out from.
Now, why would you want a larger diameter ring gear? Well, essentially it helps to distribute the load and is less likely to explode into a million pieces under stress. Plus, if you’re building a rock crawler, you’ll want the taller gear ratios that can be found in the Dana 60.
Dana 44 vs Dana 60: Axle Shafts
The axles shafts are typically the weakest link on any given axle. They’re the weakest for a reason. If you’re out on the trail, it’s easier to swap an axle shaft than it is to swap a differential. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen differentials explode on the trail, then I drove all the way back home, picked up my spare front axle, drove all the way back out to the desert, and helped my buddies do a front axle swap in the middle of nowhere so we could continue to off-road.
- Dana 44s come with 10, 19, 29, 30, 32, 33, and 35 spline axle shafts. However, most Dana 44s have 29 spline or higher axle shafts.
- Dana 60s come with 16, 23, 30, 32, 33, and 35 spline axle shafts. But, most Dana 60s have 30 spline or higher axle shafts.
To put it this into simpler terms. The more splines an axle shaft has, the stronger it is. That’s what’s so great about the Dana 60. They have huge diameter axle shafts that are hard to break.
Dana 44 vs Dana 60: Aftermarket
Since both the Dana 44 and Dana 60 have been around forever, and have come in many vehicles, their aftermarket is enormous. Want to pull Dana 44s out of a Jeep Grand Wagoneer and stick them under your XJ Cherokee? You can do that, and the aftermarket has parts ready for you.
Want to build a 40 spline beast of a Dana 60? You can do that. No matter how you want to mix and match your parts, someone else has done it and documented it to make your life easier.
Dana 44 vs Dana 60: The Little Stuff
So we’ve covered the housing strength, center section strength, center section features, and axle shaft strength. But what about all the other miscellaneous stuff?
Like I mentioned earlier, since the Dana 44 and the Dana 60 came in many forms, in many vehicles, they vary a bit. Some will have disc brakes, and some will have drum brakes. Some will be set up for leaf springs, and other will be set up for coil springs.
If you are looking for specific width axles, I would highly recommend researching on the internet and see what axles work best for your particular platform. Otherwise, you might end up buying a set of axles that won’t work all that well in your vehicle.
If you’re building a rock crawler of any kind, I would recommend getting the axles out of a 1-ton Chevy, or an M1008 CUCV. The axles out of an M1008 have 4.10 gears and LSD already installed in them.
So, if you are wondering whether you need to upgrade to a Dana 60, chances are you don’t. Like I said earlier unless you rock crawling with 40″+ tires or towing a bunch, then you probably don’t need a Dana 60.
Plus with how expensive a Dana 60 is compared to a Dana 44, it would make more sense to buy a Dana 44 and beef it up with aftermarket parts.