The elusive spindle…...
In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to talk about the elusive spindle (insert ghost noises). The “elusive spindle” is the last real needed piece that is keeping me from finishing the axle swap on my ‘97 Jeep Wrangler TJ. Like a Halloween movie it is constantly haunting me and like the protagonist running from a villain, freedom will not be achieved til l I find the solution to overcome the adversary. The problem with the spindle is that it is bent. The problem replacing it is that its off a custom-built axle and I am not sure what to get to replace it. But I will get more into that later. My ‘97 TJ has had a few things done to it. If you would like to learn about some of what has been done to it there is a video on the Crawler Ready YouTube channel that talks through it. Since then I have had lockers and gear issues. In trouble shooting the front locker I discovered that whoever installed the gears and locker did not take the time to shim the gears and resulted in teeth breaking. Obviously, a quality job, and not the first interesting craftsmanship I have found on it. The rear axle the ARB locker was not working and was leaking air, so it was pulled apart to find the leak. During this process I found a “great” deal on some new axles. Same gearing and with lockers as what I currently had and since they were off a TJ it would be a direct bolt in. The only catch was they were off a wrecked Jeep. So, it was a little gamble but for both axles costing less then what the front ARB would cost new I felt It was worth a shot. The axles I was working with currently on my jeep was a Dana 30 up front and the glorious Dana 35 at the back. The axles I planned to put on were boring Dana 44s. Obvious if you are aware of the short comings of the Dana 35 you will understand my sarcasm.
So I purchased the axles and pulled the current axles off my jeep. The new to me axles did need some work, so I started to pull them apart. The rear axle was the first to get torn into. Come to find out the Warn full float was bent, and luckily Warn discontinued the part so they became a nice paper weight. The Warn kit decided it did not want to come off and required a torch to assist in getting it off. Thanks to Chris for the help and usage of his shop!! We pulled off the full float kit and replaced it with some G2 chromoly axle shafts and pulled the brakes off the Dana 35. Which is a direct bolt on for the rear Dana 44. I was a little sad to lose the full float but not enough to lose sleep over it. Next the axle was cleaned up and we replaced one of the brackets with a Barnes 4WD bracket since the bracket on the axle was bent. Did I mention the jeep I got these from was in a wreck? The jeep rolled down in Moab Ut, heading to a trail. The jeep was parted out and as I said for the price, I took the gamble finding out only the ends bent which I believe saved the axles. Back to the build I took the rear axle back to my jeep and was able to get it installed. It hooked up great to my Core 4X4 control arms, Bilstein Shocks and Rubicon Express springs. Only thing left to do is have the drive line shorted and put in fluid.
Moving to the front axle everything is looking pretty good on the ground, but we have a couple brackets to replace. Insert more parts from Barns 4WD. Once the front brackets are replaced, I took the front axle back to the TJ and was able to get it install. Chris was gracious enough to lend a hand on the front axle which was good because there was much more of a fight compared to the rear. A few days later I finished with the brakes and decided to put on the tires. And of course, once the passenger tire was on, we noticed that the passenger side wheel is not straight up and down and has an obvious bend. I pulled off the tire and can see something is wrong but not sure where. With further digging and disassembly its discovered that the spindle is bent. At the time I was happy because you could see the bend on the part, so I felt confident the axle was fine and it was just the spindle that was toasted. A spindle is easy enough to replace I will get one ordered. But the catch is the front axle was custom built and the guy I bought them from had an idea what the parts came off of but was not positive since it had been a while since they were built. For example, here is what I know about the axles. The Housing and the short shaft side is from ‘70 something dodge. The long shaft was cut down to fit an international Scout 2 shaft. The brake backing plates and calipers are off a ‘70-80s chevy and the rotors and hubs are off a late ‘70s bronco. That way it will take a 5x5.5 wheel. So, looking up a specific vehicle to find the spindle is not really an option at this point. I have measured the spindle and searched online but have not been able to find one yet. I have also gone to a couple junk yards and tore apart a couple old truck hubs in hopes that I will find one but have not been successful yet. As I said this is my horror movie in honor of Halloween since its my nightmare to find this spindle so I can once again enjoy the trails with my own Jeep.