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What axles do I want?


NAXJA Forum User
Berthoud, CO

So I've got a '91 Cherokee which I am sort of treating as an OEM+ build. I want to keep it looking factory and I am a total idiot when it comes to axles. Mine are super rusty and have been wanting to pull them out and redo them at some point, which brings up the question of whether I should replace them.

As I understand it, the rear is Dana 35, which is kind of weak. Does that mean the front is also a 35 or is it a 30?

I've installed a 2" OME lift, 31" duratracs, JKS track bar.

My intentions are to keep the thing in good shape forever, use it for road trips, camping, running trails (moderate at most), pulling a trailer once in a blue moon and a little farm work on occasion (like pulling stumps). I plan to build a hidden winch assembly and maybe add a locker or two eventually. Also considering adding discs to the rear.

So on to my questions...

Should I stick with what I have?
Would the Dana44 or C8.25 be advisable?
Are they all a straight swap or do I need an axles from a certain make/model/year?
Do people usually run the same thing front and back?
Anything I am missing?
The front is a 30. You have a high pinion so you're good there.

I'd look for a 29 Spline 8.25 or a Dana 44 for the rear.
I also feel your good as is. Toss a detroit or grizzly locker in the front and run it.
Very very few dana35 failures. I ran my 35 with welded spiders and never broke a shaft.
If your looking for a slightly lower gear a swap with d30/ 8.25 from a auto xj would be a decent upgrade. But as is the 35 will perform well for you. It did great for me welded with 33s

The internet is good about bad mouthing things that dont deserve it and praising things that dont deserve praising.

I do not feel a disc upgrade is worth it. Properly adjusted drums sre just fine

Sent from my SM-G781U using Tapatalk
Keep the D30 up front. You can change the axles to chromos, and even up the spline count if you want. That takes a little more doing.

I would not waste money on a D44, unless you got a great deal on one. They are expensive and hard to find if you're looking for one out of an XJ.

The 8.25, IMO, is a great axle, cheap, and plentiful. The axle tubes are actually larger than a XJ D44. I have both the D44 and the 8.25 in my XJ's, and would go with the 8.25 all day long.

Owning and building both axles, I don't see a clear advantage of the D44, other than maybe status.

I agree that for your purposes, what you have is probably fine, too.
If you have a D35 then you probably have ABS. Do you want to keep the ABS?

If yes, then you really have no choice but to stick with the D35. Only way around it would be to convert over to a Ford 8.8, which I believe can be made to work with Jeep's ABS by grinding off every other reluctor tooth. That is probably a bigger project than will be worth it to you.

If no, then I would swap to the Chrysler 8.25. Much better axle and abundantly available. You would need to swap driveshafts and get new U-bolts, but that should not be much of a challenge.
What tranny do you have? I ask because the early models had lower gears so you could get a newer set with 3.73s. I'd find a 97-99 combo. HP30 with bigger u joints and a 8.25 that's a 29 spline be th would be in that year combo.
Lots of good input here. This Jeep is auto and does not have ABS.

Is there a reason many people upgrade the rear axle and leave the D30 alone?

Yes, the D30 axle is very capable and came on a number of Jeep models. But the biggest issue with changing the front axle is the cost involved. Trying to fit a front axle off another vehicle to the XJ takes more effort and money than most are willing to do. Not to mention the skills and tools needed to do it yourself.

You can purchase an aftermarket axle custom built to bolt right up if you wanted to. But that is also at a significant cost, and many Jeep owners (at least from my experience), are how shall I say, frugal.

You can also beef up the D30 at much less cost than a swap. You can sleeve the axle tubes, truss it (as I have on one), install chromoly axles, inner and outer C gussets, etc. Even if you can't do the welding yourself, the cost is much more manageable.

Swapping the D35 out for another axle is much easier. An 8.25 out of another XJ is a bolt in operation. You may have to change the driveshaft, but is cheaper and a substantial upgrade over the D35. Many have installed a Ford 8.8 axle for disc brakes. This requires a little more work, but is very manageable, even if you have to pay for the welding of the spring perches.

Basically the cost factor weighs heavily on why the front axle is left alone, and the rear is often changed.

With that being said, the D35 is sometimes a maligned axle. Sure it has it's limitations and weaknesses, but for mild wheeling and trail running with 33's or smaller, it's also a capable axle if you are careful.

People run 35's or larger on a D35, beat the shit out of it, and wonder why it breaks. Duh! Your equipment is only as good as it's rated to handle. Know your parameters and limitations before deciding what to change or upgrade. JMO.

Since your Jeep is non-ABS, an 8.25 is an excellent upgrade for not too much money. It's basically plug and play. However, for your purposes, the D35 would work fine, as well. It's just a matter of what you want to undertake.

Since I like the 8.25, and enjoy working on my Junk, I would swap it to an 8.25. It's a good axle, especially if you ever want to go with larger tires at some point. But that is just my input.
Lots of good input here. This Jeep is auto and does not have ABS.

Is there a reason many people upgrade the rear axle and leave the D30 alone?

The high pinion Dana 30 is a pretty strong axle for its size and will take the tire size you're planning without issue. There is only one other "bolt-in" option up front, which is a low pinion Dana 44 from a TJ Rubicon. They're expensive and a marginal upgrade at best- basically a Dana 44 center section with Dana 30 outers. I run one because I came across a deal I couldn't turn down.

All the other front end options require a lot of fab work- narrowing to match the rear, welding on new brackets, etc.

Meanwhile the rear has two factory bolt-in upgrades available (the 44 and the 8.25) and the Ford 8.8 is a couple leaf perches away from bolting in- and setting up a rear is a lot easier than getting all the control arm, coil, and track bar mounts set up right on the front.
My present DD is on 31's 2" lift and AW4. I do have a Ford 8.8 in the rear with 3.73's. I have a LP D30 from a ZJ in the front, 3.73's. I do see some mountain grades going to WV. I did have another XJ on 4.01's and 31's. I still have it on 4.10's but 32's. I would suggest 4.10 gears, sine you will see some grades in CO. Raton pass was something in a '78 Gremlin.
I'd look for a late 97+ 8.25 with 4.10's. They are out there. I think about $200. Then regear the front, or look for a D30 with 4.10s.
On my D30, I did do the Dirty 30 'upgrades' from K Suspension. Mainly the mini Truss. I'd look into brake upgrades. I'd try the Black Magic front pads. Plus think about steering upgrades.
X2 100% on “your use case suggests the D35 can stay”. I have a similar 1989 on 3” and 31s. It’s not a rock crawler, will never be a rock crawler, will never be on 33s or cut Boggers.

I did end up swapping in a D44 because I got a good deal from a friend needing to clear out a project. Otherwise, D35 would suffice for adult driver on 31s on street and dirt roads.

Maybe a 29-spline 8.25 or a D44 if you find a deal.
with 31 inch tyres 4.10 gears would be the best value for money add on in my view/ and experience.

i went the 8.25 route only because my D35 was leaking and sounded like a junk yard dog