Narrowing a Front Chevy Dana 44 for a Scout II spring over axle (SOA) lift and converting to high steer.

 

Updated as of 3/13/2012

This is a combination of build ups that I have completed over the past few years - so the pictures do not all fit together. But it is a good start to any Spring over Axle job or Cut and Turn. The Dana 44 is a great axle for up to 35” tires so this tech can be applied to a ton of trucks.

1)      Locate a Chevy 44 with flat top knuckles. I went to my local junk yard and started searching the axle pile. I quickly found a bare housing (no outers, axle shafts or gears) with the flat top steering knuckles. It was listed as a 1975 Chevy ½ ton front end on the receipt. (NOTE: Chevy Dana 44’s with flat top steering knuckles are under a lot of different vehicles from ½ ton to ¾ ton so just start looking.)

2)      Tear down and clean axle housing. My housing had been sitting outside for a while so I needed to scrap the dirt off of it and inspect the housing for damage. Using a ball joint tool I separated the ball joints from the knuckles, and cleaned them up. The axle was crusty but appeared solid. I used a lot of elbow grease, brake cleaner and a wire wheel on my hand grinder.

3)      Measure – measure – measure. I took a bunch of measurements from my Scout 44 to determine how much I needed to narrow the Chevy 44. I got the distance from everything to everything for the length of the axle tube/distance to the steering yoke, you should measure from one of the bearing caps, this will give you the most accurate measurements. Or you can buy an axle measuring jig from places like Dutchman.

4)      Remove steering yokes from axle tube. I used a hand grinder to grind out the welds from the yoke to the tube. Since I was going to be cutting off the axle tube inboard of the weld I could have been very aggressive but I choose to try it as if I was reusing the tube. The first side took an hour plus, the second side took 30 minutes. I just ground slowly at the weld trying not to penetrate too deep into the tube or the yoke. The goal is to grind until you can see a ‘crack’ all the way around the yoke. Some WD40 sprayed on the grind area will help to see the ‘crack’ in the weld. After grinding enough that it looked like it should come off, I whacked it with an 8 lb hammer, then ground some more. Using the grind and hammer technique I was able to get both yokes off without much heavy hammering.

 

5)      Cut axle tubes to desired length. Since my plan was to re-use my Scout II axle shafts I needed to be sure my tubes where cut at the right length. I measured and measured and marked my tubes where I wanted them. Using a 14” metal chop saw with a standard abrasive wheel, I cut both sides to the length I wanted. I got them lined up and level in the saw and just took it slow. Cutting the tubes was very easy with the chop saw it just took time. The yoke should extend 1/16” past the end of the tube, so you have that much length as a fudge factor.  This 1/16" is critical as it will prevent the axle from binding on the axle tube. Using measurements based on axle shaft lengths a Chevy Dana 44 housing would need to be narrowed:
3.22" on the long side
3.62" on the short side

Remember to measure 3 times and only cut once! And don't cut it too short as then you are really in trouble...

6)      Clean up axle tubes and steering yoke. I ground off any remaining weld from the steering yoke and beveled the edge a little to help in reinstalling it. On the axle tubes I cleaned up the cut end and wire wheeled the tube to provide a clean surface for reinstalling the yoke and welding.

 

    

7) Install steel degree shims to spring perches to get desired pinion angle. I used a 12 degree shim on this axle to get as close to a direct line between the pinion and the transfer case output for using a CV front drive shaft. You can either tack weld them or weld them on completely. You also want to position the shims to get the desired spring spacing. Chevy axles have center pin spacing of 31 1/2", while Scout II's use 31". Thus the shims are spaced in 1/4" on each perch.

 

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7)      Install yokes on tubes. Using my 8lb hammer I slowly, pounded the yokes back on the tubes, trying to keep the caster about where I thought it should end up. While keeping the spring perches at ZERO degrees. I also tried to keep the yokes from going on too far. At this step be sure and check your measurements, you don’t want to pound everything off and start over.

8)      Order high steer arms. I decided to only raise my drag link as I was concerned that my tie rod might not have enough clearance on the oil pan. I ordered my arms from Tim at Shaker Built (www.shakerbuilt.com). I ordered 1 - passenger side arm, 1 - 1” spacer, 1 - long stud set w/ nuts, bolts, and conical washers. I ordered the arm reamed for the large diameter Chevy drag link end.

    

 

*** At this step you have a few options - you can either convert everything to Chevy/Ford outers or keep your Scout II outers. I will show how to retain your Scout II  brakes and outers.**

9)   You will need to re drill the knuckles to fit the 8-bolt Scout spindles. The Chevy knuckles are set for 6 bolt spindles.  I started by removing all of the studs and setting my spindle on the knuckle. The top and bottom studs lined up so I replaced those and bolted them down to insure a tight fit. I then marked the knuckle where I needed new stud holes. I unbolted the spindle and drilled the holes using a drill press. I made the holes just a touch smaller than the factory holes as I did not want to end up with holes too big. None of the holes over lapped so that should not be an issue. I did need to clearance the inside of the knuckle for one of the studs on each knuckle. A little work with the grinder was all it took. The clearance issue came from the casting of the steering stop area.

 

 

10)    Have the passenger side steering knuckle machined for arm. Not being a skilled machinist, I decided to pay to have this step done. I picked a machine shop that was close and had a good reputation. I took them both steering knuckles, the layout diagram, the arm and the studs. I explained what I wanted and they had it done and back in a few days.

     

 

11)   Fit springs to axle. You have many choices in how to fit the spring to the axles. First you need to obtain a new spring center pin and install it in the opposite fashion as stock, with the retainer 'knub' facing down. One option for fitting the springs to the axles is to grind out the cast spring perches to allow the u-bolts to fit tight against the springs and use stock Scout spring plates.

 OR you can retain the Chevy u-bolts and spring plates and add a spacer to the spring plates to make up for the difference between the 2" Scout springs and the 2 1/2" Chevy springs. In this picture I used a piece of 1" x 1" x 1/8" angle iron welded to the spring plate with holes drilled for the u-bolts to pass through.

 

12)  Set final caster angle on yokes. I unbolted my Scout II front end – yanked it out of the way and bolted up my Chevy 44 with the stock scout springs bolted to it. Using a bunch of jack stands, a floor jack, and my high-lift, I set my Scout to the same height (axle the same distance off the ground) as it was with the Scout 44. I then used an angle finder to determine my caster angle as it sat. Using my 8lb hammer I slowly (repeat, slowly) pounded the yokes to 6 degrees of caster. Once I was satisfied with both sides. I jumped up and down on my scout and shook everything and took a break. I came back the next day and checked everything again and made sure my angle was still 6 degrees. (NOTE: Factory specs for caster on a Scout was 0 +/- ½ degree) 

13)   Weld the yokes onto tubes at correct caster. To get the welding done I needed to remove the Chevy 44 and take it too a friends house to be welded. He MIG welded it using a Miller 250. (NOTE: Welding at this step needs to be done correctly, if you use arc a 7018 rod is recommended, if you use MIG be sure it is a heavy duty enough machine to handle to job, I.E. 220 volt.) I have since welded many housings using my Millermatic 175 mig welder set on MAX power.

14)  Set up gears in axle. For my gear set up I worked closely with a skilled axle guy as I am not skilled enough to do the job myself. If you have never set up a set of gears consider having someone else do this step. OR start with an axle housing with the same gear ratio as you plan to run in the rear and save yourself the cost of buying new gears and/or having your old gears setup in the new housing.

15)  Order steering parts. I decided to make my own tie rod and drag link using DOM tube. I ordered the tube from my local steel supply guy. It took him a while to find it and get it delivered, but it was at least 50% cheaper than online or from one of the 4x4 vendors. I choose 1.25” OD x .219” Wall DOM tube – with this tube I did not need to pre-drill for taping the 7/8” threads for the tie rod/drag link ends. I found a RH 7/8-18tpi tap at my local auto parts store. The left hand tap is a little harder to find, but can be ordered through any good tool dealer or online on ebay or www.mcmaster.com.  I bought 2 Chevy tie rod ends to fit the stock tie rod location on the Chevy knuckle. I bought 2 of the large Chevy drag link ends for my drag link. I also needed 4 of the large 7/8-18 jam nuts for my set up, try and find tie rods/drag link ends that come with the jam nuts as GM no longer stocks these parts. BUT, I was able to track some from my local GM dealer, or they can be ordered online from some 4x4 vendors such as www.partsmike.com.

16)  Assemble axle under Scout. I again pulled the Scout axle and steering. Installed the Chevy axle and started assembling everything. I used new ball joint during the assembly. I ran into a few glitches at this step, the high steer arm hit the ball joint upon installation. I needed to clearance a little on the inside radius of the arm just at the bottom as it was hitting just the edge of the ball joint. The banjo bolt for the brakes hit the high steer arm, I needed to cut 1/8” off back of high steer arm. There was not enough clearance between wheel and tie rod ends so installed longer wheel studs and a ¼ wheel spacer. The clearance of the high-steer arm was not an issue as it was angled in enough to clear without the ¼” spacer. Had I raised both the drag link and tie rod it would not have been an issue. (NOTE: The clearance issue is common due to the short length of the IH spindle, Chevy/Ford spindles are 1.5” wider per side)

17)  Ream pitman arm for larger drag link end. You will need a pitman arm puller to remove the pitman arm. The Scout pitman arm uses a very small diameter drag link end compared to the large Chevy end. I couldn’t find the appropriate drill/reamer so I had a machine shop do it. It took them less than 15 minutes. The correct taper for the holes is "1.5 inches per foot". (NOTE: Snap-On sells a cheap reamer for approx. $30, part #R121, it’s only designed for clean-up of TRE holes, but can be used to make a new larger hole.) OR you can us a Wagoneer pitman arm which is shorter than the Scout II arm, the waggy arm matches the length of the Chevy steering arms better than the Scout II pitman arm, but it will still need to be reamed to the larger Chevy TRE taper.

Wagoneer Pitman Arm

18)  Fabricate tie rod and drag link. After completely assembling the axle, I measured twice and cut my DOM to the correct lengths. I used a hack saw and tried to make my cuts as square as possible. I slowly tapped each end, using plenty of cutting fluid. You want to cut the threads into the tube as deep as possible to allow for lots of adjustment. I then installed the tie rod ends and drag link ends with the jam nuts and installed them on the axle

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19)  Adjust toe-in. Having not measured close enough I still needed to adjust the toe-in measurement. I set mine to about 1/8” toe-in. (Note: Factory specs for a Scout are 1/16” +/- 1/16”)

20)  Align steering wheel. My steering wheel was now not straight so I adjusted the drag link so when the tires were pointing straight ahead the pitman arm was pointing straight ahead. I then pulled my steering wheel and set it on aligned straight with everything else.

21)  Triple check everything. I checked every nut and bolt for correct torque, checked my brakes, made sure the steering was not binding on anything. Even checked the oil. Once I was sure I wasn’t going to die if I drove it I went for a test drive. It drove straight! Much tighter steering, greatly reduced bump steer. It was like a new truck. 

             

22)  Tools. For this project I really only needed a few tools. Ball joint separator, ball joint adjuster sleeve socket, pitman arm puller, magnetic angle finder, a couple of large sockets for ball joints and pitman arm, angle grinder, 8lb hammer, 7/8”-18 taps, hacksaw, chop saw or band saw and some basic hand tools. A large MIG welder or arc welder is also required, along with the specialty tools required for setting up Dana 44 gears.

23)  Some helpful Part Numbers:

AutoValue Part Numbers (Auto Parts Chain ~ Parts Master Brand at other Stores):  

7/8-18tpi tap, #CEN 97304

Tie rod ends, #ES 2234R & ES 2233L

Drag link ends, #ES 2026R & ES 2027L

2, ball joint kit, #K 8194

2, ball joint kit, #K 8195

10, wheel studs, #DOR 610-149

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