Stronger Axles


Gear Grinder
Nov 1, 2009
Willys Model
  1. Wagon
  2. Forward Control
Willys Year:
  1. 1953
  2. 1959
May be this topic has been discussed before, but anyway: I have looked into changing out the original axles (Dana 44 w/10 spline in the back and Dana 25 w/10 spline) with more beefier axles. Any good candidates from donor cars?

The wheel to wheel distance for the original Dana 25/44 is 59,5" (approx. 151 cm). The first candidate tried is the IH Scout II Dana 44. Very strong axles, however the front aksle has the diff house a little too much to the side and the spring will not mount at that location. Then the springs have to be moved aside on the frame by an inch or two, which is something I do not want to do.

FC-150 Dana 44 will fit, but they are old 10 splines not much stronger than the Dana 25.

The next candidate might be Grand Wagoneer '74-'75. Any experience here? Or other good candidates that will fit without too much hassle?
Overland: contact Paul Barry at Willys America for advice - he has plenty of experience with using Scout II front axle conversions. I am curious, did you break the stock Dana 25 front? There have been many remarks about the weakness of this axle but I have had no trouble with it so far. There are also weight considerations - the Dana 44 must be considerably heavier than the 25 but I don't know the actual values.
Thanks for info! I will check with Willys America. No, my Dana 25 is still working well under my car. I have tried to make it as strong as possible using a PowrLoc (4 spider gears) and parts from Dana 27. I am told it will break, but so far it is working great. Spending more money changing for 4,27 or even lower gearing will however be more costly than used, stronger axles. That is why I'm interested to know experience with axle swaps.
overland....keep us posted on what you find out, I'm sure many of us have original equipment...and would like to up-grade.
Yes, I'll keep you posted. The Grand Wagoneer axles from '74 og '75 might take some time to find. Earlier axles were narrower, and in '76 the AMC 20 was introduced as rear axle. And then they changed the diff house over to the other side which require a new transfer case as well. Just wait for a new episode!
Just a quick follow up based on some reseach: A perfect set of matching axles might be from the '03-'06 Wrangler Rubicon. The wheel to wheel distance is 60,5", just a tad wider than the original axles. Gearing is normally 4,10 and both front and rear is Dana 44. The military version J8 even has a Dana 60 rear. Again, there is a snag: Diff house on the "wrong" side (need to change transfer case) and the 5 on 4 1/2" bolt pattern for the rims. On the positive side, the axles can be purchased from Chrysler as spare parts for a decent price.

The old babyBronco seems to be a candidate too, with Ford 9" in the rear and Dana 44 in the front, and with correct 5 on 5 1/2" bolt pattern. Again the diff house is located where it should not, "wrong" side again.
I've made the decision to have a safe - dependable vehicle, driver80% and 4wheeling 20%, No more 4.28 gears...bought two matching '76 IH Scout II Dana 44 with 3.08 ratio, which gives me front disc brakes as well. I will deal with the spring location problem I inherit in the front. I can get the transfer case and AT as well later. I believe the wheel mounting surface measurement is 60"......waaaaaawoooooo baby. And I'm going to detail them with Bright Red paint. Just in case I ever turn it over in a snow bank, I could find it.....who ever heard of a snow bank i Georgia
Overland, where are you located, I happen to know where there is a early wagoneer that can be bought for very cheap, I believe the rear axle needs attention but I can get the whole rig for prolly $100
I'm not exactly next store, but if your headed to town and over shoot the city limits, just keep driving east to southeast.
I need to locate a 350 Transmission with transfer case, passenger side dump.
I thought this was an interesting article because of this: I have since learned that a better choice would have been an axle Wagoneer or narrow track Cherokee with disc brakes produced from 1974 to 1977.
Here's the link: ... 44/fsj-cj/

I'm still trying to figure stuff out too and not sure of the measurement to look for, go to, I thought it was helpful on how to chop it up when I get what I want.

This article has a link to the same page but in a magazine with more info regarding strengths and weaknesses of axles. I hope it helps. I know alot of detail is strengths and weakness of stock CJ part but still alot of useful info on here I thought.

If not I hope it helps someone else trying to get ideers :)
I went from the face of the drum or rotor...they call that Wheel Mount Surface Measurement....our Wagons are 59 1/2"...I wanted something close and the '76 Scout II Dana 44 are 60" I now will have a more economical gear ratio (3.07), Dana 44's and front Disc-brakes...also my tires won't stick out from the body, making everything look somewhat next item in need are front/rear springs. I paid $350 for both axles and will rebuild the rotors, calipers, brake cylinders, spring kit, pads and shoes,front brake lines, seals....$322.00 at NAPA
A quick update from me: The Dana 44s earlier mentioned (Wagoneer) is now lying on my garage floor, I was lucky to get a good pair for approx. $ 400, which is cheap here in Norway. The WMS is 59", pretty close to the original Utility 59,5". I'm not sure about the gear ratio, but I recon it is 3.07 or 3.31. Some work ahead, but this will be a desired upgrade. I'll keep you posted and will include pictures as the work is coming along.
I look forward to:
-One piece rear drive shafts
-Stronger front axle
-Better milerage due to a more friendly gear ratio
-Better brakes :thumbup:
roundss I wish I would had seen/read that article before I jumped into buying the Intl. Scout II's....( The article above has some Preventative Information for knuckle heads like me )... for a 80% driver 20% 4-wheeling I want the caster angle correct and when I 4 wheel I'm not looking forward of something going wrong in the woods....I've had this conversation with Midnightburn and it look's as if I will see what's involved in cutting the knuckles....any articles before I venture into that headache?
Has anyone actually gone ahead and narrowed axles for use on a Willys before? I have never undertaken anything like that before, and I'd hate to scrap out these axles on a stupid mistake. Or do I have to pay a shop a ridiculous amount of money to do it for me?
I used 77 wagoneer dana 44's fit pretty good but you will need to change the spring pad locations on the rear and the front pads need to be shifted to the right to get to center
I have narrowed and retubed dozens of axles over the past 25 years. It's no small task. I just narrowed a high pinion Ford F150 Dana 44 for my wife's TJ Wrangler and it turned out very nice. But it's expensive for sure. Custom length axles and a bunch of other goodies are required to build it right. If you are really good with math and fully understand steering geometry, have the right tools and fabrication experience you can do it yourself.

But I have to say that mid-late 70's Wagoneer Dana 44 axles work beautifully for Willys wagons. The front 44's have the correct caster already set and they are perfect width. Within an inch or two, which is not even noticeable. The rear axle is almost always offset to the passenger side like the original Willys 44, but it has larger brakes and flanged 30 spline axles; unlike the tapered originals.The other big advantage is that the front 44's come with internal style hubs; unlike the Scout 44's, which have the external style hubs that are weaker and less desireable. However, not totally a bad choice. But the caster angle on the Scout 44's is set to 0', which 6201110 is becoming intimately familiar with.

Another really good option for a rear axle is the Grand Wagoneer Model 20. I know they get kicked around most of the time with a bad rap, but they are a very strong axle. Huge tubes and big center sections. Wagoneers are very heavy so they had to put a beefy axle in the back. They are much larger than the CJ version, which has wimpy tubes and other weak points. Stay away from that one. Another excellent rear axle for a Willys wagon is the 96-later Ford 8.8. This thing is a beast. 31 spline axles with factory disc brakes. I have built quite a few of these and they are seriously heavy duty. Surprised the heck out of me when I first built one. But the tubes and housings are way heavier than a Dana 44. They also come with 31 spline axles vs. 30 splines on the 44's. Down side is they come with 5 on 4 1/2 lug pattern, but that is easily remedied by purchasing aftermarket axles that have 5 on 5 1/2 just like the original Willys. Excellent choice and they can be found everywhere for $100-$250.

By the way, the rear wagoneer 44 won't work for a pickups because the frame is too wide (49" IRC) so the tires and wheels with a 3 1/2" back spacing (BS) won't clear without some significant spacers. Obviously, any other wheel with a larger BS (ex: 4 1/2 or 5) won't have a chance even with spacers.

My all time favorite is a narrowed high pinion Ford F350 Dana 60 front and Dana 60 rear, but that's a whole different game that will break the bank and require selling one or two of your favorite pets. These are what I built for my wagon because I have massive 41" tires that need tremendous strength.

Hope this helps a little.
Thanks for sharing that. Axles and steering geometry is my weakest subject, and one of the easiest to waste tons of money learning the hard way.
I don't mean to hijack the thread, but am interested in Scout 44's because I own an 70 800B, and a 76 Scout II.
I have heard that 0° castor bit before, and I understand what castor is. I'm not entirely up to date on why it is a bad thing though.

I'm guessing it only comes to play when you lift a vehicle, and if left stock, then it is not necessarily bad?
Is this correct?

Also, if all you do is put on larger tires, then it is not considered "lifting". I'm talking suspension lift.
The issue with the Scout 44's is that along with 0* caster they set the pinion angle at 90*. They got away with 0* caster because of a number of very well engineered components that work together. This includes a very long pitman arm, large steering wheel, power steering box ratio, caster, camber, toe-in, drivetrain placement, and overall vehicle height. When a Scout 44 is taken out of it's original vehicle and placed in another, the well-engineered system is disabled resulting in all kinds of undesireable affects. That is unless you know how to offset them.

What all this means is that a Scout 44 has to be modified to work like other common 44's by cutting and rotating the inner knuckles to attain 6*-8* of caster. At the same time that the knuckles are being rotated, the pinion angle must be determined. Running a standard u-joint or constant velocity (CV) joint at the transfer case determines the angle of the pinion. The anticipated height of the vehicle is also a MAJOR factor. Don't do this step without considering both of these. If you plan to run a standard u-joint, the pinion angle must be set at the same angle (or within 1*) as the transfer case yoke. If you plan to run a CV, the pinion angle is set so it is right in line with the driveline. This is a very important difference that must be fully understood to set it up correctly. If you ignore this step, your driveline will vibrate and ruin the entire project experience. But you won't know it until you get it back on the road and have everything back together. Very costly mistake. ---- This is where almost everybody gets into trouble. And this comes back to what you were saying about lifting the vehicle or leaving it stock height. What happens is people put the springs on top of the axles to attain a 5"+/- lift and they find that the driveline no longer bolts up to the Scout 44. So, they tip the axle forward to raise the pinion. Now everything bolts together and you're done right? Weld those perches and you're good to go. NOOO!!! Big mistake. What has just happened is now you have just created Negative Caster, which is far worse than 0*. So when you get in to drive your recently lifted and very cool ride, your ear to ear grin quickly turns to a disturbed frown as your knuckles turn white with a death grip on the steering wheel because you can't keep it on the road. And if you took your wife along for the first drive, you will hear something like "Turn this thing around and take me home! I will never ride in this thing again!" or "You're crazy!" :lol: :lol: Then you go in the garage, grab a beer and bawl your eyes out because you realize that you just cost yourself about $1000 because you didn't do something right. And worse than that, you don't even know what you did wrong. And so it goes... I can't even tell you how many phone calls I have received over the past 25 years where guys are freaking out and trying to figure a way out of this impossible predicament.
DON'T DO IT!! :cheers:

Now, if you don't lift the vehicle, you can get away with using a Scout 44 axle without cutting the knuckles. You can even rotate it back a few degrees and still bolt the driveline up successfully depending on how long your front driveline is.

This is why the Wagoneer Dana 44's are better. They come from the factory with the correct amount of caster and the pinion angle is set to an acceptable angle for either a standard u-joint at the t-case or a CV if the vehicle isn't lifted. Most Wagoneers came with CV's on the front driveline.

Again, I hope this helps some. Sorry it's a bit long-winded to explain. I tried to keep it as short as possible. Some of you already know this stuff, so it's old hat. This is to help those who are headed for that sad sad day.