The experiences I have had with Dana
35's may not be typical but I will tell you what I can. I don't
know what kind of wheeling you do; you could theoretically go forever on
the Dana-35 and not have any troubles.
Now I do have other factors that work
1. I have a
rear locker and a
front heavy-duty limited-slip
differential. This puts a lot of torque to the axle and housings.
2. I have
4.56 gears which transfer more torque
to the axles and housings.
3. I run
sticky 31" tires that do not lose traction - so again, all that
torque stays in the axle housing.
4. Weight - I have
gas tank and
engine skid plates,
heavy duty front and
gas can rack,
rack, carry tools and spares,
on-board air, have a
hard top, back seat,
two kids and wife, etc.
If you think counting the weight of your family is silly, try it
sometime. I won't embarrass myself by giving you my numbers but it
does add up fast!
When we go camping this...
expands to this:
So in a nutshell a Jeep that comes from
the factory, naked with 215/75-R15's, and soft top at about 3400 pounds,
but ends up being 4400 pounds when fully loaded for a camping trip with
all that extra stuff, (I weighed it at a DOT truck scale). I am pretty
sure the Dana 35 isn't up to that. My experience certainly
suggests that I need something a little beefier!
I spoiled the spider gears in the
first Dana 35 doing this:
The advice I got at the time for
getting over the rock was good - put my front wheels on the rock, hit it
hard and expect the back wheels to kind of bounce up and onto the rock.
I got air with both front wheels on the bottom rock, then I almost got
sideways part way up the hill. Then I got air with both front wheels
again, bashing over a pretty big bunch of rocks further up the hill
before I got to "solid" ground and a good stopping place. The crowd went
wild (they wanted carnage and they got it - my water cooler rolled all
the way down the hill...) That night I heard crunching noises in the
rear-end. When I got home I took off the cover and found the spiders
were a bit chewed up. I drove it for six weeks while I waited for the
Super-35 parts to come, then I fixed it. Strike one for the Dana
35, even though I did abuse it badly.
I spoiled the D-35 housing and the
Superior Alloy shaft doing this:
What? That doesn't look like anything
you say? No, it wasn't - I was winching myself up a slippery hill. The
problem was, I forgot to take my parking brake off. I put it in 4-LO and
was powering to assist the winch. Since the brake was on, all that
torque got transferred to the axle housing and damaged it. This caused a
bearing to slowly fail, destroying the axle shaft. The housing was no
good so I kept the other axle shaft, the locker, and replaced the ring,
pinion, an axle shaft, the housing and all the parts to rebuild the
housing. Ouch! Strike two for the Dana 35. Even though I
made the mistake of leaving the brake on.
I spoiled the second D-35 housing,
locker and another Superior Alloy shaft doing this:
That's right - parked in the driveway.
The truth is, I have no idea what caused it. The thing is, I quit doing
the crazy big rock crawling thing like in the first case; I learned my
lesson about leaving the parking brake on in the second case; and all I
know is the locker slowly started letting go at times when it didn't
need to. It got worse and worse until I finally couldn't stand it
anymore and had it looked at. The axle was ruined, the locker was worn
out, and the housing was screwed up - again! Strike three for the
Dana 35. And this time I can't take the blame - I just don't
know of anything untoward I did that would have lead to the failure!
All I can say is, I should have learned
from all the stories I heard from all the people who say the Dana 35 is
no good. Basically, if you do any serious wheeling, even if you never
abuse your vehicle, which I really work to avoid, they eventually will
break. If you have lots of weight on your vehicle, it will
probably fail. If you blow your nose sideways on a Wednesday with
a tailwind and you've had more than two cups of coffee...? Cross
your fingers and hope.
So the lesson I learned was that I
should have moved up the first time. I thought I was saving money by
just fixing it. I didn't. Trust me. the Dana 44 has a far better
reputation, has several structural advantages, not least of which is the
weight capacity, larger axle diameter, heavier axle housing, larger
carrier, floating axle configuration (vs. the "C-Clip" of the Dana 35).
It is used in all the Jeep applications that accommodate the gross
loaded capacity that I run when I go camping.
For the price of the first axle job I
did in 2003 (which included putting a Detroit Tru-Trac and 4.56's in my
front diff, and a Super-35 kit in the rear) three years later I got the
Dana-44 with the Detroit and disc brakes described on my site. So
basically if I had gotten the Dana 44 the first time, it is possible I
would have avoided two catastrophic failures, later been able to install
the front and rear ring and pinion gears and front locker, and still
saved half the money I ended up spending over the long haul. The problem
was, at the time of the first and second failures, going to a Dana 44
didn't seem necessary (DOH!) and I didn't want to spend the slight extra
money...Hindsight and all that!
As for the disc brakes. They're great.
In day-to-day driving I don't notice the difference except maybe a
little less nose-dive. On the trail they are no doubt better because at
the end of the day I can clean them off easily and they won't wear as
fast at the drums. The parking brake works great. I did lose my ABS
though, and I am disappointed about that. It would have been nice to
keep it. I know the 2007's come with disc brakes and 4-wheel ABS on the
Dana 44 so it might be possible to keep it if you used a factory
rear-end in one piece (it would be pretty expensive).
So ask yourself what kind of wheeling
you do? What kind of weight are you carrying around? Do you have heavy,
high-traction tires? Are you driving on dirt roads or are you driving in
4-LO on rocky solid surfaces and climbing over things?
If you are not doing any of the crazy
stuff and your Jeep is basically stock, you will probably be fine. It
probably doesn't make sense to replace your Dana 35 until it either
breaks or you decide to install lockers and gears.
If you break it, don't waste time on
If you decide to install lockers and
gears, take the Dana 35 off in one piece and sell it towards the Dana 44
(and don't expect to get much for it...)