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Old 10-09-2019, 08:41 AM   #1
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Semi-Float to Sterling 10.5 conversion -- stranded in Baja with a bad axle

(tl:dr want to swap a Dana 60 semi float axle for a Sterling 10.5 — we’re stranded with a broken axle in Mexico and need more information on the process so we can source parts)

We are in a pickle. We are very very close to crossing back into the United States after a 2 year journey up the Pan American Highway from Ushuaia, Argentina (currently in Loreto, Baja California Sur). We have also lost our rear axle for the second time in 6 months. It’s a semi-float Dana 60 and we just pulled out the axle shafts after a bearing seal blew oil all over the wheel well and they are shot again.

Our two options are:
  1. replace the axle shafts and bearings again so we can get back to the US. This feels like a band-aid on a larger issue (van is heavy, semi-float isn’t up to it, there is probably something else wrong in the differential or other that is causing this issue).
  2. Replace the entire axle assembly with a 2000 F250 Superduty Sterling 10.5 full float axle that we just found at a salvage yard. We haven’t bought it yet because we’re not sure this will work — so I can’t run back and forth to measure it.

Replacing the axle with a FF has been a dream for a while, but we thought we’d have more expertise around us for this conversion. Right now we’re unsure about whether this will work and our mechanic is a good guy, but he is very skeptical (it’s a small town, options are limited). I’ve spec’d out everything within my abilities and what the internet can currently offer, but I’m looking for more information from folks who have done the swap from a Dana 60 semi-float to a 99-04 Sterling 10.5. The more I know, the more excruciating detail I can glean, the better this swap will go because we’re out there in the boons and don’t have the luxury of quick shipping in the US, also there’s a minor language barrier.

Background on the van:
  • 2001 Ford E350 V10 with a 2003 Quigley 4x4 conversion
  • There are 1.5” adapters on the rear wheels (8x6.5” to 8x170mm)
  • Current rear axle is a Dana 60 semi-float 4.10
  • Front axle is a Dana 60 4.10
  • Tires are 285/75/16

Donor axle:
  • From a 2000 F250 Superduty
  • Sterling 10.5 full float
  • 90% sure it’s 4.10 gearing (we will confirm tomorrow when we go back to the lot)

Things I’ve seen referenced in other forum posts but I don’t have enough information on are:
  • Coarse vs fine thread on wheel studs — does this just mean new lug nuts?
  • ABS sensors — ring gear in the Dana 60 is 9.25”, Sterling 10.5 is 10.5” — what do we do about the difference in tone ring size?
  • Parking/Emergency brake cables — should we run new ones? What are the specs?
  • Backing plates — can I just throw these away?
  • Can we reuse the leaf spring perches? I know they have to be moved
  • Shock mounts — they’re just bolted onto the donor axle, not welded. Is leaving them bolted, not welded, dangerous?
  • There's no way we can reuse the e350 disk brakes, right? the donor axle has disk brakes as well so we wouldn't need to convert from drum, just looking to save some $$.

And the biggest question I have that I haven’t seen referenced anywhere:
- Will the driveshaft just fit??


Things I am NOT worried about:
  • Ditching the rear wheel adapters — this axle swap would mean it’s 8x170 all around, and if I understand correctly the donor axle will bring the rear stance to ~1.75 inches narrower than the front without them (that’s ok by me)
  • Reusing the leaf spring u bolts — both axles are 3.5” in diameter

Sourcing parts in this part of Mexico is a NIGHTMARE — we’re far enough from La Paz that to bring anything from the mainland is very expensive, and too far from the US for that to be a viable option. We’ve been traveling in Latin America for 2 years, and Mexico for the last 6 months, so we’re familiar with the process of sourcing parts and waiting… always waiting. If you have photos of your conversion process, please share! It would help us a lot to see what we need (and be able to show our mechanic and auto parts supplier and/or machinist if it comes to it).

Many thanks, friends!
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Old 10-09-2019, 08:47 AM   #2
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If the driveshaft length becomes your only bottleneck consider leaving it out and gingerly making your way north in 4wd which will then actually be front wheel drive.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:24 AM   #3
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I put an 05 fseries ff axle on my 03. Are the 00 and 05 10.5 ff axles the same? If they are another issue is your 16” wheels might not fit over the rear brakes. Other than that it sounds like you have most of your bases covered.

- if your quigley has 8x170 bolt pattern in front the lugs should already be the course. The adapters should follow suit, but ya you might need new lug nuts. The extra width of the newer axle eliminates the need for spacers.

- the abs sensor on my 03 bolted right up to the new 05 axle.

- parking brake stuff can wait till you get back into this country. You can purchase proper length cables from ujoint or you can move the bracket on your frame.

- not sure what hacking plates you’re referring to.

- I bought longer spring perches from eBay to help eliminate wrap and ones that were steel. The stock ones on my axle were cast and welding cast isn’t always easy.

- if those shock mounts will work they should be fine to at least get you back hone. We made custom ones that didn’t hang so low.

- brakes on the 05 axle were bigger, so we couldn’t use the 03 setup from the van. Everything had to be replaced. Lines, rotors, and calipers.

Also to add, we had no driveline fitment issues. Just as to use the adapter plate from the 03 axle and it bolted right up to the 05 diff without any issues.

Hopefully that helps. If I wasn’t clear or you have more questions just post up. I’ll help however I can.
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Old 10-09-2019, 09:42 AM   #4
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Not much help on your questions now, but if you are still stranded there in January, let me know if you need anything. I'll be coming your way.

Good luck and yes, gotta get rid of the SF D60. I ditched mine years ago for the same reason you are experiencing.
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Old 10-09-2019, 10:36 AM   #5
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I would not recommend this swap on the road. You'll need to source perches, get the pinion angle just right, move shock mounts, and modify your driveshaft, modify the cables etc.

The good news is 16" wheels do fit on a 2000 Sterling axle. Bad news is these all have leaky pinion seals, so you'd probably end up tearing into it anyways. You should not re-use U-bolts.

If I were in your situation, I'd try to find a '99-02' E350 passenger van donor axle. The EBs got full floats, and so were the RBs in '99 and '00. This would be a simple drop in and 4.10s were available. Prior to the availability of the Hi-Ace, Sprinter, and Transit the E350 was the all over the place. I imagine parts are still around there somewhere.
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Old 10-10-2019, 07:53 AM   #6
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Shenrie -- the 99-04 brakes are smaller, there was an update in '05 to the brake system. Thanks for the rest of the notes -- would buying e-brake cables for an f250 work? I see chris offers them but they are expennnsiiive and I'm not sure why.

pjpv -- I hope we're not here in January! Our visas run out in Nov so we're hoping find a solution before. but thank you!

carringb -- I wouldn't be thinking about this swap if we didn't have to. Your comments have made me nervous, especially when you said "modify your driveshaft" and "Bad news is these all have leaky pinion seals, so you'd probably end up tearing into it anyways." Could you elaborate on a driveshaft modification? I haven't read any reports of anyone doing that (doesn't mean they don't) so I don't have any data on the process.

A little update, we've kept looking for parts to repair the Dana 60 axle and dug into rock auto, called West Coast Differentials, called every yonke (junkyard) around, and had the guys at autozone scour the country and no one has replacement axle shafts. We've also been looking for an E350 axle and have so far only found one from a 98 club wagon but it was in poor shape. I can find new donor axles (no replacement shafts for the 60 though) in the US, but we are not sure what shipping/customs would look like (also, we can't inspect the parts). We're trying to see if we can load the van on a flatbed and have someone drive us to Mexicali/Tijuana (also not looking hopeful). If we can't get parts to us, or get the car closer to a larger city, we have no choice but to swap the axle out. I'm looking into getting the leaf spring perches send down to us from the US (small part, easy to move).

We have found a 2005 Excursion axle that is in better shape than the F250 axle -- Apparently the 2005 did not get the brake update that the super duty did so it will fit. I thought I read someone that the axle was narrower but I cannot find that comment again. Anyone know if there is anything that would keep us from using an Excursion axle? They seem to be the same as the 99-04 F250.
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Old 10-10-2019, 08:22 AM   #7
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I got the fseries cables with my axle and they will work but I’d have to move the bracket on the frame. I couldn’t say about any of the other years.

Also no idea on ujoints cables either. They were outpriced for me as well.

Sorry about your situation. Gotta be frustrating as hell. Best of luck.
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Old 10-10-2019, 08:54 AM   #8
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If you stick a Sterling axle on a 2WD that came with the Dana 60, you can run out of plunge in the transmission. Since you have a 4WD, you might be ok just swapping U-joints. But prior to 2005, Quigley wasn't fully using off-the-shelf Ford parts for all of their driveline components, so I wouldn't automatically count on it working. You probably need about 1.5" additional plunge from whatever you're using now (if you look at the driveline, you should see a clean section showing how much you're using).

You are correct that the '05 Excursion did no get the '05 Superduty changes (other than headlights).

The Sterling axle is little wider, and should match your front track width without adapters.

Excursion gear ratios might be a little harder to match up. Only the 5.4L was offered with 4.10 gears. And it was optional. Most folk who needed more towing capacity probably just stepped up top the V10 or diesel. All 3 motors came with 3.73 gears, and the V10 had optional 4.30 gears.

PS - a '98 E-series axle won't work for you because that was the last year with drum brakes.
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Old 10-10-2019, 12:47 PM   #9
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Have you checked with Agile Off Road in San Diego?

10928 WHEATLANDS AVENUE, SUITE B, SANTEE, CA 92071 USA
619-328-1297

See if John can help you. I think getting a couple of axles in your existing unit is the easiest solution to get you across the border. John can hook you up with all the changes you want to make.
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Old 10-10-2019, 01:32 PM   #10
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Napa stocks axle shafts for your van in their warehouses. Comes with wheel bearings and studs. They should be able to sell them through the Tijuana or Mexicali stores.

P/Ns NOE 8196736 & NOE 8196737
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