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Old 05-17-2014, 09:30 PM   #1
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Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

I have a 1998 E350 15 passenger which currently has a 32 spline Dana 60 full float rear axle with drum brakes, 3.55 gears and an open diff. After having Camburg install their suspension I added 285/75/17 tires (measure 34.1" tall) so a ratio change is in order. Being that my van is, and will remain 2wd, now is also the time to add a traction aid. I would like to go straight to 4.56 gears being that my van only has a 5.4 and it needs all the help it can get when towing, though if I found an axle that meets all of my other criteria, I would likely accept 4.10's. I have an ARB in the front of my other rig and a Detroit in the rear of the same rig so I am very familiar with their function and performance as well as their "quirks."

I'll be right upfront with you guys in saying that I have absolutely no desire to convert my van to 4x4 so lets skip anything related to that.

I am trying to get a realistic cost comparison between several different avenues. My basic requirements are:

1) Axle must be full float

2) Gear ratio between 4.10, 4.30 (only if they are already installed in donor axle) and 4.56

3) Traction device that allows both tires to drive EVEN IF ONE WHEEL IS IN THE AIR (I will consider a limited slip if it is already installed in the donor axle as some designs will still work with a light throttle in these situations)

4) Disc brakes... though I can't fully set this in stone as a "requirement"

So my current options are:

1) Keep my existing axle. Purchase new 35 spline axle shafts (~$350) and install a Detroit locker ($~700) or E-locker (~$1100) and 4.56 gears and skip the disc brakes.

2) Keep my existing axle. Install 32 spline ARB (~$1100) + air system (~$200-$500 depending how big I care to go) and 4.56 gears and skip the disc brakes.

3) Purchase a '99 or newer (disc brakes) E350 D60FF with factory limited slip and 4.10's from the junkyard (I was quoted $800-$850 to have one shipped to my local yard) bolt it in and call it good enough.

4) Sterling 10.5" with factory 4.10 or 4.30 gears and limited slip. This would require some minor fabrication but nothing I can't do in my garage. The big hurdle here is that all of the 10.5's are wider than my current axle, which would be a good thing except that I would still need to add adapters to get back to my 8 on 6.5" pattern and then it might be too wide? My local yard has one with LS and 3.73 (quoted $350) so I would have to regear or they can get me one with 4.10's or 4.30's for ~$800 which would make the cost of regearing a wash. I would still need to factor in the cost of wheel adaptors and brackets.

5) GM corporate 14 bolt 10.5" full float. Use a late model version with factory disc brakes and ABS as well as factory 4.10 or 4.56 with open differential (the factory "gov-lok" is a POS) and add a Detroit locker. Correct bolt pattern, correct width, wrong stud size (14mm instead of 9/16 on the newer ones, but I can swap those out) but can I make the GM ABS at the axle jive with the Ford ABS on the vehicle?

Of these options, 3 and 5 make the most financial sense, with 3 being the clear winner for simple installation. Options 3 and 4 are the only ones without a full locker.

I am still not sure how I feel about NOT having a full locking differential as I will continue to use this offroad on easy "4x4" routes, sand dunes (it doesn't have much trouble in the dunes as-is as long as I air the tires down) and crappy dirt roads through the desert. I often pull a small (6x10) or less often a large (7k lb 24' travel trailer) trailer, though the towing offroad will be limited to forest roads and more open desert. We towed our big trailer to Johnson Valley a few months ago and I could really tell it was "peg-leggin" dragging the trailer up a very slight incline in sandy conditions... it got it done but not without heavy throttle and carrying a little more speed than I'd like to with a trailer.

How do the factory limited slips perform in the van D60FF and the Sterling? I'm not trying to make a rock crawler out of this, but being 2wd it is a bum situation when you can't move because 1 tire is spinning. Is there something else I should be considering? Is there an obvious flaw in any of my above options that I'm missing? I'd like to knock this out within the next couple months so I really need to whittle this down.
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Old 05-17-2014, 10:31 PM   #2
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

My vote, option 3. Or maybe 4.
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Old 05-18-2014, 12:53 AM   #3
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

I was going to vote for option 1, with an E-locker but you could prob save some $ and leave the 32 spline shafts you've got? Do the gears but instead upgrade your front brakes to some slotted frozen rotors or brakeman with some nice hawk pads all 'round.
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Old 05-18-2014, 04:30 AM   #4
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

If a front brake upgrade is part of your eventual swap look into the '08 and later refit. There's more than a few references here about this---having done it myself its well worth the time effort and cost.
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Old 05-18-2014, 08:32 AM   #5
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Is swapping to rear disc as simple as replacing rear axle or do you need to upgrade or modify other parts? Are all brake and parking brake components the same? If not maybe cost could be a little higher for those options.
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Old 05-18-2014, 09:18 AM   #6
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by REF
I was going to vote for option 1, with an E-locker but you could prob save some $ and leave the 32 spline shafts you've got? Do the gears but instead upgrade your front brakes to some slotted frozen rotors or brakeman with some nice hawk pads all 'round.
As far as I know, ARB is the only option for the van specific 32 spline axles. The switch to 35 spline shafts would only be to give me more options for differentials.
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Old 05-18-2014, 09:22 AM   #7
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JWA
If a front brake upgrade is part of your eventual swap look into the '08 and later refit. There's more than a few references here about this---having done it myself its well worth the time effort and cost.
A front brake upgrade is likely to happen at some point, though I would not change the entire front end over. I have brand new balljoints, already paid good money to have my I-beams bent, and I ditched the swaybar as well so the newer "linked" swaybar setup wouldn't benefit me at all... just the rotors/ calipers/ brackets. As I describe it to my wife "the only thing worse than the van's acceleration, is it's deceleration!"
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Old 05-18-2014, 09:39 AM   #8
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance
Is swapping to rear disc as simple as replacing rear axle or do you need to upgrade or modify other parts? Are all brake and parking brake components the same? If not maybe cost could be a little higher for those options.
There is a little more to it, but I haven't fully worked out the details just yet. Often it will require a change of the master cylinder and/or the proportioning valve to get brake bias where it needs to be, sometimes you can get away with just running it with the old parts meant for disc/drum. Parking brake cables can be made locally for ~$100. I'm curious if there is even much to gain by switching to rear disc as far as stopping power goes? Either way I prefer having disc as the brakes are just that much easier to service!
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Old 05-18-2014, 03:45 PM   #9
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheLetterJ
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chance
Is swapping to rear disc as simple as replacing rear axle or do you need to upgrade or modify other parts? Are all brake and parking brake components the same? If not maybe cost could be a little higher for those options.
There is a little more to it, but I haven't fully worked out the details just yet. Often it will require a change of the master cylinder and/or the proportioning valve to get brake bias where it needs to be, sometimes you can get away with just running it with the old parts meant for disc/drum. Parking brake cables can be made locally for ~$100. I'm curious if there is even much to gain by switching to rear disc as far as stopping power goes? Either way I prefer having disc as the brakes are just that much easier to service!
Yup. New master cylinder is needed otherwise it won't make enough pressure to make the disc brakes do anything. The E-vans don't have a proportioning valve, since '88 I think. That function is done by the ABS module, which measures minute wheel speed differences while braking and limits hydraulic pressure to the rear axle.

I have had E350s with both drum and disc. The disc brakes are worth it. Drum brakes are grabby when cold, and overheat easily when towing, to the point the fronts end up doing all the work. I've never current van's brakes so hot they were smoking, although I was hard on rotors prior to upgrading to the '09 front axle. Also the drum brakes are more susceptible to corrosion (especially the adjuster). They do hold better as a parking brake though, sine the service drums are the parking drums, vs the disc brakes which use a smaller drum inside the rotors.

I do think the 14-bolt will work with the Ford ABS system, but the tooth count may not be the same. You should be able to swap the tone ring if needed, or worst case just use a digital signal converter. I'm not a fan of GMs brakes however. They are not as robust as the Fords (both in lifespan and absolute stopping power) and they are more difficult to service since they don't have slide-off rotors.
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Old 05-18-2014, 03:47 PM   #10
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Re: Time for a new rear axle, help me decide.

Also keep in mind that Ford did stick the Dana 70 in many of the extended wagons (but with the D60 ring and pinion) and also midship fuel tank cutaways. A full Dana 70 with 10.5" ring gear, which was also 4" wider, came under rear-tank E350 single-rear-wheel cutaways. All of the above still use 32 spine axle however.
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