Most Jeeps in the 90s came with three types of rear axles: Chrysler 8.25, Dana 35 or Dana 44. Some XJ Cherokees have the Dana 44, but its a pretty rare occurrence. ZJ Grand Cherokees with the V8 engine have a Dana 44 rear end, and some of the 4.0-liter ZJ with a tow package do too. For TJ Wranglers it was a factory option if you got the 4.0-liter engine. Obviously, the Dana 44 is better than the Dana 35, but what are the differences that make the D44 stronger?
How to Know Which One You Have
You may be unsure which axle is under your Jeep, or maybe you’re purchasing a Jeep and want to know which axle it has. There are a few things that can help you tell if the axle is a Dana 35 or a Dana 44. The easiest way to tell these axles apart is to look at the shape of the differential cover. The Dana 35 cover is pretty much perfectly round. The Dana 44 is sort of a six-sided shape.
Some XJ and ZJ Cherokees with the tow package came with a D44, but it’s a rare sight. All ZJs equipped with the V8 come with a D44. TJs with the 4.0-liter had the option for it, and if it was a rubicon it would come with a D44 regardless of options. The differential covers are completely different shapes so figuring out which axle you have should be pretty easy.
Which One is Stronger?
The Dana 35 has earned a pretty poor reputation in the off-road world. We can totally understand this because we have personally had a D35 explode on us from just being daily driven with 31-inch tires. In our case, the spider gears would no longer properly mesh together.
The ring gear on the Dana 35 measures 7.62 inches compared to the 8.5-inch ring gear on the Dana 44. That’s nearly an inch larger, which makes a world of difference especially when you’re running large tires. Interestingly enough the Dana 35 and Dana 44 share the exact same axle tubes. The tubes measure 2.6 inches thick which is pretty small. The Chrysler 8.25 has a three-inch tube diameter, so keep that in mind if you upgrade your rear axle.
Last but certainly not least: the axle shafts. The Dana 35 axle shafts have 27 splines and a 1.18-inch diameter. The Dana 44 axle shafts have 30 splines and a 1.31-inch diameter. It may not sound like a big difference, but it’s actually a pretty big.
Although the Dana 44 has a larger differential, and stronger axle shafts, it shares the same weak axle tubes with the Dana 35. You could always truss the axle to make it stronger, but at the end of the day, it’ll still have really weeks tubes.
If you really need to upgrade from your D35 I would recommend going to a Ford 8.8 axle. It’s stronger in every single way and has more aftermarket support. Let us know what you think of the D35 and D44 in the comments down below!