Break all or nothing.

Last November, I was up at Windrock Park, TN with a group of friends from Florida, for some trail time. We trailered EvilFJ up behind my friend Matt’s Tundra, as I knew I was probably going to push harder and run some gnarlier trails than normal. The “Remember, stupid, you have to drive this home” slogan would not necessarily apply this time.

All went well on day one, great trails, excellent food, and good times around the fire at night. Day two proved promising, as we had (Black) trail 16 on the schedule. The trip prior with this group, we had an 80 on it’s side on 16, and ended up turning back. So it was a must this year.

For those of you unfamiliar with trail 16, it’s a fun and relatively uneventful trail, until you get to the end. You get to a steep multi-tiered rock ledge section, with loose rocks and some pretty good off camber climbing.

Choosing a wide line, I made a few attempts to get up it, and at the “One more try and then we winch” moment, EvilFJ went up, slid down, and bounced back up, only to land hard again. I knew there was trouble then. I had my wheels turned straight, but my driver side wheel was pointing hard passenger. Sure enough, inner tie rod bent, and outer tie rod broken.

We ran a winch line, jacked up the front, and installed the spare inner and outer I carry with me. All in all a 30 minute repair, and we were back on our way again. Little did I know, that there was more damage than what I realized.

We ran more trails the next day, including 44 – Double Black, without any issues. But once we got back home, and the alignment was done, and everything was back in working order, I was hearing a noise from the rearend I didn’t like. Upon deceleration, I’d hear a slight whine, which I’d heard before….when my ring gear was broken.

Being the procrastinator I am, I ran the truck to Toyota’s for Tots, and a local Lazy Springs trip, where I had her in the rock garden playing and crawling, without any issues. But I kept hearing that whine.

After the Lazy Springs trip, I brought the truck to the shop to find the source of the whine. With the rear on jack stands, I could rotate one wheel, and hear a loud click from the diff. Time to investigate further…

Pulling the drain plug gave no indication of problems. The deposits were normal, and no metal found. Keep digging.
Next was the removal of the wheels and driveshaft, and spin the pinion. That’s when it became very evident there was something very screwed up.

I continued to pull the axles, and noticed the right axle wanting to pop out of the housing, as soon as the nuts were loosened. With it out, it was obvious why.

The axles were clearly bent on the splines, causing them to want to pup out of the housing. But if that’s the case, would it have done something to the spider gear?

But wait… there’s more!

Looking into the carrier, it was clear that the planetary gears were broken too. 4 chiclets looking things were laying in the bottom of the axle housing.

The next day, I called East Coast Gear Supply, and discussed my failures and options.
Stephen from ECGS estimated the repairs necessary – a new Toyota 8.2 carrier and 3rd member repair, at around $1250. Add two axles to that, wheel bearings, and I’m right at around $2500.00 into it. And that leaves me with the identical setup I just broke.
Not that it’s weak, but I don’t consider myself an abusive wheeler, and the fact I broke it, made me realize perhaps an upgrade was in order.

After looking at some options like Currie RockJock 60, Diamond 9.5, LC80 series 9.5″ and even Ford 9″ I spoke with Stephen about their custom axle.

Drop-in Dana 60 for FJ Cruiser/GX460/470 etc

They start with a Dana 60, weld on DOM tubes to whatever axle width you want, and then install Toyota ends on it. That way, you run Toyota bearings, and can retain your speed sensors, leaving all the electronics like Speedometer, Cruise Control, ATRAC, Crawl Control etc. functional.

I chose the 35 spline CroMo axles, with an overall width increase of 3″, 4.56 gears, and an ARB Air locker.
This axle will be a beast. The massive Dana 60 is a 9.75″ differential, found on Superduty trucks etc, and should hold up just fine. Yes, I will lose a tad bit of ground clearance under the diff, but I don’t foresee any issues. I’m on 35″ tires and never had my 8.2 get me hung up, really.

Another big plus is that the axle is wider, negating the need for spacers in the real to match the front +2″ LT.

The axle was ordered, and I hope to have it here in a week or two, so stay tuned for part two, the installation of the One Ton!

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