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JC Whitney 101 Sweepstakes Jeep Build — Episode 7: Rancho Lift Kit, DANA Ultimate 44 Crate Front Axle, Yukon Gear Dura Grip and Ring and Pinion Install

Reading Time: 5 minutes

As our 101 project has come together we have been looking forward to installing the key components that turn a stock Jeep into an authentic off roader. With our partner sponsors and the help of the crew at OC Motorsports we are ready to launch into the transformation of our base Wrangler Unlimited Sport. We started with Rancho and their RS66105R 4” long arm lift kit. This is a very comprehensive kit and in contrast to the previous Rancho lifts we have installed, this kit requires major modification/cutting than the typical kit and we recommend hiring a knowledgeable shop to install. Fortunately for us Junior at OC Motorsports was assigned to our install and he has hundreds of lift kits installed during his tenure.

With the Jeep safely on the rack we started at the rear of the Jeep and removed the suspension elements to make room for the Rancho upgrades.

The primary benefit of the Rancho long arm kit is increased ground clearance and high articulation as well as its ability to work in harmony with the Jeep stability control system. See the stock control arms and locating points marked with red arrows.

Here’s the new Rancho rear control arm set-up:

With the lower right bracket removed, Junior located the upgraded Rancho bracket and marked the location of the holes that needed to be drilled into the frame to mount the new bracket. Junior is a measure twice, cut once kind of guy so every hole lines up perfectly. Here a shot of the Rancho lower control arm and the bracket in place. The Rancho control arms are located with large polyurethane bushings for a quiet and compliant highway ride and maximum articulation off road. Junior continued on to the other side of the Jeep and cut the stock mounting point and located the Rancho bracket, this side went much faster since the gas tank wasn’t an obstacle.

After carefully marking the location to cut Junior tackled the right side suspension mounting ear and cut it off to make way for the Rancho locating bracket. Extra care is required since the (plastic) gas tank is just beyond the cutting area. With the right side ready for the Rancho upper and lower control arms, Junior moved over to the driver’s side and repeated the same steps.

With the control arm mounting points ready Junior installed the track bar relocation bracket and Rancho springs and shocks to complete the rear end. The last components to install on the rear end are longer brake lines to accommodate the increased axle articulation that the Rancho long arm kit will provide.

Moving to the front of the Jeep, Junior has a more complex job lined up. We are installing a Dana 44 Ultimate Crate axle in conjunction with the Rancho long arm kit. Since Junior has to loosen and remove all of the mounting hardware to install the Rancho kit, removing the stock Dana 30 axle isn’t too much of a challenge and with Juniors’ experience and the correct support stands and straps, he made it look easy! With the stock axle out of the way it was time to break open the Dana Ultimate 44 Front Axle crate to unleash our new axle and matching shafts. Based on our wheel and tire size and off-road and on-road usage, Dana recommended a 4.88 gear spec. for our crate axle with an e-locker for off-road adventures already installed and topped off with a Dana nodular iron cover. (We will wire the Dana e-locker into a Painless Performance Trail Rocker switch set in a future installment) To anchor the front arms of the Rancho kit Junior installed a new cross member in place of the stock cross member to land the new longer control arms.

Here is the “after” image with the cross member, control arms, springs, shocks and longer brake lines installed with the Dana axle. The Rancho Long Arm kit is comprised of high quality components including heim joints to get the perfect pinion angle for durability and vibration-free highway driving. Everything about the Dana Ultimate Crate front axle is tougher and reinforced compared to the Dana 30 it’s replacing. Take a look at the axle ends for an indication of the enhancements:

With the Rancho Long Arm kit installed and the Dana Ultimate 44 front axle in place, Junior moved to the rear of the Jeep and called in OC Motorsports gear specialist Mike to install the Yukon Gear Dura Grip limited slip differential and matching 4.88 ring and pinion. Mike started by installing a brace to support the differential and axle to prevent any damage to the “pumpkin” while the stock differential and ring and pinion were removed. Mike proceeded to loosen the bearing caps and pull the stock differential.

Next step was to remove the stock pinion and locate the new Yukon 4.88 pinion and ring on the Yukon Dura Grip to match the Dana 44 locker in the front axle. Mike installed the Yukon 4.88 pinion with fresh bearings from the Yukon master rebuild kit and shimmed the new limited slip to fit perfectly in the Dana 44 rear axle.

With the Yukon Dura Grip limited slip diff and 4.88 ring and pinion in place Mike buttoned up the job and confirmed that the ring gear backlash is set.

Junior took over and installed the Dana nodular cover with a new gasket and filled both differentials with fresh gear oil. Our 101 Jeep has a functional lift and an upgraded driveline with a limited slip rear end and e-locker front differential and strengthened axles to take on any trail we might encounter from here to Moab and beyond.

Brands featured in this episode:

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