In our quest to get the Ulti- mate Adventure '04 Taco up and running again, there were a few minor mechanical issues to address before getting it back on the trail again. Upgrading the Dana 44 front axle was first on the list because it was still fitted with 19-spline outer axleshafts, and our tech editor, Fred Williams, was snapping these stock-sized stub shafts like breadsticks at his favorite Italian restaurant. We thought about swapping out the front axle and replacing it with a much heavier and stronger Dana 60, but that would undermine the lightweight design and functionality of the truck. We decided to give the Dana 44 a second chance and beef it up with larger-diameter and higher-spline-count stub shafts, and while we were at it we changed a few other components that were in desperate need of replacement. Solid Axle Industries offers a front-end kit for the Dana 44 that includes all the necessary components to upgrade the outer ends of the assembly, which included American-made 30-spline chromoly stub shafts. We decided to include Solid's flat-top knuckles, which could allow us to convert the truck's steering to a high-steer setup in the future. The Dana 44 kit from Solid includes 30-spline 4340 chromoly stub shafts, forged hubs and spindles, heavy-duty front caliper brackets, wheel studs, bearings, races, seals, spindle nuts, rotors, and new loaded calipers. The high-steer flat-top knuckles and diff cover are not included in the kit, but we decided to swap out these components while we had the axle apart.The Dana 44 kit from Solid includes 30-spline 4340 chromoly stub shafts, forged hubs and s The Solid Axle Industries' 30-spline 4340 chromoly stub shaft on the left is superior to the factory 19-spline shaft on the right. The entire length of the 30-spline shaft is thicker in overall diameter, and when an axleshaft is cut with more splines, it's usually not cut as deeply as a shaft with fewer splines. This leaves the area below the spline with a larger diameter and stronger than one with fewer splines. The higher spline count on an axleshaft also increases contact surface and spreads the load over more splines, which also increases strength.The Solid Axle Industries' 30-spline 4340 chromoly stub shaft on the left is superior to t We used the existing CTM U-joints since they were still good after enduring a couple of years of punishment. After a thorough inspection, the U-joints were pressed in the new stub shafts, and the whole axleshaft assembly was ready to be placed inside the housing. CTMs are a bit pricey, so we could have used 760X U-joints, which can be purchased just about anywhere.We used the existing CTM U-joints since they were still good after enduring a couple of ye Solid's flat-top knuckles are well engineered and definitely stronger than the OEM outers. The knuckles are cast with a high-quality proprietary blend of cast iron and inspected to ISO 9001 specifications. The right tools and care should be taken when pressing the ball joints in the knuckles. Beating the ball joints in with a hammer, which we've seen done, can sometimes lead to damage.Solid's flat-top knuckles are well engineered and definitely stronger than the OEM outers. This front-end kit can be installed by anyone who can install an axleshaft or a manual-locking hub. If you're a novice and doing this for the first time, take one side apart at a time just in case you forget where something goes. Make sure the new bearings are properly packed with grease, and lightly coat the new seals with a little grease.This front-end kit can be installed by anyone who can install an axleshaft or a manual-loc Locking hubs from any manufacturer will work with Solid Axle's kit, but we used a Warn premium hub kit (PN 60165). When we removed the old calipers they were starting to leak fluid from their seals and the brake pads were starting to crumble. With the kit's new rotors, calipers, pads, and heavy-duty backing plate installed, we shouldn't have to worry about them for a while. The new front caliper was a little tight and wouldn't slide over the rotor, so we simply bent the bracket with a prybar and the caliper slipped right on.Locking hubs from any manufacturer will work with Solid Axle's kit, but we used a Warn pre We squirted our Dana 44 with a little black paint and it looks as good as new, at least until the next trail run. We haven't broken the tie rod yet, but it has a nice arch in it when it should be perfectly straight. Somewhere down the road we might put those cool new flat-top knuckles to good use and bolt on some high-steer arms and a heavy-duty tie rod.We squirted our Dana 44 with a little black paint and it looks as good as new, at least un SOURCES Off-Road Evolution N/A www.offroadevolution.com Solid Axle Industries www.solidaxle.com By Kevin McNulty Enjoyed this Post? Subscribe to our RSS Feed, or use your favorite social media to recommend us to friends and colleagues!