The Ultimate Dana 44?
By Lance Clifford
The ctm's came with everything needed but the grease.
Here is the broken Spicer joint that the CTMs replaced.
CTM joint installed in the stub axle. It's a tight fit!
Is that bad?
Carnage GALORE!


Dana 44. For some, those words conjure up a vision of strength - a vast upgrade over their wimpy Jeep Dana 30's or Toyota birfields. For others that have them in their rig already, they most likely have nightmares of u-joint shrapnel shooting out from under their rigs. While the most popular front axle in the 4x4 community is a tough and dependable choice, it is far from bulletproof. There are things that most rock crawlers do to beef these front ends up, and make them perform better. Some of these mods are lockers, lower gears, high clearance steering, aftermarket knuckles, aftermarket locking hubs, and even alloy axle shafts. With all of these goodies on your Dana 44, you have one heck of a front end. But up until now, there has always been a weak point that has stopped many a folk in their quest for the ultimate line - the u-joint. The only answer for most has been the tried and somewhat true Spicer 297x u-joint. While it's fairly reliable for the average wheeler, it just doesn't have what it takes for the hard core 'crawler amongst us. In the past, you either dealt with this weakness, or you forked out major dinero for a big Dana 60. Enter the CTM u-joint.

Jack Graef at CTM Racing in San Juan Capistrano, CA has been building custom axles for all different motor sports for years. Being an avid wheeler himself, he got tired of 297x failures, so he decided to do something about it. Armed with his vast machining knowledge and resources, he designed what he thought would be a bombproof u-joint. After lots of design and engineering time, he went to work on the mill with a chunk of 300m Chrome Moly, and began carving out his masterpiece. Upon completing the final product, he installed them in his own rig, and began testing. After months of putting the wood to them along with pavement duty, Jack's u-joints not only did not break, they showed no signs of wear! He decided to throw a few sets out to some other crazy drivers to see if they could break it. They couldn't.

My first time seeing these u-joints in action was at the ARCA finals in Farmington, New Mexico. Jack was there supporting his test mule, Mike Harmuth. Mike had a set of the prototype CTM u-joints in his competition Jeep. I figured that if there was any place to really test a u-joint, the ARCA finals was it. I was able to watch Mike run a few obstacles, and let me tell you, he wasn't kind to those u-joints at all! He hammered on them all day. Then it happened. Mike was full throttle on a climb when I heard a loud BANG! from the front end. I immediately thought to myself "another u-joint bites the dust!" and laughed to myself. Well later that day, I saw Jack in the pits, and he was carrying around an axle shaft assembly. But the stub axle shaft was broken clean off right at the yoke. Jack had a grin from ear to ear. He handed the axle assembly to me, and the CTM was still in perfect shape. I was IMPRESSED... That's when I knew I had to have a set of those things.

A couple months later I finally ordered my own set of CTMs. They arrived when expected, and came complete with all necessary hardware, and detailed instructions. These u-joints are BEEFY to the extreme! They are more difficult to install than a standard u-joint due to their size. Once installed, I couldn't wait to take it out for a test spin. So the next day a small group of us went for a high speed burn up Iron Mountain to play in the snow. While snow usually tends to be forgiving on a vehicle, I tend to really push my rig in the snow. High horsepower powder blasts, jumping, etc. If anyone can break a u-joint in the snow, I definitely can. I've broken probably a dozen or so u-joints in the "forgiving" snow!

After almost a full day of hammering the rig, it happened. The snow was very icy, and I needed to get out of the ruts I was in to get around a stuck Ford Ranger (I was going to pull him out). I put the rig in reverse and floored it with the wheels cranked all the way to the left to try and pop out of the ruts. About ten feet into it I hear and feel a thunderous BANG and lost my steering. I rolled to a stop and got out to look at the carnage. My passenger wheel was dangling by only the lower ball joint. Massive carnage! It appears that the knuckle at the upper ball joint hoop broke (it was stressed from a previous breakage) off causing the wheel to pretty much fall off. The Warn alloy axle disintegrated in the "explosion" but low and behold......... The CTM u-joint was still in one piece! Unbelievable. How this u-joint survived this carnage is beyond me. I am now thoroughly convinced that these joints truly are "bomb proof". To date, Jack has not had a single u-joint failure. That's beyond impressive knowing that there are idiots like me out there running them! At $150 each, they aren't cheap. But considering they have a lifetime warranty and are completely rebuildable, this will probably be the last axle ujoint you ever have to buy. I will update this article as I have more experiences to share regarding my CTM u-joints, so stay tuned!

*** UPDATE!!! *** (03-11-02)

I particpated in event #1 of the CalROCS series in Victorville, CA on March 9-10. I hammered on the vehicle all weekend, punishing the front end like never before. Not only did I have ZERO breakage, but I bagged a 2nd place victory. I could NOT have done it without my CTM ujoints keeping the front end in one piece!

*** UPDATE!!! *** (03-18-02)

Mike Shaffer and I participated in event #1 of the RRCA (formerly ARCA) in Farmington, NM this weekend. Mike's buggy is equipped with CTM ujoints in his Wagoneer Dana 44 front end. We hammered and hammered the vehicle at full throttle all weekend, and had zero breakage. Thanks to some great driving and a bulletproof vehicle, we finished the weekend on top with a FIRST PLACE VICTORY!\

***UPDATE!!! (05-20-02)

The CTM Ujoints in my Land Cruiser guided my wife Kelly to a 17th place finish in the CalROCS Reno event. These joints have withstood several competitions and trail runs with ZERO maintenance! The CTMs in Mike Shaffer's buggy have helped us win TWO MORE competitions..... A first place finish in event #2 of the RCAA series in Vernal, UT, and a first place finish in CalROCS Reno event.

***UPDATE!!! (09-03-02)

CTM Ujoints have guided Team Shaffer to two consecutive victories in the RCAA series, a second place, and a first place in the CalROCS Reno event. The same set of ujoints has flawlessly held up to this kind of tortorous abuse.

But back to reality... I was able to break a CTM ujoint this weekend in my Land Cruiser. The ujoint in question is the original ujoint installed in this article. It has held up to over abuse in epic Dana 60-like porportions. But this just goes to show that even though I am completely sold on CTM ujoints, they are not completely unbreakable. Everything has a limit.

Contact information:
CTM Racing
Jack Graef

32991 Calle Aviador Ste. #E
San Juan Capistrano, CA
[email protected]