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Discussion Starter #1
Despite the whole new guy aura I’m sure to be emanating, I honestly do have experience using a tool or two.

Straight to the point:
I picked up a ‘98 5.9Ltd from my dad while moving from one state to another. Everything is fine and dandy until I get it registered and start driving. Long story, short: the front diff was super effed up. I did some research based on my plans for this beast, and ended up getting a TrueTrac, brand new set of gears (stock 3.73s) and a master install kit.

The biggest problem I am facing is, despite the numerous articles and YouTube videos, I can’t use set-up bearings, I don’t have access to a case spreader, can’t afford a bearing press, and due to my and my wife’s work schedule and kids’ virtual learning, I can’t get it towed anywhere.

My main questions are:
  • Where do the shims go on the pinion gear?
  • Any recommendation to set the backlash without using set up bearings OR a case spreader?
  • Anyone in N.C. want some adult beverages to teach this guy how to get it done this weekend???
Thanks for any help, seriously. I’m stressing out and need this Jeep back on the road yesterday.
 

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A '98 ZJ should have the short pinion gear with a crush sleeve to set pinion preload. Same basic axle as a TJ or late, low pinion (Non-disconnect) XJ if that helps. No difference vs other '96-98 ZJ's (Earlier ZJs used a long pinion Dana 30 with a crush sleeve to set preload.) Might be easier to find a junkyard axle if you have doubts about rebuilding it. 3.73's are a fairly common ratio, especially with factory tow package on ZJ's. You may need to swap the driveshaft yoke if they don't match.

The original shim setup was usually good on the ZJ Dana 30s. USUALLY, you can use the amount shims you remove when installing new bearings and the setup will come out pretty good. Carrier bearing shims are under the bearings, you will need a bearing press and splitters or diff bearing removal tool to be able to change the shims.

You can get away without a case spreader but then you have to force the bearing cups into their seats by starting them at a slight angle and tapping them into position with a brass hammer. It's not usually too hard since the shims are under the bearing cones.

It's been a dozen years since I rebuilt a ZJ front dana 30, but IIRC, the shims for the pinion depth are under the bearing cone on the pinion gear. IF correct, you will need to use a press and bearing splitter or diff bearing removal tool to remove the old bearing to be able to measure the original shim stack. There's also a large oil slinger, IIRC, that needs to be reinstalled but often gets damaged, that is part of the shim stack.

Pinion Bearing preload needs to be set after you get the depth correct, the crush sleeve takes a few hundred pounds of tightening torque on the pinion nut to get it started crushing then you keep tightening the pinion nut until you get about 15 inch pounds of rotational torque on the pinion shaft and zero end play in the bearings. Without the recommended beam type inch pound torque wrench, that turning torque is about what you feel rotating a household door knob
 
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