Beefing up the Rear End in a Dodge Dakota

By -

Dodge Dakota

If the rear end in your Dodge Dakota has seen better days, we’ve got a cheap way to whip it into shape!

Too often, we see folks throwing power adders at their trucks without taking steps to beef up other components. This can include anything from brakes to driveshafts to transmissions. And, of course, your rear end. But failing to upgrade your rear after adding significant power can lead to some pretty catastrophic results. Or, in the case of Dodge Forum member 93 Ragtop and his 1987 Dodge Dakota, maybe you just need to replace a worn out rear end before it gives out completely.

Sure, you could stick with a stock unit from the junkyard, or even a new one. But a quick and super cheap way to beef things up out back is to swap in an 8.8-inch Ford. So when the OP learned that he could do just that in his 1st Gen Dodge Dakota, it seemed like the right move. Especially when he had a donor Ford Explorer rear end already sitting in his driveway!

“Well after 4 months, I have pretty much finished this project. Basically, what I have done is put a 2000 Ford Explorer rear end in my 87 Dodge Dakota. Other then the help of my cats, I have done it all by myself. No help.”

Dodge Dakota

Now, some folks are bound to call this kind of cross-brand job blasphemy. But Ford rear ends have been popular swaps for decades now. And the OP (literally) has a list of reasons for doing it.

“Some of you probably wonder why I used a Ford rear end in my Dodge Dakota. So let me share my reasons. Again, these are my reasons, and this swap is not for everyone.

1. My original 8.25 had a bad posi unit, at least one bad wheel bearing, one bad wheel seal, and the backing plates were rusting out. 
2. I already had the Explorer rear end. I purchased it a few years back for another project that fell through.
3. I paid, I think it was $50.00 for it complete with cables, driveshaft, disc brakes, etc. 
4. It has 3.54 gears, same as my 8.25, but did not have a posi carrier. 
5. I can get a new factory Ford posi with carbon fiber disc setup for 31 spline axles for $229.00 shipped.
6. The bolt pattern is the same as the 87-90 Dodge Dakota’s 5×4.5
7. IMO, the 8.8 is a much stronger rear end then the 8.25.
a. 31 spline axles vs 27?
b Ring gear is 8.8 vs 8.25.
c. Axle tubes are 3.25 vs 3.00.
8. Now I have 4-wheel disc brakes.”

And judging by the process, this doesn’t look like a terribly difficult job, either.

“I got started by taking the bumper off and lifting the bed off of the truck. FWIW, that was not as bad as I expected. 6 bolts for the bumper braces, unplug the wiring harness, 4 screws on the gas tank nozzle, and then 9 bolts holding the bed. I then removed the tailgate and ran two, one-inch straps from corner to corner, used my engine lift to raise the bed, and drove the truck out from under it.”

Comments ()