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Concise Guide to Jeep Cherokee XJ Front Axles

Jeep Cherokee front axles form the platform of your off-road rig. A robust set of axles can leverage you over obstacles or keep you stable through a slide.

If you’re ready to start tooling with your off-road performance, you might want to start with a simple Jeep XJ axle swap.

Rear Wheel vs. 4-Wheel Drive

Jeeps are famous for their off-road capabilities, but Cherokees were available with two different drive options. During the XJ’s nearly two-decade-long production run, buyers had the opportunity to select more straightforward rear wheel drives as well as the traditional 4-wheel drive systems.

There’s not much to say about axles on the rear wheel drive Cherokees. Without a transfer case and driveline, the wheels spun freely at freeway speeds. The robust axle design added weight and drag, cutting down on fuel efficiency, but it was sturdy and reliable.

Front Axles for Off-Roading Jeep Cherokees

Things got a little more complicated with 4-Wheel Drive option. The manufacturer sourced Dana front ends almost exclusively, though there were three distinct variants.

Our concise Dana axles identification guide helps to clear things up:

  • Dana 30 CAD – Weakest axles with shift-on-the-fly capabilities
  • Dana 30 High Pinion – Best stock axle option with strongest gearing characteristics
  • Dana 30 Low Pinion – Late model substitute with acceptable performance features

The Dana 30 CAD variant featured a vacuum actuated coupler to engage four-wheel drive from the driver’s seat. Jeeps without this feature have manually locking hubs. The driver must exit the vehicle and lock the wheels down to make use of the front drive shaft. These older systems were prone to failure when vacuum lines developed leaks or if the electronics burned up.

Dana 30 high pinion gears kept the drive shafts angled above the axles for better ground clearance and stronger differential gears. The low pinion gears were a cost-saving measure in the last few years of the Cherokee’s run.

Used Axles Swaps and Newer Upgrades

Age and hard use have retired quite a few of these early SUVs to the scrap heaps. Pick through a boneyard close to where you live, and you are likely to find plenty of Jeep Cherokee front axles. To quickly spot the best options, look for the high pinion placement on a set up with manual hubs. Make sure it’s devoid of those wonky electronic couplers.

Stock axles are durable enough for moderate use and can usually handle tire sizes up the mid 30-inches. If you’ve been hard on your Jeep and bent or broken some metal, a used replacement gets you back on the trail, but you’re probably better off with a Jeep XJ front axle upgrade.

OEM style front axles are now made from better materials and machining process to deliver superior quality. You can even customize with lockers, gear ratios, and stronger axle shaft splines.

Order Your Parts Online

At 4WD.com, we specialize in Jeep performance. Browse through our online catalog for the front axle you need for your Jeep. If you aren’t sure, feel free to call or send us a message. We can also help with your Jeep Wrangler axle identification questions.