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Ford Differentials: How to Rebuild the 8.8 and 9 Inch

Ford Differentials: How to Rebuild the 8.8 and 9 Inch

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Ford Differentials: How to Rebuild the 8.8 and 9 Inch

4.5/5 (4 évaluations)
418 pages
2 heures
Apr 15, 2013


Chapters include axle identification, inspection, and purchasing axles for rebuilding, differential tear down, ring and pinion gear removal, inspection and reassembly, drive axle choices and more. In addition, the book provides a comprehensive 9-inch identification chart to ensure readers properly identify the model and specifics of the differential.
Apr 15, 2013

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Ford Differentials - Joseph Palazzolo




Before you embark on the rebuild and start scouring local scrap yards and online websites, it will be helpful to understand what to look for and what to avoid in these axles.

First, you need to understand some fundamentals of the Ford axles to help guide your quest. I have spent countless hours over the years collecting, reading, and studying old shop manuals, supplier reference documents, SAE papers, and even vehicle manufacturer reports and notes. Some of this information is very important as it is becoming more and more difficult to find documentation on axles and differentials that were built more than 40 years ago. I have also spent many hours in scrap yards and visiting and interviewing the experts in this field along with years of building numerous axles myself. In this chapter I share a summary of decades of work on these axles.

As part of my research, I went to renowned Currie Enterprises and gathered one of just about every different 9-inch axle variant. I put together a whole collection of housings and third members. This is a sampling of some of them. Here is a quick visual summary: The 1957 housings do not have dimples on them and have an oil drain plug. The 1958s and 1959s have two dimples on either side of the housing and some have drain plugs. The 1960s to 1967s still retain the dimples but also have an oil level plug in the back cover.

The Ford 8.8-inch axle has a cast center section and the internal components are installed from the rear. There is typically a stamped steel cover that must be removed to gain access to the internals.

This chart serves as a general guideline for axle flange-to-flange width based on different models and production years. I have included the narrow 8-inch axles for reference. The narrowest production 9-inch axle is 56.375 inches. If measuring the drum-to-drum distance, add .200-inch to these values.

An assortment of Ford 9-inch axle stampings is welded together to create the housing. The cast-iron third member is installed from the front of the housing. The third member supports all of the gears and bearings, which allows for easier gear ratio swaps if you have multiple third members.

There is a very fundamental difference between Ford’s 8.8- and 9-inch axles. I reference these axles based on the ring gear nominal outside diameter in inches. The fundamental difference between these axles is how the gears are supported and which end of the axle housing (front or back) that they are assembled from.


It may seem strange to begin by comparing the 8-inch to the 9-inch axle, but there is an important distinction to make since the 8-inch axle is weaker than the 9-inch. Many people are not aware that Ford made a smaller banjo axle and confuse the 8-inch for a 9-inch.

The 8-inch was introduced in 1962 and is found in many lower performance Fairlanes, Mustangs, Falcons, Comets, Cougars, and Pintos, just to name a few of the applications.

There’s an easy way to tell an 8-inch apart from a 9-inch. All of the 8-inch case nuts can be accessed with a socket. In contrast, on the 9-inch, two nuts on the bottom at about the 6 and 7 o’clock positions cannot be accessed with a socket and require a wrench.

Both axles share a common design and are often referred to as banjo style or third-member style. The smaller 8-inch just cannot handle the abuse as its bigger brother can. The 8-inch also was only available with 28-tooth axle shafts. Unless you are building a Pinto or straight six-cylinder vehicle, you want to avoid it.

The smaller 8-inch third member is on the right. Note the two lower bolts at 6 and 7 o’clock have straight access with a socket. The 9-inch third-member bottom fasteners, on the left, can only be accessed with a wrench. This is an easy way to identify the third members, so you’re sure to buy the correct axle.

Both 8- and 9-inch axle housings are made from a series of stampings that are fixtured and welded together. This complex fixturing and welding process, coupled with fuel economy concerns, is what eventually led to their production demise. These axles had a stout 2.25-inch ring gear offset as compared to a 1.5-inch ring gear offset of the later 8.8-inch axle.

The larger offset is better for strength and noise but worse for sliding and efficiency. While the larger offset makes the ring and pinion gears stronger, the additional sliding of the gear teeth creates more heat in the axle. Therefore, these axle assemblies require better quality oil and good underbody airflow to keep the unit cool. With their high-volume production, the two biggest quality problems were leaks from poor welds and poor alignment of the housings. So don’t be surprised that most of these axles leak from the welds. Careful aftermarket shops and their stringent attention to repairing these housings are able to correct many of these issues.


The Ford 9-inch has a reputation as a durable axle that can transmit enormous torque, and this is rightfully deserved. Some even consider these axles to be bulletproof. This is by far the most common axle used by restorers, hot rodders, customizers, and racers. It has enjoyed a long production history with many variants. There is a huge aftermarket support for this axle design. Many companies, such as Currie Enterprises, Mark Williams Enterprises, Moser Engineering, and Strange Engineering, reproduce this design today. It is still used in NASCAR racing as well.

Because of the long production history of this axle, many variants are available. Most of the time, the differences are in shock and spring mounting brackets and, of course, brake hardware. It is a banjo-style axle as is the 8-inch. It was in production on many Ford cars and trucks, first appearing in 1957 and finally replaced by the Salisbury-style 8.8-inch axle in 1986, saving about 50 pounds and boasting increased efficiency.

Here is an example of a weld repair on a factory original housing. It was required to repair a leaking weld. The repair process requires the axle to be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. The leaking weld area is then ground down and a MIG or TIG welder is used for the repair. This is a relatively common issue on these housings.

The straddle-mounted pinion has a roller bearing in the gear case, which provides additional support for the pinion under heavy loads. This bearing and the casting structure surrounding it need to be carefully inspected as this is a common area for cracks.

This pinion has the tapered bearings and collapsible spacer in place. The bearing cups are in the pinion cartridge and the third bearing trunnion roller bearing is located in the gear case. This pinion shows excessive wear on the trunnion surface and should not be re-used.

Pinion Offset

The 9-inch’s very large pinion offset of 2.25 inches requires the pinion to be straddle mounted, which refers to the fact the pinion head has bearings that straddle it on either side. There is a machined roller bearing race on the pinion head portion that points at the differential opposite the tapered bearing races. This additional bearing and, more importantly, the necessary casting support structure is what drives the larger hypoid offset. The additional straddle mount pocket bearing provides additional support to the pinion head during high-torque events. This bearing is one of the reasons that the 9-inch has the reputation for being bulletproof.

There are three bearings on the pinion shaft: the two traditional tapered roller bearings for the head and tail bearings with a third cylindrical roller bearing on the opposite end of the pinion head. In order to allow for the additional straddle mounted bearing and casting support structure, the hypoid offset needs to be large enough to clear the differential case. Hypoid offset is the distance between the centerline of the pinion and the centerline of the ring gear. This is 2.25 inches for the Ford 9-inch and 1.5 inches for the 8.8-inch axle.

Identification Tag

People have been climbing around scrap yards for years to find the best examples of the 9-inch axle. If you are fortunate enough to find an axle with the identification tag still attached, it will help solve part of the mystery of what application the axle came from and what might still be inside.

The axle identification tag is located at about the 3 o’clock position under the third-member mounting nut when you are looking straight at the front of the axle. These tags are typically quite beat up, twisted, and rusted over the years. These tags were not that informative on the early units, so from 1957 to 1962 the tag just referenced axle ratio. In 1963, Ford included more information.

This is a typical axle tag that has been removed from the third member. The code, 4L11, tells us that it is a 4.11:1 ratio with a limited-slip or Traction-Lok differential. It also has a 9-inch ring gear.

The axle tag typically has two lines of numbers and letters stamped on it. The format has changed over the years but mostly follow this sequence:. The top line typically starts with a three-digit axle model code (or the prefix of the part number), followed by a dash, and then the suffix. The axle model codes are interchangeable, typically the suffixes are different for a revision change but the axle is still interchangeable with one having the previous suffix. There may be a second dash and more numbers and letters on the top row if there are specifics that are unique for interchange information. Typically with just this information, you can cross reference what you need to know about the axle. The last set of digits on the top row on the right side is the date code.

The bottom line begins with the ratio being the first set of numbers. If an L is included, it was equipped with a limited-slip differential or Traction-Lok. The middle number is the ring gear diameter in inches, typically an 8 or 9. The last set of numbers is the vehicle plant code.

If the axle tag is missing, as most are, you need to remove the third member in order to know what ratio you have and if it has a limited-slip or not.

This custom axle tag was obviously hand cut as evidenced by the sharp tin-snipped-looking ends and includes DSO, for Dealer Special Order. Notice that the date code is C9UA with the ring gear size of 8.7. This was an 8.75-inch ring gear in a 9-inch housing. These were used sporadically until about 1969. You can install a true 9-inch gear in these housings as well.

Don’t be surprised if the tag you have does not exactly match this. There are also unique domestic special-option tags, which don’t follow the format.

Date Code

The date code is stamped on the tag. The first number is the last digit of the model year of the decade, the next digit is a letter and represents the month (A is for January, B is for February, and so on), and the last two digits represent the day of the month. This format is also applicable to casting date codes.

The date code on this axle tag is 7AC, and it corresponds to the 7th year, 1st month (January), and 3rd day. The WFE-V2 helps us find the decade of the 1970s. This axle tag belongs to a 1977 F-150.

A metal axle tag is typically located on the driver-side front of the third member. It is underneath one of the nuts that holds the third member in place. In most cases, the tag has been lost. On this particular third member, the original copper washers that were under the factory fasteners have been discarded as well.

Some tags reference the week of the month instead of the exact day and just use a letter (A to E) for first through the fifth week of the month.

Case Type

You are looking for a nodular iron case, with its telltale N cast into the front or inside wall. These third members are the strongest of the production cases and the most desired. Aftermarket vendors are actually re-casting these cases in very strong nodular iron, so more often than not it is easiest just to purchase a new case.

But if you’re looking for an original, they can be spotted quite readily even without an axle identification tag. The N cases had two vertical ribs, three horizontal ribs, and a machined-in fill plug. There are four versions of the nodular iron third members that were produced from the factory. These first became available on the 1964 Galaxies with the 427-ci engine and were found on many higher horsepower cars and trucks.

Of the four versions of the N case, three have an actual N cast into it right above the pinion

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Ce que les gens pensent de Ford Differentials

4 évaluations / 8 Avis
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Avis des lecteurs

  • (5/5)
    I was initially interested in this book for two reasons: first, my husband is rebuilding a Mustang II and I thought it might be nice to add this to his repertoire of manuals; and second, I'm a technical writer and I'm interested in how-to manuals. I'm amazed at the amount of information in this book. It's really step-by-step and should work well for an entry level car enthusiast as well as an expert. I think the writers and publishers did right in covering this large range of an audience because to cater to one level or the other would alienate some of their potential readers. As a technical writer, I thought the page design could be improved on, but overal, the information is excellent and provides great assistance to someone wanting to build the Ford 8.8 and 9 inch. My husband was also impressed the the information in the book and even commented that he would probably need to reference the work in the future.
  • (5/5)
    Well written and well illustrated. Anyone with a mechanical aptitude could use this book quite successfully to get the job done. I highly recommend this, another great book from CarTech.
  • (5/5)
    When I received this book my husband took it and had his nose in it for days. He found it very informative, easy to follow, and the pictures were detailed and relevant to each section. He really liked that the book included ways to rebuild even if you do not have the correct tools available to you.
  • (5/5)
    I found the book to be very informative, very well written & easy to understand. It is an excellent book for a beginner or experienced person. It was a pleasure to read & I actually learned something from it.
  • (3/5)
    The manual has excellent photographs to go with text, and the text is easy to read. The text discusses specialized tools and also how to improvise if the tools are not available. Chapters also includes different versions of the 8.8 and 9 inch Ford Differentials.
  • (5/5)
    this was an excellently done book. if all scamatics were like this i could a bloody car. i love it. i want to give it a long solid review but it was so excellent in every way that there is nothing more to say about it! even if you're not building or working on the differential it still has alot of interesting things in it and is a great read if you're into this sort of thing. it is a very honest writing as well which again, i wish they all were like this!
  • (5/5)
    I absolutely love this book! There are a ton of pictures showing each of the parts in great detail and the steps are easy to follow. I don’t know all of the terminology of all of the parts but the pictures allow me to understand exactly what part the author is talking about. My husband and I really enjoyed using this book on our off-roading vehicle. I would recommend this book to any beginner to mid-level vehicle hobbyist.
  • (5/5)
    Disassembling a differential seems more daunting than rebuilding an engine, or even a transmission. CarTech’s book has a multitude of close-up color photos to guide you through the process, from disassembly to filling the newly rebuilt differential with the right oil.