Today I tried rotating the yoke while inserting the passenger side axle. After about 25 minutes of it hitting metal, I begrudgingly decided to take the [freshly sealed] differential cover off to see what I could see.
Then I swore a lot.
The passenger side axle is literally hitting the carrier pin. So there is no way it's going to go in any further. Additionally, the driver's side axle, while it does engage the splines, is barely engaging the splines.
So, I opened up my old Dana 30 to see if anything was different. And it is completely different. The surrogate Dana 30 has planetary gears that are pretty much centered within the differential. My original Dana 30 has them off to the right. This is why my old axles (really only a year old) don't fit in the new axle assembly.
I see two possible courses of action here and am wide open to others:
1.) Get a set of axles that fit the new surrogate differential. The last time I bought axles from RockAuto, they were like $40 each. That would be a relatively inexpensive and quick fix.
2.) Swap the carriers.
I like #2 the least because the ring and pinion gears wear into each other. So I'd have to migrate the new ring gear so that it mated with the new pinion. And that is assuming the position of the ring gear isn't different between the two carries (which I do not know for a fact yet). Otherwise, I'd have to migrate both the pinion and carrier, which means re-shimming, setting preload and backlash...geh. And that's assuming that my bad pinion bearings didn't ruin the old pinion gear or ring gear.
Also, my WJ has full-time all-3-wheel drive (much to my chagrin). So I'm not sure what the consequences would be of using a different differential carrier.
So I have this absolutely gorgeous axle assembly with new bearings, races, seals and freshly welded spring coil perches. And I can't put the frickin' axles in.
Anyone have any thoughts other than a large calibur hand gun to the temple?
P.S. This is exactly why I don't do my own dentistry.