I recently bought a 97 TJ that had 35" tires on it when I picked it up. I swapped down to 33s.
Now that I can hear things that are going on, I could hear the rear clicking. So I opened the rear up and found some nasty lube and a few metal chips, that I determined that are from the spider gears.
I need some help here, the ring gear has D35 355 stamped in it. I assume the 355 is the gear ratio.
I would like to continue running 33s, so the question is: keeping the D35 under there, what is my best economical option? Replace and re-gear? If so, what gearing would be best suited for daily driving, highway and light trailing?
New to me....
4" RC lift
Currently 35x12.50x15 Cooper STT
3.55 was an available ratio in '97, the sales code was "DMD".
The cheapest thing to do would be to replace the spiders and hope it stays together.
If you were to re-gear the 6-cylinder, manual trans, and 33's... the ratio of choice would be 4.56.
Don't forget to change the speedo gear in the t-case if you re-gear.
You may want to consider replacing the D35 (Dana 44?) before putting more money into it.
And if you do replace the spider gears, make sure you count all small metal pieces from the brake offs, if you don't find all of them you can bet most of those pieces are floating up in the pinion lube galley area. And in time you will be doing this again but with new everything, pinion bearings etc...
Definitely what Robncar and JWebber said. Account for all broken metal bits and install new spider gears. There are many hard to reach spots that metal can hide in the housing. When you go to button it back up, add a magnet to hopefully catch any pieces you may have missed.
You can do a Superior S35 kit and have no problems with 33" or 35" tires. This comes with a locker as well. I know several folks who run that setup and works great for them. With 33" tires a 4.56 gear ratio would be a good way to get some of that get up and go back that was lost.
You should take the whole housing out, which is very easy to do (one of the few benefits of the Dana 35). Therefore you shouldn't miss any metal bits.
I'm told that upgrade chromoly axles - just an easy slide in fit, if done at the same time you replace the spiders - are adequate to run 33s even with a TrueTrac. They certainly work for me with 31s. Check out IslandTJ, he's got the 33 setup I mention. So you with an open axle would be well served.
My do-it-yourself install thread for a TrueTrac in the rear, upgraded shafts, and a PowerTrax No-Slip in the front: