It's a noise as recognizable as burning the tires of your car. The sound coming from the rearend announces to everyone within a one-block radius that there's a bearing going bad in your rear. First, there's the growling noise, and then, when the bearing gets really bad, it affects the backlash, and you now have a strange roar along with the growl. Our '98 Ram had both of those noises, and we knew it was time for a repair.

The old Dodge has dutifully hauled the Valiant (and now the Super Bee) on several occasions, but during a recent short trip, the noise finally got to the point of unbearable. The 9 1/4-inch Dana rear in the truck is definitely not a popular rear within the aftermarket. We learned this by searching the Internet, looking for parts. Used in trucks and vans from 1994-2000 (and in passenger cars in the '70s), it rarely went bad. Like many factory axles, the Chrysler 9 1/4 is a C-clip axle, meaning the axles are prevented from moving sideways by a c-shaped clip inside the differential. While off-roaders will prefer the strength of a collar and thrust bearing-type axle, for daily street use and towing, this type of axle is more than up to the task.

Before we started, we needed to come up with a plan. The Dodge is used mainly for daily transportation, hauling stuff and towing things. The factory had installed an open-type differential with 3.55 gears. We didn't want to lose the good fuel mileage we were already getting with the Dodge, but we did want it to tow a little easier up hills. To get everything we needed, we could have either spent an entire day calling everyone we could think of for each individual piece, or we could call one supplier and get a good deal on everything. We decided to call Randy's Ring and Pinion, and get everything from them.

We knew we needed bearings and a ring-and-pinion, but what ratio should we get? The 3.55s worked well, but a little more gear could be better, right? As we drive this truck all over the eastern states, 4.10s would definitely be too much. We finally settled on a set of 3.90 gears. This would help with towing, and we may want to play now and then.

Since the rear in the Dodge was an open style, we decided now would be a good time to put the power to both wheels. So we also ordered up an Auburn Limited Slip unit. While replacing a ring-and-pinion, it is a good idea to also replace all other wear items in the differential. In this case, we replaced not only the ring-and-pinion and differential, but also both wheel bearings and seals, as well as the bearings associated with the differential.

When doing an install like this, it is a good idea to purchase the complete installation kit. This kit came with all the necessary ringbolts, bearings, seals, gaskets, and marking compound. Never having attempted a 9 1/4-inch rear rebuild before, we decided to take the truck to Harrell's Automotive in Lakeland, Florida. Not only does Lonnie know what he's doing, but he's also close to home.