The Axle And Suspension Conversion That Brings Your OBS Ford Into The Modern Age

More than a quarter-century after production ended, old body style Fords remain popular—especially the 7.3L Power Stroke equipped versions offered from ’94.5-’97. But just because OBS fans are holding onto their favorite body style doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in improving a few things or making significant upgrades. Case in point, when the leaf spring solid front axle option gave way to coil springs for 2005 model year Super Duty’s, everyone took note of the improvements in ride quality, strength, and turning radius. Fast-forward a few years, when late-model Super Duty’s starting showing up in wrecking yards and OBS enthusiasts began getting their hands on the more modern running gear, and the ’05-newer axle and suspension conversion trend began to take off.

This is the source behind the bulk of many ‘05+ Super Duty swaps: the twin traction beam (TTB) Dana 50 under 4×4 OBS Ford F-250’s. While four-wheel drive F-350 trucks of the same era lucked out with the solid Dana 60, the ¾-tons were stuck with IFS front-ends. Unlike the leaf sprung Dana 60, the TTB Dana 50 (also leaf sprung) has many more points of wear, which include but aren’t limited to axle beam pivot bushings and shackle bushings, not to mention rampant alignment issues when larger tires are in the mix.

 Today, virtually every OBS owner has heard of the swap (often referred to as an “05+ Super Duty Swap”). And for many who’ve chosen to scrap the tired TTB Dana 50 arrangement under their F-250 in favor of a solid front axle, an ’05-newer coil spring and radius arm suspension makes a lot of sense. This time, we’re highlighting what’s involved in the highly-popular conversion process. From parts-scavenging conversions performed by the DIY’er on a tight budget to all-out, show-quality builds with additional lift, ’05+ Super Duty axle swaps run the gamut. So we’ll share which components you’ll have to source on your own, the odds and ends that will be required to make everything work, and also showcase the comprehensive aftermarket conversion kits that simplify the process.

Instead of rebuilding the TTB when the time comes (often prematurely), a lot of OBS owners pull the trigger on a solid axle swap—and some go all-in on ’05-newer axles, complete with front coil springs and radius arms. The result is vastly improved ride quality, a stronger front suspension, and a tighter turning radius.
To pull off the ‘05+ swap, you’ll first have to source the front axle. Any Dana 60, be it from an ’05-’07, ’08-’10 or ’11-’16 will work, and oftentimes the axle and suspension are purchased together. Some even score an entire wrecked Super Duty for an affordable price to get everything they need.
If you have an unknown model year ’05-’16 axle, it can be identified by looking at the front sway bar end links. On ’05-’07 models, the bushing will be on the bottom and the stud on top. On ’08-’10 models, there will be a bushing on the top and bottom. And on ’11-’16 axles there will be a stud on top and on bottom. The photo shown here illustrates all of the above and comes courtesy of Sky’s Offroad Design.
If you go with aftermarket radius arm frame brackets, follow the instructions to a T. Key measurements will include the distance from the cab mount to the holes in the bracket you’ll have to drill out. Getting this correct is paramount.
Sometimes, coil springs and radius arms can be found and/or bought together. Just remember you need the right and left coil buckets as well—not to mention that half a dozen different spring codes exist, signifying different spring rates, for factory coil springs. Look for those specific codes and spring rates later in this piece.
When it comes to the radius arms, don’t forget the frame brackets. Either OEM or aftermarket versions can used. As for the install, it pays to not be intimidated. In the grand scheme of things, an ‘05+ axle and suspension swap is more about taking measurements and drilling holes than anything else. Don’t over-think it. As you can see here, the factory radius arm frame brackets install very close to the front cab mounts on an OBS.
No matter which radius arm frame brackets you choose, make sure that section of the frame is clean prior to install. That means prepping the area first via rust removal and paint (if necessary). Once the radius arm brackets are in place on the frame, all fasteners should be torqued to factory specifications.
Shock absorber selection shouldn’t be overlooked in an ’05+ axle swap, especially with most shocks being affordable enough even with custom-valving specific to your application. The Fox Performance Series 2.0 shock pictured is both valved appropriately in its OBS application and is the correct length for the added ride height the owner’s coil spring choice provided.
A front sway bar complete with end links will be required for the swap, and it pays to go with fresh end link bushings here. Remember, the sway bar (antiroll bar, anyone?) is present to help reduce body roll in an effort to keep the frame as parallel to the ground as possible, which optimize your tires’ contact patch with the road.
As for the track bar (i.e. panhard bar), the do-it-yourselfer will have to fabricate his or her own track bar mount. Others can source an aftermarket version through outlets like Sky’s Offroad Design or RYD Motorsports. According to many who’ve performed the swap, the ’05-’16 adjustable track bar offered by Icon Vehicle Dynamics is one of the best on the market, allowing you to fine-tune and precisely align your front-end track alignment. It’s important to note here that the OBS engine cradle may require a little trimming in order for an adjustable track bar to clear it.
The RYD Motorsports track bar mount accommodates your Super Duty-intended track bar and also ties in to the back side of the engine cradle. We’ll note that is also comes with Grade 8 mounting hardware. And in case you were wondering, all of RYD’s ‘05+ conversion bracketry ships in bare steel form. You’ll need to powder coat or paint all components before install.
The appropriate sway bar mount will be a requirement that you’ll either have to fab up yourself or get from (once again) either Sky’s Offroad Design or RYD Motorsports, both of which sell versions specifically designed for OBS trucks. The RYD version is pictured here.
The more factory Super Duty steering parts you retain, the easier the swap will be. In order to make the OBS pitman arm work, it will have to be shortened and machined to accept the Super Duty steering. RYD Motorsports offers a pitman arm for OBS trucks from stock height to 3-inches of lift, and a drop pitman arm that accommodates trucks with as much as 8-inches of lift.
With ‘05+ axles under your OBS you’ll finally have bigger brakes and better stopping power. However, you should decide early on if you want to control the 4-way disc brakes via vacuum pump (factory OBS), or if you plan to upgrade to hydroboost. As a helpful hint, an F-Super Duty booster, power steering lines, return line, and the master cylinder and reservoir will all bolt right in. A front, 13.66-inch diameter EBC brake rotor intended for an ’06 F-250 Super Duty, available from our friends at Riffraff Diesel, is shown here.
Although not as glamorous as the coil spring, radius arm ‘05+ Dana 60 up front, a rear 10.5-inch Sterling is a mandatory part of the axle conversion process. And while a ’99-’04 version will certainly work, the ’05-’16 10.5-inch is preferred because of its larger brakes. The rear rotors on a ’99 F-250 measure 13.03-inches (od) vs. 13.39-inches starting in ’05.
There are several roads you can travel down as far as driveshafts are concerned. We’ve seen Super Duty axles be made to work, but more often than not we see OBS owners stick with their original driveshafts. Of course, depending on the ride height you choose (i.e. lifted or lowered), you may also have to shorten or lengthen your driveshafts.
The easiest way to make your OBS driveshaft work with a Super Duty axle is by using RYD Motorsports’ driveshaft conversion kit. Its kit provides for a U-joint being used up front, and a flange being used in the rear to seamlessly adapt your old driveshaft to the new axle.
When you’re transferring over or selecting your rear leaf spring packs, keep in mind that correctly-sized blocks are the best way to achieve your target rear ride height. In direct factory ‘05+ axle and suspension swap-overs, we’ve seen the 3-inch rear blocks utilized the most.
Back in the day, outfitting an OBS with ’05-newer axles was a total DIY job and aside from a few in-the-know on the forums, you were essentially on your own in handling the swap. Garret Mazon committed to ‘05+ swapping his ’95 F-250 more than a decade ago and pulled it off with help from Complete Performance, several enthusiasts on the Power Stroke forums, and close friends and relatives for in-person labor. His ’06 axles and suspension were found in local junkyards and his OEM aluminum 17×7’s were sourced from eBay.
Today you’re no longer on your own, as several aftermarket companies offer complete kits to help simplify the conversion process. Among them is the aforementioned RYD Motorsports and Sky’s Offroad Design, as well as Blowing Diesel. The kit from Sky’s Offroad Design (shown) is designed for ’92-’97 F-250 and F-350 trucks and can be ordered to fit ’05-’16 Dana 60 axles (which are broken down into ’05-’07, ’08-’10, and ’11-’16 versions). Sky’s kit comes with stock height (and right and left) coil buckets, right and left radius arm frame brackets, right and left sway bar brackets, a panhard bar bracket, a machined flat pitman arm, all necessary hardware. Everything is laser cut, CNC formed, welded to perfection, and the all-inclusive kit retails for $1,532.00.
What we really like to see is a company taking care of manual transmission OBS owners, and RYD Motorsports’ ZF-5 crossmember does exactly that. It’s designed to fit inside the frame rails of your OBS and use the same mounting holes as the company’s radius arms to ease the installation process. The crossmember loops over the top of the driveshaft, offers plenty of clearance, is CNC cut and bent, and is made from ¼-inch thick steel.
At a similar price point ($1,549.99), RYD Motorsports’ ‘05+ Super Duty axle swap kit is designed to retain and use all the factory parts from the ‘05+ suspension and steering in order to keep the swap process as straightforward as possible. The company’s kit includes stock height fabricated coil buckets (pictured), radius arm frame brackets, a track bar bracket, sway bar brackets, a pitman arm (which has been machined to accept Super Duty steering), and Grade 8 hardware. To minimize drilling, all brackets bolt in and locate using existing holes in the OBS frame.
One of the complaints some high-horsepower OBS owners have with an ‘05+ Super Duty axle swap is the same front-end bouncing that occurs on ’05-newer trucks in four-wheel drive. To solve the problem, RYD Motorsports offers a short-arm four-link system. It keeps the front axle planted, and improves stability and caster control during wheel travel. With a four-link system, you’re able to enjoy the improved ride quality the coil spring suspension provides without sacrificing traction during boosted, 4×4 launches.
For all-out, show-quality OBS builds, RYD again has an answer. Its 8-inch front and rear coilover kit is intended to help you clear massive rolling stock. The system entails sway bar and end links, an 8-inch track bar kit, coilover buckets and axle mounts, four-link bars for both the front and rear, a cradle, rear trusses, conversion U-joints, brake lines, and overlays for everything.
If you wanted a crew cab 4×4 with a short bed in the 1990s, it had to come in F-250 form. This meant your truck rode on the TTB Dana 50—until you converted it to a solid axle. Andy Inman switched over to a leaf sprung Dana 60, then a few years later pulled the trigger on ’08 Super Duty axles and suspension. The front coil spring, radius arm suspension was installed in two evenings after work at his place of business in Park Hills, Missouri: Andy’s Garage Service.
One of the benefits of running Super Duty axles is that you get the 8 on 170mm bolt pattern (vs. the OBS trucks’ 8 on 6.5), which means you get to bolt Super Duty wheels on without the need for adapters. However, you will likely have to source your own Super Duty wheels, be they aftermarket or OEM 17×7’s. Here, Andy Inman’s ’97 F-250 sports a set of 20-inch wheel off of a ’15 King Ranch Super Duty. As for overall tire diameter, you can run a 34-inch tire on stock ’05 coil springs and still enjoy ample clearance.

What You’ll Need To Obtain And/Or Do On Your Own:

*Front axle (be it a Dana 60 from an ’05-’07, ’08-’10 or ’11-’16)
*Coil springs (be advised that different factory spring rate coils exist:
*Different spring rates by code:
ACD = 4,000-lb
ADD = 4,400-lb
AED = 4,800-lb
AFD = 5,200-lb
AGD = 5,600-lb
AHD = 6,000-lb
*Radius arms
*Track bar
*Sway bar with end links
*Steering components from the pitman arm down
*Rear axle (can be a ’99-’16 10.5-inch, but the ’05-’16 is preferred because of the larger brakes)
*Appropriate height rear blocks
*Source new power steering lines
*Shorten the steering linkage/pitman arm or purchase aftermarket
*Fabricate a new track bar mount or purchase aftermarket
*Decide if you want to control the 4-way disc brakes via vacuum pump or if you want to convert to hydroboost
*Source different length brake lines

SOURCEs

1023 Diesel & Fleet
833.773.1023
1023diesel.com

Andy’s Garage Service
573.431.2626

Blowing Diesel
blowingdiesel.com

Complete Performance
409.383.6004
cpaddict.com

Icon Vehicle Dynamics
951.689.4266
iconvehicledynamics.com

Riffraff Diesel
541.879.1052
riffraffdiesel.com

RYD Motorsports
604.210.5170
rydmotorsports.com

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