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Hi guys just joined the forum to get a few questions answered. I have a chance to purchase a 03 durango for a good price. I want you guys to sell the durango to me as oppose to a tahoe or xterra. I'm looking to wheel it so I need info on this vs other makes. What would be the overall cost of building a decent rig? How long would I get out of it?
Thanks everybody
I look forward to your responses.
 

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OK, you want advice? Don't get an '03 Durango to build as an off road rig. The front IFS and differential will not handle large tires with serious off roading.

If I were in your shoes, I'd be on the lookout for a good TJ with a solid frame, although I wouldn't pass up a good deal on a YJ. A nice XJ or a pre-88 4Runner (preferably 1985!) if I needed an SUV. Watch out for 89-93 (as I recall) 3.0L V6 in Toyotas, they had a head gasket flaw. An old FJ would be sweet, but they're hard to come by. An older Discovery would be neat, but they're on the British side of reliable. When they go, they're unstoppable, but they don't always go.

I did a lot of wheeling when I was younger, and if I learned anything, it's that solid front axle is the way to go. Way stronger, cheaper and easier to work on, and more durable.

How'd I do?
 
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As mentioned, the Durango is not designed for serious off-roading. the trail ride side performs well. there are members here that has done serious offroad, but hey also built the D to perform. Front SAS will be installed if you want the articulation (Or a better front diff)
 

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When you say "wheeling" how difficult are you looking? The 03 will do trail and medium rock work with 31" MT's quite well, although what has been said @ front axle is true to an extent, it can be done as long as you are mindful of the axle's weaknesses. The 99/98 are a better choice but not hugely better because they have the Dana 35 axle which is a a little stronger, but way not bullet proof. I have a 99 and do black diamond trails fairly efficiently. The D is a little wide for really serious jeep trails, but if you don't mind brush scratches it will do well. It will never be able to do the "Hammers" or some of the hill climb stuff back east without going to a serious AS an a lift in the rear. It wil do fine for sand and desert runnin sis with good tires and the torsion bar/shackle lift that gives you @ 2" of lift for @ $50.
 

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Years ago, I had a '98 Dakota on which I installed the Tuff Country lift and 33" tires, and ran it on the beach and sand dunes. The lift was installed because my wife wanted it. We did ok, but it was clearly not up to the task of taking a beating like I, in my youthful exuberance, wanted to give it. I ended up getting a Jeep for off road adventures and relegated the Dakota for the road.

Conventional IFS (we're not talking about the H1 Hummer here) is not up to the task of serious off road in any configuration. If you're building an off-road vehicle, do yourself a favor and start with a good platform. Any money you save by getting a "good deal" on that Durango will very quickly be absorbed by the added costs generated by trying to build what was designed as a mall crawler into something that it was never designed for.

If I want a machine to wash my clothes, no one would suggest that I modify a discounted dishwasher just because it's a little less money than a clothes washer. Get the machine that was designed to perform the job you want it to perform.
 

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It wasn't the lift, although nobody liked the Tough Country lift at that point. It was the 33's that caused any and all problems. They provide too large of a moment arm for the limited strength of the font axle. Staying with 31's is the only real way for longevity with the stock axle in ay year, but especially with the Corporate axle. The housing can't take the stress. People that have trailed with me know that I don't baby any rig, but I have managed to keep my original front axle for over 160k miles putting a lot off off-road mileage on it. Still, if you are planning a real rock crawler go with a solid front axle.
 
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