Sunday, February 12, 2012

F-ing Front Axle and Front Leaf Springs: In Progress

Technically speaking, since my last blog, I have made progress.  However, in my own head, it seems like I have done nothing but create big messes and leave lots of business unfinished.  I suppose I am guilty on all counts, too.  Here's an account of how it all went down...

The mystery F on the front axle.

So the mysterious "F" mark I found last week was covered with an inch of ancient, crusty dirt on the front axle.  This early 1944 Willys MB jeep has a pair of matching Ford axles.  Obviously they are not original to the jeep, but they are original to WWII.

I began by removing the leaf springs and then rolling the axle into the driveway.  I used the hand grinder and removed as much as the mess as possible, including the two tires.  Note to anyone attempting this:  loosen the lug nuts BEFORE removing the is possible to do it afterwards, but easier to do before!
Front axle and leaf springs removed.

Cleaning up commenced. 
The steering gear really gets in the way of the cleanup, so I removed the arms and linkage to gain better access.  I was hoping that if I removed the upper castle nut (pictured below), that would be enought to enable me to slide the linkage out.  Unfortunately, it was much too tight, so I ended up removing the brake line guards and the 4 nuts that hold the arm to the axle.  It was a bit more work, but in the end it was probably the right thing to do.  It would have to be removed anyway when I open up the steering knuckle and remove the shaft.
Passenger side arm/linkage amidst A LOT of dirt.

Driver's side...looks a lot like the other.

Steering linkage removed.

Most of the exterior is clean and primed.
With the exterior cleaned (minus the regions on the brake backing plate) I plopped the axle onto a moving dolly and rolled it into the garage to clean the hubs, replace the brakes, and replace the interior oil seals...the same process for the rear axle...but slightly different.
Part I:  remove flange bolts, hub cap, castle nut and use a puller to draw out the flange.

Luckily, the flange did not resist, and slid out very easily.

Behind the flange is the series of spindle nuts and washers that keeps the brake hub from falling off.
With a bit of persuasion, the hub came off and revealed the quite messy brake plate.

Hub and brake plate cleaned.  Steering knuckle is now the black sheep.

Pictured in this mess:  axle spindle, old knuckle seals (half-moon shaped things) and the knuckle itself (looks like a helmet at the end of the axle).  Inside the knuckle was probably 70 years of jeep soup with the main ingredients being grease and oil.  NASTY.
And herein lies the rub...I had ordered several replacement parts about two hours prior to this picture.  Two hours before I discovered that the two knuckle bearings (cones) and the races that they are seated in are worn out (I'm referring to the two circular holes on the side of the helmet pictured above).  Shittake mushrooms.  Hoover Dam.  Sure, I could buy them locally, but they are twice as expensive as the online store.  Consider I need two sets for each side of the axle, and the price skyrockets to about $140 locally.  I'll buy online and pay shipping for half of that.  Thus, progress was halted.  Hurry up and wait for parts to arrive.

The modern replacement seals for the backside of the knuckle were introduced around 1955/56.  The parts are slightly different than the wartime originals.  I am going to modify the originals to fit the modern parts, but still retain the original appearance.
The modern replacement is pressed steel and much thinner than the wartime part.

Original above, new below.
The original parts were four of the half moon pieces with felt and rubber wedged in between.  They would slide across the knuckle ball and keep the grease from oozing onto the outside of the axle.  The new system is a circular rubber seal that fits around the circumfrance of the ball joint, felt covering the rubber seal, and then two pieces of half moon pressed steel.  I am going to use the rubber and the felt seals and then grind down pins that are on the inside of the outer original half moon pieces.  It will look original, but have a better seal.

This is as far as I got.  I elected to clean up my mess and set it aside until the replacement parts arrive.  I figure that I will lose some parts as well as forget where they get installed if I clean up and dissassemble the second side.

With the axle progress impeded and the weekend here, I wanted to play with something on the jeep so I turned to the leaf springs.  Honestly, I wasn't looking too forward to them, mainly because I need to fabricate all of the clips.  They are not hard to do, just a bit time consuming.

The passenger side spring came apart very easily.  I even saved the center bolt (they both broke off on the rear springs).  The driver's side proved to be a bit more of a puzzle.  The shortest leaf was broken, and another was severely bent.  I had two other take-off spring packs from a nasty old busticated, rusticated jeep I bought for parts a few years ago.  So, between the three different spring packs, I was able to make one good one by mixing and matching.  The main downside to doing it this way was that I had to intermingle a couple of Ford leafs into the mix.  Of course Henry Ford made his leafs slightly different in appearance than Willys.
Driver's side...sitting where it dropped.

Passenger side.
Passsenger side separated and the preserved center bolt front, right.
Cleaned and rust preventative chemical applied.

Passenger side primed.
Driver's side separated.  Note the busticated leaf (small one) at the top.

Three for one combined set cleaned and waiting to be primed.
 Can you identify the Ford leaves?  #6 and #10 from the left. 
They are the ones with the corners cut off.

The leftovers.
And thus concludes this thrilling half assed/finished edition of Bo's Messy Garage.  Two halves definitely do not make a whole.  In this particular segment, two halves are just to parts not finished.  To complete both projects, I need to make the eight spring clips and assemble the springs.  As for the axle, it isn't even finished being cleaned yet!  I still have to clean the other side, install and set the brakes, and replace lots of seals, as well as the knuckle bearings.  Don't worry...I'll do another chapter on it all so you won't miss a thing!  Thanks for reading.


  1. warm Greeting

    Have you been thinking about the power sources and the tiles whom use blocks
    I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out the new stuff you post.

    Leaf Springs

    1. Hi Ravi-
      Thank you for the kind words. I started this blog more as a diary for myself. It doesn't take me long to forgot what I have already done, so this will remind me later on...especially if I have to make a repair later!

      I'm not sure if I understand your question. But I have been thinking a lot about the power sources. It will be set up for its original 6-volt system. I have a new wiring harness that I will install soon. Before I mount the tub on the frame, I want to start it up and possibly drive the chassis. I want to make sure the engine will power it and the transmission will shift through all of the gears. If something is not right, it will make it easier to remove and repair without the tub on.

      I never thought that anyone would enjoy or find this blog helpful. Thank you for your kind words! I'll definitely continue this story until the jeep is done.