Monday, February 22, 2010

Successful Traveling Mechanic

My weekend was a kaleidoscope of car care. After driving 300 miles to Brianna and Nich’s apartment Friday night and spending the night on their couch, she and I took her car to her future in-law’s garage. We blocked the wheels and put the right rear up on a jackstand. It was an easy diagnosis of a bad rear bearing, with scraping noises as the wheel turned and an eighth-inch or so of axial play where there should have been none. That meant the entire axle assembly had to be replaced since the bearing is pressed on. After removing the wheel and hub, we were able to get the four nuts off that hold the bearing retainer and pull the axle out of the differential. The next part of the axle replacement was what I’d feared would be a show-stopper. That was pulling the u-joint hub off the splined end of the axle. My previous experiences with this joint was that it took a lot of heat and a lot of torque on the puller bolt to get it off, so I’d packed a propane torch fully expecting to use it. As I lay prone on the garage floor attaching the puller to the hub and turning the bolt against the shaft end, I looked at all the drivetrain parts and wondered I was going to keep the flame on the hub and off everything else. All that worrying was for naught since the socket wrench kept turning the puller bolt and the hub kept moving down the spline until it fell off the end of the axle. With the hub off, I climbed out from under the car and did a little dance and said a bunch of “Thank You, Lords.”

We weren’t totally in the clear however. I’d discovered that when the bearing wore and the drum moved out a little it took the brake shoes with it. This side load pulled out one of the wheel cylinder retaining screws stripping the outermost threads of the hole. I asked Brianna to run to the store to buy the next longest screw.

I kept myself busy while Brianna was off bolt shopping by trying to improve the brightness of Heidi’s left side brake light. I figured it was poor grounding, so I loosened the socket housing screws and jiggled the housing. This was supposed to scrape off any corrosion between the sharp tangs of the housing and the car body. This didn’t appear to work at first, but then all of a sudden the light got bright. Thinking I had the problem solved I screwed the lens back on and called the repair a success.

By this time Brianna had returned with the new fastener. With a couple washers under the head of the screw, the wheel cylinder was tightly attached again.

With that hurdle crossed, it was time to install the rebuilt axle assembly I’d brought with me. The hub-less axle end slid easily through the opening in the brake plate. With anti-seize applied to the splines, I tapped the u-joint hub on and installed the retaining bolt and washer. As Brianna guided the bearing retainer flange over the four studs, I slid the u-joint spline into the differential. Four washers and nuts later the axle replacement was complete. I put the drum back on, mounted the wheel, and took Heidi off the jackstand. After tightening the wheel lug nuts and tapping the wheel cover back on, Heidi was good-to-go.I followed Brianna and Nich as we drove to lunch and watched how nicely the brake lights and turn signals worked. At least until the right side got dim again. Irrrr. Since the light was working, I told her she shouldn’t get pulled over. The next time I see Heidi I will have a new socket with a ground wire that I’ll replace the current one with. That should solve the problem.

We finished our nice lunch of BBQ and I headed down the road to my buddy, Bill's, house. The rest of my weekend was spent working with him on his 1964 Pontiac Tempest. The tie-in to Corvair Fleet Management is that I watched as decisions were made and panels were fabricated to fix the car's rusty, right rear sheetmetal. I learned skills and techniques that I'll put into practice when repairing Glinda.

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