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Project "Free Jeep" a.k.a Project "FJ" - part #9
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(11/27/06) There is a little thing I like to call, the rule of safety. By this, I mean that I will never allow anything to go out on the road with it being unsafe to drive at any speed... a.k.a. the Nader principle on the Corvair. When you get "Free" stuff or pay very little money for it, there are usually issues with it. This is why I want to take some time and show you what to look for when getting "Free" axles and usually what is wrong with them.

To start with, I take the axle that I was given in a trade. It supposedly was a 1982 Wide track axle, unknown gearing ratio and came off of a pretty nice Jeep that had some body/frame issues. So, it has been sitting outside for a while and once I got it, I brought it up to the garage and has sat for the last 4 months. Not a big deal, but as I looked at it closer, there was a lot of rust and scale on all the parts, although everything seemed to move freely.
So, you take a look at all the parts, the tie rod ends, the u-joints, the calipers, the brake rotors, brake pads if you can see them, how are the ball joints, does the piston move in and out in the caliper? All these questions need to be answered so you can figure out what you want to replace. Now this is not an endorsement to do it on the cheap. This is your life we are talking about, so you can do what you please, but for me, steering and braking are up there at the top of the list on things you don't skimp out on.

Upon further inspection, I noticed that the vent tube was missing. I think I saw it somewhere in the pile I got, but that gave me some reason for concern, as you don't know what got into your gears if that hole wasn't plugged up. The hubs spun freely and went into and out of 4-wheel drive without and issue, but there was a clunking when I tried to spin the axle from the yoke. More on that later.
So, without further delay, I started to take out the cotter pins, get the castle nuts off the tie rod ends and drag link ends and started to get closer to the pumpkin for further inspection inside. You can use a puller to remove the tie rod ends, or in my case since they were extremely worn, you can get a BFH and just slam them through the holes. A couple of whacks and they were lying on the garage floor.

With all that out of the way, I popped off the drain plug, loosened and removed all the bolts except for the top 3 or so and started to pry off the cover to drain the gear oil. You keep the 3 bolts on the top, so the cover doesn't come off and fall into the oil and then you have to deal with that. This cover was on pretty good, so a couple of gentle whacks with the rubber mallet on the side and it started to come off.

What I found pleasantly surprised me. The oil was pretty clean, the gears looked to never have been used, and the stamping on the ring gear said that it was a 11-30-81 production date, so that fits with the idea that it is a 1982 axle, it has 43-13 stamped into it, so that means that if you divide the numbers, you get 3.31 gears, not too bad, and finally, everything inside the case looked to be in pretty good shape. I am not sure if this was wheeled or not, but all indications are that it wasn't.
I turned my attention to the brake calipers next, there were some brake hoses cut off on the calipers, so I removed them (make sure you have a bucket, there is some excess fluid in the calipers, or it will leak), and then I put the banjo bolts back in so it wouldn't continue to drip. The calipers are held in place on the 1982-86 models with 2 7mm hex bolts that were in there pretty good, so after getting them out, a tap with the hammer and the calipers and the pads came out pretty easily. I then did the other side and made a trip down to the auto parts store to get some replacement parts before I started on the rotors and hubs.

With the calipers off, I could see that the axle u-joints were really sloppy. It looks as if they were rotted away by rust. Not sure how that happens exactly, but when trying to turn them wheels with the 4-wheel hubs locked, it made a loud clunking sound. I got a new set of u-joints as well when I was at the store. They didn't have the rotors or the calipers, but had pads and u-joints, go figure. They had ball joints in stock, but none of the steering parts or the dust shields. I could tell from examining the axles that the dust shields were rusted through the backside, so they will end up needing to be replaced as well.

One last thing to mention is the axle seals on the inside of the pumpkin. These usually leak after time and I will replace them without question, just so I don't have to go through this again. It has been quite a lot easier doing this on the jack stands then it was in the vehicle itself. I highly recommend it.
So, I am waiting for some parts to come in, but I will take more pictures of the disassembly and then clean up the axle, paint it and all the parts and put it back together so I have a foundation to put the frame on hopefully over the winter. As I said earlier, you can do what you want on the front end and replace as you see fit. I know this costs money; I will have a tally for this later as no one is willing to part with brand new pieces. Sometimes you can get away with what you have, as for me, I would rather replace it at this stage of the game, as it is easier to do when it is all apart. Again, up to you.

The tally will probably be in the $300-400 range when I am done I would imagine. Kind of defeats the purpose of the "FREE JEEP" concept, but I wanted this to be safe and road worthy... You can have a body full of some small holes, but you can't have a jeep that doesn't steer or stop... More on the axle tear down and build-up in the next update.

cb (11/27/06)
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