The Studeblogger

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 8: Spriings, A-Arms, Finished!

I can't tell you how glad I am to have this project done! Yesterday at 7PM, just as daylight was running out, we pulled the jackstands and chocks and dropped the Lark back onto her own 4 skins. Whew! Just one day ahead of the Code Enforcement deadline.

In my last post, I said I was going to try to get the coil spring on the next day. Well, it took a week to try. On Saturday, I rented a spring compressor from Kragen and set to work.

Unfortunately, the threads were stripped. I took it back, but then had to hunt down another; fortunately, there was another store two miles away. I tried four times to compress the spring enough to get the A-arms together far enough to coerce the kingpin into the steering knuckle support, but no go - there simply wasn't enough weight in the car (the engine is still out). At that point, dirty and tired with nothing to show for it, I gave up for the day.

After a few posts to the SDC Forum and emails to tech guru Bob Palma, it was clear I needed to add pounds to the front of the Lark. I also needed to change my assembly sequence: instead of trying to connect the A-arms at the kingpin, I needed to follow the Studebaker Service Manual's instructions and assemble the entire steering knuckle, then bolt the upper A-arm to the frame while jacking the spring from below.

I went to Home Depot and bought 12 bags of landscape rock and threw them onto the front crossmember - good for about 200 lbs. Then, with the 9/11 deadline just two days away, I invited my brother-in-law Dave and buddy John over to help me get the thing back together.

It worked! With Dave adding another 160 lbs. of ballast and his wife Kitty spotting for daylight under the jackstands, I got the upper A-arm into place and bolted on.

Let me tell you, after the frustration and disappointment of the previous day, I felt like a rock had been lifted off of me! With the driver's side assembled and torqued down, we broke for lunch.

Mmmmm... Tri-tip sandwiches, hot cheese potatoes and plenty of cold Dr. Pepper. Finest kind :)

After lunch, we went back on and got the passenger's side together with a minimum of fuss. Dave had a church board meeting to get to, but John stuck around and we got the tie rods in place before calling it a day. (We could easily have gotten the wheels back on as it was only 4PM, but I had managed to misplace the inner wheel bearing grease catchers that bolt to the inside of the brake backing plates. And I hadn't yet gotten fresh bolts for the backing plates.)

My deadline was Tuesday (today), so I knew that Monday had to be the day she got buttoned up. So, after I dropped Reed at school Monday morning, I swung by DeNault's True Value (the last honest hardware store in Oceanside - thank God they're still here) and picked up Grade 8 bolts, nuts and washers in the proper size.

Side note: I learned, during this project, that you should never use anything less than Grade 8 split-ring lockwashers if you're torquing their associated fasteners to more than 20 foot-pounds. Those Grade 2 things in the bin simply tear themselves apart.

After work, I started bolting on the backing plates and packing the wheel bearings. Studebaker hubs go together very easily: put in the bearings, install the oil seal, shove 'em on the spindle. Slide on the keyed flat washer and then spin the wheel while you lightly tighten the big slotted wheel nut with a wrench. Back off the nut 1/4 turn, spin the wheel again and tighten the nut by hand. Then back off to the first slot and install the cotter pin and dust cap. Done!

All that remained was to bolt on the wheels themselves, which, with daylight waning, was done in short order. My wife, Terry, watched as I pulled the stands and chocks from the rear wheels, and lowered the jack. Light as you please, she slid down and was sitting on her own for the first time since May. Boy, that felt good! All that's left for the front end is to install the shocks and sway bar.

Now, with all four wheels on, we can finally drop the engine and trans back in. Woot!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 7: Kingpin Installation

Well, it's been hotter than Hades the past few days. Too hot for working on cars, really. But I've been at it anyway :)

On Saturday, I began putting the Lark's front suspension back together. It didn't feel like I got a lot done; I started at 10AM and finished at 7PM, working pretty much straight through, and what I got done was reinstalling the upper A-arms on both sides, cleaning, priming and painting the front frame cross-member, bolting in the steering bellcrank center pin and installing the steering bellcrank. 9 hours for just that!

One of the SDC Forum guys mentioned that the cleaning and painting always takes the most time when you're doing repair work, and I think he's spot-on. I spent more time scrubbing and de-greasing that cross-member than doing anything else! But the results are worth it.

(I told my wife that the problem with making one part nice and shiny is that you want to make them all look that way! She wasn't laughing.)

Anyway, I got the goodies back on and was pretty happy at the end of the day. I learned a few important things, too:

  • Get Grade 8 hardware for reattaching all the suspension components. Yes, I know the parts that came off were Grade 5, but after watching four split-ring lock washers twist in half and the bolt heads become deformed while bolting in the center pin, I decided Grade 8 is the way to go for anything this important.
  • Use Loctite. Lockwashers are notoriously ineffective, and you don't want an A-arm dropping off at speed.
  • Buy a good torque wrench. Did you know that the error tolerances given for a torque wrench are for the maximum torque setting that wrench is capable of (unless otherwise specified)? So if you buy one of those cheap Chinese $15 wrenches at Harbor Freight that are rated at ± 4% accuracy and will handle from 10 to 150 ft-lbs., that's 4% of 150 - six pounds plus or minus. Big deal, you say? It is if you're trying to torque a bolt to an indicated 10 ft-lbs.! What you're actually getting could be anywhere between 4 and 16 ft-lbs.! Not acceptable, and not worth betting your life on to save a few bux. Go buy a good Craftsman wrench with a direct-reading scale. You can't put a price on peace of mind.
  • Studebaker's shop manual lists torque specifications for both the bolt and the nut for some fasteners, especially those pertaining to the front end. That means you must install the fastener by torquing the bolt first, then torque the nut separately to the specified amount. Watch out for these; they're easy to overlook.
  • Upper A-arms are identical on both sides. Lower A-arms are not; there is a different part for the left and right sides. Kingpins and steering supports likewise are different parts for each side. Make sure you cross-reference the part numbers and double-check before installing them!
On Labor Day, my brother-in-law Dave came over to help me get some more of it together. I'm glad he was here, since he helped me puzzle out a few things that didn't quite make sense, even though I'd been going over them in the shop manual for months.

Before Dave came, I installed the inner shafts and bushings in the lower A-arms (freezing the bushings helps a lot! Just be sure to wipe off the condensation before pushing them in). By 10AM when he arrived, it was already 90 degrees.

We installed the lower A-arms and then moved on to the hard part - the outer pins, kingpins and steering supports. This has to be one of the most-talked-about operations on the SDC Forum, since it's a slightly complicated procedure that involves calipers, measurements to 1/1000-inch, a special spreader tool and 170 lbs-ft. of torque for each bushing! And if you do it wrong, all your hard work will be destroyed after a few thousand miles. No pressure!

We got the driver's side steering support on, only to find that the shaft would not rotate freely after installation. We undid the assembly and I called StudeBob Kabchef, who was nice enough to lend some phone support. Even though the manual doesn't say so, it helps to pre-grease the inside of the bushings (not the outside!). Also, I had measured wrong with the calipers :P

We re-did the lower pin, and this time it worked. The manual says that the pins must "rotate freely" when the spreader is removed from the A-arms, but what they mean is that it must rotate freely with several hundred pounds of metal imparting inertia. In practice, if you can move the assembly with your hand with some effort and the bushings do not rotate, you are good to go.

We then put on the upper pin (the one the kingpin rides on).

I'd been counting, very carefully, the number of turns each bushing had been turned, making sure that they each received an equal number of turns. But for some reason, on the top pin, the kingpin was not centered no matter how hard I tried! One of the grease seals was massively pinched between the kingpin and the bushing; the other side was barely compressed. I posted to the Forum, and we decided at 2PM to knock off for the day - it was just too damned hot.

Bless the guys on the Forum! My kingpin wasn't centering because it was designed that way. You see, that upper pin is an eccentric; it's used for setting both the caster and camber of the front wheels. You make adjustments by removing the Zerk fitting from the rear bushing, inserting a 1/4" hex wrench, and turning. One full turn adjusts only the camber of the wheel; many revolutions of the pin slides the kinpin forward and backward to adjust the caster. (If you want more details, read this Forum thread.)

Armed with this knowledge, I went out this afternoon and cranked the pin several turns to center the kingpin. Much better!

Tomorrow I'm going to try to get the coil spring and steering knuckle on the driver's side, then on to the passenger's side later in the week. Stand by.

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