The Studeblogger

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Front End Rebuild, Pt. 5: Pop! Goes the Bellcrank

Yes, I know it's been slow around here. The front end is taking longer than I had hoped it would, due to the fact that a) I've been busy (read: lazy) and b) Studebaker International has been backordered on the Lower Outer Pin Kits since April, which effectively prevents me from nailing it back up (since my lower outer pins were completely toasted).

Also, my lower inner A-arm shafts (the big ones that mount the A-arm to the frames) were in terrible shape, much worse than I thought. They moved fairly easily when I removed them from the car, but that was only because the bushing rubber was rotted out; the shafts themselves were rusted to the steel bushing sleeves.

So it's been slow going. I've been contenting myself with copious amounts of degreasing, painting and numerous trips to my local DeNault's True Value to replace tired fasteners. Did you know that 3/8" - 20 x 4" Grade 5 bolts cost $1.09 each? Ask me how I know!

Not 10 minutes ago, though, I had a major victory. The last bit of disassembly had been eluding me: separating the steering reach rod from the bellcrank. Studebakers used center-point steering to the last, which is good because unlike GM's idler-arm ball-joint suspension, the Studebaker has equal-length tie rods that pivot from a central bellcrank, acting on outer kinpins and making for much better steering geometry and much tougher suspension overall. (If my '67 Pontiac's front end had been as worn out as this Lark's, I'd have been in a ditch on the first drive.)

Back to the point, I simply couldn't separate the reach rod from the bellcrank. It was bloody well stuck on there! I tried the pickle fork, of course - worthless. So I posted to the Stude newsgroup ( asking for advice, and it wasn't long coming. Dan Peterson advised that I get the "el cheapo" lever-type ball joint separator from JC Whitney (yes, I know... don't start), so I did.

$19.99 and 3 days later, the UPS man brought this little puppy and I eagerly went straight to the Lark and proceeded to pop off a stubborn tie rod that also didn't want to leave the bellcrank. Success! In 2 minutes, the ratty rod was staining my driveway concrete.

So then I proceeded to put it on the reach rod ball joint and tighten it down. A few cranks - nothing. A few more cranks - nothing. Another crank or two and -- I felt something give. Unfortunately, it was the tool; it's cast iron, and one of the ears simply bent off. I cussed (quietly of course!) and packed the tool back into the JC Whitney box for return to wheretheheckever they are, the reach rod quietly mocking me as I did so.

Well, two more weeks went by and another box came with the replacement tool. So this PM, as the sun was sinking over the fence, I decided to give it a go.

At first, it was much like the last time: a few cranks and nothing. A few more cranks - nothing. Another crank or two and -- well, I figured I'd just leave it on the ball joint overnight and see if the continued pressure would loosen it. And just as I was packing away my socket wrench, SPAAANNNNG! the joint let loose. Can I get a WOO HOO!

Public service announcement: Kiddies, if you try this at home, be sure to leave the castle nut on the end of the ball stud's threads so that the pressure exerted by the tool doesn't distort the threads. This also keeps the separated parts from flying apart at speed, putting a hole in your inner fenderwell, or in you.

So thanks to Dan, and also to the unknown Chinese laborer who cast the el cheapo tool that did the job. Patience and perseverance!

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