Chapter 18: Is the Deuce Back?

The Deuce

Where’s the Deuce?

So, it’s been a while since the Deuce has seen the outside of my garage. This was due to the rear axle tube being seriously damaged due to sloppy u-bolts. The damage was 4 deep grooves in the axle tubes, the front spring mounts being wallowed out, and the rear shackles being bent. That project had just started with me wanting to replace the shocks and springs.

Initially, I was having trouble finding someone to weld up the axle tube, so I turned to my favorite marketplace, Craigslist. After a few days, I found an axle assembly that would work. Of course, it wasn’t the same gear ratio or a detroit locker, so I figured I would just swap the guts over to the never axle.

And this is where it got complicated and drawn out. I took them both apart, and made a set of setup bearings. I wrote down all the original shims but failed to check the contact pattern of the pinion and ring gears. Using the guides, I adjusted the shims as needed, dailed in the backlash and checked the pattern. It was near the toe on both drive and coast sides, drive was a little high from center and the coast was closer to the root. The pattern was not like anything in the manuals.

Another mistake, I started changing the shims around. I wrote everything down, but the pattern never got better, only worse. Of course, work kept getting in the way. I’d think I’d be making progress, but the stop and start kept messing with my mental organization. The frustration made me avoid the project, as I rarely had enough time to work on it uninterrupted for any length of time.

Time dragged on and I ended up working and driving Homer more and more. So, the Deuce just sat in the garage in pieces, up on jackstands, with no rear axle.

For about a year.

Maybe more.

I’d go back to it every few months. Interpret my notes, make a change, and get frustrated over the results. Repeat.

Then, the year of the pandemic hit. We had a few jeep trips planned, but the weather cut the first one short, and the second was scrubbed due to me finding both rear axle spring mounts cracked. So…time to get at it.

I decided to go back to the original axle housing, all welded up now, and revert back to my original shims and checked the pattern. It wasn’t ideal, but after seeing how the pattern changes with either pinion shim or backlash changes, it wasn’t going to get better. It also matched the pattern I had originally seen on my first setup on the new axle. So, I dialled in the backlash one last time and re-checked the pattern. Then it was time to pull off the setup bearings, press the new ones on and then one…last…final…assembly and torque of everything. It felt good to bolt that rear cover back on.

While I had been struggling with the setup, I had noticed that the end of the axle looked funny. The splines on both of the axles were twisted were they load into the differential. Luckily, I had just bought another axle. Two good axles to use. Might as well replace the rear brake cylinders and they both looked like hell.

Then it is a simple matter of figuring out the drum brake setup with an e-brake cable. There is nothing simple about drum brakes. But I finally figured it out without losing an eye.

And this means I finally get to install the new springs and shocks! Oh wait, there was one minor issue left. The forward spring perches on the frame were both wallowed out due to excessive axle movement. I had to grind down the mushroomed metal, and then weld plates onto the outside of the perches. Then the springs and shocks went on. Hook up the brake lines, bleed the brakes (oh joy) and mount the tires. Once it was down on all 4 tires (yeah!), I torqued the suspension back up.

Throw 5 gallons of gas in the empty tank. Time to start it up.

Attempt one: a lot of cranking until I finally realize that the carb is dry.

Attempt two: prime the mechanical fuel pump and start cranking. This time I smell gas. A lot of it. Just a nice puddle of fuel on the intake manifold. Turned out all of the fuel hose clamps needed to be tightened. Oops.

Attempt three, after waiting for the fuel vapors to disperse: Fired on 3rd crank and stayed lit. Success!! Drove it out of the garage!

That night I decide to take it into town to grab some dinner. The tires are a bit lumpy from sitting, and also being knobby Super Swampers, but the engine runs fine. There is a little pop now and then in the exhaust, but I know there is an exhaust leak by the headers. I hope that’s all it is.

Seems fine until I head down the big hill. Off-throttle, there is definitely something not right. There is a sound. Not when in neutral and coasting, not when accelerating. It definitely sounds like a bearing that has gone bad. Not sure if it is the transmission or transfer case, but since they come out together, I might as well check them both. Great.

Well, that was fun. After over a year of sitting, the Deuce got to drive 20 minutes and gets taken apart again. Sigh.

Maybe I can swap the trans and t-case from Humpty Dumpty into the Deuce and get it running quickly.

Wanna bet?

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