Chapter 12: Shifty Homer


Just ripped it out

With the electrical mostly buttoned up, I shifted my attention to the shifty things, namely the transmission and transfer case. I was worried about the transmission ever since I pulled the drain plug and 1.5oz of fluid came out. It was mostly fluid metallic bits. The rear half of the t-case leaked fluid like slow water torture for the floor.

Luckily, CJs have access panels in the floor around the shifters. I pulled those and basically removed the middle 3rd of my floor. The first thing that caught my eye was the 6″ square piece of fiber reinforced rubber stuck to the top center of the bellhousing. Grabbing a corner and pulling produced a satisfying ripping sound. What was not satisfying was the 5″ square hole that was cut into the bellhousing. Why? Maybe to help line things up while reinstalling the trans? Seems a bit drastic to me. I search out and get a junkyard replacement on the way.

Meanwhile, I drop both transmission and transfer case and drag them out. I should mention that the bellhousing to engine bolts were a disaster. Top left was 3 threads loose. Another one was not tight enough to compress the lock washer. One had no washers. One had 4 washers. Two seemed the right length, with washers and torqued down. Amazing.

With my rebuild kit on the workbench, I tore the tranny apart. While there was some wear from decades of use, there was nothing catastrophically bad. I did manage to pick the wrong scribe mark and temporarily install a synchro hub on backwards, but it was pretty obvious.

Old Permatex…Everywhere

The fun part was extracting all the permatex from the gasket surfaces and bolt holes. This guy must have had a sponsorship.

While still waiting on the bellhousing, I decided to figure out what was going on with the motor mounts. The whole engine/transmission/transfer case were almost 2″ rearward. The rear of the left valve cover was dented from hitting the firewall, and the floor had been beat down in order to get the t-case shifter into 2 high. They had also put a 2″ square tube on only the right side of the transmission crossmember. I wasn’t sure where the stock location of the crossmember was supposed to be, as the frame rails resembled metallic Swiss cheese. Definitely not thrilled with that. Not sure what moving the entire assembly backwards accomplished other than to frustrate me. Maybe the long fenderwell headers were an issue.

The motor mounts were torqued over so hard by the transmission crossmember, that one bolt could only be removed by half turns of an open ended wrench; 1/12th of a turn, flip wrench, 1/12th turn, flip wrench back, repeat forever. And it hit the rubber isolator the entire way out.

There was another issue. Surprise, surprise. Assuming that the engine would move around a lot while removing the motor mounts, I decided to disconnect the mufflers from the headers. The right side was easy enough, even though there was no gasket at the 3 bolt flange. But the left… had no 3 bolt flange. It was a fully welded exhaust. From the header to the muffler tip… Including the bolt to the body. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why would you weld a nut, the only nut to the only bolt, to the back of your exhaust system? Lock washer? A couple of jam nuts? Locktite? Anything but a weld. I check the other side, and it is the same story. Someone needs their welding license taken away. Or at least their welder. At least the header bolts to the manifold seemed normal.

A sawzall is an amazing problem solver/creator and made quick work of offending bolt.

My coworker suggested that all these issues were due to an angry mechanic. A lot of the fixes would have taken more time to cobble together than just fixing it the correct way. The angry, hourly paid mechanic just makes sense. Otherwise, there is a really dumb mechanic out there.

I decided to swap the mounts left to right, just to see if it made a difference. It made a HUGE difference. Granted, this is only the engine with the transmission and transfer case are both sitting over there waiting for me to finish them up. But the valve cover no longer looks like it hits the firewall. I can’t wait to bolt up the trans and t-case and see how it lines up.

Tearing apart the Dana 18 transfer case was fun. Again, some PO was showcasing their permatex sponsorship. If anyone ever needed to understand why not to overuse sealant in place of gaskets, around bolt holes in particular, this would be a great example. Every threaded hole was full at the bottom. The one bolt I thought was too long, but no, it was just that the bottom third was greasy permatex. Lots of scraping and digging out holes.

Transmission Guts

There were only a couple of issues with the teardown. I could not get either shifter fork loose. My allen wrench was twisted 45 degrees with the fork too hot to touch and the set screws never budged. So I left them. On the output gear, there was one tooth missing a corner. Upon further inspection, it was a casting defect. Three other teeth had small pits, but they were all porosity or bubbles in the castings. Nothing had self-machined or broken off in the last 47 years and the mating gear teeth looked good enough. But I decide to play it safe and get a new gear. While it is apart is the best time for preventative maintenance, right? At little foreshadowing, don’t trust websites’ “in stock” claims.

I consider putting the transmission back into Homer when the bell housing arrives. It just looks so nice without the 5″ square hole. I also scored an inspection plate so the flywheel wouldn’t be exposed anymore. I’m thinking it would be easier to put the transmission and transfer case back in separately if doing it by myself. So I go to the internet to find a throw out bearing. The current one feels good, but again, why not.

And then it takes a turn. At least I now know why they cut a 5″ square hole in the top of the bell housing.

As I investigate, the 71 CJ5 could come with the old 3 finger clutch pressure plate or the “new” diaphragm design. Obviously, those use different throw out bearings. But the existing bearing on mine? Neither of those.

Thankfully the internet gives me some direction. My bearing is from an ancient Buick Skylark which is the same dimensions except for the fork to face dimension. Mine is 0.3″ shorter than stock. It appears that the PO compensated for this by shimming the end of the clutch cable with a coned nut and several washers. I have to assume that the wrong throw out bearing just happen to already be on the PO’s workbench and that the hole is the bell housing was cut to allow the PO to see how much the pressure plate was being engaged and then they shimmed the cable until they achieved the correct action. It almost makes sense. Almost.

I just hope that the stock throw out bearing works with the shims removed from the clutch cable.

Just ignore Finnessa, She’s being nosy

I start ordering parts to get the parking brake working. Turns out that there are a lot of parts missing. This is the problem of waiting for parts; I start researching and buying more parts.

As my luck would have it, I got the parts in the complete wrong order of usefulness. The last parts I needed showed up in 2 days. I got busy with rebuilding a Toyota 3rd member and suddenly 3 weeks have gone by and the first piece I need, the transfer case output gear, still hasn’t arrived.

I check their website and it claims “In Stock” and “Ships in 2 to 5 days”. What horseshit. I call them up and it is getting drop shipped from the manufacturer. I wait on hold while they check and it turns out that they are on back order which “usually means 60 to 90 days”.

I try to find my inner chi while the tornado of anger swirls around me. We cancel the order for that part and try the other manufacturer. They have 20 in stock. Just send me one. They said they would call me back with an estimated delivery date. Nope.

In order to left off some steam, I take The Deuce out for some drives. The motor is strong, just a bit loud with all the exhaust leaks. The only issue is that the steering seems to wonder a bit more than it used to. Admittedly, I was running the 13.5″ wide Super Swampers aired down fairly low, but it still seemed worse. I bought a new, beefier drag link and tie rod kit for it.

While waiting on the steering upgrades to arrive, I noticed that the rear shackles were both leaning left. Well great, that will need addressed.

My timing luck holds out and I get the Deuce’s steering links before the transfer case parts. At least I have something to work on.

Replacing the steering links was interesting. The left castle nut at the knuckle was fine. The two on the right… were not fine. Neither had cotter pins. The one was loose enough to jiggle around and the other was welded tight. WTF?

A sawzall, hammer and a little blasphemous talk about the PO’s upbringing and it was off. The new one bolted on and was happy. I preset the length based off the old one, so the tow was dialed in.

I drove the Deuce around and enjoyed a fun hour or two in the dirt. It still rode like a tractor, but was fun. I also ran off to Moab, in my modern, reliable Jku for a few days of escape.

What to do while waiting for parts? Go to Moab.

When I got back, my gear for the transfer case was waiting on me. I had to wait a couple of days since I pulled a rib muscle while in Moab. Don’t ask.

There were only two issues with reassembling the t-case. For starters, the intermediate gear didn’t really fit easily through the oil pan opening. Taking it out was fun. There was a chip in the casting around the opening with a sharp point in the middle. I had to line up the gear so that a tooth fit into the sharp point and then rotate the out gear to spin out the intermediate gear. Getting it back together was even more fun with the needles bearings held in with assemble lube. To make matters worse, the total width of the two new thrust washers and the gear were wider than the distance between the thrust washers mounting surfaces. I found this out after my third assembly try. I even clean all the assembly lube off and measured each part individually to make sure there was no debris causing the stack up issue. It was 0.035″ too big. I measured the best old thrust washer and it was about 0.040″ thinner. With all new assembly lube and using the one broken-in thrust, it slid in nice and tight… once I got the intermediate gear past the oil pan opening.

Putting the t-case back together I understand the PO’s use of permatex on the bolts. Just maybe not the amount used for each gasket. The design of the t-case has most of the mating bolts going all the way through into the inner case. So every bolt end is soaked in oil. Just be sensible with amount used.

I get the t-case buttoned up, attach it to the transmission and transmission crossmember. I spend an hour or so trying to get it installed before I took a picture looking in the clutch. It seems my old method of using a small 1/2″ socket on an extension wasn’t quite up to snuff. Time to go buy a clutch alignment tool for the toolbox. After that, it was surprisingly easy. Just ignore all the grunting and swearing coming out from under the Jeep.

With the engine and transmission married, I jack the crossmember up to the frame. It is very is to lining up with some holes on the frame, so I give it a little twist and throw a bolt in each side. Knowing how far off it was before, I am curious how it lines up this time. There is a beautiful gap behind the engine to the firewall and it appears centered between the frame rails. In order to get it the 2″ rearward as the PO had it, I would have had to pry it backward excessively. I’m not 100% sure I could. I shrug it off and install the remaining bolts.

Which frame holes should I use???

I test fit the front and rear drive shalfs. Everything looks good. The front looks happier than ever. So I bolt them on and call it a (late) night. There are some little issues to tie up, but it is mainly together.

The next morning I go about finishing up all the little details. Check torque on everything. Top off all fluids and grease all fittings. I even replaced the sheared off grease fitting on the front driveshaft. I test the e-brake and it works a tiny bit. Upon further review, there is a mounting tab on the brake end of the cable that has nowhere to mount. Connect the speedometer and the air cleaner. One last look over and I’m ready for a test ride.

After I manual pull fuel up to the pump/filter.

It fires and runs and sounds great after a couple of months napping in the garage. Drive it to town for gas, wipers (as I am dodging rains storms today) and out to the DMV to get the registration and license finalized. That’s how confident that it will run for a while. With that, Homer is now legal to drive on the road.

Homer running legal

With our weather skipping from cool summer to late fall chilly, we had only one day of perfect 80s, back when I was still putting Homer back together. Now, I have to wait a few days for the rain to pass and the temps to warm up. During the day, it is in the 70s, but by rhe time I leave work, it is in the 40s. Not the best temp for a Jeep with no heat.

It eventually warms up enough that I drive it to work for 2 days and layer up for the chilly ride home. It is so much fun. Beautiful sunny days and clear starry nights. Then it gets too cold again and I need to put Homer back into his home.

For a short while, but then I start staring at the shocks & springs.

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