Recently, while at an alignment shop, I asked a technician if he could do alignments on old cars, explaining to him that they were cars of the 40's and 50's and were of king pin design. I told him I had all of the specifications and would have replaced and checked all of the front end components before I brought the car in. He told me that he could do it, but sometimes it might be necessary to heat and bend some of the steering components and that could be dangerous. Could be dangerous? That IS dangerous!
When I got back to my studio, I couldn't wait to go through the motors manuals. I wanted to be open minded, but the story I remember about re-heating heat-treated parts was about a Packard guy who wanted to remove the rear brake drum on a 48 Packard Custom 8. These drums are pressed on and have to be removed with a heavy duty 3-fingered puller. He didn't have one, so using a torch, he heated the drum and axle and beat on them with a hammer until the drum came off. Then after putting on new shoes, he took the Packard out for a test drive. You guessed it--the axle broke, the wheel came off, slamming him and the car against a retaining wall!
As I went through my manuals looking up alignment for king pin cars, alignment procedures were similar. Here's what I found. First, I'd like to give a quick review of what a king pin alignment consists of. It assures that the wheels run true on properly adjusted bearings and that the steering system is properly lubricated. I am choosing information from a Chevy manual, since it is a good representation of most king pin systems.
KING PIN INCLINATION: The amount in degrees that the king pin tops are inclined toward the center of the vehicle. This helps to provide steering stability.
CASTER: The amount in degrees of the backward tilt from vertical of the king pin and knuckle support, also contributing to steering stability, similar to a bicycles front forks backward tilt that makes the bike self-steering.
CAMBER: The amount in degrees that the front wheels are tilted outward at the top from a vertical position. Tilting the wheel out at the top tends to make it run out from the vehicle. In other words, the left wheel pulls to the left and the right wheel pulls to the right. When a wheel is tilted out too far at the top, the result is wander and hard steering. Excessive wear on the outside will show on the tires. The car will pull in the direction of a wheel that is tilted more than the other. When wheels tilt in, tires wear on the inner shoulders.
TOE-IN: When the wheels are closer together in the front than at the rear. This is measured in fractions of an inch.
ADJUSTMENTS OF CASTER AND CAMBER are made by turning the upper control arm pivot pin.
The KING PIN support is held centrally on the pivot pin, which indexes with a groove in the pivot pin. This pivot pin is eccentric. This is evidenced by the movement resulting when the pin is turned. The factory recommended procedure for adjustment is to turn the pivot bolt until the travel of the bolt threads in the bushing gives an exact caster setting. Then turn the pivot bolt in the direction to reach the correct camber adjustment. The direction depends upon the eccentric's position (a tolerance of ½ degree is usually allowable).
King pin inclination and camber are interdependent. To change one changes the other. Chevrolet stated that front-system parts were exceptionally strong because of heat treating and that heating and chilling steering gear parts for alignment is a dangerous practice.
TO ADJUST TOE-IN: Loosen clamp bolts at each end of the left hand tie rod. By turning this tie rod, you can increase or decrease
its length until you have the correct toe-in. Then the clamps are re-tightened.
This article is not intended to cover every aspect of front wheel alignment, but to strongly suggest that before you have any work done in or out of your shop, do your research! Read the basics of the project in motors manuals or google it on the internet. It might save your car, and maybe your life!
We next turn our attention to Universalsspecifically, the types used on many of the 30's and 40's American cars. When cars sit for periods of time, or fall victim to neglected lubrication schedules, they need to be disassembled and the bearings packed with grease, using the correct manufacturers recommended lubricant. Checking your Motors Manual and calling your supplier to cross the old grease type to modern availability grease is imperative! If a straight 90-weight is recommended, find 90-weight, not a multi-viscosity, just because its on the shelf at your local auto parts stores. We have found that NAPA can get many OEM greases and mineral oils.
When bearings are packed, check the seals and replace them if necessary. Remember before removing universals, that they are balanced with the drive shaft to prevent vibration, so look for a mark on the drive shaft and splined yoke so the parts can go back together in their original balanced order. If you don't see any marks, make your own by marking the location of the splined yoke to the drive shaft and the flanged yoke in relation to the flange before disassembly.
This article focuses on open drive shaft cars, not torque tubes, such as Buicks, Chevrolets, etc. See the Archives section on our web site for past coverage.
DETROIT Cross & Yoke Type (Figure 1, see above)
Chrysler 8 (36-37); Chrysler C20; C23 with overdrive; C24
Hupmobile 8 (35-36)
Packard Straight 8 (35-36)
Packard Super 8 (37-38)
Pierce Arrow (35-38)
This type of joint should not be disassembled, unless the damage is between the cross and rollers. There are no adjustments to compensate for wear, and any parts that are worn should be replaced. To disassemble the joint, remove the cross-bushing, lock ring and withdraw the cross bushing and bearing assembly. Then worm the cross out of the yokes. Remove the seals and retainers. Assemble in reverse order, installing new seals and lubricating the joint.
DETROIT Ball & Trunnion Type (Figure 2)
American Bantam (38-40)
Chrysler C16, C18, C19, C22, C23 (without overdrive)
Packard 6 (41-42 front)
Willys (35-37 plain bearing)
Willys & Overland (38-40)
Willys Americar (41-42)
Overhaul: Remove joint body-to-flange bolts, straighten the metal cover clip (at end of joint), then slip the cover from the body. Push the body toward the propeller shaft and remove the body cover. Remove centering buttons and springs from the ends of the cross pins. Push the cross pin through the end of the propeller shaft. Assemble in reverse order, except the cross pin should be installed before the roller. Lube as specified.
DETROIT Cross Type (Figure 3)
DeSoto (40 & 7-passenger 41-42)
Packard 6 (41-42 rear)
Plymouth (41-42 7-passenger)
Overhaul: After the propeller shaft is removed from the car, remove the spring that holds the cross roller bearing blocks on the cross, then remove bearing blocks, dust seals and rust seal retainers. Remove cross bearing retainers, bearings and dust seal retainers from the cross. After cross is removed, check the condition of the parts. No adjustments are provided, so any worn parts should be replaced.
Assembly: make sure all parts are clean and lubricated and assemble in reverse order. If the splined joint at the front of the propeller shaft was disassembled, make sure the balance arrows are lined up.
SPICER (Figure 4)
Nash (4160, 4180)
Overhaul: For propeller shaft and joint assembly removal, remove the U-bolts, four nuts and lock washers, and remove the U-bolts, then remove the two bearing assemblies and the shaft. Compress the snap rings that hold the other two bearings in place, carefully tap on one bearing with a soft hammer to drive out the other bearing, then tap on the cross's other end to remove the remaining bearing. After cleaning all parts, make sure there are no grooves on the bearing surface of the cross and that the bearings cups are chip-and-groove-free. Re-assembly: Lubricate, install new oil seals in place on the inner ends of the cross, position the yoke and journal cross so that one bearing assembly can be inserted from the bottom and the other bearing from the top. Put snap rings in to lock bearings in place. Place the other two bearing assemblies on the cross and press them into position. Replace the U-bolts and lock plates and nuts. Remember to bend the lock plates ears to lock the nuts. Align arrows on the spline end and yoke.
Hupmobile 6 (35-36)
Packard Super 8 (35-36)
Packard 12 (35-39)
Overhaul: With the propeller shaft and joints assembly removed, the joint can be disassembled by squeezing the ends of the snap rings that hold the bearings in position in the yokes. Remove the bearing cups by tapping on the opposite one, then remove the remaining two bearing assemblies in the same way, then remove the cross. Assemble in reverse of the above.
MECHANICS (Figure 6)
DeSoto (41-42 except 7-passenger)
Nash 6 (37-40)
Oldsmobile ('35-'40, '41-'42 partial)
Packard Super 8 (39)
Packard 6 (40)
Pontiac (37-40, 41-42 rear)
Overhaul: Remove the plates which hold the bearings endwise, then rest the flange bearings between vise jaws, suspending the yoke that holds the round bearings. Striking the suspended yoke, the yoke member will be driven down until it comes in contact with the cross, leaving the bearing protruding. After removing one of the bearings, turn the assembly over and repeat on the opposite bearing. Clamp the end of one of the protruding bearings in a vise, striking the yoke until the bearing is released from the yoke. After removing the other bearing in the same way, the cross can be removed. Examine all parts, replacing worn ones.
Assembly: Make sure the trunnions are clean. The old cork seal washers on each of the trunnions (to prevent incoming dirt and keep in lubricant) should be replaced. Rest one of the yoke forks on a flat piece of metal, leaving the other fork member freely suspended. Drive one of the bearings in so that the open end comes flush with the inside of the fork. Insert the cross to the opposite hole without the bearing. Place it into the bearing. Flip the assembly and rest the bearing on the flat surface and drive in the other bearing. Now clamp the shaft in the vise and drive both bearings flush with the yoke forks outer surface and assemble the plates over the bearing ends. When assembling these plates, be sure that the screw lock plate is in the correct position on the bearing plate and when the screws are tightened, turn up one of the lock plate ears against one of the flats of each bolt.
Nash 6 (35-36)
Nash 8 (35 4260, 4280)
Oldsmobile (3536, 42 partial)
Packard 6 (37-39)
Packard 120 (35-41)
Packard Super 8 (41)
Packard (42 all)
This joint consists of two flanges assembled into a rigid unit consisting of a cross and four needle bearing assemblies. The cross's journals are drilled to provide an oil reservoir. Bearing assemblies consist of bearing rollers held in place by metal retainers with cork gaskets. The retainers will prevent the bearing rollers from falling out while disassembly.
Overhaul: To remove the joint, remove the cap screws that hold the journal caps to the yokes, then pull the retainers off of the cross journals and remove the needle bearing assemblies.
Assembly: Wash all parts and blow out with compressed air. Re-pack the bearings (their joints can only be lubricated by disassembling (Figure 7). On the '35 Cadillac, (Figure 8), there is a grease fitting for external lubrication. The rest of the construction is the same as Figure 7.
MECHANICS [Saginaw is similar] (Figure 9)
Oldsmobile (41-42 partial)
Pontiac (41-42 front)
Servicing this joint is the same as described in Figure 6, except that the trunnions are held in place by lock rings instead of clamp plates.
Many times, in restoring pre-WWII cars, replacement parts may not be available, and some people want to keep all of the cars original parts. I hope this article will help in doing this.
See you next month, and keep em driving!