Working On Torque Tube Cars
Torque tube lines were used on some of the early cars and were continued by some, including Buick, through the 50 s. A torque tube is basically an enclosed driveshaft. From the transmission back, it generally consists of a torque ball, gasket, plate, shims (not all have shims), retainer, seal on driveshaft, then seal at differential. This system we designed to give rigidity to the drive line on rough roads. We have worked on three different cars which use this system: Buick, Chevrolet and Nash. Buick and Nash require dropping the entire rear axle housing to remove the torque tube, but the Chevy has enough movement in the torque tube to loosen the tube at the transmission and push it back to remove the transmission or repair the torque tube. That was the case on our 1946 Chevy 1/2 ton panel truck.
Our current project is our 1958 Buick Riviera 2 dr. continental kit car equipped with Dynaflow transmission. We noticed a large puddle of transmission fluid under the car, so upon putting the car up on the lift. We could see that the torque ball rubber seal was coming apart. This is visible without disassembling anything (see figure 1). The only way to fix it was to drop the driveline and replace the torque ball seal. We proceeded as follows:
1. Disconnect rear axle assembly and move it back out of the way. (Wrap propeller shaft end to avoid damage).
2. Remove retainer bolts, torque ball, retainers and gaskets from rear bearing retainer.
3. All parts must be cleaned and inspected. The torque ball rubber seal is bonded to the metal housing on the 58. Ours was in pieces, so the torque ball had to be replaced. There is a brass bushing which fits into the transmission, and it also
4. had to be replaced.
5. A complete torque ball seal kit was ordered from Buick Specialists (253-852-0584). Lubricate all contact surfaces of the torque ball and reassemble, keeping all parts loose until fitted into place: Torque ball, gasket, plate (no shims on the 58 they are only used on torque balls without the bonded rubber), then retainer seal.
6. The drive shaft is balanced and can only go in one way, by putting the transmission in park and rotating the rear wheels until the propeller shaft fits into the transmission. Push in and bolt up.
7. Reconnect rear assembly, tighten torque ball retainer bolts evenly and alternately to 30-35 ft. lbs.
8. With car level, refill and check transmission for leaks.
With no leaks found, the car was almost ready to test drive, but there had been a chirping noise coning from the drove line. We found a plug in the drive line on the passenger side almost to the rear end housing.
When the plug was removed, we could see a grease fitting. Regular 90 weight grease will not work. A 160 weight gear lube #6336, available from Mobil Oil works perfectly.
During the test drive, everything checked out fine and the chirp was gone! These old Buicks are really fun to drive and are dependable. The only modification to our Special was to upgrade to the finned aluminum brake drums used on the upper Buick series. They go right on with no modification.
With the Buick back on the road, we went back to a problem I mentioned last month on our 36 Packard. Upon acceleration, there was a momentary sound from the engine of not getting enough oil to the bearings. The car had been fitted with an aftermarket screw-on element type oil filter. In our Packaard shop manual, it warns against using anything except a Packard oil filter because there may be too much or little oil volume passing through the filter. This one had a 1/8 oil line in and a oil line from the oil cooler back into the engine.
A test drive showed most of the noise was gone. In fact, we are really not hearing any noise, but will reserve judgment until we have put some miles on the car, to see if their filter did any damage to the bearings. If you have an aftermarket filter, or plan on putting one on your car, you may want to measure your oil flow in and out to prevent any damage from using the wrong filter. Next month, we are going to solve the problem of the shimming engine. See you then enjoy your cars.