The adventures of Phil and Mike

Phil and I have lunch out in town once a week or so. We decided that talking about good lunches we have experienced was almost as enjoyable as the lunches themselves.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A shade tree mechanic may have met his match

No, not like a girl friend or anything, I have a nice wife that puts up with my shit. I may have met the limit of my technical ability to repair my vehicles. I own many vehicles, none of which run... currently. Yes, this is a bad thing. My Big towing truck, an '86 GM K3500 four door, four wheel drive pickup. This has developed an annoying habit of wobbling when it goes over a rough patch of road. So like any good shade tree mechanic, I started looking for, and replacing anything that looks broken, worn, or like it may be suspect. Well, I've replaced the shocks... yes all four. Plus the steering dampener, it's like a shock absorber that keeps the front steering from wobbling, so there are really five shocks. I've actually replaced all five shocks twice, no help. I've replaced the power steering gear twice, only that the mounting screw threads were over-sized on the first one. I guess someone had theirs come loose, and drove that way for a bit. I had the screws come loose on this twice, before I realized it was going to be chronicly loose. So I replaced it again. I've replaced the tie rod, on this vehicle, the tie rod is one piece, you don't get to buy seperate tie rod ends. I've replaced the drag link, it connects the steering gear to the front left wheel. And there is a new pitman arm... yes you get to buy a special tool to replace him. Now, I'm onto the king pins. I have one word about the king pins... DON'T. Don't do it your self. Don't even go there homey. This is a job for manly men, and I think I don't fit into that category any more. Let me try to describe the king pins. On the end of the axel, there is a U shaped piece, with the open end of the U pointing out, and the arms being one on top, and one of the bottom. The arms have holes in the ends, this is half of a joint that allows the wheel to steer left and right. The king pins consist of a steel cone that bolts on the top of the upper arm of the U, and there is a roller bearing let into the bottom. A shaft comes up through the bottom hole, and rides in the roller bearing.

Getting the works apart was... not too hard, lots of dirt and baked on mud. That was the worst part of it, except driving out the lower king pin bearing was pretty tough. The absolute worst part of it, was that the bottom bearing which is supposed to be the part that goes, was in good shape. I was hoping to find it trashed. I've been taking my good sweet time, and painting all the parts with POR-15. Well at least they'll be easy to keep clean.

The real stickler, is that I could not get the top king pin cone off. I liberally sprayed the area with WD-40. I needed a special wrench, that of course would be a one time use tool, and probably not cheap. So I took the shade tree mechanic route, and made my own. I found that the socket in the top of the cone is a 7/8" hex. So I bought a couple of lug nuts at my FLAPS (friendly local auto parts store) of that size. I also bought two (Ahem) grade eight bolts that slipped into the lug nuts. I say Ahem grade eight, because I think the only thing grade eight about commonly available hardware, is the grade stamping. For those not in the know, grade eight hardware is hard steel nuts and bolts, suitable for high stress structural parts of cars. Now, I could have softened the grade eight bolt, when I welded it into the lug nut. Now, my welding is not the best... It's only proper to say "I am not a welder". I can make metal turn orange, and I can make ugly blobs, and I can even make metal parts stick together, but only if I am really lucky. Now, I took my 7/8" lug nut, with a 7/16" bolt welded into the center with 6011 rod. This turned out to be a really ugly blob. But it looked plenty usable, so I slipped my new fancy tool into the top of the king pin, and just for grins, decided I did not need to use my impact wrench, and grabbed an eighteen inch break-over bar. Slipped a socket over the bolt, applied some force with the bar... And proceded to twist the bolt in half. Not to be out done by a small piece of metal, I proceded to weld the thing back together... Then twisted this in half again. Now I have a bolt head, and a lug nut with a half inch long shaft sticking out of the conical end. I filed this shaft down, and slipped the second lug nut over the shaft, and proceded to weld this together. I have some really old 7018 rod (real hard steel), but it is about ten years old, and the shield material has degraded, and I can't get it to sustain an arc. So I did the next best thing, I held the 7018 rod in the plasma while welding with the good 6013 rod.

Now, I can remove the stubborn king pin with a manly tool. I dropped this new and improved tool into the king pin socket, and with my 750 ft/lb impact wrench, I started driving. And driving, and driving... Probably for ten minutes, with breaks to allow the compressor to re-fill. Once again, I tore the tool apart.


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