Rzeppa setbacks

After another weekend of work, I’m getting fairly close to having a rolling chassis in my garage. This weekend was all about getting the pieces for my front axle prepped for paint and final assembly. This meant sandblasting, sandblasting, and more sandblasting. I got the rest of the brake parts blasted and ready (both backing plates, drums, and lower connecting plate), the hubs completed, and the differential cover blasted and cleaned. I’ll have to go back and get the spindles that I swapped out when I did the axle shaft removal from the parts Jeep though, since the correct bushing are on those ones, and they’ve already been cleaned and painted.

With all that blasting done, it was time to get down to the axle shaft disassembly. I started with the short shaft since it was easier to wield around and deal with. After getting enough grease off of all the ends and parts I noticed that there were three small screws on a retention plate holding the whole thing together. I also noticed what I imagine to be some sort of “locking” procedure to make sure the screws didn’t back out. Once the screws were set, a punch was used to deform the metal around the screw and plate to keep them together.

Once I “reformed” the metal and slowly backed the screws out, I was left with the two cages and ball bearings. It took me about 45 minutes to figure out how everything came out, since everything appeared to be too big to actually come out of the casing. After pulling out the middle pilot pin, I was able to rotate the cages past their normal travel and pop out the ball bearings. Then, I removed the inner cage by aligning the races with the wide windows on two sides of the outer cage, and from there it pretty much all came out. Moving on to the next shaft, the first thing I noticed after unwrapping it was the chipped spline on the differential side. I was not happy to see that. Here I thought the $400 parts Jeep was about to save me $375 in new axle shafts. Now it looks like I’ll have to at least replace that shaft unless I can get the other Spicer jointed one fixed. We’ll find out on Friday.

After the disappointment with the shafts, I decided to tear into one of the locking hubs I pulled from the parts Jeep. ┬áThese Warn model M54A locking hubs were one of the things that I was hoping to put onto a finished Jeep that would be non-stock (the other big one being an overdrive). The front axels are full floating which means the wheel rests on a fixed spindle. Since the spindle is fixed, the hub is driven by a drive flange that ties the end of the axle shaft with the hub, thus enabling the transfer of power. A lockout hub, like these Warns, have an adjustable drive flange that can be disengaged from the tip of the axle shaft to allow the wheels to move without the whole axle being engaged. Even when in 4×2 mode, the movement of the front wheels causes the entire front axle, drive shaft, and transfer case to spin, putting unnecessary load on parts that aren’t actually being used for a transfer of power.

The goal now is to get the parts painted on Friday and take my axle shaft down to a driveline place to see if there is any actual problem with the shaft (the yolks look bent to me) or if the joint is just crooked. If that shaft is good, I can get a new joint to install, purchase a rebuild kit for the remaining Rzeppa joint, and be on my way. Here’s hoping Friday is filled with good news.


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