17 May, 2012

And just like that, the plucky, rusty little Maxwell had its rear axle back

There's nothing quite like the advent of summer when I get to wake up on my own accord, throw on some ratty clothes and head up to The Garage to work.  I'll take a pop or two to drink, turn on the Oldies and wander around doing whatever job catches my fancy.

To start this summer, which is the first in ages where I'm not taking a class or needing to be in another city, I've already spent two days exclusively up in The Garage working on the Maxwell.  I have a long list of things I want to accomplish this summer up there, but the Maxwell is first on the list.  Over the last 48 hours I've probably spent eight or more up there squatting down behind the Maxwell formulating a plan, hitting it or spraying it with WD40 (I'll explain shortly).

Yesterday I started things off by inspecting the new U-bolts the gentlemen at my dad's workplace made for the car.  They used a couple of the broken off originals to fabricate new ones out of incredibly durable grade-8 bolts, and I must say, I'm extremely impressed with their work.  The old ones are on the right in the picture, and one of the original square nuts is sitting among all the new ones.)  I was apprehensive about how they would fit, and after trying to put them on, my fears were confirmed.  Three of the four refused to sit down over the leaf springs, and bashing the heck out of them with a hammer wasn't working.  First off, there was absolutely no room under the car to get a backswing when I wanted to use the hammer.  Second, even when I could made contact with the new bolts, nothing would happen.  They would wiggle one way and go down slightly, then they'd wiggle another way and raise back up slightly.  It was maddening.

After trying various implements of destruction for a while, I grabbed some oversize washers and managed to get the newly-fabricated square bolts started on a couple of the threads.  Using the longest wrenches I could find, I grunted and pushed against the whole car until I managed to get the U-bolt pulled down slightly.  I then put the other side's nut on and tightened that.  Alternating back and forth I eventually got all of the U-bolts down.  As you can see in the picture, they contrast quite clearly with the rust and with the leaf springs that I've already primed.  I let them sit for a few weeks to relax a little since I was needing to finish the school year anyway and wouldn't be back to work on them until summer.

The problem yesterday was the fact that the threaded areas (I'll call them legs) of the U-bolts weren't even close to lining up with the holes on the axle.  That's not good.  I precariously balanced the axle on our old two-ton jack and slowly raised it off the ground where it's been sitting for nearly a year.  It was quite apparent when I got the axle up to the bottoms of the legs that this was going to be far from easy.  I mentioned on Twitter (@WoodsiesGarage) that this probably wasn't going to be a quick job, and sadly I was right.

I sat back and stared at the car for quite some time contemplating what to do.  I could maybe get a couple of the holes to line up, but as I jacked it up farther, it would push the U-bolts that weren't lined up off of the leaf springs.  I'd be back to square one with them.  I proceeded to try a few different, wild ideas to get them right.  I hit them with rubber mallets, with regular hammers, with wrenches, I tried to pry them sideways, on and on.  Eventually I got the left rear one to line up (you're looking at the right side in the picture above, so the one on the right is what I'm considering "front") and got the bolts on.  That put me a little closer with the four on the right side, but still not quite.

I began pulling on the axle in every different direction, often to the point of rocking the car almost off of its stands.  Soon I had a couple of the right side legs lined up, one of which was even extending through the axle hole.  I could just barely get a nut on it, so I then employed a potentially injurious method of using two large wrenches hooked together to get more torque.  Slowly but surely the bolt pulled down, and soon I was able to get it tightened.  I then got the front right tightened the same way (only smashing my hand a few times as the wrenches slipped), but the left front U-bolt was eluding me.  Unlike all of the rest, this U-bolts legs spread outward instead of going straight downward, meaning I'm about half an inch off of the holes.

After trying various methods of squeezing them together, I bashed the U-bolt a thousand times and managed to get it to pop off the leaf springs.  Putting a bolt on each leg so as not to damage the threads, I then squeezed the thing in the vice to close the legs together.  My dad arrived to make sure I was still alive and took the U-bolt to grind on the inside.  After nearly burning his hands on the hot metal, we had ground and bent enough so that the bolt slid right over the leaf spring and fit perfectly!  And just like that, the plucky, rusty little Maxwell had its rear axle back.
Look Ma, no jacks!  The axle is hanging perfectly!

I think that's probably good for this post.  More to come about my activities today, but that will come later.  Ah how wonderful it is to get back in The Garage again!

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