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Knuckle Rebuild
Does your Power Wagon, M-37 or WC have a lot of play in the steering, shimmy of the tires, wandering on the road, require constant herding of the steering wheel, hard rough uneven effort to turn wheels?  Some of the possible causes may lay in front axle Steering Knuckles and or Tie Rod Ends.  

Regardless of the condition of your Power Wagon, M-37 or WC, we are dealing with unknown wear on internal parts, unknown prior maintenance and possible parts breakage.  It is imperative that during a restoration, rebuild, or a vehicle with the above mentioned problems, that the Front Steering Knuckles be torn down and rebuilt.    When I rebuilt my 1943 Dodge WC-53 Carryall, I found the Knuckles in serious condition.  I doubt they had been opened since 1943.  My M-37 did not indicate any of the above problems, yet on tear down I found serious wear of the top trunnion bronze bushing in the knuckle and seriously worn bearings and cups on the lower trunnion.  Without a tear down, these would have never been found. One more important step is replacing the bronze axle bushing and oil seal.  Its an easy job with the Knuckle torn down.  Everything is in the open.

I am also making a modification to the top bronze bushing.  I am changing the bronze bushing to a Timken 23100 bearing and a Timken 23256 Cup.  This eliminates the bronze bushings, which are mostly very low quality reproductions, some not even in spec.  This modification should also make for smoother steering, at least in theory.  The modification is painfully simple, and will be shown in detail as I proceed with rebuilding the Knuckle.

Anyone who can turn a wrench and hold a screwdriver can rebuild a knuckle, its NOT Black Magic.  Normal shop tools will do the job.  The only one special tool needed is a Split Bearing Puller to pull the lower bearing off the trunnion.  You can borrow one or rent it for a few dollars.  Or better buy one from NAPA for $33.00 and you have a new tool.  I bought the needed parts from Vermont Commercial Salvage in Colchester, VT.  They have fair pricing and George is great to work with.  The Phone number is 802-864-4762.  The following parts are needed to rebuild the knuckle with the added bearing modification.  (4) Timken 23100 bearings, (4) Timken 23256 Cups, (2) Gasket and Steel Shim Sets, (2) Sets Felt Rear Knuckle Seals, Gasket and Spring Expander that goes behind the felt, and 5lbs High Temp Wheel Bearing Grease.  

Changing the Tie Rod Ends is simple and should be done at this time, as the tie rod must be dropped from each knuckle.  When you change the tie rod ends, I will show you how to get the Toe In back to where it was with the old Tie Rod Ends, however when finished you should get on an Alignment Rack to set toe In properly.  

You MUST have/use a Dodge Shop Manual to properly do this work.  This album shows step by step how to do the job in pictures and text; however much important information contained in the Shop Manual is not re-copied here.  Consider this as a supplement to the Dodge Shop Manual

Take your time, do it right, These Knuckles hold the wheels on and control the steering……. IT’S YOUR LIFE!!!
Date(s): February 16, 2005. Album by Power Wagon. 1 - 40 of 40 Total. 17265 Visits.
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PUT ON YOUR SAFETY GLASSES or GOGGLES.  This job requires striking a Punch with a hammer, and othr evolutions that can cause flying pieces.  Also lay out two large containers.  One container is for all the parts you take off.  The other container is for old seals, bearings bushings etc.  When your finished your Parts Container MUST be Empty.  Then you know you have not omitted anything.

The Knuckle is in 2 half’s and are not interchangeable side to side.  So as not to get parts mixed, do one side at a time.  Knuckle is stripped, Spindle removed, axle (inner/outer/universal drive joint) removed, Tie Rod End dropped from Knuckle.  I used a Flat end drift punch to drive out Dowel Pin on each side of knuckle before loosening the 4 bolts that hold the knuckle together.  I hold the Punch with Vise Grips to save the fingers...don’t ask how I know to do this.

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This is what you will see after the top and bottom knuckle half’s are removed.  On top is a Bronze Bushing and on the bottom is a Timken Bearing.  The inner axle seal and Bronze Bushing shown in the picture have already been replaced.  However, this is the time to replace both those items.  You can really work in the open.

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Picture of the Top Trunnion Pin with Woodruff Key that keeps the bushing from turning.

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The Woodruff key has been removed (save for re-use if your going to replace the top Bronze Bushing).  For my application, I am replacing the top Bronze Bushing with a Timken Bearing 23100, which is exactly the same size as the Bronze Bushing.  Good Quality Repo Bushings are hard to find.  I have found most to be sloppy and out of spec.  The Bearing solves these problems and will make steering smoother.  Take some fine Crocus Cloth and just very lightly polish the trunnion.

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Timken #23100 NOS Bearing.  Top and Bottom use the same bearing cone and cup.  I bought mine from Vermont Commercial Salvage; George is a great guy to work with.

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Timken Bearing is cleaned and packed with High Temperature Wheel Bearing Grease, and is sitting square on the Trunnion.

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I have a set of old beat up sockets that I use to nudge bearings into place, other people use various size wrist pins.   One way or the other it’s a tight fit, and it has to go all the way down the trunnion till it bottoms.

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Bearing in place on Trunnion

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Lower half of Knuckle with the old cup still in place.  You can see the wear patterns; it felt like a washboard when running your finger around the cup.

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Close up of the wear patterns of the lower bearing cup

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Top half of Knuckle with Cup driven out.  Again I use a large socket that just fits the top of the cup.  With Knuckle supported in the center, My Press or a few whacks with a hammer, and the cup will drive through and fall out.

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Top half of Knuckle with new Cup in place

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New Cup for lower half of Knuckle

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Cup pressed in place.  If you don’t have a Press, use a large socket that just fits the cup, support the knuckle in the center and Tap it in place with a hammer on the socket.

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Shim and Gasket set required for each knuckle.

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Knuckle Rear grease retainer, felt and spring backing for felt.  In all my trucks, I have always found the spring backing to be rusted beyond re-use.

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Note the broken/rusted felt expansion spring steel, also called felt retainers.  My Carryall retainers were also rusted and broken.

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Top bearing is in place, now replacing the original Bronze Bushing.  A Split Bearing Puller is used to remove the lower bearing.  You may have to rent or borrow this Split Bearing puller.  The bearing is on TIGHT!!! And you will do damage without a puller.

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Pack lower bearing with high Temperature Wheel Bearing and install on lower Trunnion.  In this picture, both upper and lower bearings are in place.

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Knuckle half’s are installed top and bottom over the new bearings.  The 1/2" x 13 Bolts are installed and NOT tightened yet, just snug.

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Knuckle Half’s bolted together loosely.  Now the dowel pin gets tapped into the hole between the bolts.  Pin in picture is right over hole.

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Again I hold my flat face drift punch with Vise Grips and tap the Dowel Pin in place.  Once dowel pin is driven in place, torque the bolts retaining the Knuckle half’s
to the torque spec in the Dodge Manual.  See you really do need a Shop Manual, just as much as you need safety glasses.

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Picture of the Top of Knuckle and Bearing Cup

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Lower bearing cap/retainer with new gasket.  Install on lower half of Knuckle and torque to specs in Dodge Shop Manual

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Top of Knuckle ready for top bearing retainer/steering arm to be fastened.  Install and follow torque sequence shown in Dodge Shop Manual.  This step is critical as you are setting the pre load on the upper and lower bearings or top bronze cone bushing and lower bearing.  The hub must be free running, no felt seals, no axles, and tie rod disconnected.  The Spec for Bushing/Bearing is in the Dodge Shop Manual.  There is no  Spec for Bearing/Bearing.  Pre Load must be tight enough to eliminate all chances of play, yet not over load the bearing.  The bearings turn o much more freely, you would have to use a Inch Pound Torque wrench to measure the torque while swinging the knuckle.  Experience will tell you when your tight enough.  This is not a Approved Dodge Modification, thus no published torque spec.  Without question all bearings have a pre load spec, and that spec can be looked up.  But we have no way established to measure ...

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My left spindle was not in the best of condition due to rust.  This is a NOS Spindle still wrapped and sealed in wax.

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NOS Spindle after cleaning off wax and cosmolene.  Before installing your original spindle, change the Bronze spindle bushing.

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Now the inner axle, universal drive coupling and outer drive shaft is installed with lubricant as described in the Dodge Shop Manual.  Then the Spindle is bolted on with
1/2" x 13 bolts.  New Grade 8 is recommended.  On my truck the rotor and hub is installed as I have disk brakes.  The Dodge Shop Manual describes the correct procedure for tightening the hub retaining nut, lock ring and 2nd retaining lock nut.  Before installing your original hubs, Pull the rear snap ring, drive out the seal and remove the inner wheel bearing and clean and inspect.  If any question of quality, replace it.  The same holds for the outer wheel bearing.  Repack with high temperature grease and install.

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NOS left and right tie rod ends will now be installed.

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Left tie rod end after removing from airtight pouch.  Perfect, just like the day it was made.

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The Tie rod ends control Toe In.  Correct TOE IN is critical and cannot be estimated or done with a tape measure.  Here is my trick that gets me back to exactly the same TOE IN that I started with.  This will be close enough for a 6.5-mile drive to a friend’s body shop where he has a computer alignment rack to accurately set the TOE IN when the Bandit is complete.  Spray the OLD tie rod end and tie rod with white paint, be generous and let it dry well.

Enlarge photo 32
Now loosen the tie rod lock nut and bolt and unscrew the tie rod end.  You can see you have a perfect mark where the old end was.  It’s easy to screw the new tie rod end right up to the white paint line.  Now the new tie rod end is exactly where the old one was.  You still need to do a proper alignment of the TOE IN.

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Old Tie Rod end removed

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Generous application of Never Seize on tie rod threads

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New Tie Rod end screwed on Tie Rod right up to the white paint line, locked in place lock nut and bolt, Tie Rod end in Knuckle is tightened to spec in Dodge Shop Manual and a cotter pin is inserted in castle nut.  Missing in this picture is new grease fitting for the tie rod end, which is on order.  You now have completed a complete Knuckle rebuild, changed tie rod ends, new axle seal and bushing and spindle bushing, cleaned and inspected wheel bearings and replaced rear wheel seal.  To complete the rebuild of the steering, I will rebuild the drag links and install AGR Performance/Saginaw Power Steering Box    (www.agrperformance.com )

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Felt Grease retainer is oiled in light motor oil, new felt retainer is on top, old rusted pieces on bottom.    
NOS Cork Gaskets are drying out due to age and can crack and break easy.  I apply a generous coating of light engine oil and let them soak awhile.  Then you can handle them without the cracking problem.   
The top cover/gasket is shown upper left.  This is the piece that covers/seals the joint in the main Felt seal holder.

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Felt Grease Seal holder is put over axle housing.  The Gasket is cut so you can slide it in place easily

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Felt Grease Seal holder, Felt Seal, Gasket are all in place and secured with the  5/16" bolts.  Note the top closure and gasket.  I left it BLACK so you can easily see its location on top of the Seal Holder.

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Another picture of the complete Knuckle Rebuild.  You can see the upper closure better in this picture.

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Final Completed picture.  Now look in your parts tray to be sure you dont have anything you may have forgotten to install.  Check Tie Rod End Nuts for SAFETY COTTER PINS.  RE CHECK EVERYTHING.  Now the tire goes back on and you can take it off the Jack Stands.

Last thing; You can take off your Safety Glasses or Goggles

You should be able to easily do this Knuckle Rebuild on a Saturday.  Start early, and you should be back on Rubber by dinner.  Worst Case my noon the next day.

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