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The torque ball ["retainer"?] on my '38, can it come off....?


ZondaC12
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I was buying some more yellow-metal safe transmission oil from a local 32-48 ford resto shop, since I let it leak a little too long (no snow until about early Dec and a couple of times recently where the roads were dry and salt-free) and the last quart I bought from them a month ago was almost emptied when I FINALLy got around to filling the trans last weekend.

We got to talking about the bad leak I have from the ball. The green piece here from Greg Roselle's site http://home.earthlink.net/~36buick/images/torque_ball_003.JPG is what I'm referring to here. The guy said he thought that's probably whats leaking, that there might be a two-piece seal in there and I can unbolt that cover (is that the "retainer"?) and replace the seal or even in dire last-resort conditions a piece of clothesline rope (ehhh?? crazy.gif ) could be used instead. That "joint" between the ball and the rest of the torque tube looks like it's too big for that cover to slide over it so I can see what's normally under the cover and access it.

Basically his claim was NO I do not need to drop the rear axle etc. I'm guessing he's wrong, I'm certainly not getting my hopes up anyway. I've thought about dropping the axle myself, it seems like there isn't a great deal holding it on. How about the rear brake hose? Does that offer enough flex for the tube to come off? How is the inner driveshaft attached to the ball? It looks like that little "tailshaft" is probably splined on the inside? How deep is the inner bore? What I'm saying is how much freedom of movement does the tube+axle need and does the brake hose allow that?

I keep thinking and re-thinking this. I don't want to get the car in an unmovable state, I've done some searching here and found claims of the rear spring bolts being <span style="font-weight: bold"> left</span> handed threads??? And stuff about tightening the bolts on this collar JUST RIGHT too loose and it leaks too tight and the ball gets scored it binds possibly these bolts getting BROKEN? This just seems like something ONLY a professional should tackle. Theres a nearby shop that I've seen a couple 1939-1940 ish what I think were chrysler products sitting outside obviously awaiting work, and I frequently see several different early to late 70s caddys and lincolns there too, and some other old stuff. I've thought about calling them and seeing if they'd tackle this. I don't know why I keep forgetting....but I wonder about the cost of this. I'm guessing several hundred at least, and at that I'd rather keep filling it up and using drip pans and dealing with mom when it drips a little on the driveway on the way up into the garage. crazy.gif

Those little pieces of info about the operation have scared me more than enough. What other little surprises would I encounter? The left-handed thread thing is BAD I'd be sitting there yanking on it wondering WHY it wouldn't just come loose. And those are quite rusty too so I'd assume that was the culprit and just add more PB Blaster and force! crazy.gif

I probably oughta just save up and fork it over, huh?

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Paul,

I don't think I suggested in my web site that the rear axle could be left in place. I did the whole torque ball replacement with the engine and transmission out of the car. You will have to find some way of disconnecting the torque tube from the torque ball. I don't know the details of the 1938 Buicks, but on my '36 it uses leaf springs in the rear and it would be pretty easy to just remove the U-bolts and slide the axle back 6" (probably have to disconnect the brake hose too).

As far as the "retainer" goes, that's the green piece in the picture you linked to. And yes it will just barely fit over that flange. I don't know how far down the tube it will slide, but you would still need to seperate the tube from the ball to put the new seal in (it's a ring that fits between the ball and the retainer and you can get it from Bobs Automobilia). The small shaft coming out the back of the transmission is splined on the inside. The torque ball assembly slides over this little shaft and the drive shaft in the torque tube slides into it. The movement between the drive shaft (inside the tube) and the output shaft on the transmission is taken up by a traditional U-joint at the back of the transmission (just before that little shaft). The movement between the outer torque tube and the transmission housing is taken up by the torque ball.

I know this probably isn't making much sense. I was really intimidated by the whole idea before I disassembled it. Once I did that I found it was really a pretty simple setup.

I think if you can figure out how to slide the rear axle back about 6 inches, you'll find it's not nearly as complex as you think. I'll be glad to help any way I can.

Greg

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Thanks! I was really glad to see those pictures but obviously there were one or two things I still was not totally clear on.

Hopefully others will chime in on the separation process. Good point about the leaf springs, that sure is a good deal, makes it real easy. I gotta undo two bolts underneath the rear coil springs, the plate being attached to the axle, and as I said I read that they were possibly left-hand threaded. Hopefully that's the only curveball I'd run into but I'm not holding my breath!

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Paul,

On my 47 I can loosen everything up, attach a come along and pull the rear end back far enough to take the transmission out. Having said that it was not easy and putting it back together was a bear. Put when I pulled the engine and tranny togethether I had the same issues, so it may be my car.

Put it can be done and pulling it out was pretty easy.

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It is quite straightforward to replace the torque ball seal on a 38. If the rear of the car is lifted high enough there is no need to disconnect the coils as they will bend back the required 6 inches or so without disconnection.

You need to disconnect driveline at torque ball plus central brake hose, park brake linkages, shock absorbers and panhard rod. A new seal from "Bobs" will cure your leak.

Good luck. Clive 3738

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Ok yes I've heard several mentions of "bending it back" so far. Now, granted theres the large hole where the "X" member of the car's frame meets at a point, that would not allow the torque tube to fall to the ground so instead the springs will be holding it to the bottom of that hole, pressing it against it. Or not? I would think tieing a come-along to the axle would make the springs rotate it somewhat, right? I just feel like it would be trying to push the front end of the tube down, not pull it backward, to make the driveshaft where it slides into the output shaft, slide OUT. Is this an incorrect analysis?

How about reattaching everything? Should I have a buddy slowly release the come-along as I guide the tube up into place and slide the output shaft and driveshaft back together maybe?

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I have just done this job for the third time! (ok, so I'm a slow learner)

You can do it.

First, raise up the rear of the car, and support it by the frame, just ahead of the rear axle. Get the car up pretty high, and make sure you use good, stable jack stands.

Next, you'll need to disconnect the shocks, and the lateral link from the axle. The book says to remove the link at the body side, but these bolts wouldn't budge, so for three times now I have done it at the axle. Now, disconnect the springs at the bottom - left hand thread. (had to learn this myself!!) PB blaster everything one week ahead of time. If you can also disconnect the springs at the top, you will be a very happy camper - if not, you are still ok.

Disconnect the park brake cable and the hydraulic brake line. Slide the park brake cable tube off so it doesn't get damaged.

Remove the four bolts at the torque tube, and roll the axle back. The springs will begin to seriously interfere at 3 or 4 inches back, and you need to go about 6 inches. The book recommends you tie the springs to the rear bumper. I like taking them off entirely. The higher the car is at this point, the better off you are. To take the axle out completely, I found that taking the wheels off gives me more freedom to get the right angle. If you are just going back the six inches, you may want to leave the wheels on and let them support the axle.

You will want a good floor jack to help move the axle - for the initial movement and the final re-insertion, you need to have the right angle for the spline to move freely.

Now you can disassemble the torque ball - its an outer sleeve with a seal, and an inner sleeve with a gasket between it and the housing of the transmission. Clean all of this up, then reassemble without the new seal. Use trial and error to determine the correct number of paper gasket shims to put between the inner and outer sleeves. The correct amount should allow up and down movement, but no fore and aft "pumping". Then, reassemble with the new seal in place. (I can scan and e-mail this procedure to you.)

Slide the torque tube back, using your full vocabulary to realign the splines (actually not difficult, but you may need to play with the angle by raising the differential a bit).

Remember this - the Buick frames are in nice shape today because of the continual leak from that torque ball. An occasional drip is typical, a puddle is too much.

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Yes I would say please do email me whatver you were thinking of emailing me!

Really doesn't sound too bad. Jeez I would LOVE to be able to do this. A puddle is exactly what I get. I go for a drive, bring it back in it sits and I happen to check a few hours later, 3-4" dia. puddle right under there.

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My '41 had 6 bolts on the flange between the torque tube and torque ball. There were 5 equally spaced around the perimeter to trick you into thinking there were only 5, but a 6th was hiding at the 12 o'clock position where it couldn't be seen. I don't know how many are on the '38, but make sure you get them all. I pounded on that sucker and tried to pry it apart for an hour before finally deciding it would be easier to pull the engine and leave the transmission in the car instead of removing them as a unit like most normal people. As soon as I found that sixth bolt, the transmission practically removed itself. Feh.

Also, it's a very good idea to polish the torque ball itself. If the ball's texture is rough or pitted, it'll still leak eventually and grind on the new seals. Polish it like a mirror and get any scratches, gouges and grooves out as best as you can. Many are corroded like mine is (I'm looking for a nice replacement), but do your best. This will help keep it sealed in the future.

Good luck!

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Sure thing! I think he was referring to that "joint" I dont know what else to call it, in the torque tube RIGHT behind the ball. The thing that I talked about "trying to slide the collar over". I think he's suggesting I undo that, so the torque ball stays with the trans, not attached to the rest of the tube.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Well I got a 3-day weekend, so I couldn't resist getting my feet wet. I already have the seal kit from Bob's, came late this week in fact. I threw 'er up in the air tonight and just started out PB-ing the bolts for the ends of the panhard bar, as well as the lower shock links and the spring bolt for each side.

I wetted each about 10 times just going around cycling through each one. Then I figured why not try 'em and see what happens. I had to use a significant amount of force on the spring bolt on the driver's side. BUT that was the only one that required me to really pull, and this was <span style="font-weight: bold">ALL</span> with a breaker bar, nothing more.

Is this unsurprising to you all, or is this in fact a weird stroke of luck? I just would NEVER have guessed they'd all come off so easily. Being that it's the rear of the car which receives the most spray of crap and ususally rusts the most, as is the case with this car.

I have a sneaking suspicion this is just Old American Iron whooping ass as usual, with big bolts that are of a good grade of steel that somehow withstood the test of SEVENTY years, waiting for me to call on them to grant me access to what need access to, to stop this leak! I just....never have this kind of luck. So I'm sure I'll run into something ELSE that will be a living hell! laugh.gif All I know is I have completely enabled the lowering of the axle, and I can't believe it was that easy. 15-20 minutes total under there. Wow.

There's the hiccups and fights our rides give us sometimes...and then there's this. God I love this hobby....and these machines. And it's 1:30 in the morning. And I need to get to bed already. No, there's no way I'm a sane, rational person. That's the only thing I'm SURE of right now. laugh.giflaugh.gifcool.gif

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Yeah you can't push yourself to that point. And you ALSO rest assured I've banged myself up somewhat too so far! laugh.gif

I figured I'd be doing that. I was DEATHLY afraid I'd snap one though. That I was almost sure would happen. I dont mind mean rusty bolts/nuts...as LONG as they dont break.

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Oh just the usual backbreaking paper-pushing and studying commanded by good ol' "rippi".

TWO freakin weeks! Just two including this one. Then I got a week to MYSELF! Class ends at noon on Fridays so I'll have mom pick me up Thursday night, I'll drive up for the one class Fri, come right back home, lunch, then get goin! I'll throw 'er back up in the air next weekend, she'll be all ready to go. I'm going to post plenty of pictures too, obviously people here have done it before but why not document it. I CANT WAIT. This should be a great summer between not making a total mess of the driveway and anywhere I park for that matter and 3.73 gears in the Cougar's rear end. whistle.gif

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  • 9 years later...

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