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Leaf Spring restoration and lube


32Pontiac6
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I am in the process of restoring my 1932 Pontiac. It has leaf springs and I am looking for some advice on restoring them. They seem to be in fairly good shape and have the same length and arch. They don't seem to sag. The car leaned slightly to one side but I believe that was due to some wear on the rubber bushings on the springs and frame. My questions:

1) Should the springs be completely disassembled, stripped, and painted with rust encapsulator and then re-assembled with lube? or...

2) Should they just be cleaned and painted on the outside part that shows and loosened enough to clean and get new lube between the leafs?

3) What is the lube that should be used? I know that originally they were coated with a graphite based lube.

4) Does anybody know someone who makes the cloth covers for the springs?

Thanks for your help.

Rob

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I would completely dissasemble and clean each leaf, making sure that there were no burrs on the ends or groves worn on the underside of the leaves. I don't think I would paint them.

I would make sure that they were well greased between the leaves or perhaps even use some very thin teflon between them.

My parts book lists in section 7.495 cover, front spring front and rear and rear spring front and rear for 1932. I have a "1930 Pontiac Six" "Parts Repair List", the same size as the operators manual and it shows a picture of "front spring front cover" and "front spring rear cover" which were all my car came with.

The original ones on my car were some type of leather and had a burlap type of lining. They were laced on. A local upholstery shop quoted me about $250.00 per spring. He said most of the cost was to make a pattern first.

If you google "Spring Gaiters" you will find quite a few places that make them for RR and other high quality cars. These ones seem to be between $750.00 -$1,000.00 per pair.

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Hi,

I just did the springs on my 1930 Whippet. I disassembled them completely, degreased/cleaned each leaf, wire brushed and removed any burrs. I painted each spring with polyurethane based paint. I reassembled each set using poly-slide between each spring. They came up nice. There are several places that sell gaters.

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I vote for completely disassemble them. Don't mix springs side to side. Sandblast them. Apply a good coat or two of a catalized epoxy primer. Give full cure to the primer and then re-assemble. Personally I would not do a lube or the teflon slides. The teflon slides do add some thickness to the spring rack which may give a different un wanted ride height or appearance. Once the spring is back as a component give them a light scuff to the outside, a quick bond coat of the epoxy primer again and go right to your paint of choice to finish the outsides. I'm sure you will get more than one view on this but that is my vote and how we do ours. The epoxy will hold up very well between the leaf springs and will take much time to finally wear through. You may never flex them enough to cause that.

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I'm an advocate of disassembling, blasting to white metal, painting, and lubricating before reassembly -- priming between the leaves, but not going nuts with it and taking care to only paint the areas that show when assembled. Also, if you don't want to grease your springs, Slip Plate #3 is a good option for something that will stay put and won't ooze:

SLIP Plate® No. 3

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Remember that leaf springs, by design, provide not only the "spring" but also somewhat of a shock absorber effect due to friction between the spring faces.

If you smooth out the leaf contact faces and lube the heck out of it, then you're affecting the ride qualities of the vehicle.

I'd be willing to bet that, from the factory, there was no lube between spring faces. I realize that after market, there were tools available to spread the springs so that they could be lubed.

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The friction point is very true. Our problem in this part of the world is that we will have a judge looking at that spring wanting it to look "As delivered" for multiple show seasons. The friction will make for a metal on metal finish causing a real pain in the butt spring which will get knocked points because it's not pretty long.

Ah the web we weave.:rolleyes::rolleyes:

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Understood, it's a shame that judging can't tolerate usage marks. I agree that the functional use of a leaf spring is at odds with perfect paint finish!

So, if the paint is worn off the drive hub of a fan pulley, that's points off? Just being sofecious, as my kids used to say.......

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Understood, it's a shame that judging can't tolerate usage marks.

I reciprocate by being intolerant of judges! :D

Particularly when it comes to having to compromise proper mechanical function. Springs are intended to be lubricated or, as in later designs, used with anti-friction pads. Shock absorbers are intended to absorb shock, not the spring. A spring is not a spring if a spring can't spring! :)

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Does the car have shock absorbers? If so you do not need interleaf friction. They used to pry the leaves apart and lube with graphite grease. Some type of slider is a good idea if possible.

I have taken apart leaf springs, ground the notches out and smoothed the ends, then put them together with grease and screen in between, and wrapped with friction tape then painted with Varithane.

If there are no shock absorbers do not be surprised if one spring leaf is upside down! Chevs came that way in the twenties, the upside down leaf increased friction to act as a primitive shock absorber.

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Yes, the car has shock absorbers. Actually the '32 Pontiac had shocks adjustable from the inside of the car. The springs were originally lubricated with a graphite material. This information comes from the original repair manual and from removing it from the original spring. According to the manual the springs were periodically lubed and were wrapped with a cloth cover... I guess people on this thread call it a 'gator.

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I agree with W_Higgins; take all the leaves apart, strip them, primer the leaves, then apply a heavy brush coat Slip Plate #1 to the top surfaces of each leaf, except for a few inches either side of the centering bolt. (Leave bare for the length of the spring pad on the axle.) You want to minimize the friction between the leaves for smooth flex and the best ride quality. That's why coil springs have a much better ride; there's no internal friction in the spring.

You can use a thicker paint on the sides of the leaves after the pack is reassembled for looks. If you use a thick paint in the center of each leaf, the paint could compress or wear away between leaves and make it seem like your u-bolts are loosening themselves.

Edited by Crusty (see edit history)
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Remember that leaf springs, by design, provide not only the "spring" but also somewhat of a shock absorber effect due to friction between the spring faces.

If you smooth out the leaf contact faces and lube the heck out of it, then you're affecting the ride qualities of the vehicle.

I'd be willing to bet that, from the factory, there was no lube between spring faces. I realize that after market, there were tools available to spread the springs so that they could be lubed.

I doubted your statement that "from the factory there was no lube between spring faces" so I searched my 1929-32 Packard Service Manual and lo and behold they give full instructions for replacing a broken spring leaf and there is no mention of lube. I bow to your superior knowledge.

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I guess this is one of those topics that can be debated from either side for a long time. Even searching the Internet for one, grand, final, answer, one sees that there is the lube side and the no lube side, and feelings are strong in either corner.

One of the more interesting discussions is concerning the 'gators that were installed on some high end cars, either laced leather, or, in the case of Pierce Arrow at least, metal overlapping covers with burlap underneath, over the springs.

One discussion is that this was not to keep oil or grease in, but to keep NOISE (squeaking springs) IN and DIRT OUT. Interesting. I do remember taking the springs apart on a 1934 Pierce Arrow, and finding dry burlap wrapped around springs under the metal covers, no grease nor oil.

To further discuss leaf springs, let's consider the coil spring first. Have you ever driven a car that had coil springs, and the shock absorbers were bad or missing? The car bounces up and down and all over the place, with no damping effect at all, just spring effect, up and down.

Now, add shock absorbers, and the ride becomes more comfortable, so coil springs with shock absorbers has both spring and damp, so to speak.

Early cars had only leaf springs. These springs HAD to have some dampening effect, in addition to the spring, otherwise, the vehicle would bounce all over, as in the coil spring discussion above. The friction of metal to metal in the leaf spring gives that dampening.

Human nature, from a mechanical viewpoint, wants to lube it if it moves, and I think that's what we're dealing with here. Leaf springs should be smooth with no burrs or ridges, and, for correct dampening, assembled dry. That's how they're designed to be used.

I realize different people have different opinions, of course.

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I will have to disagree a bit with trimacar. Looking at the Oakland Service Shop Manual, under Springs you will find the following:

"The spring leaves are thoroughly covered with graphite before being assembled and then a coating of grease is applied over the outside of the entire spring. Composition fabric covers are installed over all springs, giving complete protection from water and dirt and practically eliminating spring squeaks." "Every 5,000 miles, remove spring covers and thoroughly clean and inspect the spring leaves." "Paint leaves with 600 W and then pack spring covers with petrolatum and carefully replace."

From this it seems that graphite was used between the leaves for some type of lubrication. Not sure what form the graphite was in. Not clear from the manual. My disassembly of the springs shows a material that is might be graphite mixed with grease over time. My inspection also shows grease in some areas of the leaves. You can see some photos of the leaves on a Facebook page that I am using to document the restoration. You need not be a member of Facebook to see the photos. The link is:

1932 Pontiac | Facebook

Thanks for all the input and help!

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I sit corrected. I'd say I stand corrected, but I'm sitting at keyboard, so........

Can't argue with printed, original material. I still feel, from an engineering standpoint, that lubrication of leaf springs is only good if there are shock absorbers on the vehicle. IMHO.

Thanks dc

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Well, after following this discussion from its beginning, I finally have to jump in. I cannot remember which cars had it, but do remember some having metal covers on the back springs with a lubing point. This would have been in the early '50s. My first "real" job was at a "filling" station in Joplin, MO. I had to be the grease monkey on weekends. Some cars were greased almost every weekend. Every 1000 miles. I distinctly remember greasing the springs. Only wish I could remember the brands. I want to say Chrysler products, but just not sure.

Ben

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I have just taken the leafs apart from my 1929 graham page and cleaned and painted them with POR-15. I've ordered UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) pressure sensitive tape to be applied between them. It's supposed to be much stronger and slicker than teflon tape. You can get it at McMaster Carr.

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Well, after following this discussion from its beginning, I finally have to jump in. I cannot remember which cars had it, but do remember some having metal covers on the back springs with a lubing point. This would have been in the early '50s. My first "real" job was at a "filling" station in Joplin, MO. I had to be the grease monkey on weekends. Some cars were greased almost every weekend. Every 1000 miles. I distinctly remember greasing the springs. Only wish I could remember the brands. I want to say Chrysler products, but just not sure.

Ben

1940's to early 50's Mopars had the metal covers on the springs and Miller tools suppied the needle grease gun attachment to penetrate the metal spring cover to lube the rear springs.

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I posted the following in a Restorations Projects thread a while ago and it wasn't received very well. Looks like it does fit in with this discussion.

My '41 Dodge came with metal covers and here is what my owner's manual has to say:

"Springs (with steel covers) - The frequency for lubrication of springs with metal covers is largely dependent upon climatic and road conditions. The necessity of lubrication is indicated by spring squeaks and stiff riding. Use special fitting to inject spring leaf lubricant.

Lubricants containing inert materials such as asbestos fibre, graphite, silica etc., are undesirable for spring lubrication. A lubricant containing a rust preventative (inhibitor) is recommended in order to avoid rust formation which leads to hard riding and spring squeaks."

Phil

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  • 4 weeks later...

A minor point if you want to be a real expert - the spring covers are called gaiters not 'gators.

Definition of gaiters from Wikipedia:

Gaiters are garments worn over the shoe and lower pants leg, and used primarily as personal protective equipment; similar garments used primarily for display are spats. Originally, gaiters were made of leather. Today, gaiters for walking are commonly made of plasticized synthetic cloth such as polyester. Gaiters for use on horseback continue to be made of leather.

They go on:

In Army parlance, a gaiter covers leg and bootlacing; a legging covers only the leg. In RAF parlance, gaiter includes legging. The American Army during World War I<sup id="cite_ref-WWI_0-0" class="reference">[1]</sup> and World War II had leggings, which were gaiters. Above the knee spatterdashes were cotton or canvas, as were many gaiters of varying lengths thereafter. Leather gaiters were rare in military, though sometimes a calf-length cotton gaiter had leather kneecaps added. Leggings, however, were very often made of leather, but also canvas.

Gaiters were worn by horsemen, hikers, and Anglican clergymen as well as military men. So they were fairly common in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The similarity to the laced on or sewn on spring covers is obvious.

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  • 3 months later...

Thanks for this thread...

I have a 1937 Pontiac (Canadian 224, Master 6 is her sister car) and I will be disassembling my springs, they need to be inspected. They have this "felt, or non-rubber lining" that's torn and decayed bad... I will post pics n videos later on, but thanks for all the advice..

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Point taken on the 'gators, but that's the reason for the mark before the word...In Louisiana we used real alligators, get a tail just the right size, clean it out, and it slips right over that darn spring!

Also good for cannons, we'd fill their heads with cannonball and powder their behind, and when we set the powder off the 'gator lost his mind.

Hey, that could be a song!

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The name shcok absorber for those things on cars and trucks is technically incorrect. See trimacar's comments above about coil springs without shock absorbers. They are actually oscillation dampeners. They stop the spring oscillations so you don't get a bouncy ride when you go over bumps and dips. The springs are what actually absorb the "shock" of the bump or dip.

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Just took apart the rear springs on the 52 Chev and got to reading this thread on how to finish them . That meant taking off the gaiters and the felt underneath them. The gaiters are mostly rusted out which drives me nuts because it would be difficult to reproduce the gaiters and I like things back the way they were. Anyhoo, the shop manual has a detailed procedure for lubing them.

While looking for new ones, and before I decided that I didn't have the cash to get new ones, I found the attached on Detroit Easton's website. Take it for what it is worth but it appears that modern springs do not need lube and it is, in fact, detrimental to the steel. Not sure I get that but there you go.

Lots more interesting info on the tech site.

Lubricating Leaf Springs - Tech

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