Model T Tune-Up and Repair Tips

Keeping your Model T in top running condition is the first step to take to ensure a happy and enjoyable motoring experience. Take as look at several issues that are common areas of concern among vintage car owners.

   Alternator Installation
   Ignition System
   Lubrication Chart
   Manifold Cooking
   Safety Check-Up
   True Fire Ignition Box

Torque Wrench Solution

A good torque wrench is not expensive and probably would find almost universal use, if it were not for the two head bolts at the rear of the head. On the later models, it is impossible to get a socket and torque wrench on these two bolts.

A solution to this problem is to buy an inexpensive 5/8 inch impact socket with a half inch drive from a discount store like Harbor Freight or Big Lots. Impact sockets are not plated and the end result is a stronger weld bond.

Cut the socket in two at the center with an abrasive saw.

Laying the 5/8 inch socket with the opening down and the 1/2 inch drive opening up on a flat surface, braze or electric weld the two pieces together. The final offset between the 1/2 inch drive and the socket is about 1 inch. The socket end will slide under the edge of the firewall.

This Is How I Did It

By Don Warner

Front Wheel Bearings

I have to confess that I am not sure what year Henry began using the "Temkin" style tapered (beveled) roller bearings in the front wheels in place of ball bearings. I believe that most of us with 1920 or newer Ts will have these types of front wheel bearings.

Of course step one is to loosen the hub cover while the wheel is still on the ground. This way you don't have to fight a "free spinning" wheel while trying to get the hub cover loose and remove it. Jack up the front end and put some jack stands in place under the front axle.

The threaded spindle end will have a castle nut with a clevis (cotter) pin that inserts into the spindle end to keep the nut from becoming loose. Remove this clevis pin with pliers or side cutters. Throw it away. I never reuse these. Remove the castle nut and the washer behind it. Now here is what is a bit unusual from later model cars. The outer/smaller bearing is threaded onto the spindle end. I used a crescent style (adjustable) wrench to remove the outer bearing. The wheel should now be free to remove from the spindle.

Place the outer side of the hub down and place two wooden blocks under the hub to support it. I used a 1/4 size flat head screwdriver to loosen the inner grease seal by placing the screwdriver end in between the hub and the area where the seal meets the hub surface. The seal is pressed in place. However, this usually does not take much force. Then I tapped the screwdriver with a hammer moving the screwdriver around the outer edge of the seal, just enough to loosen the grease seal and pop it out with the screwdriver. This grease seal keeps the inner/larger bearing in place and keeps the grease from coming out of the back inner side of the hub. Now remove the inner/larger bearing. If this seal has felt inside the metal cover, then you are one who prefers originality (which is fine), or your grandfather or someone's grandfather was the last person to do this job.

Next, clean all the greasy parts with mineral spirits very well and thoroughly. Check both bearings, inner/larger and outer/smaller, by spinning the bearings, which are housed in a cage like retainer. Check each roller for cracks, scoring or pits. If the bearings are scored, cracked or pitted, have them replaced along with the beveled shiny surface in the hub. This shiny surface is the bearing hub race. This is what those shiny roller bearings spin and roll on while you are going down the road. If the bearing is scored, cracked or pitted, the hub race is probably in the same condition. Take the hub/wheel to the shop and have the hub races removed. The bearing and hub races are generally sold as "matched sets." I have never seen them sold separately. I replaced the races myself but, I would rather you took the wheel to Lilleker's Antique Auto Restorations to have the hub races removed and installed. These hub races need to go in evenly and straight or they could be damaged.

Once all of the bearings and races are good to go, "pack" the bearings with grease. Remember the article with "sticky red?" Good, because I don't have that part number with me for the grease, HEHE! I know I use the Pennzoil brand. To pack the bearings, place a good size "glob" of grease in the palm of one hand. Grasp the bearing with the other hand with the larger side of the bearing, the back side that has the larger gap in the cage, so that you can now "nip" at the pile of grease that is in the palm of the other hand with the back side of the bearing being slightly pressed into the "glob" of grease. This will send the grease into the bearing rollers. Keep doing this process until you see the grease coming out of the narrow end of the bearing assembly. The bearing is packed once the entire bearing has grease oozing out of the narrow, beveled side. I know. This makes no sense. I wish I had a picture of this process.

With the bearings packed, generously place some grease into the hub cavity and a layer on the hub races. Place the inner/larger bearing into the greased hub inner race. Install a new grease seal, with a small hammer, into the inner side of the hub by gently tapping around the outer edge of the seal until it is even with the inner hub surface. Reverse the removal process above, spinning the outer bearing onto the threaded spindle end. Turn the outer bearing onto the spindle until it "seats", using the wrench, but GENTLY. Now install the castle nut and run it up snug, by hand, to the bearing. Now back off the bearing and the nut together until a notch in the castle nut aligns with the hole in the spindle end. There should be some very slight top to bottom movement of the wheel. Very slight. A bearing that is over tightened will get hot and burn up. Too much end play will result in steering and driving problems and premature bearing failure.

Install the new clevis/cotter pin, (very important) and bend the clevis/cotter pin, basically wrapping it around the castle nut. Install the hub covers and tighten them while covering the hub cover with a paper towel or rag so you don't scratch or damage the hub cover. Put the car back on the ground and you are done.

Happy T'ing !!!!

Rear Axle Bearings

We already have a high quality rear axle rebuilder here in College Station, Ross Lilleker, and he will do a great job if you entrust your axle to him. If that is not an option and it's a D.I.Y job, you need to be aware of some of the bearing options, which are available for rebuilding your own unit.

Since there is no single specification that will be "right" for everyone's application, pocket book, or shop capability level, I thought it appropriate to share some of my thoughts on axle bearing "options". They are influenced by my own experience and by guidance from friends.

Drive-shaft bearings

There are 3 bearings used to mount the drive-shaft. The original drive shaft pinion end bearing arrangement is a straight roller bearing for radial load, complemented by a ball bearing race for axial thrust. At the U-Joint end of the shaft, a babbitt bushing centers the shaft, absorbing the misalignment loading from the U-Joint and the "overhanging load" force from the ring and pinion contact. It also controls axial movement of the pinion gear "into" the ring gear. There are several issues with the original parts.

  • The sleeve under the drive shaft roller bearing has a tendency to crack and accelerate roller bearing wear.
  • The babbitt bearing at the U-Joint end has to be cast in the drive shaft housing.
  • The babbitt bearing has to be reamed and faced in place to control pinion gear end-play.

Fortunately, there are a number of alternate bearing arrangements, which enhance durability and ease assembly, without compromising show points or permanently altering standard components. For the pinion end bearings and listed by escalating cost.

  • Texas T's offer a sealed ball bearing cartridge without the need for a core exchange.
  • Fun Parts offers an exchange unit, combining a taper roller bearing with a sealed ball bearing, which preloads the taper roller bearing. Derivatives allow axial shimming for fine adjustment without the need to stack paper gaskets. Such parts are available from other suppliers.
  • John W. Stoltz offer a similar unit, which allows both axial and radial adjustment to further refine the ring gear and pinion tooth contact pattern.

A great benefit of these units is that they control both directions of axial load on the pinion, eliminating the need to machine face the bushing at the U-Joint end of the shaft and eliminating the need for a riveted pin to secure the U-Joint to the drive shaft.

The babbitt bushing at the U-Joint end can best be replaced with either a brass bushing, which requires reaming after installation, or with a low friction needle roller assembly. The needle roller unit requires careful installation and is best suited to a new, or little worn drive-shaft. It cannot be used with the original pinion bearing configuration.

Axle Shaft and Differential Bearings

The axle shafts are supported by inboard and outboard roller bearings with the inner bearings often referred to as carrier bearings and sharing the differential lubricant, and the outer bearings lubricated with grease. Axial movement of the differential carrier and thus the axle shafts, is controlled with babbitt thrust washers and steel thrust plates adjusted with shims. On the Ruckstell axle, the differential is supported with a large ball bearing, which also accepts thrust load in one direction.

The stock differential was lubricated with 600 weight lubricant from the factory, while the Ruckstell 2 speed axles need 90 or 120 weight gear oil. The 90 or 120 weight gear oil is harder to keep in the axle with the early stock seals and any discussion on bearing options has to include seals and lubricants.

Roller bearings: It is my opinion that

  • If 90 or 120 weight oil is fine for the Ruckstell axle, it is good enough for the original single speed factory differential.
  • With modern lip seals available and since direct interchange new roller bearings lack the spiral roller lubrication grooves, it is best to remove the original seals inboard of the outer bearings (allowing lubrication from the differential) and add accessory outboard lip seal cartridges. Room can be tight, but with new axle shafts available .060" longer than originals, they fit just fine. As an option, shims are available, but I prefer to not use them. This arrangement eliminates the need to grease the outer roller bearings.
  • It makes sense to replace the axle shafts to minimize the chance of a bending fatigue failure in old shafts, or to get the clearance you need to install the outboard lip seal units or a floating hub package.
  • Floating hubs require careful consideration before installation. There is no easy retrofit capability after you once cut off the ends of the axle housings for the installation. More in a later article!

There are sealed cartridge replacement carrier bearings available from Texas T's. They do require light machining of the axle shaft and drilling of the axle housings. The axial thrust Babbitt thrust washers should be replaced, with either brass thrust washers or accessory needle roller thrust washers, which offer some friction reduction on non-Ruckstell axles. Hope some of this information helps!

by the Ancient Briton, Art Langrish