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Friday, March 6, 2009

Rod-End Bearings

Well, I looked around and on the web I can find a few places that have the types I need for an average of about $8 each, but shipping is almost always twice that, except for Ebay "buy it now" and auctions (both of which I'd rather avoid).

Locally I've not had time to call around, but I expect that $8 would be the low end of the price range. $16 plus 8.3% tax is more than I have to spend, so I decided to go ahead and take a gander at the Ford LTD's steering to see what size and kind it actually uses for this.

Sorry, no pictures yet, but I'll try to replace this line with some tomorrow if I have time. Otherwise they'll be in whichever post has further progress on getting them out and using them.

They're not quite as large as I had feared, but large enough--the female shank is at least 6" or 7" long, and a housing of over 2" diameter. The ball itself has the bolt-pin built into it, which makes them even heavier--that is about 3" long. They are very heavy-duty, with a grease nipple built in on the bottom side of the housing (away from the ball/bolt side), and they have a hole in the bolt-pin for a cotter pin to lock the castellated nut down, to prevent it from unscrewing during use.

The really bad part is that they're so tightly mounted that I am having great difficulty unscrewing them, partly because the rods they're screwed onto only have a barely-hexagonal section to hold with a wrench, and that section does not match any wrench I have. I would have expected it to be (like everything else on the car so far) metric, but if so, it must be a 13.5mm, as the 14 is too large and the 13 is too small. None of the standard wrenches fit it well enough to hold it either. Oddly enough only the standard wrenches properly fit the jam nut on the end of the rod against the rod-end, but only the metrics fit the rod-end's flatted area. It's just wierd.

It is necessary to use *something* to grip this rod while trying to counterturn the rod-ends, because the other end of the rod is a ball-joint that freely rotates in any direction, part of the steering control mechanism itself.

I tried a couple of adjustable wrenches, including a small pipe-wrench, but they will not sit flat on the small hexed off area, and won't screw tight enough to hold without slipping while trying to turn.

I finally dug out the vise-grips, but for this job apparently it was too much, and the cheap knockoff no-name-brand ones given to me some time ago just broke, trying to grip it. Fortunately the break is at the rivet hole holding the top head to the grip body, where swivelling is not absolutely necessary to function, so I can weld this piece back onto the tool and still use it.

So at the moment I don't have a good idea to remove the rod-end bearings without damaging something else, which I don't want to do because I might want to use the rest of it for something else later (like the steering setup for the tadpole trike, once I get that far in design stage for it).

Even when I do get them off, I'll have to redo the whole way the steering tabs are setup on both ends, because neither one of them can accomodate this large of a housing, nor can they deal with the built-in bolt-pin the way it is made. Most likely I will still use an ex-handlebar stem on the front, but it will be a steel one that I can weld a flat tab to, and use 1/4" steel plate for the tab. Then I'll make a similar unit for use on the handlebar end of the steering rod, which will mount upside-down. Until I can get the rod-ends off to see exactly what the clearances required are, I won't know for sure what I have to build to accomodate them.

Another bad thing is that since these are so large, they also weigh a lot, probably at least a couple of pounds each, where my current solution doesn't even weigh that much in total.


  1. I don't know your location, but there is no reason to pay high shipping for mechanical parts if you live in a medium or large city. Mfgrs of bearings, motors, and the like well through local distributorships. Often, their names may not represent their complete line of products (i.e., a company with chain in their name started selling chain, but branched out to bearings, motors, and etc. These companies are used to selling large quantites of items to OEMS or large factories, but if you know exactly what you need (like a mfgr part #) you can use them.

  2. True, and I've been checking around locally (Phoenix, AZ), where there are a number of places that carry them for around what I expected. Unfortunately it's still more money than I have to spend, so I'm working even right now (well, taking a break for a few minutes) on a secure but simple no-cost solution to the problem to last me until I do have either money for new ones, or a way to get the ones off the car and use them. Or come across some used ones of a smaller more appropriate size I can recycle into this project.

    Tomorrow morning will be a test ride from Metrocenter area to North Mountain Park, which is about 5-ish miles one-way, with a possible trip extension of another 7-8 miles (one-way) if things go well, plus the return trip totals. Most of the first part will be along the canal path, so if a steering failure happens, it will not be in traffic, and thus not as dangerous. The rest of the trip will be on back streets, and thus also less dangerous should something fail, but I am much more confident of the new solution than of previous ones.

  3. Take a look at the shift linkage in the Ford. There may be some pieces you could use for the ball ends. Also look at the wiper transmission.

    If you have a Tractor Supply store in your area, they sell all sorts of ends that a farmer might have to use to hodge-podge together a piece of old equipment. It is a tinker's dream in their hardware aisle and the parts are not too pricey.

    You mentioned in an earlier post about silflux or brazing. These joints if done properly are about 1/2 to 2/3 as strong as welding. Be careful doing this as too much heat will damage the temper of bearings or bushing materials, but too little heat will give you a cold solder joint. Experiment on some junk pieces of similar mass and materials and you will get an idea of how to do it properly.

  4. If these are conventional ball joints, you will need a ball joint socket and an impact wrench to remove them.

    Please be careful taking the suspension apart here as some are under spring tension and can hurt you badly if the spring decompresses when you knock off either ball joint. Usually, you must depress the spring in a special tool to unload it first.

  5. Re: the Ford shift-linkage and wiper-transmission: I haven't gotten that far yet, but it's a good idea I hadn't thought to check yet.

    I don't know if there is a Tractor Supply type place around here, but I'll check. If they have *really* cheap parts, I might get some, but at the moment the tie-rod as updated in this post:
    has been operating very well for many miles, so I may not need to change it. For future versions of the bike, I will still need a solution, though, and making more of these tie rods like this is time-consuming, and somewhat difficult to do just right. Using "real" bearings might help that.

    I'll definitely keep in mind about the difference in strength between brazing and welding, and the temperatures needed and what that'll do to materials. Most of the things I need to braze are pretty small, and would be destroyed by welding, like these bearings. I've found alternate solutions for now, on that part. I still can't afford the brazing equipment, so it's just food for thought at the moment. :-)

    There *are* ball joints on the steering tie rod, but that's not the part I want to take apart; rather I'm after the rod-end bearings that unscrew off the ends of the tie rod. I can see where they join, and the locknut/jamnut that's keeping them together, and the places on the rod that are flatted out for wrenches to grip.

    I looked quite carefully at the suspension before I began my explorations of it, and fortunately on the '85 LTD the springs are all separate from the tie rod section, and there is no loading on the tie rod from them. All I had to do was wedge/block the rear wheels, jack the front end up, place it on stands, and turn the wheels leftward partway so I could get at the castellated nut with the locking pin. Once the pin was removed, the nut turned easily by hand, and then I had the rod end bearing off of the left front wheel, but still cannot remove it from the tie rod itself, as I need a wrench that is between the sizes I happen to have. :-(

    At the moment, it doesn't matter, as my much lighter homemade versions are now working ok. :-)

    Later, I do want to use these on a different bike, in a different place, out on the front wheels of the tadpole trike I'll eventually build.


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