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Post 26
September 2015

Front Axle Assembly

The assembly process for the front axle. Since this, I’ve installed the axle and have been driving around, and everything is mint. Life has been a bit hectic lately and I haven’t got round to photographing the installed axle, and now I’ve ripped the gearbox out so the Land Rover’s a bit of a mess again. At some stage I’ll add a photo of the end result to the end of this post.

I rebuilt the axles using Britpart swivel pin rebuild kits. They seem fine. The chrome swivel pins themselves appear to be good quality.

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First, I installed the diff and leaf springs onto the axle. I installed the leaf springs early, because it adds a lot of mass to the axle, which makes it a bit more stable when doing up tight nuts and bolts. Otherwise they could be put on last, doesn’t matter. Note that there is nothing holding up the front of the diff, the axle is very balanced once the springs are in place (I did place a jack under the front of the diff while I was working on it though, just to stop it rocking around).

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Next, I assembled the swivel pin housing on the bench.

On the left, you can see file marks on the new stud that was slightly to thick to fit. Two of these studs are normal fit in the holes, and two are tight. They are different part numbers. Note the O Ring that slides over the the pin on the steering arm. This came with the swivel pin kit.

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The steering drop arm installed as per the manual. I smeared threadlock on the mating surfaces. The locking tabs and new lock nuts are Britpart, and were fine. The locking tabs came with the swivel pin kit.

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New swivel pins with bushes and bearing races installed. I faffed about trying to press the races in with my vice, which would work well if you had a huge opening on your vice, but in the end the easiest way was to hammer them in place. I used a flat steel bar between the hammer and edge of the race to spread the blow. They are a bit fiddly to get started square, driving them home requires some force. Once I thought they were completely home, I used a punch just to tap all around the edge, listening to make sure they were completely seated. The railko bushes are easier. You could use the old kingpin as a drift, to hammer these in, but I just used the same steel bar as per the bearing races. Note that I installed the bearing races first, because I didn’t think the bearing races would be as prone to damaged when they are face down against the bench, wile bashing the railko bush into place.

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Roller bearing installed. These bearings come with the swivel pin kit. They are unbranded and feel junky. On one side I reused the original Timken bearing, it appeared fine. On the other side, the individual rollers had worked recesses into the outer race, so I guess the bearing had a tendency to settle into the these little recesses, effectivly causing the steering to want to sit at these positions. Probably one reason why my steering wandered all over the place. Obviously I used the new Britpart bearing and race in this case. After the Britpart bearing had been soaking in gear oil for a while, it felt fine.

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Axle with swivel pins installed. The flange bolts have a specific torque setting in the manual, but I have no idea how you could ever get a torque wrench onto either side. You need two ring spanners to tighten these. They are bsw size, but happen to be a close enough to a common af and metric size to use these (I forget which size). One of either the af or metric size was only close enough to be a holding spanner, while the other was a pretty good fit. I say this because I doubt anyone out there has two bsw spanners in the correct size (I have bsw sockets, but they are useless in this case). Anyway, I’ll be keeping a close eye just to make sure these aren’t coming loose, but I think they're fine.

Also note I have hung the swivel pin seal and retainer plate over the axle. They won’t fit over the swivel pin once it’s installed.

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Swivel pin housing installed. All straight forward as per the manual. I used a cheap sprung scale like fisherman use to weigh their catch to set the pre load in the steering. On one side I used exactly all of the shims that came in the swivel pin kit. On the other side I had to add one of the old shims as well, so don’t throw away your old shims. Note, you can see the drag link installed, but I did this after setting the pre load on each side individually (at this stage the drag link is actually just sitting in place because it was in the way on the floor).

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An overall progress shot. May as well mention the ball joints here. I replaced all four ball joints on the front. It’s a bit hard to know from the parts websites whether you’re going to get lifetime sealed ball joints or ball joints with grease nipples. I can confirm that bearmach ball joints come with grease nipples.

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A view looking into the swivel pin assembly. Main roller bearing at the back. I forgot to mention this earlier. It went into the swivel pin easy.

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Stub axle installed.

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Brakes installed. This is all as per the rear axle, so I won’t repeat much. Note the twisted and mangled britpart locking plates. I ended up replacing these with the original old crusty but way stronger Land Rover ones. Also note the mess I made of my nicely painted black backing plate trying to bend the locking tabs up. When I put the other looking tabs in, I pre bent the tabs slightly in a vice to make them easier to fully bend once installed.

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Here is everything assembled, and I’m setting the drag link length (toe in) on the steering. I figured I may as well get it close before I install the axle, rather than trying to do it while crawling around under the car. Obviously I can’t be 100% sure the wheels are in the straight ahead position doing it like this, but I’m not setting the alignment on a F1 car, so I think it’ll be OK. In the photo you can see a tape measure. I ended up abandoning the tape measure, and attached vernier callipers to a broomstick and measured it like that.

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And that’s it. I bent up new brake hoses (there are no bubble flares on the front, so a standard double flare tool is all you need), and the whole assembly is ready to slide back under the Land Rover.

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A Round Up of Parts that were Crap

Britpart Hub Bolts 215331 - This actually comes from the rear axle, but thought I’d chuck it on the list because it’s applicable. Be very careful with these bolts. The ones Britpart supplied (definitely the right part number), are too long and bottom out just before they tighten. It’s very possible that you wouldn’t notice this happening and destroy the threads in the hub, or worse, have the hub come off while driving.

Birtpart Locking Tabs 277311 - These came in the swivel pin kit, so no biggie that they were crap. Don’t order these especially though. The steel is so soft that the whole piece just gets screwed up and mangled by the twisting force of the bolt head as it’s tightened. Despite the fact they get destroyed, once the locking tabs are bent up, they probably do function. I ended up pulling the new britpart ones off, and reusing the original Land Rover ones, that were a bit crusty, but way stiffer and work perfectly.

Britpart Stud 531494 - There are four studs connecting the steering drop arms to the swivel pin housings. On each side, there are four, two sizes, two of each. This isn’t obvious unless you look closely. Anyway I destroyed one of the thicker studs during disassembly, so ordered a new one. The britpart stud does not fit. It’s about 1/10th of a millimetre too thick. No biggie, I used a fine file on the stud until it slotted in nicely. So they will work with some faffing about, but I guess, don’t replace the original studs if you don’t need to.

Bearmach Hub Spanner 606435 - This is the 52 mm box spanner for tightening the wheel bearing nuts. Don’t order a beachmach one. It’s so poorly made that it just doesn’t function, and I went back to tightening the nuts with channel lock pliers instead. It has made a handy drift though.

Almakes flexible brake hose FAM3162 - These are barely long enough, about an inch shorter than the originals. When the suspension is hanging, they are a little bit too stretched for my liking. I think they will be OK, but I’ll be keeping a close eye on them. So if you’re replacing yours, take a punt on a different brand.