Monthly Archives: September 2016

Ram finished

It turned out that because of an assumption the driveshaft shop had made, they told me to order the wrong half of the driver’s side axle shaft. When I took my part in last Wednesday, I learned that the actual bent part was the long side (referred to as the driver’s side inner axle shaft), not the shorter, outer half.

I asked the shop to find one locally if they could. They were unable to find one in Albuquerque and contacted Dana/Spicer to get the right part and ordered it on Thursday. Unfortunately, they didn’t specify faster shipping, so the part didn’t arrive until yesterday.

It turns out that they ended up using all of the U-joints I provided, so every single one has a grease zerk. That also means I don’t have to go through the hassle of returning any to Amazon, nor did I need to pay the shop for their own U-joints.

Also, the shop replaced the center driveshaft bearing, which was shot.

I didn’t get a receipt of any kind, so I don’t know exactly what they charged me for various things. I’m also curious about what, if any, warranty I can expect. But the total was $885. They offered to not charge tax if I paid cash, but we didn’t have enough cash on hand (Thursday is payday) so I decided to use a card. Then their card machine wasn’t printing, so I had to leave my card info with them. The total, according to Citi, was $946.60.

So I got all the parts home last night and worked from about 6 pm to 11:30 putting everything back together. It was pretty uneventful.

Two things I want to remember are:

  • The transfer case is still leaking, but not as badly as before. It seems to be weeping both from the case seal itself on the bottom and also, possibly, from the drain plug. The bottom plug is damaged, so I haven’t been able to tighten it as much as perhaps it should be. I’ll take another look at it and see if maybe I can tighten it a bit more.
  • I was unable to properly torque the front driveshaft’s Torx bolts at the front axle due to clearance issues with the Torx sockets I bought. They are not long enough to get the torque wrench straight on the bolts, and so I can’t apply proper torque. I got them as tight as I could. Since that shaft rotates counterclockwise when the truck is moving forward, I don’t anticipate the bolts will loosen — but I ought to check after a couple hundred miles to be on the safe side.

The ride is considerably firmer with the new shocks, and the steering and handling feel tighter. The most noticeable thing is a lack of vibration at any speed, though. I can pick whatever speed is suitable on the freeway and everything is smooth.

Also, I briefly tested the 4wd last night on dirt. Even at full articulation, the front end no longer makes any noise. Excellent.


Ram still not done …

It’s been an adventure, and it’s not over yet. I spoke with the owner of Albuquerque Driveshaft later on Thursday and he informed me that the Moog 464s I ordered did not fit the axle shafts.

He ended up using Neapco 2-0053s (not a U-joint I had found), and apparently also used a Neapco 2-3011 somewhere else (not sure about that). Not sure, since what I’m finding indicates the 2-0053s go in the front driveshaft, and so does a 2-3011. … anyway, I’m going to be on the hook for the work I had already asked them to do, plus the carrier bearing, plus whatever U-joints they used from their stock. And then I’ll have to return at least some of my Moogs to Amazon.

Then, they called me on Friday morning to say that everything was done, except for one thing: the stub shaft (that is, the shorter half) of the driver’s side axle shaft was bent, to the point where they couldn’t get a new U-joint to fit. I asked if it could be bent back into shape and the guy said no way. I guess that my efforts to remove the old U-joint without undoing the retaining clips bent it. At this point I’m not clear whether the Moog 464s didn’t fit because the stub shaft was bent, or for some other reason.

I found and ordered a replacement, a genuine AAM 1485-series 40027243 front outer axle stub shaft, for $100.00 (plus $11 shipping). According to FedEx, it will be here tomorrow, and I will take it over to the shop first thing Wednesday morning. With luck, they’ll get it done Wednesday and I can take everything home and put it on Wednesday evening.

The transfer case started leaking again within twelve hours of being filled with oil. I took a careful look at it and found a place on the back side that had gasket maker on the outside of the case and was leaking. It appears one of the places the chain had contacted on the inside caused a stress crack, which leaks. I drained it and JB-welded the area, and that fixed that particular leak. Unfortunately, even after fixing that, it’s still weeping from the bottommost part of the case. I thought about overtorquing the bolts there, but I doubt that’d fix it — and might even make it worse. This transfer case is just messed up. I guess I’ll just live with it. At least, it should be a slower leak now than it was.

I cleaned a lot of oil off the front end (steering linkage, etc). The engine is leaking oil, probably from the front main seal.

I tried to replace the torsion bar bushings, and found I can’t get the passenger side undone without first undoing the entire steering linkage. I’m not interested in doing that, so it’ll have to wait.

Put the rear wheels back on (after rotating them and swapping them from the front) and the spare too.

Ram update

I started on the shorter axle half-shaft. I quickly learned, after destroying the ends of the U-joint, that you have to take the retaining clips off first (I knew about, but forgot, that step).

But even after removing the retaining clips, it was no easier. The press makes the ends of the U-joint (which are very old, maybe the originals) just explode. It’s terrifying.

And then, after I got the fourth U-joint cap to go, I got an impact socket stuck on the end of the U-joint. Couldn’t get it off for anything.

I elected to take the driveshafts and axle shafts to Albuquerque Driveshaft on 5th St., which I ride by every morning on my bike. That’s not going to be cheap (around $800 for everything). But they told me I picked good U-joints. Also, they said that the support bearing for the rear driveshaft is completely shot and needs to be replaced as well. I wasn’t going to do that, so I’m glad they caught it. Also, they’ll balance everything after the U-joints are replaced. I hope things will  be ready by the end of the day tomorrow.

Last night I installed the stabilizer/sway bar end links and cleaned the caked ATF/dirt off the bottom of the truck. What a filthy job.

Tonight I’ll reinstall the transfer case and fill it with oil, and I’ll take the torsion bar off and use the press to replace its bushings.

Ram project continued

I took the transfer case off, cleaned it thoroughly, and discovered that while there is a hole for the position sensor, it hasn’t been drilled all the way through. I asked on Cummins Forum whether anyone had seen that before, and after three days no one had replied. Not a particularly good forum, though I guess I’d prefer no one replying to someone who has no clue but replies anyway.

I measured carefully and decided a 9/16″ drill bit would do the trick, but I didn’t have a big enough tap for the sensor (approximately 5/8″). We looked at Home Depot, Auto Zone and O’Reilly. O’Reilly had the best selection of taps, by far, but nothing big enough, so I decided to not install the sensor at this time.

We had to buy a bigger pair of retaining ring pliers to get the ring off the rear shaft of the transfer case, and we had to buy a set of cold chisels to finally get it open. It took a lot of hammering, and the chisels damaged the mating surfaces. Kevin and I cleaned it and scraped it very well, and I filed down the damaged areas. We put it all back together with Permatex Ultra Black, finger tightening fasteners until it just squeezed out of the gap a bit, then waiting an hour and tightening to spec. You’re supposed to wait 24 hours before exposing the new gasket to oil; if I install the case tonight, that’ll be more than 48 hours. I also replaced the damaged output shaft seal and dust boot with a new one ($40!!). We fashioned a seal driver from a #” schedule-40 PVC join section that cost $3 at Home Depot, and it worked great.

So the transfer case is now ready to put back on the truck. I had considered filling it with oil and letting it sit to see if it’s really leak-proof, but that would introduce further delay to the project that I don’t want to deal with. So I’ll wait until it’s back on the truck to fill it.

The shop manual calls for ATF+4 to go in the transfer case. ATF+4 is a Chrysler-specific oil, and from what I’ve been able to find, this particular transfer case, an NV271, should be perfectly happy with the generic SuperTech Dexron III/Mercon I’ve been using since I got the truck. Their performance is similar and apparently Dex III/Mercon won’t negatively impact the NV271/273’s seals (be aware, however, that Dexron V or VI probably will — but that’s not likely to be an issue considering how expensive that is). This is a good thing, because ATF+4 is both hard to find and expensive, and I have a lot of Dex III/Mercon on hand (hopefully, after this is done, though, I won’t need to keep refilling my transfer case every two months or so).

I replaced the front shocks with new Bilstein 4600s. The old shocks were just loose in their holes after I undid their top nuts and the shock tower nuts. The new Bilsteins, by comparison, have to be compressed a lot to get the shock tower nuts attached — and this makes the job nearly impossible for one person to do. Good thing I had Kevin’s help.

The old front shocks were basically dead. You can completely compress them with very little effort and they have to be encouraged to even rebound at all. I don’t think they were doing anything anymore. They’re just plain black and I don’t know what brand they are.

Then we replaced the rears, also with Bilstein 4600s. Those came strapped, so they didn’t have to be compressed much (but they still did, a bit). The old rear shocks weren’t quite as dead as the fronts, but they’re still basically dead — easy to compress, don’t want to rebound. The rears were a silver color and one had a “Reflex” brand sticker on it (which is made by Monroe).

I took apart the driver’s side of the front axle. Since I replaced the unit bearing / hub-bearing seventeen months ago, and put everything back together with generous amounts of anti-seize, it came apart quickly and easily. the rotor came off with no effort and all I had to do to get the hub off was to back off its four bolts about a quarter-inch, then tap on them with a hammer and socket extension. Easy. The driver’s side rotor is in good shape, no grooves that I can feel with my fingernail. The driver side half-shaft came out no problem.

The passenger side was a completely different story. In April 2015, I replaced its rotor, but did not replace its unit bearing. I don’t think I even took the hub off when I replaced the rotor. Well, I got the rotor off without much trouble (having put anti-seize on its backside when I installed it). But then the spindle nut would not come off. I stood on the end of the 3/4″ torque wrench; I used a propane torch to heat everything (completely ineffective); I used lots of PB blaster, and it still took 2+ hours of soaking with PB blaster and standing on the wrench to finally get it to let go. I don’t know if I’ve ever had as hard of a time with a nut. Then getting the unit bearing off was difficult too; I had to use the power steering-as-a-press trick with one of my impact extensions. It got the hub off (rusted as hell), but also bent my extension at the point where the ball bearing fits. It’s still usable, though. I also bent the heck out of my long crowbar, which I was using to brace the hub to keep it from rotating while I cranked on the spindle nut. It takes a lot of force to bend a crowbar. Since I weigh about 210 lbs and was standing on the end of my 3/4″ torque wrench is 33.5″ long, that’s nearly 600 lb-ft of torque I was putting on that nut (and the crowbar tried, unsuccessfully, to hold).

Then I was able to get the passenger side half shaft out, also without difficulty. It’s pretty rusty — actually, that whole side is, don’t know why.

And at the bottom of the passenger side steering knuckle, where there’s a ring groove above the bottom ball joint, there were a half-dozen sheared needle bearings from the passenger side axle U-joint. Bad news. Not only did they fall out of the U-joint, they were also damaged. Good thing I’m replacing it.

So at this point, I’ve got both driveshafts and both axle shafts in the garage, ready to have all eight U-joints replaced.

I tackled the sway/stabilizer bar connecting links and frame bushings. The end links’ nuts came off without difficulty. It’s a good thing I bought some three-jaw pullers at Harbor Freight, because I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten the end links out of the stabilizer bar otherwise. You carefully crank on the puller until — BAM — the end link explodes out of the stabilizer bar. It’s kind of scary.

The stabilizer bar bushings, now — that was another story. It seems the bushing brackets, which are attached to the frame, are bent out of shape on my truck. I don’t know if the bar got hit on something, maybe a boulder — but they’re screwed up to the point where you can only get a torque wrench on one bolt and not the other. The driver side one wasn’t too much of a problem to replace the bushing, but I had a hell of a time with the passenger side one — I had to hammer it back into some semblance of correct shape to finally be able to torque down the two bolts correctly. I’m glad that’s done.

I tried and failed to replace the torsion/track bar bushings. I got the driver’s side bushing hammered out of the bar, only to find that apparently the ones Moog sent do not fit! (I did more research and found that you really need to use a press to install these, so I’ll take the whole bar off and use the hydraulic press to replace both ends).

So at this point, what remains to be done is:

  • Replace the stabilizer bar links with new.
  • Take the front and back rotors to O’Reilly and (fronts) get them machined if needed and (rears) machine or replace if necessary. I suspect the rears, which I have not replaced before, need to be replaced along with their brake pads. We’ll  see how that works out.
  • Replace all the U-joints.
  • Put the front axle back together (half shafts, hubs, etc)
  • Reinstall the transfer case and fill with oil.
  • Reinstall front and rear driveshafts.
  • And of course, put all five wheels back on the truck.

The start of the Ram rebuild

William and I started the project last night: moved the Ram to the south side of the driveway, which is the best place for it to be if it can’t move for a week or two. Then we took the wheels off.

I started it up and put it in gear in 4wd just to see if I could hear any strange noises in the front end. Well, only one wheel per axle spins: the passenger side rear and the driver side front. So I guess that confirms both diffs are open, not limited slip. If I rev it, I can get the other wheel on each axle to briefly spin.

But what this revealed was that the passenger rear rotor is badly misshapen. As it spins, you can see the caliper sliding back and forth on its pins. Probably means that rotor needs to be replaced, and at a minimum, it’s causing vibration.

I didn’t do anything else. A bunch of parts will be here today, but with the remnants of a hurricane passing through, it seems unlikely I’ll get to work on the truck tonight.

Ram front end

The front end has been making more noise recently, so I decided to do the rebuild I’ve been planning for a long while.

I had a look at the axle U-joints. I didn’t notice any damage to the driver’s side axle U-joint, but that one was making a more pronounced noise when I would move the wheel back and forth.

The passenger side axle U-joint has physical damage; one of the U-joint caps has a big chunk broken out of it.

And when I put it in four-wheel drive, even on dirt, it makes horrible noises up front. So it’s time to do something about it.

I did some basic testing and concluded there wasn’t a problem with the ball joints or the tie rod ends, so I decided not to replace those. That saves about $400.

I got the well-known Harbor Freight 20-ton H-frame hydraulic press, #60603, for $160 with a 20% off coupon. It took Kevin and me about an hour to assemble.

As for the parts, I got:

Sway/stabilizer bar link: Qty 2, Mevotech MK80467

Sway/stabilizer bar-to-frame bushings (33mm) Mevotech MK7383

Track/torsion bar bushings: Moog K80777

Passenger side unit hub/bearing: Timken HA590032 (same model as the driver’s side one, which I replaced in April 2015)

Shocks: Front, Bilstein 24186070. Rear: Bilstein 24176094.


Rear driveshaft, qty. 3, Moog 351A

Front driveshaft, CV at transfer case, qty. 2, Moog 354

Front driveshaft at front axle, qty. 1, Moog 534G

Front axle half shafts: qty. 2, Moog 464

Transfer case position switch: Airtex 1S4129


We drove to John F. Kennedy campground — 20-or-so miles of rough road — on Sunday, and now that the truck is back on pavement, the driver’s side wheel has suddenly ceased to make an occasional clicking and is now making a constant one. I decided it was time to park the truck until I can get it fixed.

Since I have to take the driveshafts off to take the transfer case apart (I’m finally going to disassemble it, clean it, and properly seal it back together so it won’t leak anymore, and also replace the position switch so my 4×4 light will actually work), the first order of business will be to take off the front and rear driveshafts and remove the transfer case.

Then I can use the press to get the six U-joints out of the two driveshafts and get them ready for new U-joints, and work on the transfer case in the garage.