Tag Archives: bearings

Getting our bearings at last!!!

They’re here! So shiny, so pretty! Our bright new Johnson Duramax cutless and rudder bearings!
Below: We had two of the cutless bearings machined to our specs, and ordered a third as a spare. Note the difference between original sleeve thickness and the machined thickness.

Yet more bearings…

Dodge on jacks? It must be Saturday.

Driveshaft bearings of one sort or another have been an ongoing theme this summer, and in each case what seemed simple and straightforward has been anything but.  First came the boat, and I’m happy to report the special-order bearings from Fort Lauderdale Propeller have been machined to our specs and are currently in transit. But in the meantime a quick inspection of the Dodge revealed that after 19 years, the main driveshaft bearing was due for replacement. And since the truck is essential for hauling tools and parts back and forth to the boat, we really can’t work on the boat unless we work on the truck first. But this one should be quick and easy… or so we thought.

In truth, we have no one to blame but ourselves. When we bought this truck back in 1992, we ordered it with a few non-standard features. Rather than the V8, which only came with an automatic, we went with the V6 and 5 speed manual. Four-wheel drive seemed an unnecessary expense, but we opted for the posi-traction rear. We added the heavy duty tow package, which beefed up various parts to handle the additional load. Anti-lock brakes were just coming on the market, and we went with that as well, along with cruise control and a few (very few) amenities.  Little did we know we had created a monster.  All these years later, whenever we need to replace some standard part, nothing matches what a 2 wheel drive V6 Dakota of this vintage should contain. Our little Dodge is a hodge-podge of parts intended for the V8, the 4 wheel drive, and in some cases, a full-size Ram.

Below: Exhibit A. Note the original driveshaft bearing, (Bottom) slightly toasted and mis-shaped after utilizing a torch and chisel to separate it from driveshaft. Notice that the ‘identical to original’ replacement in the box bears no resemblance to what we removed. Further investigation revealed the old bearing matches those used on the much larger Ram.

Exhibit B.  The driveshaft universal joints were getting stiff, so we figured we’d swap them out while the driveshaft was out. What isn’t immediately apparent in this photo is that while they should all be the same size, they aren’t.

Original universal joints – not what the parts books claim. By now we should be used to this.

Coming together at last, though not without the usual modifications. Of course, a job we thought would be wrapped up by lunch dragged into Sunday, at which point it was pouring on a biblical scale that had roads closed and rail lines shut down due to flooding.  (Update: the news reported 11 inches of rain fell over a 24 hour period. ELEVEN inches!)  And where are we? In the driveway, on our backs under the truck, reinstalling the driveshaft. But the truck is once again back together, which means we can now turn our attention back to the boat. And now that the engine room is wide open, we can pull the transmission, strip down and clean the engine, replace the motor mounts, belts, hoses, thermostat, fuel lines, oil lines, oil cooler, trans fluid cooler, heat exchanger,  solenoids, zincs,  drive damper plate, relocate the fuel-water separator, replace the cutlass and rudder bearings, rebuild the steering yet again, and by time we’re done with all that it should be cool enough to start rebuilding /fiberglassing  the salon ceiling/ bridge deck.

This, kind readers, is the fun of life with an old truck and an even older boat. And it is why ‘weekend’ and ‘relax’ are not synonymous in my vocabulary.

A tale of two bearings…

Technically, three bearings, and it begins with that original cutlass bearing. Looking back, that should have been the first sign that some unusual headaches would await us down the road. Back when we were buying Annabel Lee, the initial attempt at a sea-trial revealed a severely worn cutlass bearing, and the seller needed to replace that as one of the conditions of the sale. Simple enough? Apparently not, as days stretched into weeks and we were told the mechanic he’d hired to do the work was having difficulty locating a proper sized replacement. In truth, being that it was October and haul-out season was in full swing, we believed the delays were more a case of this job falling on the low end of the mechanic’s priorities, and being that it wasn’t our boat yet, things were out of our hands. Eventually a bearing turned up, I’m told, when the seller discovered he had a spare he’d completely forgotten about aboard. But the job was completed, the sea-trial and survey wrapped up, (including an inspection of the work by the surveyor, who completely overlooked the fact that the mechanic had installed the rudder tiller upside down, which led to another string of headaches, but that’s not today’s topic.) We’ve learned several lessons from that experience, including the realization that if no one could locate a bearing for a boat with a 1.75″ shaft, that might be a cause for consideration.

Move ahead a bit and we find ourselves working out various other mechanical kinks, including a stuffing box with a worn inner cutlass bearing (yes, they do exist) and numerous steering issues, including a rudder with (among other things) a bit too much play from a worn lower bearing. As with everything else on this boat it took some doing, (and thoughts of dynamite for more than one reason,) but ultimately we removed both the stuffing box and the rudder bearing with the innocent and simple intention of replacing both bearings… and that’s where things got interesting.

Let’s start with the rudder.

Yes, this is the rudder on a 32′ powerboat. But as with everything else on this miniature ship, it is overbuilt. The rudder blade itself measures 20″ wide by 34″ high, and if you take the shaft into consideration that brings the total length to 59″.  There’s even a removable deck plate in the cockpit that allows you to insert a manual ’emergency’ tiller onto the squared end, should the hydraulics fail. Details like this are among the reasons this boat, despite the work she needs, impressed me to begin with.

Tiller and upper assembly (with soda bottle to catch hydraulic fluid as we replaced the ram with blown seals.)

Rudder tube leading to lower bearing.

Above: Upper assembly removed.

Lower bearing housing coming out.

Above: Lower bearing housing removed.

Above: You might think there would be a set screw or two to keep the bearing from spinning, but there were none to be seen. Still, the bearing didn’t wouldn’t separate from the housing until we resorted to a hydraulic press.

Ultimately it turned out there was a set-screw concealed under layers of caulking/???, and not only was it hammered into place as not to EVER back out, but the head was also ground down. Two strong men and a whole lot of persuasion later and…

The tube is clear. And here’s the first bearing I’m trying to locate. It seems to be made of some hard composite.

And that brings us to the stuffing box.

The orange dust you see here is called ‘Phillybond’, a flexible stern tube sealant. It turns out that in addition to being bolted into the hull, the stuffing box was also threaded onto the stern tube, and sealed with Phillybond  epoxy as well.

Another view, to show just how deep this is set in.

First round with hydraulics only managed to remove the very much crudded-up collar that (theoretically) directs water around the shaft, but not the cutlass sleeve.



This was going to require a bit more pressure…

And victory at last!

But why was it so hard to remove the sleeve? Perhaps another hidden set screw, also hammered down and ground smooth then covered under years of age?

There it is. And here it is, the reputedly non-existent inner cutlass bearing.

And not surprisingly, this bearing is the same inner and outer dimension as the outer cutlass bearing. The inner diameter of 1.75″ is easy enough. It’s that outer dimension that makes things interesting. It’s 62 mm or 2.44″, a size we’ve discovered is harder to locate than you’d first imagine. And that’s where we are now, trying to track down two cutlass bearings with outer diameters of 62 mm.

We have a plan B and even a plan C, but ultimately the ideal would be plan A – replace these bearings apples to apples. Surely with all the trawlers and sailing craft coming out of Hong Kong during the seventies and eighties, ours can’t be the only boat built with bearings of these dimensions.

Update: presently we may have located a Duramax bearing with an outer diameter of 65 mm and an outer wall thick enough to be machined down to 62 mm. It’s a start but I’m still curious if there’s anything that starts out at a closer fit.