Project Super C, Front Wheels Part 2: Checking our Bearings

FBN Network

Mar 28, 2019

This is the eighth post in our ongoing series on Project Super C. We are chronicling the rehabilitation of our 1954 Farmall Super C tractor, which has taken up residence outside of the Farmers Business Network office. If you are new to this series, please start with the introduction to the project in our first post.

After having replaced the rusty front rims last time, we are now going to overhaul the hubs and axles that the wheels ride on. This picture of the left front axle shows some of the key parts:

As you can see, the wheel itself rides on inner and outer bearings which allow it to spin freely. The bearings are greased, and there is an oil seal behind the inner bearing to keep the grease in. The hubcap and its (missing) gasket, which we saw in the prior post, serve to keep the grease in on the outer side. The brown sludge you can see in the picture is the old grease. The service manual for the tractor says to remove the old grease from the bearings, clean them with kerosene, and pack in new grease every six months. It would appear that we are several decades overdue. We’ll remedy this situation, and also replace the oil seals and install new gaskets while we’re at it.

When we had a look at the right front axle, we were in for a surprise:

The red arrow points at a piece of a roller bearing that is embedded in the grease. Luckily, when we checked our bearings we found them in OK shape and not missing any pieces, and both front wheels rotated fairly smoothly. Further investigation revealed more bearing shrapnel inside of the wheel. We believe that at some point there was a major bearing failure on the right front, and whoever replaced it did a sloppy job and didn’t remove all of the bearing fragments, running the risk that they could damage the new bearing. While we have long known that our tractor has suffered the ill effects of decades of weather exposure, we now know that it may not have been particularly well maintained before it’s retirement. When we are done with our rehabilitation, the Super C will in some ways be in better shape than the day it was parked, even after all of those years outside.     

We next discovered that the oil seal on the right front axle had largely turned into rust that was adhered solidly to the axle. We had to chisel it off:

Finally, with everything disassembled we could turn to soaking the parts in kerosene to remove grease, and using Evapo-Rust® to remove rust. We paid particular attention to removing the rust from within the bolt holes in the wheels with a rifle brush. Our teammate Esta then put her painting skills to use and applied rust inhibiting paint to the interiors of the holes. This application method played out nicely. We expect that it will prevent any further stuck bolts (as covered in the prior post).

The kerosene started out clear, but it quickly took on the appearance of chocolate milk. Don’t let the whiskey bottle fool you, you definitely don’t want to drink this:

The last step was to repack the bearings with grease, insert them into the wheels, reattach the rims to the wheels, and reassemble everything including the new oil seals and hubcap gaskets.

Here’s what everything looked like when we put it back together:

While they hardly look any different, the rims are now structurally sound, the rust has been removed, and the hubs have been thoroughly overhauled and repaired. The front wheels are now fully rehabilitated.

In our next Project Super C post, we'll focus on the rear wheels and axles.

Evapo-Rust is a registered trademark of Evapo-Rust.

FBN Network

Mar 28, 2019