Too many things want to be in the same space under the Jeep.
The tie rod and drag link for the new front axle arrived a while back, and yesterday I attached them so that the two tires would stay pointed in the same direction. Today, my friend Tony and I took the old front axle out from under the Jeep and rolled the new one in. Rolling the old one out was actually pretty simple, once the Jeep was on jackstands and the weight was off the axle: disconnect the vent hose, two brake lines, the old drag link (the rod that goes from the axle to the steering box), and four bolts on the springs, then pop the springs loose from their mounts on the frame, and voila! The free-rolling assembly you see here:
Once the old stuff was out of the way, it was an easy thing to roll the new axle into place, although it took us a couple of tries to get it properly centered:
The plan was to get it located right-left and front-back, and then do a bunch of measuring to see whether (or where) things would hit each other. I wanted to check the axle at “full stuff” (meaning with the Jeep sitting directly on the axle), and also with one end of the axle “stuffed” and the other “drooped” (down at the bottom of its up-and-down travel range), particularly with the wheels turned, to see whether the tires would hit the fenders, the frame, or anything else. I never got to the second part.
What I discovered was that the drag link already sits up very high and farther back than the old one. This means that I’m going to have to relocate the power steering box and get a new Pitman arm (that’s the actual pivoting arm that moves the drag link when you turn your steering wheel). Here’s where they don’t *quite* match up. The drag link is the rod entering from the left foreground and ending in a black-and-silver piece; the Pitman arm is the greyish-white entering from the right center of the photo at a down angle and then turning to point at the drag link. They’re supposed to fit together.
So that all needs to be sorted out.
Then, when I lowered the Jeep down so it would be sitting on the axle, I discovered that the drag link *just barely* misses the bottom of the frame, and the differential wants to share space with the engine’s oil pan:
The differential slid past the oil pan, as shown in the photo, but that’s only because it’s rotated away from its correct alignment. If all those nuts you see were vertical, like they should be, the top of the differential would hit the oil pan big time. I don’t think this will end up being a major problem, though, because I already knew that I’d have to move the engine back to fit the new radiator in. I think I can also move it up a couple of inches, as the new frame will be five inches tall from end to end, instead of varying from 3.5 inches (at the front end) to 3 inches (directly under the grill) to 4.5 inches (at the engine mounts) to 4 inches (under the body) and so on. And I can put in different bumpstops (the red thing in the center left of the second picture up) that will keep the axle from getting so close to the frame in the first place.
So I decided the next thing to do would be to get the radiator out of the way so I could see what hits what (and where) more clearly. Accordingly, I’m letting the coolant drain overnight and will take it out tomorrow.
And my frame guy contacted me on Facebook tonight to see how it’s going. We had a short discussion, at the end of which he said he’ll be here Tuesday morning at 9 (per my request) to have a look and make suggestions. One of his comments was, “maybe we should get started on the frame. that may change some of the issues.” Gee, ya think? 😉
One good point, though – even with the Jeep sitting directly on the axle, the front tires didn’t hit the fenders at all. So I’ll have plenty of vertical clearance between the two when I trim the fenders flat. And with the new axle being five inches wider on each side than the old one, I don’t really think I’ll have any clearance problems when the tires are turned, either.
So we’ll see what happens Tuesday.