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I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#1
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Jay Faubion
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I've been fighting a problem with leaking pinion seals for two years. I've done the job six (yes, Virginia) times and I am really, really good at it now. I finally became convinced that the underlying problem was not the seals, or how I put them in. The problem was a bad pinion bearing that would allow the pinion shaft to not spin true, with the effect that it was constantly wearing out the new seals about as quickly as they were installed. A very good friend gave me a new differential carrier to install in place of mine. Mine was a 4.10 gear ratio, and the new one is 3.90, but that is the only difference. Fine with me! Repair of my old differential was really not an option, given the cost (a thousand dollars or more).

Last Saturday morning (June 13, 2009) I got a friend to come over to the house and we put the new differential carrier ('pumpkin', 'hogshead') into the Packard. It is a 1949 22nd Series Deluxe Eight (2262). I had already pulled one axle and done much of the prep work so we were ready to go. I needed some help though, because I've been having enough trouble with my knee and shoulder that I wanted an extra person around.

The new pinion seal was one from Kanter. Inasmuch as I had it already and didn't want to spend any more money I decided to use it. If I could have used the old companion flange (that came with the "new" carrier) I would have, but it was not the same as what my driveshaft required, so no luck there. Then I could have experimented with just leaving the original pinion seal in place.

Everything went well with the swap-out. I already had the new seal and flange mounted from their time on my bench, so we were done in about 90 minutes. Actually, I've gotten really good at putting in pinion seals, but I can't quite rise to the place of feeling proud of that.

The seal started leaking immediately. Drip - drip - drip. Well, I'd been through this enough times that I was past discouragement, but I knew what I was going to do. I ordered a new rawhide seal from George Bachleda at Olcar Bearing Co.

Note: I think the older-style rawhide seals are far superior to the newer variety. I will say frankly that the first pinion seal I tried (from Max Merritt) disassembled itself on installation. When I called about it I was told that "We make them here and there's nothing wrong with them." That was the end of that. The next seal I bought was from Kanter, and the quality was noticeably better. But they still leaked. That may have been from using the Speedi-sleeve at the same time, and not having it lined up right. I'm not entirely sure. But I do know that the sealing lip surface on the Kanter and Merritt seals is quite thin and would tolerate less movement and imperfection on the shaft surface. The rawhide seal's sealing surface is substantially wider, more flexible, and to my mind superior.

I had that new rawhide seal by Friday, so Friday night I pulled the companion flange back off and removed the Speedi-Sleeve from it. I figured that the sleeve had not done what it had been intended for, and I may in fact have driven it too far along the flange shaft. I feared that the sealing lip might be riding on (and over) the end of the sleeve causing a problem. I then took the flange and oiled the shaft up, and slowly put the seal into place on the shaft. Then I soaked the joined pair overnight in 20 WT engine oil, thinking it might settle into shape.

Success, finally! I reassembled everything on Saturday afternoon and for the first time ever nothing leaked out. Still no leaks tonight. I was really happy. I took the car for a drive (sans hood) and what a difference! It was like driving a different car. It is quiet, smooth and even seems more responsive. You'd think it had just been washed, it was running so well (that's a joke).

The old Packard is as quiet now as my Toyota or Sebring. I am absolutely thrilled. No howling from the underside (I had not realized how loud, and how accustomed to that noise I had become), and no "rocking" sensation when the rear end floats between acceleration and deceleration.

So, to sum up my experiences with my leaking pinion seal, it pretty much came down to the fact that no matter how many new and different seals I put in the car, with a bad pinion shaft bearing there was just no way that seal was going to hold. The fix was to replace the carrier (of course, I could have fixed the old one but for more $$$), and use a rawhide seal. That did it.

For those interested in replacing their "pumpkin", here are the basic steps.

1. Remove the wheels (do this first, you get more room to work)
2. Unbolt the driveshaft (4 bolts to the companion flange), and bungee it out of the way.
3. Start draining the differential.
4. Remove the big nut/washer (and cotter pin) from the axle ends.
5. Remove the brake drum. It won't come off very well if you leave the emergency brake engaged
6. Remove four bolts holding the brake plates to the axle housing. Don't lose the bolts out of the back. Keep track of the order all the parts are in, particularly the shim(s). You'll want to replace the inner and outer oil seals while you're doing this. No special tools are required, just attention to detail and reasonable care. I got my set from Kanter, with the diff seal, for about $90 with shipping.
7. Remove (and plug) the brake lines from the wheel cylinders. Yes, you have to do this.
8. Leaving the parking brake cable in place, move the brake backing plates to one side.
9. Using some (but not much required) force, pull the axles straight out. Don't let the right and left axles get switched around. Pack the bearings while they're out.
10. Remove the (eleven?) nuts from the studs holding the differential carrier to the differential housing. Don't lose the little copper rings on each stud.
11. Clean up the mating surfaces of the diff housing and carrier.
12. Install the new gasket on the housing.
13. Carefully mount the new carrier onto the housing. This thing weighs about fifty pounds, so you'll need a big stomach to rest it on (assuming you're working on your back) or if you're lucky you have a nice little jack for the purpose. I had the stomach, no jack, and a good friend.
14. Bolt the carrier up tight to the housing.
15. Since you have to refill the housing with gear oil you may want to consider doing it now. Remove the top plug (where you fill it) and set it aside. Pour the gear oil (GL-4, 140W) into the ends of the axle housing. So much easier! (I didn't do this, but only because I was all excited and forgot). When it starts coming out of the carrier fill hole you know you're done.
16. Having installed new seals (replacing the old ones), and having cleaned up everything you can with your wire brush and other tools, replace the axle shafts.
17. Rap them on the end to make sure they seat properly both inside the carrier and also the bearings into the axle housing.
18. Now just reassemble.
19. Make sure you have .004 - .007" free end play on the axle shafts when you get to that point. That's what the shims are all about.
20. When everything is back together you'll need to re-bleed those two rear cylinders and probably readjust your brakes.
21. You're done.

It would not surprise (or bother me at all) for some to add their advice to what I have written here. I truly am a novice at this sort of thing. I'm just very thankful for the help I've gotten along the way from others on this forum and other places (notably, Dick Benjamin).

(Re-edited on 6/25 to correct the spelling of Mr. Bachleda's name)

Posted on: 2009/6/23 12:23
Jay Faubion
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#2
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Owen_Dyneto
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Well Jay, I've followed your travails with the pinion seal for a while and am really pleased to see it's at an end, you must have felt like doing handstands when finally finished, and congratulations. Look at all you've learned in the process.

As far as Olcar Bearing is concerned, I'm often suprised that folks go to the Packard mass-merchandisers for those types of items, these folks are real specialists and well-worth our supporting.

Posted on: 2009/6/23 13:50
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#3
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Jay Faubion
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Dave,

Regarding Olcar Bearing, I'd not have known about them had someone not told me (Dick B). I just checked our PackardInfo vendor list and Olcar doesn't show up there, either.

So I think that's the problem... how would people know? George Bachelda at Olcar will be my first choice for bearings and seals from now on, but up to now I would always think

*** EBAY
*** Kanter
*** Max Merritt

for those things.

Since you mentioned it though, I'll make a point of seeing what it takes to get Olcar listed in the Vendor List on this site.

And yes, you're so right... I'd be doing those handstands if I wouldn't tip over and hurt myself.

Posted on: 2009/6/23 14:11
Jay Faubion
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#4
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Owen_Dyneto
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Olcar is an old an familiar name to those of us who make the pilgrimmage to Hershey, he's been there for about a half-century and always has a crowd around him. And he advertises regularly in print in the various hobby publications, I guess that's why I though he was better-known.

Posted on: 2009/6/23 14:13
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#5
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Ozstatman
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Jay,

Thanks for sharing your travails with us during the pinion seal replacement saga, and for the step by step "how-to" on your final diff centre and pinion seal replacement. Glad it all worked out in the end and you can now enjoy driving your Packard.

Posted on: 2009/6/23 15:48
Mal
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Bowral, Southern Highlands of NSW, Australia
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#6
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tbirdman
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Another ataboy for George. I talked with him and he asked that the transmission shop call him because these bearings needed a snap ring to be installed properly.

I also read him a part number from a bearing I got off of Ebay. He new right away it was the correct bearing for the rear.

I guess he's the bearing god!

Posted on: 2009/12/15 19:50
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Re: I think I've replaced my pinion seal for the last time
#7
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flackmaster
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Very enlightening post-fixit. Funny, I advertised some pinion bearings on ebay a few weeks ago, including the mention of importance of replacement when leaking pinion seals were inspected and didn't sell any, nada, none. Apparently no interest in servicing differenials much any more. Oh well.... and last week delivered a rebuilt differential to a guy for a 22nd series....very toasted smell after all the fluid had leaked out...what's that line, something about learning from others mistakes. Gotta love packardinfo...

Posted on: 2009/12/15 23:15
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