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March 2011 Willie's Workbench

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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I was beginning to think that the leak at the back of my transfer case was perpetual. Every time I wanted to use the truck, checking the oil level in the transfer case was necessary, and the leak was making one heck of a mess on the cement driveway. I had already replaced the seal twice-the first had leaked as badly as the original. An upgraded, top-of-the-line, double-lipped type did a better job of holding back the leak, but still not entirely to my satisfaction.

Actually, I knew what the problem was. The output yoke was undersized, pitted, and grooved. It was undersized because I had been trying to polish out the pits and grooves. Thus, I had three choices: First, live with the oil leak; second, purchase a new yoke; or third, have mine either hard-chromed or metal-sprayed and then ground back to size. Either way, it was going to be expensive. After some thought, I ruled out replacing the yoke because, since my old Dodge is long out of production, I would have to settle on a used replacement, which most likely wouldn't be in much better condition than my present one. I could always use what's called a "Speedi-Sleeve," which is made by one of the best known names in oil seals, CR Industries.

A Speedi-Sleeve is nothing more than a precision-made, extremely thin steel sleeve that presses over the old shaft to offer a very smooth new sealing surface. As the name implies, it's a quick and easy fix. Speedi-Sleeves are available through most bearing supply houses or auto parts stores.

The first step is to clean the surface where the seal contacts the shaft, getting rid of all the dirt, grime, and any burrs or rough spots. Measure the diameter of the shaft in at least three places where the Speedi-Sleeve will be positioned and average these measurements. Be sure the measurements are accurate because you'll be working with a press-on fit. No, you can't use your tape measure-a micrometer is the proper tool to use here. Order the proper sleeve-your dealer will have a chart that lists the available sizes.

In most cases, the sleeve will be shorter than the shaft, so correct positioning is important. I found that the easiest way to do this is by smearing some grease on the shaft and installing it in its normal position. The seal will push the grease along the length of the shaft, indicating where the sleeve should be positioned.

If the shaft has any deep scores, you will want to take care of these before the sleeve is installed. The Speedi-Sleeve is quite thin and could be distorted by seal pressure. There are a couple of ways to solve this kind of problem. You can cover the scores with epoxy and install the sleeve just before it sets up, or you can let the epoxy set up and then sand it down smooth. I have tried it both ways and found that letting it set up first seems to work best.

All that's necessary now is to place the installation tool over the Speedi-Sleeve against the flanged end, and drive it in place with a large, flat-faced hammer. If you've measured accurately, you can leave the Speedi-Sleeve's flange on; if it interferes, it can be easily pulled loose with a pair of side-cutting pliers.

It's a pretty simple operation and quite inexpensive when you consider the price or availability of a new yoke. Did it stop my transfer case oil leak? You bet it did.

The Speedi-Sleeve can be used on just about any type of shaft. I have also used them successfully on axleshafts where the oil seal rides. In this instance, a long piece of PVC pipe is slid over the axleshaft and used as a driver. So, next time before you replace an item due to shaft wear, consider sleeving it instead at a much reduced price.

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