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Field Repairs - Breakage Survival 101

Posted in How To on October 1, 2002
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So you're on a ship 4 miles off the coast when you fall overboard. Despite a massive search, nobody can locate you and you're forced to swim to shore. When you stumble out of the water amid a throng of frenzied reporters, do you really think anyone is going to ask whether you did the breaststroke or the doggy paddle?

What's our point? Nobody cares if after you break, you hold your junk together with duct tape, bailing wire, or chewing gum. As long as you've got gumption enough to get your junk rolling again and can keep from becoming a roadblock in the middle of the trail, you'll be just as respected. Here's some tips on keeping yourself from becoming the broken-down trail pariah.

Busted U-joint
The procedure is pretty much the same for driveshafts and axleshafts. As long as you have a spare (which you should), first remove the retaining clips that hold the caps on. Using a socket or length of tube that's slightly smaller than the diameter of the U-joint cap, place the assembly over a large socket or other item that will allow the bottom cap to be driven out, yet still hold the assembly in place. Tap out the bottom cap, then turn the assembly over and tap out the top. With the caps out, the U-joint can be removed from the shaft. Do the same for the other two caps, then install in the reverse manner.

Busted Caliper Bracket Or Brake Line
This rig's caliper bracket broke, taking out the brake line and the caliper in one fell swoop. If your line breaks on a side that has flexible rubber hose, you can simply use locking pliers to crimp off that side of the braking system.

Blown Tire Bead
Running at low pressures without bead-lock wheels often results in a tire rolling off the bead and losing all air pressure. You can often reseat the bead with the tire on the vehicle by jacking the tire off the ground and adding air until the bead begins to seat.

With stainless steel or hard line that can't be crimped off with locking pliers, you can cut the hard line and pound it flat with a hammer. Then the flattened end can be folded over itself and hammered again to close off that side of the brake system. Don't forget to check the brake fluid level before limping off the trail.

Coil Spring Fallout
If you've broken your limiting strap or just found out that every time your rig flexes to the max your coil pops out of its bucket, you can keep from holding everyone up by simply rigging up a ratchet strap as a makeshift limiting strap. Make sure the strap isn't going to get snagged on anything rotating like axleshafts, driveshaft U-joints, or steering components.

However, larger tires or tires that have lost both inner and outer beads should ideally be removed for reseating. For smaller tires you can often manually push one side back on its bead, then sort of push the tire towards the other bead as air is applied. For larger, thicker tires with both beads blown, you can tighten a ratchet strap around the circumference of the tire. This will force the tire bead to make contact with the bead of the rim.

Always be careful not to get fingers or other body parts between the rim and tire as air is being applied. On all but 1611/42-inch rims a tire bead will usually pop violently as air pressure forces the inside of the tire over the bead of the rim. If you've picked up mud or sand, drizzle some water on the rim and tire before adding air.

Busted Front Axleshaft
Procedures vary slightly by axle, but with the common Dana 44 and Chevy 10-bolt, begin by removing the hub cap and body. Depending on where the shaft broke, the hub may not come out easily. You can exert a bit of leverage by threading two of the cap bolts into the hub body and using locking pliers for more grip and pulling power.

Remove the brake caliper, use a hub socket to remove the two bearing-retaining nuts, then remove the hub/rotor assembly, and finally the spindle. If the U-joint and axleshaft ears are in good shape you should be able to remove the shaft through the knuckle without any problem.

If the axleshaft U-joint blew, chances are it bent the ears out to the point at which they won't fit through the knuckle. You can either hacksaw off the ears or remove the knuckle (suckfest on both accounts) or use a grinder or on-board welder to buzz the ears off. Then you can install your new shafts.

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