A Baker's Dozen
"Rebuilding a 1954 Chevy Truck"
Resolutions for 2014

by Bob "Iowa Old Bolt" Sevier

1. I will take photos of everything during disassembly and store those photos carefully.

2. I will label and organize all the parts I remove. Post it notes won't cut it. I will use labels and tags that will not fall off because parts are oily and rusty and things get shuffled. When my wife isn't looking, I'll snag a box of Zip-lock bags from the kitchen. These work great, too.

3. I will not say, "Oh, I'll remember where that goes." I won't. Trust me.

4. I will break big projects into little steps. This makes big things more approachable and keeps me motivated.

5. I will not order new parts too far in advance. It's tempting to prowl through all those catalogs, but I will resist. The internal gas tank I bought last year did not survive my wife saying, "If that tank stays in the cab I will never ride with you."

6. I will not pester the help / service desk at places where I order parts with stupid questions. I want to save their advice -- and enthusiasm for helping me -- for when I really need it. Most issues can be resolved by spending time on the net. A great place to look is, you guessed it, Stovebolt.com.

7. I will give the parts I no longer need to others who need them. This is the highest form of recycling and is enormously fulfilling.

8. I will not buy screws and nuts and bolts, piece by piece, from Lowes and Home Depot. Instead, I will buy them from a high quality bulk provider. Every city has one. I found one nearby and have enjoyed great savings.

9. I will share what I have learned with others. Believe it or not, I might be an expert in some area where someone is really struggling. I will help them out just as others helped me out.

10. I will keep my spouse generally, though not specifically, aware of how much this thing is really costing. Where possible, I will tie additional expenses to safety features that she values. Like seat belts. And power brakes. And doors. "I'm just thinking of you, honey," is a great strategy.

11. I will not pour my old Mountain Dew into the snow outside the door of my garage. It stains the snow in ways I don't want to stain the snow.

12. I will enjoy my project. I will enjoy it when a part fits. I will enjoy the solution I came up with when it doesn't. I will enjoy putting my tools away after a long session in the garage. I will enjoy sharing and hearing stories. I will enjoy the fellowship of builders.

13. I will remember, finally, that these old trucks are elegant in their simplicity. And in an age when clutter and din are the norm, simple is sometimes best. Give me a curved fender over a straight one any day.

And if I could add one more:

14. I will not start a new truck project until I get this one done.


Bob "Iowa Old Bolt" Sevier

Some other helpful Tech Tips


Suspension and Steering

Transmission & Driveline (Remember, we have an entire forum dedicated to the Engine and Driveline)



If you've been meandering down the road in your old truck for way too long, being late for all the gatherings, not to mention all the traffic that passes you by ...while your engine screams just to make ... 40 MPH ... you yearn for the left lane once in a while ( I just wanna pass somebody!!), well maybe it's time to upgrade those gears -- It's easier than you think!

Chris Sweet did this installation on his Chevy 1/2-ton truck in 2006. ( Still have the old discussion about it. )

After a lot of questions in the forums over the years, Chris started to pull it all together in the Fall of 2013 for a Tech Tip. We finally have it wrapped up and ready for you to give it a whirl.

So cruise in ... at 55 ...

Cruisin' at 55 (or more) in your old truck!  

1/2-Ton 3:55 Ring and Pinion Installation
By Chris Sweet
1951 Chevy 1/2-Ton
Bolter #4855
Join this discussion in the Driveline Forum
This procedure has been battle-tested since it was done seven years ago
and now with thousands of miles on the clock
May 2014

<< click on images for a larger view >>
Preview this Tech Tip in a Slide show to get an overview

This technical article is a supplement for the installation instructions that come with the 3:55 gears.  In this installation, the full bearing kit from Jim Carters was also used. 

Shop setup

This swap can be done in one day for an experienced wrenchman.  For someone who has never done this work, I think it can be done over a weekend from parking a running truck into the garage to driving down the highway. With some of the installation kits you get, the instructions and images are not real clear. Never too many pictures for the internet! We hope this will help .... from start up to finish!


Bags, labeling, and cleaning

It is critical that parts go back together in the way they were taken apart.  For this project, keeping original parts labeled right or left side is CRITICAL! Keep yourself organized with a Sharpie and a box of freezer bags of several sizes.  Label as you go (not later) so that everything goes together as designed.  

As you remove original parts, take note the order and orientation they are, getting this correct is very important, TAKE LOTS OF PICURES!

In addition, the cleaner the parts are, the longer life they will have.  Sure things look clean, but metal shavings can be hidden and will destroy new bearings quickly.

Step 1: Get the truck in the air   Step 2: Secure the truck
Here is my ’51 on skates. I pushed it toward the center of the garage so that the axle shaft can be removed out of the hub without hitting the far wall.   Here is how I have the truck on jackstands.  This method allows you to remove the entire banjo housing as I did in this case.  The banjo housing only needs to be removed for thorough cleaning or painting.


Step 3: Remove wheels and drums   Step 4: Drain fluid, remove differential cover
I used the bed as a good parts storage area.   Notice the metal particles on the cover? This is from the pinion bearing failure causing the need for this rebuild.


Step 5: Remove axles

Using standard procedures, remove lock bolt / pin that holds center shaft and block in place. Once the block is out of the way ...

Remove the C-clips and then the axles   Then pull the spider gears   Then the differential side gears


Step 6: Removing the third member from the truck

If you have not done this already, open the ball socket at the rear of the transmission, exposing the u-joint.  You should see four small nuts. 

Peel back the retaining clips and remove these bolts.

Once these are free, the u-joint should come apart.

Unbolt the 10 nuts holding the third member onto the front of the banjo housing, then either with a friend or a floor jack, support the third member and lower it off the truck.

This is one used third member with catastrophic pinion bearing failure.


Step 7: Removing the carrier   Step 8: Carrier teardown
Before doing this step, take a punch and mark the passenger side carrier bearing cap.  It is critical that these parts get put back in their rightful place since they were machined in place originally.   Unbolt the larger carrier nuts and put all hardware and caps in bags, making sure to label right and left separately.

Once you have the carrier out, take a slide hammer with two-jaws and remove the carrier bearings, and races.  In the photo above right these bearings are on top and bottom.  These bearings will be destroyed by the slide hammer.  It will take a few slides, but the races will eventually come off.

Step 9: Remove ring gears bolts and drive off ring gear


Carrier teardown complete
Start cleaning!


Step 10: Banjo housing teardown

With the slide hammer in 3-jaw mode, remove the axle bearings, and seals.

Note the deflector on the left, bearing, and seal are removed and installed in this order.

Step 11: Banjo housing removal
If you are removing the banjo housing for cleaning, now it’s time to get it out and clean it.  Disconnect the parking brakes, brake line, unbolt the u-bolts, and it should be free.

Andddd ...



Step 12: Pinion shaft removal

Strap the third member to a sheet of plywood. Loosen the three lock nuts and remove the three pinion lock bolts.    With a buddy holding the torque tube shaft, take a 1” dowel, (or cut shovel handle) that is about 24” long and start tapping on the spline end where the u-joint goes with a BFH ( if you are unfamiliar with that acronym, it's a large hammer ~ Editor ).  It will take a few stern strikes to free the pinion bearing from the torque tube casting.

Note the order of the items on the pinion. In this photo below, we have, from left to right:

the shim, pinion nut, double bearing (failed in this photo), the pinion ring, oil bell, pinion bearing and outer clip. 
Take photos, This stuff needs to be installed in this order and this orientation.
Clean and keep the shim, we will need it later.   If you had a bearing failure (like I did) you have a lot of cleaning to do….      

Step 13: Pinion and propeller shaft separation

Before you start anything here, take a 1 5/8” wrench and loosen the pinion nut.  Much easier to break loose now with more to hold on to.

Search just to the left in this photo, past the weld. You will find where the end of a pin has been mushroomed over the propeller shaft. 

Grind the mushroom smooth then use a punch and remove the pin.

To make pin removal easier, some drill the center of the pin out.


 You can also use an old u-joint yoke since the spline count is the same to remove and tighten the pinion nut.

Sometimes this pin is bent (like in this case) and will be hard to remove. Here is the pin (below) after extraction. 

Now separate the pinion from the shaft with a few light taps on the pinion teeth,



Remove the nut, bearings, slinger, and clips.  Keep all well labeled and take photos so that proper orientation is done during reassembly.

Clean propeller shaft. Clean nut, slinger, and clips.

Step 14: Bushing removal
Without the right tool, this process can take a while, I had a friend with a metal lathe, and he made this. The tool on the left is used to remove the bushing on the right.  I connected this tool on the left to the end of a long black pipe, inserted the pipe like a new propeller shaft then hit the end with a BFH, a few strikes and the bushing comes out the end where the u-joint was located.
  Bushing coming out of torque tube.
Disassembly complete
Now you have completed the disassembly of everything. Here is where you spend a LOT of time cleaning all parts.  The cleaner the better!!
Fresh paint is always nice!



Now that you have it all clean, painted, and ready to go, time to assemble the smaller parts then put it all back together.

Step 1: Pinion assembly

Using your photos that you took during disassembly, line them up in sequence so you can easily work through these steps.

Install the clip, single row pinion bearing, oil bell, and pinion ring. 

Make sure bearings are pre-greased per instructions and facing in the same direction as when you took it apart. 

Install double row bearing making sure it is aligned properly per instructions.

Tap bearing to proper location using pipe as shown on the image left.

Install the pinion nut and tighten as much as you can.

Now install your new pinion onto the propeller shaft.  The splines and the dowel hole will only align one way.  Make sure it is aligned. Install the new pin, and mushroom the ends so the pinion and the shaft are now one assembly. 

Strap the new assembly to a bench and tighten the pinion nut to 250 foot-pounds.  I try to get it as tight as before so the bent area of the nut can be re-bent in the same place. 


Step 2: Carrier assembly

To install the new ring gear, we need to make a pair of dowel pins. 

Take two 3/8” x 24 bolts 2 1/2 to 3” long and cut off the heads. Also cut a slot so the pin can be removed with a flat head screwdriver.

Install the pins across from ONE ANOTHER (themselves) on the gear and slide onto the carrier.

Using the existing bolts you removed, tighten the bolts bringing the ring gear to its new location.

Once snug, remove the pins and install two final bolts. Torque all bolts down to 50 foot-pounds.

Install carrier bearings. Tap only on the races with a brass drift or the pipe used to install the pinions bearing, to not damage anything.

The Carrier is ready for installation.



Step 3: Carrier installation

I took a hole-saw for a door knob and bored a hole in the center of a 2 x 8.  I placed this board over a 5-gallon bucket, Now I have a stand for my torque tube assembly and am ready to install the pinion.

Taking the shim from the original (remember I said to clean it and save it?), add additional shims from the kit so the total shim thickness is between 0.026 - 0.028.  Stand the torque tube vertically and place the shims in the end of the TT. 

Take your new pinion shaft, install the installation fork, and drop it into the TT assembly so that double bearing bottoms out on the shims.  This is tricky and may take a few tries to make it work.

If you did this correctly, you should see the pinion ring in the holes the pinion nuts are installed.

Install your carrier making sure the carrier bearing caps are installed, the cages are threaded in correctly and can be tightened. Make sure the caps are in their original orientation. Snug carrier bolts for now; we will torque them later.

Step 4: Run-out test   Step 5: Backlash

Install dial indicator as shown,

Check for run-out.  Should be less than +/- 0.002 inches.  If not, remove and re-install carrier.

  Now set up dial indicator as shown here in the picture, and check for backlash.

To adjust backlash, you will have to loosen or tighten the carrier bearings by turning the cages on the end of the carrier caps to move the entire carrier assembly right or left to get proper backlash of 0.008 - 0.012 inches. Make sure the propeller shaft IS NOT MOVING during this check. Spending time here to get this right will make these gears last a long time.

Now with backlash and run-out within specifications, apply some Prussian blue to 10-12 ring teeth. Have a helper install the yoke and use a pipe to turn the yoke clockwise while they are looking at it. Use your thumb on the ring gear to give a slight drag while it spins. 

The Prussian blue will transfer to the pinion gear and show the tooth pattern on the gears. You are looking for the gears to hit in the center and evenly. A good gear pattern is shown in the above photo.

Torque down the carrier bolts to 125 foot-pounds.

Give everything a final check. Pre-load your carrier bearings by moving the cages two notches past snug.  Make sure you line them up so the clip can be installed.

You’re all done ... with that part!

After pre-loading everything should move freely.  If not, take apart and redo. 

Step 6: Bushing install

Install seal on Okie bushing and install on opposite end of the torque tube. 

Use the yoke to tap it to its correct position.

Install the torque tube back in the truck.

Install the axle bearings and seals.

Fill with fluids (don’t forget that pint of gear oil for the ball housing) and set the truck up for the 15 minute break-in procedure.



Hope to see you in the left lane soon!


Sergeant At Arms
Old Dominion Stovebolt Society




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