I have a 26 touring and it looks as if the previous owner rebuilt the rear end. I'm thinking he did because of the old parts in the new part boxes (he saved them). What I don't know is if he changed the babbitt thrust washers. He is not available to ask. So I was wondering if I had an Inspection Scope Camera Would I be able to see if they are bronze?
You might see the RH one. What you will see if there is babbitt in there (or has been recently) is silvery oil.
Just removing the fill plug and shining a flashlight inside will show you the edge of the R.H. thrust washer. You can't however, see the more important L.H. washer because it's behind the ring gear. If you see bronze on the right side you may surmise, perhaps incorrectly, that there is also bronze on the left. It's your call at that point if you feel safe with it.
Hope I don't get beat up again for saying this, as I did the last time.
I think the best thing to do is pull it apart.
Now you're thinking correctly!
I could see the passenger side thrust washer on my '21 looking thru the hole with the driveshaft removed. I even poked at it with a sharp pick and thought it was brass. I was wrong , it was the old babbit washer. I'm glad I took it apart and found out the truth.
Oil analysis is done to diagnose internal wear in some aircraft engines. Could this be a method to use to answer Robert's question?
Would it be possible to thread a small boroscope into the oil drain? I bought one that plugs into my phone for around $10 on Amazon but after I had already done the thrust washer change on my '26.
The space between the ring gear and the housing is very minimal. Not sure if a borescope could sneak through to see the L.H. washer. The other washer can be seen with your eyes and a flashlight.
For reference, here is the intact babbitt thrust washer that was on the passenger side of the Ruckstell that I bought on Ebay. Note that the silver color of the raw babbitt oxidizes to an orangish color that could be mistaken for bronze, especially if the visibility is poor (like while using a borescope or trying to peek into the oil hole while shining a flashlight in).
This Ruckstell was supposedly "rebuilt" by the guy that owned the Ruckstell before the ebay seller got it in an estate sale. I tore it down anyway at the urging of Stan Howe and ended up replacing the thrust washer, the ring gear, the special Ruckstell ring gear bolts, the pinion bearing assembly, the special Ruckstell ball bearing and the hyatt bearing sleeves (the bearings themselves were OK), and the inner and outer grease seals. The internal clearances were all wrong, I had to buy new fiber and steel shims to set the clearances.
My opinion, respectfully submitted - give it up! Just take the thing apart, not only will you end up with a known, good rear axle assembly when you're done, you'll learn a lot and gain a lot of confidence in the process.
Never trust a cursory look at the thrust washers. I have rebuilt a few model T rear ends over the years. Twice I have found what looked like bronze washers, only to discover that they were Babbitt once taken completely apart and cleaned. I don't know what causes it. Type of gear oil? Or some other contaminant? Something turns the Babbitt a bronze color, that when wet with grease or oil, looks like bronze/brass. The only way to really know, is take them out, clean them, and then look closely.
Between the two I personally took out of rear ends, and the several people and photos (like Mark S posted), I believe that the only safe way is to open them up and look.
Not trying to beat up on you Jerry V O, just a different set of experiences.
Now, I will stick my neck out a bit so someone can beat up on me if they want.
I do agree, that given a model T's age, and history (known and unknown). The rear end should be removed and inspected throughout if there is any intention of it being driven much. But there is an alternative.
It is a little tricky, but a good mechanic can do it in a couple hours. With a little care, and both rear wheels removed, the left rear housing can be removed from under the car, and the thrust washers inspected and replaced if necessary.
Several important points to consider. Safety. It does require a bit more working under the car, with the rear wheels off. Be very careful with jacks and/or blocking the car and working under it!!! (NEVER use concrete/cinder blocks!!!)
Two, with only disassembling the rear end part way, it leaves you only able to give a cursory examination to the pinion bearings etc. While, usually, if the pinion bearings are really bad, you can usually tell. But not always. You can get to and change if needed both thrust washers this way. However, like the old saying goes, "do it right or do it over". Taking a short cut may mean you will have to go back.
There is also a risk, that once inside, you find enough trouble that you must decide to go all the way. You could find that your "two hour quick check" turns into a two week major rebuild. I hope you didn't have plans for the T this weekend.
In my younger days, I did a quick check/repair under the car a few times. Once, I found that the "NEW" pinion bearings I had installed a year earlier were coming apart, and likely had only a very few miles before the complete failure. I managed to do the repairs under the car and had the car back on the road about two hours later, using old used parts I had on hand.
Three. Fitting the thrust washers to proper clearances is considerably more difficult than working on the bench. But can be done. (Remember to be careful working under there, no rear wheels!)
Drive, and work, carefully, and enjoy! W2
I second the comments about the Babbitt thrust washer color. The first and so far only rear end I disassembled had what looked to me to be bronze washers. A few squirts of brakeclean and reality showed itself, they were Babbitt after all. I attributed it to the goldish color of the lube. I just don't think you can be 100% sure without complete disassembly.
I wondered about doing exactly as you suggested in my 27. It sounds like a good idea, I would only be reluctant due to my limited experience with T rear ends. Probably best for me to just go ahead and pull it.
this is somewhat off topic in a way ...BUT... it may be considered as good advice and a courtesy to a future owner ...a repair or restoration should be documented in detail and topics as important as engine and drive train components may benefit from photos as well as written details ...a vehicle log book may even help us as current owners to remember details ...always an optimist...gene french
Agree with Gene, I tag my rebuilds with a info brass plate.
Not really a different set of experiences, as you say, since I totally agree with you. I DO think it's best to take it apart, especially since thrust bearings are not the only way a rear end can fail. I was really just answering the original poster's question, "Can you see the thrust bearing?".
Dad & I took apart the rear end in my Roadster many years ago, just to check it out after purchasing it. Don't remember if it had babbitt or not, but I do remember every piece inside the housing falling out onto the driveway when the halves were separated. We reused nothing! And... we had just driven it 45 miles to home!
So, can you see the washers: yes, one of them. Should you take it apart: Yes.
I just did my first T so I'm no expert but I did take the rear out and down found most all of it junk but it did have like new Babbitt washers in it! ring, pinion and bearing total junk, you have to look, worst part is it is a dirty mess, most of the time it takes is cleaning!
I say take it apart that is the only way to know for sure. The last one I took apart had Babbitt on the left side or what was left of it, and a bronze on the right, couldn't believe some body would go to all that work and be that cheap.
Ross H, when I officially got into the hobby (My God! That was officially fifty years ago now!), the prevailing point of opinion was that as long as the Babbitt washers were in good condition, they were okay to use. Many people doing quality restorations used one or more Babbitt washers because most people said it was fine to do so. But I fell into a smart crowd (thank you Ed Archer et al !) that was already recommending changing them just because of the safety and aging factors. My first T, I ordered two new bronze/brass thrust washers. After they arrived, I took the rear end apart. Inside I found one worn, ugly but intact washer, and the other one was the most perfect, beautiful, Babbitt thrust washer I have ever seen! However, taking the advice from good friends, I put the two new ones in. When the job was finished, I picked up my work area (which was in the shade behind the garage). While walking back toward the garage, with that beautiful Babbitt washer in my hand, I stumbled in a gopher hole. I clenched my fist and that perfect looking Babbitt washer snapped into several pieces.
I have never since been willing to trust a Babbitt thrust washer.
The problem is, that Babbitt is a soft mix of metals. It is very susceptible to chemical contamination. When most of the washers were only about forty to fifty years old, most of them were still okay. But a few decades later, the degenerative effects of water and other contamination are much worse than they were fifty years ago. Today, it would be foolish to run the Babbitt washers. In retrospect, it wasn't such a good idea fifty years ago either. But that is why so many nice older restorations have that mistake inside.
Unfortunately, no one has yet come up with a reliable way to know what is inside, short of a major tear apart.
Another point about Babbitt. There is no one specific formula. The formula used makes a big difference on how safe or dangerous they may be. Some formulas are much more susceptible to certain contaminants than others. Some Babbitt formulas (just like pot metal) have metals mixed together that contaminate each other. They begin to disintegrate from the moment they harden.
Been shouting from the rooftops about this for fifty years now!
All the stories on here you better take it apart an look. It's a safety thing. Tim
The rear end is the most over-looked part, when restoring a Model T and it is almost always bad.
My Passenger side Thrust Washer was broken and hanging down, so it was easily seen through the filler plug hole.
My Driver's side thrust washer was like coarse gravel.
The gravel would get between the ring and pinion gear and cause the T to go anywhere, except straight down the road. It would head for the ditch and when I corrected it headed across the road. It would head across the road and when I corrected, it would head for the ditch.
Actually the differential was taking over and it was like braking one track on a crawler tractor to turn when the debris got in the ring and pinion mesh.
With brass/bronze thrust washers in hand, and some guys to assist, how long is the job to replace the babbitt washers with bronze? From the time when the car stands on all four wheels, to when it lands on all four wheels again?
Also, what replacement parts are required for the rebuild? Just the washers?
Theoretically, just washers, sealant, maybe gaskets & oil.
However, I don't believe I've ever taken a rear end apart and not found something else I didn't like. It's like a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump might say.
Ryan, I agree with Jerry. Better to tackle this than gamble your life.
I did a Ruckstell rebuild this past summer. Not only were the thrust washers toast (one was pulverized, the other in pieces), but the ring gear was cracked and almost ready to let go.
Buy the club book. Repeat: buy the club book on axles - Mr. Chaffin did a bang up job of laying out all the little tasks (with great individual explanations) that, in sequence, lead to a complete rebuild. If you are fairly well-versed mechanically, it's not difficult to rebuild. If not, find someone who knows what they're doing and contract the job out.
The life you save could be your own - when you lose the rear axle you have no brakes - pick your tree...
Ryan, you cannot simply replace the thrust washers and call it good. You will find several other issues when you take the rear end apart.
I can agree with everyone else. The best way to see what type of thrust washers are installed is to take the axle apart.
Here are some pictures of some Babbitt thrust washers that where still in one piece that came out of a batch of axles I took apart looking for good bearings. As you can see they can be all sorts of colors.
I also agree that once you take your axle apart you will definitely find more parts in need of replacement besides the thrust washers.