About Babbitt Bearings

After showing my bearings to several groups of folks that knew more about antique motors than me, we came to the conclusion that the BUDA motor I have does indeed have “insert bearings”. Modern engine bearings in automobiles almost universally have “inserts”. These are generally thin half cylinder pieces of metal that snap or press into aluminum or cast iron engine blocks and/or connecting rods. The are the surface material that rubs against all the hard steel “spinning bits” in an engine – like the crank shaft, cam shaft(s), connecting rods and other parts that go round and round very fast when the engine is running. Oil lubricates the babbitt-hard steel interface in a very tiny space between the spinning and stationary parts of the engine. An example of a modern type engine bearing is depicted below.

Typical modern engine bearings

Most of these modern bearings have a “shell” or backing material onto which is deposited a very thin layer of “magic white metal”. That’s my term, because I understand that many of the alloys are trade secret or otherwise proprietary. When our BUDA engine was built (probably 1911 or 1912) the “magic white metal” of the day was called BABBITT. Babbitt was named after its inventor, Isaac Babbitt, who came up with the stuff in 1839. The alloy is generally composed of 80-90% tin (Sn), 7-8% antimony (Sb), 1% Copper (Cu) and assorted other metals in very small percentages. The babbitt in our BUDA engine is composed of the following percentages as determined by an X-ray fluorescence test done at Decisive Testing, Inc. of San Diego, on May 4, 2017. My thanks to President Michael May for assisting me in discovering the composition of our car’s bearing material. The hand-held XRF (x-ray fluorescence) gun they used is a cross between a Star Trek phaser & tricorder. It zaps a bit of X-rays into the alloy and gives a read-out of the full spectrum of metals that are present. Very cool gadget and its completely non-destructive of the test specimen.

Buda Model “T” engine babbitt bearing insert composition

I strongly suspect that some of the trace elements showing up in the list of metals is the result of contamination somewhere in the 100+ years the car has been around and that it is unlikely that titanium and some of the other metals were really part of the original alloy mix. That’s a guess – I have nothing to prove it.

About that knocking sound –

On April 10, 2017, Clarence convinced me that we really should look into the oil pan and see what happened when I had started the engine back on January 6th. I reluctantly agreed, knowing full well that what we were going to see was something between ugly and really really ugly. Um…… it was ugly.

Clarence shows me the grit in the oil strainer.

And it got uglier when we pulled off the oil pan.

Oil pan full of ground up bearing material, concentrated below #3 cylinder.

The #3 rod bearing was gone. It had been ground up into crumbs and small chunks. Sally & Clarence left for home the next day and I was left with the knowledge that I had properly guessed a rod issue. But that didn’t make me any happier. I removed the rod cap on #3 and pulled the rod and piston down and out past the crank shaft journal.

Number 3 connecting rod and piston

This is what a rod bearing and rod bearing in a cap are supposed to look like:

Rod bearing alone & rod bearing in rod cap, with shims wired to cap

That was the “before” photo. This is the “after” photo:

Munched & crunched rod bearings – minus the oil.

Oh dear – what to do next?

More Pinions & Rings

On April 4, 2017, Sally & Clarence Davis arrived for a visit. Clarence & Sally had the Michigan stored at their barn in Hobart, Indiana for a year after we purchased the car in 2011 and they helped us move the car from our garage to our work shop in 2013. Sally (Janet’s sister) is also a great grandchild of Michael Fleck, the original owner of our car. Clarence has been a great help in working on the car and has extensive experience with the care & maintenance of very big power plant machinery. He & I commenced work on April 5th, going over the entire differential and drive shaft.

Clarence adjusts the ring gear.

We got the adjustment of the ring & pinion gear to the smoothest operation so far, tightened up the torque tube adjustments of the depth of the pinion, closed up the differential and added the very viscous gear oil.

Clarence points to the big funnel for the very slow gear oil.

Maybe that will be the last we need to deal with the differential for a while.

More gear stuff – Sometimes you just gotta chill.

In Mid-March I worked for a steady 4 days to correct issues with the thrust bearing adjustment mechanism on the torque tube. It involved hours of attempting to get better access through the little adjustment door. I had to rig a torque tube support to the rafters so that I could get the best angles for work. The photo does NOT show the straight up and down orientation that was required.

Sling & stand for torque tube / drive shaft.

The thrust bearing was trapped in the torque tube. There was no way to get it out through the ends of the tube and it was clearly meant to install or remove through the adjustment door. But it could not be removed because of restrictions in the torque tube casting. I spent DAYS carefully grinding, filing to open the area up without damaging the threads in the tube or on the bearing race. It was very fine work with magnifying lens goggles & Dremel tools with tool steel burrs. Finally the casting was opened up enough to fully unscrew the bearing race and remove it.

Thrust bearing race trapped in torque tube

Thrust bearing race – removed from torque tube. Notches in outer edge permit adjustment.

Differential side of thrust bearing showing ball bearing race indentation.

An unforeseen problem presented itself next. The bearing would fit nicely back through the little door,but would NOT thread back into its correct position. I fought with the little #%$#&* for a solid 8 hours (over 2 days when you would NOT want to have visited me.) It had been in there. It had threaded out nice and smoothly. But it would NOT thread back in without starting to cross thread. I tried every trick I knew about getting this thing back in. NO DICE. So I slept on it. Not literately, but I did walk away and didn’t deal with it for a day or two. In thinking about the problem it occurred to me that the torque tube was a combination of steel tubing with some cast iron and bronze inserts. The thrust bearing race was bi-metal. The outside edge was steel (where the notches were cut and the threads were located and the inside (the actual bearing race) was some bronze alloy. Bi-metal pieces tend to be a bit “flexy” or “bendy”. And this flexy or bendyness is increased with changes in temperature. Could this bi-metal bearing have expanded or sprung bigger when I removed it from the torque tube? Hmmmmm. Why not cool this thing and see if it shrinks?

Off to the local Albertson’s supermarket where they sell dry-ice. I packed the bearing in the stuff and got it really cold, inserted it into the little doorway and gave it a spin. BINGO! No muss, no fuss — It went in LIKE THE LITTLE $%*&^*(&^ WAS SUPPOSED TO GO IN. Problem solved – lesson learned. Everything’s cool.

Gears & Thrust bearings & Patience

My Dad headed back to Fresno and I took a some time off from working on the Michigan… letting the issues before me sink in a little. The differential was becoming a real frustration. “Correcting” the mistakes in the rear end was not improving the operation of the gears. Eric & Kristie arrived for a visit on January 24, 2017 and Eric was ready to attack the problems my Dad & I were encountering. When in doubt, call in the engineers from M.I.T. And so we did.

Eric & Craig try sorting out the differential. Kristie supervises.

We took the carrier out of the mounting and went through it to work out the adjusting mechanism.

The entire drive shaft had a lot of components, some of which were not original. At least one Hyatt type caged roller bearing had been replaced with a modern sealed bearing and spacer. I annotated the arrangement as I found it:

Annotated Drive shaft – Differential End

Annotated Drive Shaft – Engine End

Drive shaft – full length

Eric & I checked forward & reverse play / looseness in the drive shaft pinion gear and tried to get it to adjust where there wasn’t too much fore & aft slop while adjusting the ring gear left and right to get a nice mesh without binding or clatter.

Ring & pinion close-up

We were less than completely successful. Improvements? Yes. Wonderful? No.

Eric & Craig put a Hyatt bearing on the differential carrier.

Some of the adjusting mechanisms didn’t want to cooperate very well. Most especially the rear thrust bearing adjuster that was accessed though a little door on the torque tube.

Measuring gear lash & location of adjustment door.

By the time Eric & Kristie had to leave, we had still not sorted out the actual proper (or best) adjustment of the gears, but we could see what needed to be done.

Uh Oh…….. That’s not a good noise.

We started the car 4 times on January 6, 2017. Each time the engine ran very fast and I was unable to adjust the carburetor to slow the RPMs down to anything approaching an idle. On start number 3, I started to hear a faint rapping noise. On start number 4, it was a very noticeable knock… I shut the engine down immediately and and knew that we had something bad going on. It was simply a question of “how bad.”

So, for the time being I chose to ignore what had happened with the engine and my Dad & I concentrated on the differential which we knew had some issues. In retrospect, it was probably a good thing we didn’t have a “happy” engine, because if we might have tried to DRIVE the car. That would have been – not good. It seems that
when we opened up the back of the differential the ring gear was on the RIGHT side and not the left side. I noted this discrepancy back on my July 8, 2016 Post.

Differential housing – ring gear on wrong side.

In any case, the ring gear was installed on the wrong side. We eventually determined that someone (Phillip Dickey? or kids at a Portage High School shop class?) flipped the entire torque tube / drive shaft / ring & pinion assembly — upside down. Was this a prank or were they trying to get a different wear pattern on the gears? I think we may never know. The result was that the thrust bearing adjustment door was on the bottom of the torque tube instead of the top and the ring gear was on the right side. So why would this matter……… well, in doing a little research, I now understand that the gearing in differentials is dependent upon whether the engine turns clockwise or counter clockwise. This, in turn, (sorry – for the pun) will dictate which side of the pinion gear the ring gear is placed so the car has 3 speeds forward and one in reverse. OR…. if you flip the ring gear to the other side, 3 speeds in reverse and one speed forward. YIKES! That could have been a very unpleasant discovery. My Dad & I confirmed this problem by jacking up the rear wheels and manually cranking the engine over while running through the gears. Sure enough 1st, 2nd & 3rd gear ALL IN REVERSE. “Reverse” gear rotated the wheels forward.

My Dad & I worked on the differential (man it is heavy) and managed to get the carrier & ring gear flipped around to the left side, but we had yet to discover that the torque tube was installed upside down. This meant that when we flipped the carrier over to the other side of its mounts, we were actually installing it on the wrong side. Oh dear.
The gears didn’t want to adjust and it was obviously not happy. It would require more work to get it to something approximating “properly adjusted”.

Craig & Vince wrestling with the differential.

Almost Ready to GO!

By now it is January of 2017.  I had previously installed a new leather fan belt and installed the radiator & hoses to the water pump and water jacket connection at the top of the engine. After a quick visit to Fresno to see family, we picked up my Dad and headed home to Carlsbad. If all went well, the plan was to….. maybe…. try and start the engine. I had the magneto working and arbitrarily set the timing of the spark on cylinder #1 for the most retarded position on the spark lever at 7.5 degrees before TDC. Why this number?  Well, my second car to actually do engine work on was a 1966 VW bug that my parents bought new in Germany.  And, if you know air cooled VW engines, and you do a valve adjustment and tune up, you are supposed to manually set the timing of the #1 cylinder to 7.5 degrees before TDC.  Would this work on a 1912 BUDA engine? Who knows — there isn’t a manual or other instruction that I have found. So it’s all guess work. At any rate, we had spark at the plugs and the carburetor was now installed and not leaking. My Dad & I added oil and put water in the radiator. And we had leaks.

Radiator filled and dealing with leaks.

There were leaks at the water pump and there were leaks at the hoses and leaks in the water jacket cover bolts. So hose clamps were tightened, shaft seals torqued a bit more and silicone gooped where necessary.  The leaks stopped.

We next took a look at the valve adjustment for which we DID have some BUDA recommendations. (See Buda Bulletin #176- in the ENGINE section of the NUT & BOLTS menu)

The Bulletin says to set exhaust valve lifters to .005 inches of gap, and the intake valve lifters to .003 inches of gap. We checked that and things looked pretty good.

Valve gap adjustment with Dad’s supervision.

Checking gaps with a feeler gauge.

Ok…. Let’s review our status here.

We have: Spark, Oil, Water, Fuel  —- hmmmm.

When we brought the car to California we stopped outside of St. Louis, Missouri to visit with John Fleck, grandson of Michael Fleck the original owner of the car. Part of our discussion was about his recollections of the car when he was visiting Hobart, Indiana. Apparently it had always been in a garage and wasn’t working, but he and his young siblings would play in it and bounce on the seats. He had never seen it run. John is now over 70 years old.

I think we should see if we can get this long dormant engine to make some noise and maybe cough or pop.


Gas It Up

With wiring and approximate timing of the engine mostly done, there is the issue of fuel. Because I was leaving the body off the frame, the gas tank would not mount where it is supposed to go. Because I added my nice Econoline back seat, it wouldn’t fit under there anyway. Besides, I don’t need a 10 – 15 gallon tank on the car to test the engine.  And…… do I really want a lot of flammable fuel around when I’m messing with a carburetor and fuel lines of unknown reliability?  Probably not.  So let’s go small.  The search was on for an appropriate container for small quantities of fuel to be located at an elevation above the height of the carburetor.  There is no fuel pump, so gas gets to the carburetor by flowing downhill. I came up with the following rig. The emojis on the aluminum water bottle did not cost extra, but gave the fuel tank a nice touch.

Fuel tank, gas line and carburetor testing platform.

I had rebuilt the carburetor several years ago.

Stromberg B No. 4, carburetor – Exploded & Annotated View.

The carb came apart and mostly went back together pretty nicely. But it had not been tested for leaks or otherwise adjusted in any way. It looked nice, but was it functional?

Ooooh, brass.

As it turned out, it leaked. A lot. And it required use of magic EZ Turn fuel resistant lubricant (and goopy sealant) in all sorts of places. Unfortunately, it still wanted to flood the float tank so I spent many hours putzing around trying to get the float needle to seat properly.  Because I have been buying up Stromberg B No. 4 carburetors, I’ve seen several versions. Indeed with an inventory of 4 now, no two carbs have similar needle valves. They are all different. Some were in terrible shape, others, like our original carb, were in pretty good shape. Still the needle did not have its original plating intact which may prove to be an ongoing issue. I honed and spun and cleaned and even bopped it gently to get it to fit snug and not leak. And eventually I “mostly” succeeded. Let’s just say that the leak is very slow now and most of the gas evaporates before it can actually drip on the floor or into a container.

Needle valve with a bit of plating on the tip, and the seat into which it fit– and sometimes seals.

Another interesting fact turned up from using supposed “clear fuel line” to connect the little fuel tank to the carburetor.  It hardens up in about one day and becomes inflexible. Who knew? That isn’t reassuring. But again, this is another reason I chose to have a very small fuel tank — thereby minimizing potential fuel spill issues. When I get to the point where we have solved the leaky carburetor and adjustment issues, I will convert to a standard black rubber fuel line. In the mean time, it is nice to be able to see that the fuel is or isn’t flowing through the tube or isn’t blocked by bubbles.

Testing the carburetor for leaks on a temporary stand.



Re-Assembly Continues

One of the necessary parts for initial start up and running that is absent when you have removed the body of the car, is some place to sit.  I found a back seat from a Ford Econoline van advertised on-line and picked it up.  The floor mount brackets were missing, so I had to buy a set. You can see from the picture that if I sit in the middle of the seat, I get a seat belt.  I hope I don’t need it.

Temporary seat ready for test driving.

Our GEMMER, Model “O” steering column comes with a quadrant situated in the center of the steering wheel. This mechanism controls the linkage for both advancing and retarding the spark at the distributor on the magneto and another lever for controlling the accelerator.  The inner lever controls the spark advance and retard. The outer lever controls the accelerator. Both levers are in the top or near top position in the photo below, which is the most retarded position and the lowest accelerator (engine idle) position.

Steering quadrant levers up is lowest settings. Inner is spark. Outer is gas.

Getting our magneto installed and properly timed with the engine (a guess) was a bit of a project and took both research and some educated guessing. Carl Bloom had a new magneto adjusting connector disk built for us. (The one on the car as we got it was for a tapered shaft and our magneto has a straight armature shaft.) The disk and the matching “shaft connector” each have 20 holes around their circumference. Each hole represents 18 degrees of a circle and moving one of the disks one hole in either direction relative to the other disk (remaining stationary) changes the spark timing 18 degrees. See photos, below.

Left pink disk goes on black shaft end. Right silver (new) disk goes on magneto shaft.

Water pump on the left. Shaft from pump to disk connector to magneto. Oil level sight gauge has blue tape.

It is unknown what the number of degrees of change can be achieved by moving the spark lever on the steering column. We may be able to determine this at some point in the future by using a timing light when the engine is running.

To determine an approximate “correct” spark timing necessary to run the engine, I needed to do several things. First, get all the magneto and ignition coils, spark plug wires, spark plugs and a new 6 volt battery installed.  Next, to see if the timing marks that are on the fly wheel actually match up to engine positions. (Is TDC – Top Dead Center, really TDC?) and what the engine cylinder firing order was.  BUDA Motors pamphlet number 176, indicates that the firing order is 1, 3, 4, and 2, starting with the cylinder closest to the radiator.

I installed a small 6 volt battery in an inconspicuous place on my temporary frame behind where the floor boards would fit. This lead acid battery replaces a completely corroded Ray-O-Vac dry cell lantern battery that came with the car.

Battery is on the left of the photo with our newly installed ignition switch & high tension coil (in a box on the firewall side) at the top center.

With the battery installed I needed to figure out which terminal on the magneto matched up with which cylinder in the proper firing order — 1, 3, 4, 2.  so the easiest way to do this was to wire the magneto up, pull out the number 1 cylinder spark plug and lay it on top of the engine to see when it sparked. After a bit of trial and error, I developed the following map of the magneto rotation and firing order. See photo.

Magneto firing order.

With this knowledge, I could now see if we had #1 spark plug firing when the fly wheel was coming up on Top Dead Center. The engine is intended to turn clockwise when viewed from the front of the car, so the direction of rotation of the fly wheel in the photo below is from the bottom towards the top of the photo.  I did a lot of finger in the priming cup hole testing to see what cylinder was under compression as I manually rotated the flywheel. I verified that, yes, the notation “TOP DC- 1&4” corresponded correctly with what I was feeling going on inside the engine. It was a lot of slurping and puffing through the priming cups but, it was nice to confirm that valves and pistons seemed to be doing their jobs at the right times.

Timing marks with valve positions on fly wheel.

By the way, priming cups are little brass cups with lever valves below them that screw into little holes in the cylinder head. One priming cup for each cylinder.  With the valve closed, a  teaspoon of gasoline goes in each cup then the valve is opened to let the gas into the combustion chamber (cylinder). Then the valve is closed so no pressure can escape. Then you theoretically try to start the car.  If you leave the valve(s) open, no vacuum or pressure can develop in the cylinder because it is venting to the outside air. But they are very useful in feeling suction and pressure as the engine is manually turned and they make a sucking wheezing sound while you do this turning. Priming cups were no longer installed on most car engines as electric starters and better carburetors were developed. I don’t think any were used after about 1920, other than maybe for tractors and some motorized farm equipment.

Priming cups. One on the left is open. The one on the right is closed. One for each cylinder. Four in all for this engine.