Getting Ready for Re-Assembly (of a heavy BUDA engine)

As soon as we got home from picking up the re-babbitted rod & crank case from Jim Blair, I thought about what engine stand I would need for “simple” re-assembly. The two BUDA manuals (one from 1915 and another from 19??) both contain phrases like “put engine on floor & turn over”. YIKES! This thing is big & heavy. I’ve done Model T engines and two 6 cylinder Mercedes engines and those weren’t “light weight” like a VW engine (which I’ve also worked on.) Those fit on a standard Harbor Freight 1000 lb. stand. The stand complains a bit and spinning the engine around sometimes takes 2 people, but this BUDA engine is much bigger. And the fly wheel is a beast. So, should I fabricate a stand? There were several choices for stands of the 1910’s that were depicted in the literature. See below.

Engine Stand from BUDA Bulletin No. 422

Engine Stand from Dykes, chart No. 246, Building & Equipment of Garage & Shop

However the Buda Manuals both mention “turning the engine over” at several points in the re-assembly process. I also worried that if the stand did not provide for an easy way to invert the engine for assembly, I’d be struggling to flip an engine that is pretty close to irreplaceable. A cantilever set-up that only bolts the motor on one side or an end seemed too risky. I opted for a really nice (and pricy) engine stand rated at 2000 lbs. that would flip the engine end for end with a mere crank of a geared handle. It arrived in a big wooden box that required a fork lift to unload.

The big box – for the Motor Rotor

When assembled, it was a nice blue & grey with a crank.

Assembled Motor Rotor engine stand.

So, with a beautiful new engine stand, I hoisted up the crank case with the crank seated by Jim Blair up and onto the stand.

Crankcase on stand – Nov. 4, 2017

With the new stand, I could get our engine to do headstands & back flips. Very cool!

Crankcase doing back-flip

New Babbitt Bearing for #3 Connecting Rod

As previously discussed, our Buda engine tried to kill itself by destroying the #3 connecting rod bearing and then trying to knock the engine apart. All this happened on January 6, 2017 (see prior posts). I checked with numerous folks in the antique auto community about who and where to have our engine looked at and the #3 bearing replaced. Some locations, though highly recommended were very far away (like Minnesota) others were close by, but health and other issues of the business owners’ mitigated against that choice. We eventually chose to take our engine (and all the bearings, gears, crank shaft, cam shaft, connecting rods, pistons & wrist pins) to a highly recommended fellow in Tucson, Arizona — Mr. Jim Blair. Jim had done some very nice bearing work on several cars for some of our San Diego area Horseless Carriage Club members. While Tucson isn’t close. It isn’t 2/3’s of the continent away either. We have since discovered that we can make the trip one-way in just over 6 hours. So, on July 29, 2017 we delivered the lower half of the engine to Tucson, where Jim & I went over the condition of the various bits to see what needed fixing and what looked pretty good.

Jim Blair examines front cover as Craig unloads the crank case.

Craig & Jim examine the infamous #3 connecting rod & bearing cap.

The upshot was that Jim’s initial reaction was that other than the disintegrated #3 bearing, the engine was in remarkably good shape and the bearings and other bits should be just fine — as is. He would go through everything to make sure and check the shims for each of the bearings and pour a new bearing for #3 connecting rod.

And……. that’s exactly how things went down when we picked up the motor on October 21, 2017. Jim was at the shop to meet us and we examined the rods & re-set crank. Everything looked very nice and ready to assemble.

Jim Blair at the shop with our engine ready for pickup.


#3 connecting rod – rebabbitted and ready for service.

Jim & Craig load the engine into our pickup for the trip back to Carlsbad.

And now it is time for Craig to get busy and put it all back together. Our several month hiatus on the restoration is over.

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. They 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 to 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.