Thursday, July 4, 2013

Five year plans and new deals, Wrapped in golden chains.

After a bit of a hiatus, I'm  back. There are a couple reasons why. First, I ran into a few unforseen problems with rear tire fitment, and second, sometimes you get busy with real life stuff. Of course the real life stuff is more important, but I always enjoy being able to immerse myself in my project and forget about what the rest of the world is doing. Fabrication and welding are especially effective for me when I want to block everything out.

I guess I'll start where I left off last time. I had just finished up the rear suspension and tried a front tire on the rear. It seemed to fit well and appeared to have room to spare. I decided that I would go with 255/50R16 tires on the rear, giving me a slight increase over the 225/50R16 I'm running in the front. I ordered the tires from Discount Tire Direct and through some sort of voodoo magic, they arrived on my porch within 3 days. The 16x8 steel wheels showed up shortly thereafter and following a quick bit of rattle can artistry, they were bronze.

I have two roommates, Vaughn and Smokey Bear.
When I tried to mount the wheels and tires on the axle, it didn't take a rocket surgeon to see that the inner fender lip was in the way. Because my wheelwells are not concentric with the hub, I knew that fender lip rolling was out of the question. So I pulled out my DeWalt angle grinder (which I dearly love) and did away with the offending sheetmetal. I was then able to mount the wheel and tire.

This tire was more flush than an industrial toilet
What then became apparent was quite discouraging. the outside of the tire rubbed the inner fender, and the inside of the tire was about 1/8" from the lower link of the rear suspension. At this point I had not even installed a brake disk, which would push the wheel and tire out into the fender at least another .25". 255s were just not going to fit. I had to admit defeat on that one and return the tires. Anybody want to buy a pair of 16x8 steel wheels??

I got a set of 225s on 16x7s, same as the front and set to getting the rear tires and brakes squared away. Up to this point I had not bothered to mount a wheel and tire on the axle with a brake rotor installed. All my test fitting had been sans rotor. when I mounted the 225s, I found two things; 1. even without the rotor installed, the rear tire still rubbed the inner fender, and 2. with the brake rotor installed, it was impossible to mount the wheel. I needed a narrower axle in order to fit these wheels and brakes.

After looking at the axle and noticing that the axle shaft extended out of the housing by about an inch, I came up with an idea. I would shorten the axleshafts each by about a half inch, without  modifying the axle housing. I will not be able to use the stock brake components with this method, but I was not planning to, so this is a moot point.  Below is a drawing I made to explain the process.
Because I'm a sick person, I draw this sort of thing when I should be sleeping.
I did have some concern about the machining protruding through the case hardening of the axle. The machinist, a man with a smart looking mustache said that while axles are heat treated it's not a case hardening, so I shouldn't worry about that. I still have my doubts. I may have to do some abusive testing on these axles. We'll see if that mustache really is smart or just dishonest. 

With the axles shortened, I set to work trying to find a brake disc that would allow me to fit the wheel. The Ford Explorer disc brakes were impossible to fit my wheels over at 11.25" diameter. I searched on the AutoZone website for brake discs with the same bolt pattern, but a smaller diameter.  I found that the SN-197 Mustangs had a smaller brake diameter than the Explorer. I got a front (10.8" vented) and rear (10.5" solid) disc to check fitment. It turns out the front would not even go on over the axle flange so I tested with the rear, and to my amazement, it fit. I did find that my wheel studs were a little too long, so using Summit Racing's excellent search function I was able to find that Jeeps from 2000 use the exact stud I was looking for, as it is a little over a half inch shorter than the Explorer stud.

Front and rear wheels AND brakes installed? Inconceivable!

There is certainly more story to tell, but I'll get to that later. It's the 4th of July and I don't intend to spend the whole day in front of a computer.

I'll leave you with this. 'MURICAAAA!


  1. Noodle, I hate to say I told ya so, but I did. Keep all yer tires the same size and life is better. 'Nuff said.

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