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Steering Boxes: VW vs. TRW; VW Teardown & Rebuild
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OKType3Tim Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

I agree that new cage technology is using a polymer approach now. My concern with the bearings described above is that after sitting in the grease for 10 years with no load, these cages are showing embrittlement and cracking. I.E. they were not made of the quality material that name-brand bearing manufacturers are using for their cages.

Here is a write up on SKF's cage material:
http://www.skf.com/us/products/bearings-units-hous...index.html
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:54 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

W1K1 wrote:
Quote:
The plastic bearing cages are the first indication that these are garbage. If the bearing cage flexes/fails, the whole box goes to shit real fast.


actually it's just new bearing cage technology VS old. Steel cages were common 40 years ago, now the plastic cages are more common. their only job is to keep the balls separated on the bearing race. if you exceed the 250 degree temp rating of the plastic in operation, chances are you have distorted the bearing races as well.


I hear what you're saying but you're assuming that all plastic cage bearings are made the same. Several personal experiences with plastic cage bearing failures created my opinion and perception. I stay away from them on my ACVW when possible.


Last edited by ataraxia on Wed Aug 03, 2016 7:56 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:42 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Actually ...GOOD polymer bearing cages are superior technology to metal in virtually all applications.

The cage is actually only a spacer designed to keep ball loads equidistant. The polymer cage also has far less friction on the ball, and in applications where it matters....has far less drag and a reduction in rolling resistance (this application that is not important).

The problem...as Ataraxia is properly getting at....is QUALITY.

Very cheaply/poorly made cages....are usually nylon...which its hard to tell...but that is what those appear to be.

If that is the case....and in places where others have noticed that a polymer cage gets brittle over the years....its usually because of incorrect nylon alloy being used. Over time it is susceptible to water absorption...and no kidding....an actual bacterial breakdown that causes the powdered cracking effect. Along with that issue.....gear oil becomes acidic with time.

That also attacks the lesser nylon alloys like Nylon 6. The biggest problem with nylon spacers....is that they are far more flexible than Delrin or even Torlon on very high end bearings.

Correctly made polymer cages are generally Delrin for cages like that and glass filled Delrin in cases where some heavy side loading is to be expected. Delrin has no issues with decades immersed in virtually any kind of oil
Those "could" be white delrin....but they look like nylon. They probably should be glass filled Delrin...usually dark gray.

The spacer in most ball bearings is NOT designed as a huge force stopping wedge to prevent lateral ball movement. Even with polymer spacers if you get that much radial loading to defeat the ball spacing ability ...it almost always is enough force to cause damage (galling or denting) to the balls.

Ataraxia is right though....the cheapness of the bearings and the missing thrust washers are a dead giveaway of poor quality.

However the REAL culprit here...is the very poor radial and axial alignment of the machining for the bearing races in the case of the steering box. That type of bearing is NOT designed for any radial loads or misalignment. The misalignment of the shaft constantly keeps the bearings side loaded and will cause serious misalignment in the worm shaft and its relationship to the roller. All it can do is wear itself to make clearance at certain points.

Even if the bearings were metal caged bearings.....that damage you see to the balls in the picture would have happened.
Bear in mind that the polymer cages are incapable of that kind of damage to the ball bearings. Those marks are from impingement of excessive side load.

Sad.

Ray
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:11 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

W1K1 wrote:
Quote:
The plastic bearing cages are the first indication that these are garbage. If the bearing cage flexes/fails, the whole box goes to shit real fast.


actually it's just new bearing cage technology VS old. Steel cages were common 40 years ago, now the plastic cages are more common. their only job is to keep the balls separated on the bearing race. if you exceed the 250 degree temp rating of the plastic in operation, chances are you have distorted the bearing races as well.


Yes....true...but that depends on what bearing type and rating you have. Most of the better/normal polymer cage bearings use Acetal or Delrin....and about 250 F is the limit for Delrin.

But...high performance/high temperature polymer cages are available made with Torlon 4301 bearing grade plastic (Polyamide-imide)...which is good to a constant 500F....and is harder than delrin and with a lower coefficient of friction.....but much more expensive.

Hardly what you would find in a steering box. Ray
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Steering Gear Case Cover.
Finishing up the cleanup of the units I was disassembling, I realized the reason for the long bolts and long adjustment screw.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


The VW units with long bolts and long adjustment screw are: 311.415.131B
The cover was strengthened providing more support for the adjustment screw. And associated with that, the bosses for the attachment bolts.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


The TRW uses the original cover style, with a long adjustment screw. (Maybe they have/had bins of them available?)

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


"A"
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


"B"
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 5:41 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

GREASE:

The grease in the TRW was some very sticky, stringy stuff. I should have taken a picture of it, but it was so nasty that I just dumped it.

Researching here and several other web sites (tractors, hot rods, etc.); the consensus seems to be John Deere Corn Head Grease:
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Available at any local John Deere dealer, I paid $4.04 per tube. I've rebuilt one steering box and used about 2/3rd of a tube for that unit.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:18 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Cornhead grease.....or Pennright.....or the synthetic I use. All have one thing in common. They are thickened oils instead or greases. Thick enough to stay in....with a flow rate and shear that allows flow when in freezing weather. Ray
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 5:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

"Corn Head Grease" ?!? Confused

Just when you thought you've seen/heard it all...

Thanks for teaching me something.

Time to go and re-rebuild my steering box! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 8:10 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

I've used a high pressure moly (MOS2) grease, same as for CVs, rear wheel bearings, and even the front axle.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 8:31 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
I've used a high pressure moly (MOS2) grease, same as for CVs, rear wheel bearings, and even the front axle.


But that ain't Corn Head Grease, bro..

Shame on you Shame on you Shame on you

Corn Head Grease has a far, far, cooler sounding name.

Makes me want to form a band just to use the name...
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 8:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Live from Pineview Heights Trailer Park Rec Room...

It's CORN HEAD GREASE!!

Dancing Applause Dancing Applause Laughing Applause
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 9:19 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
ataraxia wrote:
There are several shims for the bearing race but I'm not 100% sure why they exist - adjustment can be made at the other end of the shaft.


Perhaps the shim lets them center the meshing of the "gears" for minimum play and adjustability for wear later on.


I think this publication describes using the shim thickness to set the center point (of minimum play) when rebuilding. I'm not clear on the terminology to know if these are the shims we are wondering about, though.

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/archives/manuals/practicalwork_steering.php

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 9:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Clatter wrote:
Live from Pineview Heights Trailer Park Rec Room...

It's CORN HEAD GREASE!!

Dancing Applause Dancing Applause Laughing Applause


LOL. Is it a punk or country band?
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2016 10:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

The reason they call it "corn head grease".....is that its used on the gearing for the combines that pick corn. Its a John Deere product. Its NLGI grade "0" grease. It flows or liquifies not too far above room temp.

Its a low drag thickened gear oil. There are numerous products like it....that are harder to find. Ray
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 7:00 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:
Clatter wrote:
Live from Pineview Heights Trailer Park Rec Room...

It's CORN HEAD GREASE!!

Dancing Applause Dancing Applause Laughing Applause


LOL. Is it a punk or country band?


Both! Dancing
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 7:04 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

KTPhil wrote:


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.





So,

Who's going to be the one to find or build tool VW 280?

I'd pay to have my steering box shimmed up correctly on a jig.


Then add some CORN HEAD GREASE!!

Dancing Applause Dancing Drool Laughing Dancing Pray Applause
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:19 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Just so you guys know and understand....you really should look into a lubricant like the Corn head grease or like Penrite steering gear box oil. There are numerous products that are similar if not identical.

You want to protect what you have...if you still have something OG?....then look into a proper gearbox oil. WE ACVW people are not even remotely the only people that have this issue.

The problem with what is suggested to use by the Bentley and other articles...is that its the right product in the wrong form. A proper gear oil is what fits the lubrication requirements for extreme pressure for skew bevel or worm gears.

However....almost all gear oils are actually too thin to really stay in the box long term and actually have a high acidity level that increases with age. Very hard on any bronze and brass parts....and if the gear oil is slowly leaking out...leaving air spaces and allowing air with moisture to come in contact to uncoated gear parts....that PH/acid level change increases.

The more modern the VW or car...the more likely it is that the actual oil used in the steering gear boxes was NOT a 90 weight gear oil. It was actually a thinned grease made from gear oil stock for its EP qualities.

Granted....its a different car....but Its interesting...that the European books on my VW 411 and 412....make notieable pains to distinguish between the fact that the steering gear box requires a specific gear GREASE....while the manual transmission and the 003 automatic final drive require a 85-90 weight gear OIL.

The difference is that proper steering gear box oils....meaning oils developed for accessory gear drives and items like PTO's....after about the 1950's were designed to be "thixotropic'....or shear thinning. While most oils have some thixotropy......regular gear oil is NOT like these.

These products...like John Deere Corn head grease, Penrite steering gearbox grease/oil, Browning gearbox/PTO oil...and others....are based around a heavy gear oil for Extreme Pressure protection on slow speed, high shear gears like skew bevel, worm and hypoid gear forms....where stiffness in cold weather and ;ack of protection in hot weather are factor.

These products appear to be either greases or gels at room temperature....or very thick oils at room temperature.

However....with very little shear working...meaning pumping the grease/oil through the gear mesh....they drop or reduce viscosity nearly instantly ....by numerous orders of magnitude. For instance....the corn head grease looks like a regular grease but with very low tack and stringiness. Squeeze it through the gear mesh just a couple of times...and it flows out like a 120-140 weight gear oil.

When you stop working them....in short order they return to original viscosity.

In the old days...and even somewhat recently...the PH change or acidity level that happens in gear oil....was offset by making one or more parts in the gearbox ...out of copper or plating it with copper. This was a sacrificial "tarnish" item. The copper turns green as it oxidizes...while neutralizing the acid level in the gear oil.

I was amazed to find when I rebuild two of my steering boxes to find the main ball drive nut (mine are recirculating ball type units).....was bright green when I took it out Shocked . During cleaning.....they turned out to be bright copper plated. I had no idea why until I started researching steering gearbox lubes.

Most steering gearboxes can last virtually forever...if you can keep the oil in them, keep the air and moisture out...and keep them adjusted. The horizontal seals and shafts....and the dirty location are against this with regular gear oils.

Here...do a little reading and research in some of these other sites and threads.

I tried a long while back to get some of this across to the bus people....its like talking to rocks. If its not in the Bentley in their mind....it is not to be used.

http://www.penriteoil.com.au/products.php?id_categ=14&id_products=90

http://www.fordbarn.com/forum/showthread.php?t=21840&showall=1

http://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/showthread....Gear-Oil-)


You can find miles of these threads....a couple of warnings.

DO NOT use a product like STP in your steering gear box. It is NOT EP rated...but is slick enough that it is not a huge issue......but is a friction modifier made for MOTOR oil. It will cause the gear box to leak like mad. It won't wear out...but its a mess.

I have used synthetic chassis grease in steering gearboxes. While it never leaks out....and is EP rated....it actually causes more wear than running out of oil in the long run because...it "cavitates"...by this I mean that its stiff enough even at room temperature and has such a high flow/drop point.....that the gear parts moving through it create cavities....that are filled with air. Pretty soon..especially in cold weather...there will be areas where the grease has been pushed away from moving parts...and is no longer ubricating.

Because of low speed....the grease will NEVER get hot enough to flow.

Dedicated gearbox lubes like Penrite and Corn head are worth looking into. I personally have been using a 50/50 mixture of Superlube 140 weight gear oil and super lube EP grease. I can do that...because they are actually made from the same oil stock. They do not react, are clear, and neutral PH.

Never mix a a grease with a gear oil otherwise. If the EP metal bases are not an exact match for the lube stock they are in...they can turn acid and react very quickly. They can eat bearings. Ray
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 12:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Same with CV joints! I was always trained to use dedicated CV joint lube in CV joints because it had different flow properties to properly lube and protect those joints in that particular application. In fact, Ray, I'm wondering if that lube might not be good for a steering box as well. I've rebuilt Mercedes P/S boxes but not much else because good cheap replacements were always available... but I think we are all now seeing that it's time to rethink this.
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2016 4:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Tram wrote:
Same with CV joints! I was always trained to use dedicated CV joint lube in CV joints because it had different flow properties to properly lube and protect those joints in that particular application. In fact, Ray, I'm wondering if that lube might not be good for a steering box as well. I've rebuilt Mercedes P/S boxes but not much else because good cheap replacements were always available... but I think we are all now seeing that it's time to rethink this.


I'm not sure.....its possible....on one hand, dedicated CV joint grease is designed with the MOST extreme pressure in mind.....far greater EP protection against sliding and galling than even the best hypoid gear oil.

In fact....most CV grease...if you notice almost always has oil seperating from it. That is basically EP gear oil. But the additives in CV grease are extremely high in sacrificial metals like molybdenum, graphite.....and lead. Yes....true CV joint greases should be handled with care most have lead in them.

I do know,.....they have far better flow properties under shear than a regular bearing grease. I just have not really taken a look at their shear properties beyond that. Ray
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:48 am    Post subject: Re: Dissection and comparison between VW and TRW Steering Boxes Reply with quote

Phil: Thanks for adding the link to the Practical Works Notes for Steering. I hadn't read it until now, and it is most useful. What I have already learned is that the drop arm on my T34 is not the correct drop arm. It is just an early 311 unit (with the small diameter tie rod end holes).

Ray: Thanks for the excellent write-up on "grease". In the internet browsing I noted above, I had also found the comments on Pennrite; but (for me) seemed hard to find in the US and was expensive on the couple of web sites where I did find it. But it is labeled/formulated specifically as being for this purpose.

Also, the comment on air voids certainly relates to the TRW teardown; as there were many air voids in that unit. (as noted above, there was no lubrication on the bearing surface of the cover plate; and never would have been.) The TRW grease was so tacky and thick that my safety-kleen parts cleaner fluid would hardly do anything to remove it!

And also for clearing up some misinformation such as the STP idea. When I read that on the other sites....It just did not make sense. The other bearings and lubrication points we are most familiar with all have rotational velocity to keep the lubrication moved about. But the steering box doesn't have that rotational velocity to help move the lubrication.

Clatter: I found one! So they are out there.
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


But, as noted in the other "parts thread" finding a supply of shims has to be addressed.

All: thanks for the hilarity. Yes, "Corn Head Grease" is an unusual name for all of us non-farm guys.

Seriously, Here is a nice YouTube on "Corn Head Grease":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEwk_sYP6A8

My tear-down, clean-up, rebuild process continues. Should I make another thread just to cover that? Or morph this thread into the rebuild thread? In either case, I think it would be useful for those with experiences in rebuilding these units to contribute their expertise. (I'm willing to be the guinea pig and you can point out where I could do better.)
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