Mustang Axle Re-Work – Or “Do I have sucker stamped on my forehead”?

If you’ll remember a few weeks ago I had decided to pull the rear axle out of the ’67 in order to get a few issues fixed, namely new bearing housing to replace one that was chewed up, new spring perches, and to fix a “hop” that the car did in reverse, something I attributed to a too-tight differential repack not too long ago.

Well, so begins a bit of a saga… I’m not going to blast the shop that did the work just yet, because I’ve only picked up the parts and haven’t had a chance to confront them about it (I broke one cardinal sin of having other people work on your stuff – inspect everything BEFORE you pay and leave).

This is how I got everything back (housing loose and unassembled). Now I can’t complain too much, because I told them to stop work when the bill started reaching exorbitant levels, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

I dropped off the housing before leaving on vacation with the advice that they’d call me on Tuesday (dropped off on Saturday) and let me know what they thought was wrong/give me an estimate. First mistake was to not get an estimate before I left… Anyways, Tuesday comes and go and no call. Not worried since I’m on vacation. Next Tuesday comes up and still no call. I drop them a line and they say there are “3 cars in front of you”. Ok, not in a big hurry. Well another week goes by and still nothing, but I’m busy at work and can’t follow up. On the eve of the 4th week there, I drop by and speak with the owner. Sure enough they haven’t touched it and I get a sob story about how he’s got so much work and had some mechanics leave, etc etc. BUT, he offers to take it to another shop that they trust to do the work and they’ll even deliver it for me. He calls them up, they agree to do it and give me a ballpark estimate of $800. At the time I’m thinking that’s high, but then start doing the math in my head and figure it’s reasonable if this is parts + labor and it’s fixed when I get it back.

I get a call Thursday – “the diff is trashed”. Several questions later and I’m told that the previous shop (that had repacked the posi and swapped out 4.10s for my 3.73s) had knurled the bearing surfaces on the carrier since the bearings had spun in order to get them to stay on. Can’t say I’m totally surprised since the 3rd member was used when I bought it, but not the news I wanted to hear either. You can see the chisel marks in the picture above where they tried to enlarge the end so the bearing would stay…

So we start getting into how much $ is in it now. “$700” he tells me – at this point I’m thinking what they hell did they weld on there, I mean they must be made of gold for that price. For reference, Moser Engineering housing ends (forged) are $95 a pair and perches run ~$40 max a pair. Figuring on ~4 hrs labor at a shop rate of max $80 an hour I was expecting something more on the order of $500 at this point… Nonetheless I decide it’s time to cut my losses and pick up my crap, in a box if need be.

The housing ends actually aren’t too bad and the welding work does look top notch. Unfortunately the new perches do not have bolt holes for the e-brake cables, but that’s not surprising. Something that I’ll need to figure out how to handle later. I’m not terribly displeased with this quality of work, at least until I got to the axles…

On the phone the guy mentioned that they had to drill out my brake caliper mounts/bearing retainers because housing end caps are supposedly not longer available for 3/8″ bolts. This sounded plausible, considering the Versailles axle is considered an oddball 9″, but also turned out to be false in the end, because they certainly are available. Naturally during the conversation I didn’t have this information available and they were already welded on my axle by that time.

They drilled them out for sure, well some of them at least… The other axle is all drilled out, but naturally the holes don’t line up all that well with the housing.

You can see one of the bearings is missing a race (which they conveniently left in the housing end that was cut off) and they also appear to have tossed one of the gaskets (which are difficult to find in stock anywhere).

So at this point I’ve got $700 sunk into a housing (btw, you can buy brand new housing WITH axles and bearings for about $950 from Moser or Currie), need another bearing race (unknown $, but a set of bearings is $75) and I need a differential plus a complete overhaul kit for gear setup and carrier bearings. Aren’t cars fun? First step is to figure out if the brake caliper mounts are salvageable which means I’ve got to press off the bearings and stick the brackets on a drill press to see if I can’t get the holes to line up…

So, shall we summarize the lessons learned?
1. BUY the parts and bring them to the shop. I knew I was going to get some markup, but I was also expecting that they would call and get me to approve the parts they put on first…
2. Get a quote up front, make sure it’s itemized and you’ve got an agreed timetable. This avoids the situation like the above, the $800 was reasonable considering that it typically costs $200-400 to get a set of gears installed/setup). What I didn’t know, and didn’t ask, was that the $700 was for the housing work and $100 was the quote for “investigation” into my diff issue.
3. Showing up in person is far more effective than the phone.
4. Inspect everything before you pay and pick it up.
5. Do the work yourself. You might pay a bit for special tools and you might mess it up once or twice, but you learned HOW and it probably still will cost you less than a shop to do it!

More to come…

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