Birf play, but no clicking (1 Viewer)

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
In the middle of repacking the front end for the first time in my five year ownership (25K miles). I think I've heard a very faint click a couple times when locked up in low, but never driving around town. Pulled the birfs to clean and repack and there is probably 1/4" of wiggle before the balls even move. By this, I mean you can lay the inner axle and birf flat on the bench and you can move the outer shaft back and forth about 1/4" (maybe a bit more) before the balls move at all. In addition, you can push/pull the inner and the outer together/apart, when in the sloppiest position. It's just plain loose.

I've spent hours reading old threads on wear, and everybody seems to use clicking as the only assessment of whether or not to replace the birf. Would this kind of play also be cause for alarm? As you flex the joint from one extreme to the other, 180°, the joint is nice and snug, then completely sloppy in the middle, then snug again. The grooves in the bell and in the star inside the cage don't look all that horrific. I'll post pics in the morning.

Seems to me (and my local go-to cruiserhead, CreeperSleeper) that it's time to turn these into trail spares.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2006
Messages
8,112
Location
Medford, OR
I think Chad's right, they'd make great trail spares.

It depends on what you're going to be doing with it as well. If it's a street queen, then I would probably run 'em. If it's a trail rig, then you could run them but you probably wouldn't get that much more life out of them.
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
Here are some pics. This being my first birf job, I don't know how typical it is to have grooves worn on both sides of the ball track in the bell. I'm sure you'd have some wear there from going in reverse and slowing down, but not sure how much. No idea if they've ever been swapped DS-PS before.

Now the real question is whether to go with OEM or the Slee light-duty birfs. I drive mostly road miles, and my commute is only 10 miles a day. I do spend a bit of time driving crappy roads en route to fishing, camping, etc. and will probably be good for a wheeling trip or two a year. Nothing too hardcore. I'm not too concerned if the Slee light-duty units wear a little quicker. Another 100K miles would probably take me 20 years. If they are substantially weaker than OEM and don't wear as well... Hmmm. Need to call them, I guess. OEM would be my first choice, but they are a little out of my budget for a surprise repair. Lots of other things on the list that need to get done with that $$$.
DSC_0001.jpg
DSC_0002.jpg
DSC_0006.jpg
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
Ok, got the passenger side taken apart and I now have some sort of reference to compare the sloppy driver's side birf to. Definitely needs to be replaced. The passenger side was also a little loose when devoid of grease, but not as bad as the DS. Also, it was smooth all the way through it's range of articulation. With absolutely no grease on it, it was a little herky-jerky, but I figure that's to be expected. With even a light smearing of fresh moly, it was snug-ish and smooth.

So... the passenger side can go back in. After seeing how much better it was with clean grease, I decided to try the same with the DS birf. After a PITA ordeal of re-installing the cage, star, and balls (it kept locking up and wouldn't move at all unless I beat the crap out of it with a brass drift), and a fresh fill of new moly grease... it still feels like it needs to be replaced. Still binds up at the the extreme ends of flexing it back and forth; still loose in the middle.

Now, the only question is whether to go with two of the Slee light-duty joints and have both sides new with a good spare in the trail bag, or go with one OEM joint and keep running the good(ish) PS birf. There is a surprising lack of review of the cheaper, lighter-duty Slee joints. If they are nearly as strong as the OEM joints, but just don't last as long, I'm sold. If you sacrifice a significant amount of both wear and strength, no dice. The original set lasted 205,000 miles. I'll be unlikely to put another 100K miles on it driving it for 20 more years.

* Just to clarify: 95% street driving, short commute through neighborhood streets, weekends and summers driving crappy dirt/gravel roads to go fishing/camping. Maybe one or two weekends a year in 4LOW. Maybe.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 3, 2006
Messages
8,112
Location
Medford, OR
I know that some people have had surprisingly good luck with the china made e-bay versions (including Woody, IIRC). I don't really know of much in the way of review of the Slee units, but I figure it can't be any worse than the Ebay ones.

TBH, it would not surprise me if you got at least another 50k off those, so I would probably just replace the drivers side with OEM and call it good.
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
Sounds like the OEM birf from Dan is a little cheaper than I thought. Unless his minion was wrong, I'll be ordering an OEM birf as soon as I can talk to Dan. Moab last week? Busy guy.

Anybody know how tough it is to replace the spindle bushings? One is iffy, the other is plain bad. I probably would have just greased them up and run them if everything was going back together over the weekend, but since I have to wait and I'll be putting a new birf in there, seems like I should just do it right and be done. I've searched and it looks like there is a bearing-like upgrade.
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
Trust? From the guy who breaks birfs like taco shells? No, I do. Just looking for the collective 'Mud wisdom on replacements. :)
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
Well, I just got off the phone with Dan. I really tried to buy a new birf. Honest. After describing the symptoms and condition of my birf, Dan thinks I should run it. No clicking yet, he thinks it's worth trying. He raised a couple good points I thought I'd share:

1. The tightness at the extreme ends of articulation are well beyond the range of motion the joint sees when bolted up in the rig. The wear pattern on the bell shows the reach of the ball as it flexes back and forth. Forcing it beyond that point doesn't really tell you much.

2. The looseness in the middle of the joint is expected with age. The general thought was that if the wear wasn't bad enough to click, I'm probably good.

3. The scuffing on the bushing? Pretty much the same as #2. Grease the crap out of it and see how it does.

Worst case scenario, I'm going to need to pull it apart again. The labor isn't major, as all the hard cleaning work has been done and the outer knuckle wouldn't need to come off. If it starts growling (bushing) or clicking (birf), yank it off and replace what needs replacing, spend $5 in new gaskets, maybe a new inner seal and some grease, and I'm back in business.

My final thoughts on this whole front axle service are that it really isn't a hard job. At all. Messy and time consuming, but definitely not as tough as it is intimidating for somebody who hasn't done it before. Should have done it a LONG time ago. It really isn't rocket science. My worries, it sounds, come from my sample size being two birfield joints, both from the same rig. What seems horribly out of sorts for me was not a concern at all for Dan. So, the money stays in the bank, the birfs go back in the rig with PLENTY of grease, and we'll see how she does.

Thanks for the help.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2006
Messages
8,112
Location
Medford, OR
Well if Cdan won't take your money.... :lol:

Like I said, it wouldn't surprise me if it lasted a lot longer based on what you do with your rig. Just keep an eye on it.
 

C6H12O6

SILVER Star
Joined
Dec 23, 2004
Messages
1,958
Location
Beaverton, Oregon
I know. I know. I have trouble listening to good advice. I'm working on it. ;)

Plus, that was before I started putting it all back together and saw how easy this job really is. I'm no longer intimidated by the front axle. Don't know what I was so afraid of.
 

Users who are viewing this thread

Top Bottom