U Joint problems

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    When I first got my 1918 Model 48 Pierce it was important to drop the pan, and clean out all the rod journals.

    After a full day of black “Pierce Turds” all over me, I got them all cleaned out. I was shocked at how plugged they were and how they would have prevented oil flow within the engine.

    The project on that car this winter has been to drop the transmission and put in new bearings and seals.

    Thus, I have the drive line out. Today I took a good look at the U Joint rings and began to clean them.

    I was shocked to see that the inner grease channels were plugged with more “Pierce Turds”. Previously I had greased these joints really well and thought they were good. Now I see the channels were plugged and didn’t allow the grease to flow to all the lube points. I’m writing to remind people, if your car has been sitting for a while, or if you have never gone through the U Joints to clean the channels, you might consider it a worthy project. I have a power grease gun and was sure my U Joints were well lubed. Was I fooled. Hope this helps with proper lubrication of your Pierce Arrow.


    Assuming we all have lots of time in this frigid weather, would it make sense to sit these universal joints in a bucket of kerosene for a week or so to soften the old grease, then use air and then a power grease gun?


    Different greases used over time may not have been compatible and could harden if they had different bases. I am finding that on our ’51 Studebaker which has been in the family since new, so I know always well maintained. The kingpins, which hold the most grease, will no longer allow grease to flow.


    Thank you Richard, your message will hopefully save some important parts on our Pierce Arrows from inadequate lubrication.

    The early u-joints did not have roller bearings. They were plain smooth steel pins that ran in either steel or maybe brass bores. The gap between the pin and it’s bore was hopefully kept lubricated with grease.

    The chore of cleaning and lubricatng these large and messy U-joints was often neglected.. It’s something that should be done on the teen’s cars every 500 miles or so.

    The reason for the frequent service is that the smooth pin in a smooth bore with side-forces will constantly push the grease out of the gap between the parts. With modern U-joints the smooth pin runs in a roller bearing. The round pin is in contact with 10 or more rollers, but this is a thin line-contact, the remaining area around the rollers and between the pin and the rollers is full of grease. This trapped grease constantly re-plentishes the lubrication in the bearing-to-pin contacts.

    I believe that 1931 or 1932 is the first year for a roller-bearing to be used in a Pierce-Arrow U-joint. I am positive that the cars of the teen’s and twenties had plain-bearing u-joints.

    The cars of the 20’s had their u-joint enclosed in a curved cup, that had a spring-loaded, felt-sealed cap. The u-joint was lubricated with a ‘special Compound’ lubricant as specified by Pierce Arrow’s maintenance chart. This Special Compound was a sort of liquid grease. it would flow. it is the same as used in the steering gear boxes. The lubricant would flow and re-fill places it had been forced from during operation. Regular chassis grease will not ‘flow’. i does not re-fill areas that it had been forced out of.

    In the enclosed U-joints of the ’20’s cars, I use a lubricant like used for the early transmissions and steering boxes. It does tend to ‘flow’ out of the U-joints and make a stripe on the underside of the floor-boards. The enclosure and felt-seals are not perfect at keeping the lubricant inside. BUT using pure chassis grease is dangerous, since it might allow a part of the joint to run without lubrication.

    The early U-joints are not available as replacement parts. They have to be machined and rebuilt. This is a costly process. So frequent and liberal lubrication is important.

    Greg Long


    Is there a Service Bulletin outlining the process of servicing the teens and twenties Pierce U joints?


    Craig, I’ll do an electronic search through all of the old PASBs this morning to see if I can find something. If there isn’t anything, perhaps I can persuade Greg and others to put something together.



    My 1918 Model 48 Series 4 sat neglected for probably 60-70 years before I got my grubby hands on it.

    I thought I had gone through everything before starting and driving it. “Waking up a Sleeping Pierce” is a good topic for a future article. I was shocked at what I saw in the 8 bolt rings that hold the joints together. These rings have the channels that transport the grease to the bronze bushings and at least 1/2 of them were totally plugged. Thus, 1/2 of the bushings were not getting grease. These rings have two Alemite fittings so I was sure grease was getting everywhere. Not so…….I never thought I’d say this, but I’m glad I dropped the transmission even it the black goop will take weeks to wear off.


    That would be a good article Rich.



    PASB 72-4 contains a panel discussion and one part of it was information from Henry E. Becker about what he uses in his 1919. He said he replaced the screw-in plug with a grease fitting and used a LOW pressure grease gun to put Moly grease in it being careful not to over grease it. He also commented that they were originally intended to have oil in them as Greg mentioned above.

    One other article mentioned that the Series 80-81 and ’29 through ’32 are different from the earlier cars and ’33 on has another type. I don’t know if this is true or not.

    This is all I found on u-joint lubrication, so I will endeavor to get one of our experts to put together an article for a future PASB.

    Rich, that sounds like a great idea for an article. How about documenting your adventures bringing your car back to life as a start?



    Greg, Have you ever used NLGI grade 00 or 000 grade of grease for enclosed u-joints or steering boxes? Both are listed as flowable, with 00 being the consistency of applesauce and 000 like ketchup. The food examples came from a supplier website so don’t blame me for making you hungry. Regular chassis grease is NLGI grade 2 (peanut butter). Dave


    I have the drive shaft out of my ‘31 Series 43 now. The joints have a sort of cup-and-ball cover arrangement, akin to the jointbon the front or transmission end of the Straight-Eight Buiicks. The name “Spicer” is stamped into the cover. I do not know haw to get these apart but I would really like to clean them

    Up. There is a modern Alemite or zerk fitting on one end and the (presumably original) pin-type fitting on the other. The joints themselves seem to flex normally and feel good.

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