Behind the Plate
BEHIND THE PLATE
Over the years I have built a number of Street Rods. My love of cars goes back to a young age, and working on and building old cars has been a big part of my life. My professional background is from working as a millwright and solving problems with machinery for most of my work career. I have been able to combine my decades of professional machinery experience with my passion for automobiles and hot rodding in order to create a superior Bearing Retainer Plate design.
In 1972, after returning home from serving in Vietnam, I purchased my 1955 Chevy Hardtop. It was green/white, 265 auto. A few months later I had a 4-speed, rebuilt 283 motor and had it painted it black. Over the year I made a few changes like the wheels tires, brakes. Now some 40 years later It’s time to up-grade her. I decided to take on the project of doing a frame off restoration on the car.
The first thing I started on was addressing the rear end. I had spent a lot of time and money on the original rear end, new gears, posi-traction unit, disc brake kit, and other upgrades, yet it still wasn’t meeting my standards of excellence.
After spending a considerable amount of time and money, I still was not happy with it. My discontent was not related to all of the changes I had made to the unit. Instead, I discovered that the main problem was with the leaking and failure of axle bearings.
I had considered replacing my 55 rear end with a 9”Ford. I came close to pulling the trigger and ordering one. But I just could not bear the thought of losing all the time and money I had invested in my 55 unit.
I removed the old bearing and retainer plates from my axles and cleaned all the parts. I found that both retainer plates were bent, distorted. I put my retainer plates on a flat table and found that the area between bolt holes was deformed, as much as 3/16 of an inch. Remember this retainer plate is extremely important because it’s what holds the axles in the housing.
I had a 57 rear end so I pulled it apart to see what those plates looked like. I found the same problems with those retainer plates. What I found confirmed my suspicion: I discovered that there is a design problem in the original plates.
These stamped retainer plates were designed for use on a car that had 6”X 14” wheels and perhaps 5” tread width. Over the years, these plates would start to bend and deform. Now if you’re a hot rodder like me, then you are looking more at putting 8”X17” with 9 inches or more of tread width.
You might ask how this affects the life of the bearings. The bearings have an O-ring that seals the OD to the bore of your rear end housing. These O-rings are not designed to move. When you are no longer holding the axle bearings in place, every corner you take forces the axle bearing into moving back and forth. The problems created are two-fold: not only do you have a leak path for your rear end oil, but each time that bearing moves back and forth, it causes damage to your bearings. Your axle bearings are not intended to move in the housing.
These retainer plates have two jobs. First and most important, it must hold the axles in the housing. Second is that they are intended to act as a dust shield, preventing brake dust and such from touching the bearings. There is a gasket between the retainer plate and backing plates. I found that my plates were warped so bad that they were no longer sealed against the backing plate.
The original design is a stamped sheet metal plate. My new design is much stronger. It’s not stamped; it’s a CNC machined part. The new plate design prevents any movement at all, which in turn protects the bearings and maintains the integrity of all the parts involved. It is a thicker and more substantial product. It also addresses the former design’s problem of potentially creating a rear end oil leak path. The new plate is far superior to the original, and I have spent countless hours working with this product until I perfected it. I am confident those who use it will be as happy and satisfied with the changes and improved performance as I have been.
The original design is a stamped sheet metal plate.
The new design is a CNC machined part, made from cold roll round stock.
Produced at a local, ISO 9001 machine shop in Oregon.
I am Very Proud to say this product is Made-In the U.S.A.