Steering box, rebuild cost and lessons learned the hard way


Well-known Member
I've posted a few questions about this steering rebuild. The gearbox is together, lubricated with cornhead grease and functioning well.

Many people chimed in, thank you.

After all of that, I wanted to summarize a few things to perhaps help the next person that takes this on cold turkey.

-Expense. I had 246 dollars in parts for the rebuild. One of the comments was that it should cost WAY less. What I'll say is my fault is that I just went to local Ford NH dealer, gave them my 640 tractor's serial number, looked at the exploded view and ordered anything that looked like a bearing or seal. So what added up?

Believe it or not, the thrust bearings weren't that bad. Something like 15 bucks a pop.

But, the seals for the sector shafts were EXPENSIVE. They charged me 17 each...and there are 4 of them. Even worse, when I pulled the sector shafts, the seals weren't that bad. Given that I was converting to cornhead grease, these seals become far less important anyway.

I also paid 40 bucks (20 each) for the thrust bearing races, but the existing ones were fine. I didn't deem it worth the possible headache of removing them, when they were fine.

I also now know why people try to forego buying the bottom thrust bearing's retainer and the eye (rivet) that holds the retainer in place. That little eye was 29 bucks...yes 29. SoundGuy says a dab of axle grease works. Gotta be cheaper.

The retainer, which is a glorified washer (OK...probably spring steel) was also just as expensive as a whole bearing. Something like 15 bucks.

Cornhead grease...I bought four tubes for a full-sized grease gun. Came out just about right.

Lessons learned the hard way:

The bottom thrust bearing retainer goes on in a non-intuitive direction. A helpful soul on here posted a picture. Saved me a lot of hassle. I had it upside down.

The shimming should be tested before the sector shafts are installed, you can just put in the worm gear assembly in and try to move the steering column up and down to test for play. That was some great advice that a poster here gave me...too I already had my sector shafts back in with new seals and mated and timed and... It was much more difficult with the sector shafts in place. It went OK, though after I put on that 15 dollar bearing retainer and 29 dollar eye to hold the retainer. In the end, I had to use them, because weaseling the ball nut onto the sector gears and then threading the worm gear down until the bearing seats multiple times to test the shimming would probably shake the thrust bearing off if it was just held by axle grease.

If you DO want to remove the thrust bearing race in the bottom of the gear box, it seems that you would either need a slide hammer or some homemade version of one (unless someone else has a better idea). Like I said, I saved myself the hassle, because the race was OK.

Once everything was together, converting to cornhead grease had a wrinkle that I hadn't thought of...actually a couple.

1. I took the old gear oil plug to the dealer and bought a grease zerk with the same thread pitch. Should thread right in, right? Not really. the plug is a little tapered, and it starts in the hole easily. The zerk was perfectly square on the end and caused me to cuss in four different languages before I got it to thread in even a little....after a while, I got it threaded in.

2. Corn head grease gave my grease gun fits! It's flows sooooooo easily that it oozed a little out of the grease gun's back plunger hole. It also seemed to need me to hold the grease gun on the zerk with a ton of pressure in order to go into the zerk; instead of flowing out and around it. (imagine trying to pump gear oil into a zerk) I wasted a lot of the first tube of grease getting it into the gear box. Then I noticed that the threads on my grease gun output hose were similar to the old plug that I had removed from the gearbox. So...I removed the grease zerk, and I threaded my grease gun output hose into the plug hole directly. That worked like a charm. I pumped the grease into the housing with much less waste, effort and trouble....until a little grease oozed out of a weep hole about half way up the steering column. Then I put the original plug back in and made a mental not of how I can add grease in the future without using a zerk.

Another trick that seemed to help me when installing the sector shafts was that I started them with the adjusting screws as far in (which would be as tight as possible) as they could go. I didn't leave them there, but starting them there pushed the two sector gears in as far as possible, so they mated very soon and I could "time" them and get them to mesh before I had to wrestle too much with pushing the big end of the sector shaft housing into the gear box. I then used some longer bolts than the originals to catch the sector shaft housings in place and started gently threading them in. As I did, I would stop every so often to loosen the sector shaft adjusting screws. In the end, I had the sector shaft housings all of the way in with the adjustment screws all of the way out in the most "loose" position....ready for steering play testing and adjustment. Maybe someone else has a different trick, but this worked for me. just needs a new battery box, because the old battery leaked and rotted out the bottom.

When I told my wife about it, she said...don't you have a welder now? Can't you just make one? Challenge accepted.

Thanks guys.
Tip.. no reason to have to monkey with the sectors and lift the wormshaft out to get the ballnut on the sector gears.. which is why i said that expensive retainer is not needed.

I've rebuilt dozens of these manual boxes.. once you get thrust play set, then slip the sectors in, then adjsut backlash.. etc.

if parts are in front of you, you can rehab these boxes in a couple hours.

PS.. 35$ for the bearing and race is way high.

there are a few seals yo can cross at napa as well, for sector seals.

Your experience has taught you a lot. I fumbled around this first time, but there are many things that I would do differently next time, in line with many of the tips that I've read. It would go MUCH faster, if I had to do it again.

It was a pain, but it's a nice feeling to know that, if the steering gets a little loose again, no sense dreading it, or putting it off...just get the parts and take a few hours to put it right.

I also have an old 2N that I mothballed for other issues.

Probably next on the chopping block.
Barring parts failure or some catastrophic damage, that rebuilt box should last the remaining working life of the tractor.

We sell tractor parts! We have the parts you need to repair your tractor - the right parts. Our low prices and years of research make us your best choice when you need parts. Shop Online Today.