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[4]

Cast iron or cast steel?

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tjb

Terry
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#1
Hello to All.

I am in the process of changing the axle/wheel assembly on an old farm fuel trailer. I am using the front-end of a 1959 Chevrolet Apache pickup truck for the change-over. If you know those old trucks, it has a leaf spring/solid axle/tie rod assembly - perfect for this application. In order to stabilize the steering mechanism, I have fabricated a plate of 3/8" cold-rolled steel which I've permanently welded to the tie rod but only tack welded to the axle.

Here's my issue. The axle is cast, but I'm not sure if it's cast iron or cast steel. I've cleaned up the portion to be welded with a grinder, and it appears to be steel (nice and shiny), and I've drilled a shallow 1/4" hole, and it 'chips' like steel instead of 'crumbling' like most cast iron I've ever worked with. If it's steel, I can MIG weld my fabricated plate to the axle just like I did to the tie rod. But if it's iron, it needs to be welded with nickel rod, so I'm told.

Does anyone know:
a. If the front end is definitely one or the other? Again, 1959 Chevy Apache front axle.
b. If the tests I've described above are conclusive one way or the other?
c. If there are other tests I can/should perform.

I'm told one test is to weld it up then go at it with a sledge hammer and see if the weld breaks. Seriously. That was suggested. (Some of the old school farmers around here are more inclined to do things the fast way instead of the textbook way. But don't laugh. In my experience, they're usually right.)

Sure would love some guidance on this one. Don't need to be tooling down the road with 80 to 100 gallons of off-road diesel when a weld breaks.

Regards,
Terry
 

Bi11Hudson

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#2
My first comment would be to trust the old timer before a textbook. While I can't say for sure, I would bet on the axle being steel. Way back in the mid-70s I worked in a pipe foundry. They cast "cast iron" water pipe. With the metalurgy involved, it was the same as cast steel, with a few esoteric additions. So, my money is on steel. I do assume you're using a straight axle and springs? Such parts go back long before the second WW. A BIG hammer is the best test.
 

SCLead

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#3
Touch it with a grinder. Cast steel should throw a lot of sparks and be pretty bright. Cast iron throws far fewer sparks. Subjective, I know, but if you can find a video to see the difference once, you can't miss it.

Edit: here's a decent one;
 

T Bredehoft

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#4
How about the axle being forged instead of cast. That'd be steel, no doubt. Hit it with a file, if its' bright underneath, it's steel, not iron.
 

tjb

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#5
My first comment would be to trust the old timer before a textbook. While I can't say for sure, I would bet on the axle being steel. Way back in the mid-70s I worked in a pipe foundry. They cast "cast iron" water pipe. With the metalurgy involved, it was the same as cast steel, with a few esoteric additions. So, my money is on steel. I do assume you're using a straight axle and springs? Such parts go back long before the second WW. A BIG hammer is the best test.
Not a 'straight' axle. A full axle, but it is cast. I'm guessing steel as well. My understanding is the big difference is the amount of carbon in steel vs. iron.
 

tjb

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#6
Touch it with a grinder. Cast steel should throw a lot of sparks and be pretty bright. Cast iron throws far fewer sparks. Subjective, I know, but if you can find a video to see the difference once, you can't miss it.

Edit: here's a decent one;
Thanks. I saw that video on youtube, and it's part of my reasoning for leaning towards steel. Already cleaned up the weld area with a grinder, and it is definitely bright and shiny - like steel (see my original post). Thanks for the post.
 

tjb

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#7
How about the axle being forged instead of cast. That'd be steel, no doubt. Hit it with a file, if its' bright underneath, it's steel, not iron.
I'm pretty sure it's cast, Tom. Seems to have casting marks on it. However, it is nice and shiny - much like taking an 80 grit grinding disc to cold-rolled. I'm thinking 'steel' more and more.

Thanks for the post.
 

royesses

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#8
Beam type straight axles are either forged or cast steel. On the NASCAR modified of the 50's and 60's we used to use a rose bud torch to change the camber. You can't do that with cast iron. Weld it with 7018 low hydrogen rod or equivalent. I've never heard of cast iron axles, but that does not mean that there aren't any.

Roy
 

tjb

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#9
Beam type straight axles are either forged or cast steel. On the NASCAR modified of the 50's and 60's we used to use a rose bud torch to change the camber. You can't do that with cast iron. Weld it with 7018 low hydrogen rod or equivalent. I've never heard of cast iron axles, but that does not mean that there aren't any.

Roy
Thanks, Roy.

In your opinion, will MIG weld work?

Regards,
Terry
 

royesses

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#10
Thanks, Roy.

In your opinion, will MIG weld work?

Regards,
Terry
Terry, yes mig welding will do it, common mig wire is 70,000 psi just like 7018.

Roy
 

markba633csi

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#11
It wouldn't be cast iron, too prone to crack and fail with the attendant liability issues involved, even in the late 50s they were aware of that kind of stuff
mark
 

tjb

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#12
Okay, we have closure on this one. Thanks to all who responded and confirmed my suspicion that the axle is, indeed, cast steel. MIG welded it, pounded on it with a dead blow hammer, and everything was fine. Assembled the axle, took it for a test drive without the fuel tank on it, and it looks like we're good to go. Final assembly with the tank probably this weekend.

Again, thank you to all who shared your knowledge. If the project was anything other than a trailer - and a FUEL trailer at that - I probably would have just tried it and changed it if necessary. The thought of a trailer axle breaking with 80-100 gallons of off-road diesel in the tank is pretty scary.

Thanks again.

Terry
 

GoceKU

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#13
The thought of a trailer axle breaking with 80-100 gallons of off-road diesel in the tank is pretty scary.
Terry, i'm glad you've able to fix the axle by just welding it. The off road diesel you've mentioned, is it just like regular diesel just with added coloring and cheaper tax and how much is it cheaper then regular diesel in the US?
 

tjb

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#14
Terry, i'm glad you've able to fix the axle by just welding it. The off road diesel you've mentioned, is it just like regular diesel just with added coloring and cheaper tax and how much is it cheaper then regular diesel in the US?
Yes, it's simply regular diesel with a dye in it and is generally used for farm equipment and other machinery that does not travel on surface roads. Off-road diesel is subject to significantly lower usage tax, so the price is usually 20-30 cents cheaper per gallon (at least in our area) than regular diesel. If it is used in a an over-the-road truck, it gives off a smoke that is a dead give-away that it's the wrong kind of fuel. The fines for using it that way are HUGE - I've been told in the $1,000+ range. I've personally never known anyone that tried to save a few bucks that way because a., it's not the right thing to do, and b., it's a high stakes gamble. Do you have such a system your country?

Regards,
Terry
 

682bear

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#15
FYI...

If you have a tig welder available, it is easy to test whether something is cast iron or steel. Clean a spot and strike an arc on it just enough to get a puddle. Shut down and let it cool, then hit it with a file. Cast steel will file easily, cast iron will become way too hard to file. The file will just slide across cast iron.

This won't work with mig or stick welders because when you strike the arc, you are adding filler, which will be soft enough for the file to cut.

-Bear
 

GoceKU

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#16
Do you have such a system your country?
It is the same here, it's colored red, it doesn't gives off smoke, that said there is no emissions requirements at all and almost all cars have there catalytic converters removed and the older vehicles do smoke. It's not uncommon for people to use that red diesel in their older mechanical diesel cars, price difference is around 20-25% cheaper and sometimes quality is better, as the underground tanks are less used and there is less water in them. About a year ago i filled my car at a private fill station with regular diesel and just as was going to set off my car started smoking white smoke and it died, i know my car extremely well i've traveled more than half a million kilometers in it, first thing the staff there started to act nervous and shout no repairs here, which made me suspicious, no one is approaching to help, so i drain the fuel filter and found only rusty water. I took the bottle to the cash register and they said no no that not from this pump, knowing water is heavier than diesel i know that they have filled my fuel tank with water, so i continued to drain the water in bottles i had in my car and i've seen a black jaguar park in the employee parking, it was the owner or the owners attorney, he come and talk to me, by that time i had 4-5 clear bottles filled and stoked with rusty water he ask couple of questions to see what kind if a men i i'm when i told him cut the bull he turned to business and ask how much to repair your car and don't tell anyone about it, but the way he said it insulted me, i filed a report with the police for bad fuel and for trying to bribe me, i don't think they faced anything, too much corruption. My car was fine and i still drive it.
 

tjb

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#17
FYI...

If you have a tig welder available, it is easy to test whether something is cast iron or steel. Clean a spot and strike an arc on it just enough to get a puddle. Shut down and let it cool, then hit it with a file. Cast steel will file easily, cast iron will become way too hard to file. The file will just slide across cast iron.

This won't work with mig or stick welders because when you strike the arc, you are adding filler, which will be soft enough for the file to cut.

-Bear
Thanks. What kind of truck is in your avatar? (Mine's a '54 Chevy.)

Regards,
Terry
 

tjb

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#18
It is the same here, it's colored red, it doesn't gives off smoke, that said there is no emissions requirements at all and almost all cars have there catalytic converters removed and the older vehicles do smoke. It's not uncommon for people to use that red diesel in their older mechanical diesel cars, price difference is around 20-25% cheaper and sometimes quality is better, as the underground tanks are less used and there is less water in them. About a year ago i filled my car at a private fill station with regular diesel and just as was going to set off my car started smoking white smoke and it died, i know my car extremely well i've traveled more than half a million kilometers in it, first thing the staff there started to act nervous and shout no repairs here, which made me suspicious, no one is approaching to help, so i drain the fuel filter and found only rusty water. I took the bottle to the cash register and they said no no that not from this pump, knowing water is heavier than diesel i know that they have filled my fuel tank with water, so i continued to drain the water in bottles i had in my car and i've seen a black jaguar park in the employee parking, it was the owner or the owners attorney, he come and talk to me, by that time i had 4-5 clear bottles filled and stoked with rusty water he ask couple of questions to see what kind if a men i i'm when i told him cut the bull he turned to business and ask how much to repair your car and don't tell anyone about it, but the way he said it insulted me, i filed a report with the police for bad fuel and for trying to bribe me, i don't think they faced anything, too much corruption. My car was fine and i still drive it.
Whoa! Try that around here, and it's likely the police would be called for another reason!
Regards,
Terry
 

682bear

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#19
Thanks. What kind of truck is in your avatar? (Mine's a '54 Chevy.)

Regards,
Terry

It's a '51 Ford 3/4 ton... a 'work in progress'...

I had a '54 Chevy pickup years ago... never should have sold it...

-Bear
 

tjb

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#20
It's a '51 Ford 3/4 ton... a 'work in progress'...

I had a '54 Chevy pickup years ago... never should have sold it...

-Bear
Converted mine over to Firebird front-end, PS, PDB, AC. 4.3V6, 700R4. Fun ride.
 

682bear

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#21
Converted mine over to Firebird front-end, PS, PDB, AC. 4.3V6, 700R4. Fun ride.
My '51 has the original front axle with a PS and PDB conversion and a 302 v8 with AOD trans... I don't have it roadworthy yet, but maybe I'll get there eventually...

20171211_081437.jpg

-Bear
 

tjb

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#22
My '51 has the original front axle with a PS and PDB conversion and a 302 v8 with AOD trans... I don't have it roadworthy yet, but maybe I'll get there eventually...

View attachment 273512

-Bear
Nice. I see you took that photo last week in sunny Temple, GA!

The body looks like it's in very good condition. Does the front-end have leaf springs or coils? Don't know much about Ford suspension. Only two I ever had were a '40 Opera Coupe converted to a Nova front-end, and a '65 truck that had original coil suspension but a 327 Chevy engine/trans dropped into it.

Do you have the rest of the body? Truck doesn't look too far from drivable.

Here are a couple of before-and-after's of my '54:
1C Combined.jpg 4C Combined.jpg


Regards,
Terry
 

682bear

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#23
It is all leaf springs... this is what I started with...

20160823_115041.jpg

It had the usual rust in the typical areas, like the cab corners...

20170112_130028.jpg

I cut all the rust out and welded in patches...

20160823_115041.jpg 20170112_130028.jpg 20170112_162251.jpg

I also had to replace the entire passenger cowl panel

20170125_134150.jpg
The truck is driveable now (around the yard) but I haven't had time to finish the front metal or doors, I've been doing some necessary remodeling in the house this spring and summer.

I'll be back on it soon, I hope...

-Bear
 

682bear

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#24
You did a nice job on the '54! I like it!

-Bear
 

tjb

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#25
You did a nice job on the '54! I like it!

-Bear
Thanks. Nice work on your '51. I'm impressed. Here are a few more pix of my '54 in progress. In addition to sealing up cowl vents/side vents/etc., we made some not-so-obvious changes that make it a little more of a pleasure to drive.

1. Here's a shot of the drive train before reassembling the body. Again: 4.3V6 with 700R4 automatic overdrive. If you look carefully, you can identify the Firebird front-end clip and rear-end assembly. (That's my '55 off to the side.)
110704-2.JPG

2. This a little subtle, but notice there are no vent windows. (A little hard to tell in the photo.) Chevrolet made this body style from '47-early '55, but for some unknown reason, they did not include vent windows in one year model ('49, I think). I liked the cleaner look without the vents, so I simply converted over to the windows for that year model.
120818-2.JPG

3. Back-up lights. Back in the '50's back-up lights were optional or just not available on many pickups, so I modified a pair of '47 truck parking lights to fit below the tailgate. Those are dual element bulbs, so both are wired to give a fairly bright back-up light.
120818-6-notag.jpg

4. Relocation of fuel tank. IMO, this is one of the two most significant changes I made. I never liked the idea of the fuel tank in the cab. After much studying, I purchased a universal fuel tank and fabricated mounting brackets to put it under the truck (essentially where a spare tire would be on newer trucks). I also went to my local muffler guy and got some scrap pieces of tail pipe and welded them to the approximate size and shape I wanted the filler assembly to be. Took that contraption back to him and, together we bent the size and shape we needed from new tail pipe. The filler neck and cap are from the original tank, and the bezel was machined from a steering wheel bezel. (P.S.: Watching a machinist mill that bezel is what gave me the interest I developed in machining. Glad he let me watch!)
111225-2.JPG 111225-5.JPG 111225-6.JPG

5. Metal bed. This is the OTHER can't-do-without modification. Wood beds are nice - if you're a purist and/or you want to show the vehicle. But if you want it to be more functional, a metal bed is far more preferable. The downside is that most conversions use a piece of thin sheet metal or diamond plate that just plain doesn't look good. I took some measurements and found that the bed out of any relatively late model FORD (yes, you read that right) short bed pickup fits the dimensions of the Chevy almost perfectly - dead-on lengthwise and about 1/4" narrow on the width. I went to a junkyard and bought a candidate and we welded it into the floor. It turned out very nice and pretty much looks factory.
110322-6.JPG 110322-11.JPG 120818-5.JPG

Sorry to be so long winded. At the stage you're at in your rebuild, it occurred to me some of this might be food for thought for you.

Regards,
Terry
 

682bear

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#26
I actually discovered that a repop tank for a '69 Mustang is a perfect fit between the frame rails...

20170301_094904.jpg

I did have to relocate the filler neck on the tank to route it out through the side.

I tried something a little different with the bed floor...

20170421_173315.jpg

That is actually trexdeck, hand routed for homemade flush fitted steel strips... in the picture, I had not painted the strips yet...

-Bear
 

tjb

Terry
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#27
I actually discovered that a repop tank for a '69 Mustang is a perfect fit between the frame rails...

View attachment 273564

I did have to relocate the filler neck on the tank to route it out through the side.

I tried something a little different with the bed floor...

View attachment 273565

That is actually trexdeck, hand routed for homemade flush fitted steel strips... in the picture, I had not painted the strips yet...

-Bear
You're WAY further along than what your earlier pictures suggested! That's very nice work. Trexdeck is a very nice product. We have it on our back porch, but I never thought about using it in a truck bed. Nice detail on how you cut around the wheel wells.

The front end that I used on the trailer, which was the original subject of this post, came off of a '59 Apache that I've only so far did the front and rear conversion to a '79 Trans Am. Unlike my other two trucks (the '54 and a '65) this one is a fleet side instead of step side, and I've been pondering for quite some time how I was going to deal with wheel wells. You've given me a good idea.

Where does your filler neck come out? The bezel that I used came off of a Grant steering wheel and was very easy to machine to fit the filler neck. The inside diameter just needed to be milled down .050" - .100". If you need one, I would think you could buy just the bezel from Grant. Today, I'd probably make it myself out of a piece of 6061t6 aluminum. Seeing as how we're both on the H-M website, I'm sure you could, too.

If I ever head west on I-20, I'll try to look you up. If you travel east, you do the same.

Regards,
Terry
 

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#28
Most of the guys that use the Mustang tank bring the filler neck straight up through the bed floor... with a flush mount cap like is used on boats. I didn't like that idea, so I run it out the driver side over the top of top of the frame rail and out the bed side just behind the rear fender.

20170412_083234.jpg

I'm still not sure I really like it there, but the options were pretty limited, so I'm gonna go with it for now...

If you are gonna be out this way, holler at me... I'm @ 6 miles off I-20...

-Bear
 

tjb

Terry
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#29
Most of the guys that use the Mustang tank bring the filler neck straight up through the bed floor... with a flush mount cap like is used on boats. I didn't like that idea, so I run it out the driver side over the top of top of the frame rail and out the bed side just behind the rear fender.

View attachment 273570

I'm still not sure I really like it there, but the options were pretty limited, so I'm gonna go with it for now...

If you are gonna be out this way, holler at me... I'm @ 6 miles off I-20...

-Bear
I don't like the filler caps out of the bed, either. Just doesn't look like it belongs there, and it's totally impractical. From the looks of where yours is, I think it would be a relatively simple matter to hang a left towards the front of the truck and run a fabricated hardline up to the quarter panel. That will give you a little more height for easy fuel-up. You've seen the photos on my '54. Here's one on my '65 which was done essentially the same way.
IMG_0854.JPG
It's surprisingly easy to fabricate. Make a simple tack weld mock-up with scrap tail pipe sections, then have it bent by your local muffler guy. The section from the tank to the hardline AND the section from the hardline to the filler neck are rubber. That way, you can be a little off on your measurements, but it won't matter. Also, it's a good idea to have the muffler guy flare the ends - avoids leaks.

My wife has a sister who lives in Douglasville. Next time she goes to visit, I may contact you just to drop by and say hello.

Regards,
Terry
 

682bear

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#30
I looked pretty hard at putting the fill cap in the back of the fender, but had 2 issues...

First, I have a bed crossmember in the way... I would have to run the fill hose through it, or relocate the crossmember... either way, it is doable, but the other issue is that there is not a flat area on the fender anywhere, and I'm not sure I could trim out the fill neck on a curved surface and make it look anywhere near acceptable. A rubber grommet like the one used to seal the original neck in the cab corner may work... IDK. I'm going with what I have for now... if it doesn't work out, it will be fairly simple to patch and repaint over the hole in the bed and try something different.

The current filler neck setup is very similar to what was originally used on the panel trucks... it was fairly low, just over the top of the frame.

-Bear
 
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