Lubricants for 4WD Willys and Jeep
Closed-Knuckle Front Axles
Controversy Over Steering Gear, Closed-Knuckle Axle and Wheel Bearing
is from the magazine's short-lived "forum". Unexpected
contention around this thread led to the forum's
closure. On a go-forward, enjoy using the 'Q&A' sections at the magazine—and expect
Frank here...I began a thread
about steering knuckle grease on your forum. I saw some of your video about the overhaul, but my slow
computer wouldn't play
it. So I did not see what your
thoughts were on
lubrication...It was an old Jeep book that
educated me on this form of grease.
Been quite a little side project
for me, so hopefully you will be interested and look into
Reply below from
Hello, Frank...Thanks for the
details on knuckle grease. At my recent workshop presentation for the Midwest Willys Reunion, I was surprised
how much discussion there is about closed steering knuckle grease. This is apparently a large
I looked at your thread links.
The traditional Willys and Kaiser closed knuckle grease was NLGI Grade #0 (winter) and #1 (summer). A modern
equivalent that I like is the Texaco Starplex line, which I prefer for its viscosity characteristics and
affordable cost. The grease is available through Texaco outlets and bulk plants. I buy a case at a time of
standard grease cartridges. Here are the "Useable" temperature ranges for various Starplex
Starplex 681: -40F to 325F
Starplex 1: -30F to 325F continuous
Starplex 2: -20 to 325F continuous
Each of these greases will
sustain short exposure to 450F with a 450F drop point. I use Starplex II (an NLGI rating #2) for wheel
bearings, chassis and U-joints. Starplex 681 and Starplex I have an NLGI rating of #1, which is better for
the steering knuckle cavities at my high desert living environment. (681 is better for a cold or changing
climate than Starplex I.) During assembly, I pack the axle shaft joint and the knuckle cavity with Starplex
I. Occasional checks and top-off involve clean Starplex I out of a grease
Since the axle shaft joints do
not have seals, the rotating axle shafts will scoop and replenish the U-joint grease. As I shared with the
Willys crowd, you should periodically lock the freewheeling hubs to allow the axle shafts to sling grease
into the upper kingpin bearings.
As for Ross TL steering
(cam-and-lever) lube, the Jeep recommendation is simply SAE 80 wt. gear oil, an EP (extreme pressure) base
stock. Studebaker and Willys owners get creative with this gear, substituting semi-fluid grease as the gear
gets older and wants to seep out oil from the sector/lever shaft seal. (Actually, Studebaker recommends an
SAE 140 wt. EP gear lube in the Ross gear and SAE 90 wt. in the Saginaw recirculating ball-and-nut gear.) The
special semi-fluid substitutes are often band-aid alternatives to a
On that note, semi-fluid
greases like Marfak from Texaco are not always rated for EP (extreme pressure) use. For that reason, I'm not
an advocate for Brand-X semi-fluid grease unless a clear EP rating is available. SAE 80 wt. or SAE 140 wt.
are each EP rated gear oil types.
In this modern era, we have
multi-viscosity 75W-140 synthetic oils plus conventional gear lube in the 80W-90 or 85W-140 types. With an EP
rating, these lubes would be optimal for the Ross steering gear. When rebuilding a unit, the 85W-140 Texaco
Multigear EP lube is a good, affordable
So, that's my take. If the
steering gear is seeping, I generally rebuild and restore it. Resealing the closed axle knuckles is a routine
service on vintage Jeep vehicles. I discuss this process in a video at the magazine website. The video is
from my Willys Reunion workshop...
Trust this helps demystify the
steering gear and knuckle lubrication needs. If the front axle shaft seals are leaking gear lube from the
differential toward the knuckles, you will see dilution of the steering knuckle lube or seepage at the
knuckle seals. If the axle support bushings are in good shape, shaft wobble will be minimal, and the axle
shaft seals should hold lube in the differential
Grease conversation continues...Frank replies
Now the main problem with using
a #2 grease is that the grease simply does not have enough oil in it, will not flow, will not discharge and
protect the exposed steel from the
The correct grease will move around
inside the knuckle when in 4x4 mode, lubricating the upper trunnion bearing, and forms a
viscous seal around the wiper seal, keeping out dirt, water and contaminants. The grease
coats the ball, protecting it...
So the side I repaired, pictured
here, had to be reworked and repaired again before the side that was original from 1971.
Simply by not using what Ford termed the proper lube takes something that is practically
maintenance free for the life time of the vehicle to a worse than average axle. Dirt gets
wiped in with this situation.
Look at what's going on
inside: the grease towards the top flung off by the U-joint is still red, never used, never
moved, useless. Then toward the bottom, it's dirty grease, gritty, not so bad on this axle,
but in a 12 bolt axle there was up to a 1" build up of dirt in the bottom of the
Now as I am sure you noticed about
the Starplex grease, the temp stays the same on the high side and only gets better on the
cold side as the grade gets thinner...More important than the rheological aspect of
this is the viscous seal that forms around the felt wiper and coats the entire
knuckle through the capillary action of the felt wiper oil seal.
Moses replies to
Frank, I'm receptive to others'
experience, and your photos are quite convincing. Is there a semi-fluid grease that meets
EP standards? If so, will that grease stay in the knuckle cavity of a vintage Spicer
axle, or does it wick into the axle housing?
On an axle with an axle shaft grease
seal just inboard of the knuckle, there would be no issue. The vintage Jeep-Willys' use of
a thrust and bushing is not a barrier to oil flow, however. Would the semi-fluid grease,
with EP rating, want to wick into the axle housing or out of the spindle and knuckle
You have experience here. Please
suggest a semi-fluid grease that meets the EP standard, one that will stay put in the
knuckle. I fully agree that an oil base would be better for slinging lube to the upper
knuckle, likely working into the axle shaft U-joint more readily, too. As a further
concern, though, is there a semi-fluid grease that meets the EP requirements of a U-joint
under torque load?
As far as it working its way through
the spindle out to the wheel bearings, yes, this same lube is used in the wheel hub as
well. And as far as it working its way back into the axle tube, sure, I actually like to
over fill this a bit from the 1/2 static level by tipping the rig up on its side a bit.
This doesn't hurt , just adds more of the unique grease that old man Willys used to draw
away moisture from the steel.
Also, this sodium-based grease, used
in areas that are prone to leakage, is well known to do extremely well when subjected to
shocking and pounding. EP rating? Extreme pressure, well no matter how extreme the
pressure, a fluid will not compress. What any lubrication expert will tell you is that an
oil is better than a grease because of its higher resistance to
This semi fluid just has more oil in
it. EP additives? This grease does have the Molybdenite additive.
Picking it up...I found the page you
tried to upload, Frank. Here's the official quote from Jeep:
"Sodium base lubricants are used
at the factory for initial fill of the wheel bearings, front axle shaft universal joints,
and propeller shaft universal joints. Because mixing of sodium base and lithium base
lubricants results in a thinned-out mixture that can bleed through seals, always use sodium
base wheel bearing and universal joint lubricants on 'Jeep' vehicles [closed knuckle era].
Should oil leaks occur at these bearings, thoroughly remove the old lubricant before new
lubricant is added."
This emphasizes the importance of
not mixing lube bases. When you move to the lubrication chart in the same manual
(official Service Manual for 'Jeep' Vehicles,
CJ-2A through Kaiser CJ-5/6), Jeep recommends a
steering knuckle lube of NLGI #1 base for summer and #0 base for winter, footnoted as a
sodium type grease. Recommended wheel
bearing grease is also sodium type, however, the wheel bearing grease is noted as "Wheel
Bearing Lubricant" and the front axle shaft joint lubricant as "Universal Joint
In seeking a grease that will work
for both the wheel bearings and the axle shaft joints/knuckle cavities, keep in mind that
#1 and especially #0 grease are very thin. Wheel bearings, according to Jeep, use #2 grease (sodium variety) on
these vintage closed knuckle axles.
You describe using the same grease
for both. What is that grease, and is it rated for both universal joints and wheel
bearings? What is the NLGI rating (i.e., #0, #1 or #2)? Have you found a sodium lube that
meets the requiremments for both? When you discuss semi-fluid grease with an oil base, what
is the NLGI rating?
I have very descriptive grease
listings from Chevron and Texaco, each has a variety of niche lubes. I still have extreme
pressure (EP) rating concerns, and I'm curious how you bridge the wheel bearing and axle
joint requirements with a single sodium base lube or a "semi-fluid" lube. While the closed
knuckle is a cavity that can somewhat contain an oil base lube, how do you contain such
lube in the wheel bearing area?
Not sure why Jeep manuals spec a #2
grease in the wheel bearings when it's clear a thin lube will work its way through the
spindle. As to some Jeep books spec'ing a 140W oil for the knuckle, that without any doubt
will work its way out to the wheel bearings and mix with the #2 grease. This is actually a
real bad idea that can lead to bearing failure.
When I read what is mentioned by
Jeep about filling the wheel bearings and related parts in the knuckle, it would all be the
EP ratings? This grease may be
before the time of EP ratings, don't know, in reading up on this sodium based grease that
was used by Jeep, three things make it a easy choice for Jeep and this
1) used in areas that are prone to
2) known for extended service intervals
3) known to do extremely well in areas that are subjected to
severe shocking and pounding
Hi, Frank...I did some research in
my Texaco resources and narrowed down a number of products that discuss your goals. There
are two issues worth emphasizing, and we each have called attention here: 1) never mix
greases and oils of a different base stock, as this can cause grease breakdown and parts
failure, and 2) avoid using gear lube in the knuckle that can migrate to the wheel bearings
and dilute or react with the wheel bearing grease.
I also emphasize that although Jeep
and others turned to sodium based lubricants "in the day", greases have evolved to perform
well with mineral and synthetic stocks other than sodium. For your benefit and that of
others, I have copied details on a variety of contemporary grease products. Some are niche
products, others more generic. In any case, if one were to select and test any of these
products, all previous lubricant should be carefully removed from the axle shaft joints,
knuckle cavities, wheel bearings and hubs.
In reviewing different grease
choices, several Texaco footnotes came up that are valid and useful. Here are a
Duty [fibrous sodium soap grease]
is primarily used as an assembly aid for needle
bearings. Previously, it was widely
used for wheel bearing lubrication. Today, most equipment manufacturers require a premium, high
temperature extreme pressure grease like Starfak or Starplex."
Note: Starfak is available as thin
as semi-fluid 0/00 NLGI rating; Starplex 681 and Starplex I each have an NLGI #1
EP has been successfully used in
constant velocity joints (CV-joint) in front wheel drive automobiles, universal
joints (U-joints) and for chassis lubrication. The presence of moly provides added
shock loading protection."
EP greases are non-corrosive to
non-ferrous bearing metals as well as steel." [This could apply to items like the
bronze bushings that support the closed-knuckle axle shafts.]
4) "The EP additive package found in
these Starfak synthetic
greases provides extra protection to metal surfaces in shock loading situations. During a
heavy shock load, the lubricant film between metal surfaces can be
ruptured. If lubricant film rupture
occurs, the superior EP additive package in these synthetic greases can provide the extra
level of protection that is needed." [This
reflects my reasoning around the use of an EP-rated grease.]
You will find many other insights in
the actual grease descriptions and properties. Note each grease type's speed rating and
temperature range for roller bearings. When considering temperature characteristics, keep
in mind that the wheel bearings and knuckles do get exposure to brake heat. Chemical
engineers create niche products for a variety of uses. Study these details carefully, and
clear options will be apparent.
Although the closed knuckle axles
are "older" technology, there are many restorers and enthusiasts who still enjoy working
with these systems and doing a quality, safe job. Grease and lubricant choices must take
the needs of axle joints and wheel bearings into account.
Scans of some Texaco offerings are
available at this PDF link:
Note: I offer these listings for
your review. It is not my intention to endorse or recommend a particular grease but rather
to expand the discussion to include the many variables involved in making grease choices.
For a complete guide to the Texaco lubricants, contact your local Texaco Bulk Plant or
enthusiasts need to follow safe, practical grease choices based upon currently available
products and engineering.
I ask that
readers keep me posted on findings and experiences.
Now those newer Texaco greases such
as starfak, multifak are great greases, but the sodium based marfak is discontinued,
no longer available or so I have learned.
As far as these greases working for
both the wheel bearings and wheel joint in the semi fluid or very thin #1 would do just
fine, except maybe
in one area, leakage or discharge from the wiper seal.
Sodium based grease used in areas
that are prone to leakage are known for the ability to cling to the knuckle,
so it is for this
important reason that I felt it would be nice to track some of this sodium grease down and
re-introduce it to the Jeep and other markets...There is old man Willys' caveat of mixing them
[sodium and lithium greases], causing oil leaks...While there are newer greases, I still don't think
they hold a candle to Old Man Willys goop, being that it's found in rigs that last a long
Frank...Since you have
sent many looking for 'Old Man Willys grease', where is a source for automotive sodium base
grease? You share that Marfak is not available, apparently the result of the
Texaco-Chevron-Shell convergence. (Marfak was listed in Texaco catalogs within the last
five years. You note that it's no longer available.) Sodium grease is available in India,
perhaps exported to North America from there. I'm not clear that an NLGI 0 or 1 rating is
available in the India greases, as the grease I've seen is described as "wheel bearing"
type or WB, which is generally NLGI 2.
So, outside of India, where can
folks get a sodium base #0 or #1 NLGI grease as you and Willys recommend for the knuckles?
Also, where can they get a #2 wheel bearing grade NLGI in sodium type if they want to use
#2 in the wheel bearings? Willys does recommend sodium "wheel bearing" grade grease in the
We recognize that Willys recommends
#0 (winter) or #1 (summer) NLGI grease in the steering knuckles. I will not use
NLGI 0 or NLGI 1 in the wheel bearings, however, especially in a hot climate and near the
brake mechanisms. In any case, it is essential to use the same base stock in the wheel
bearings as the closed steering knuckles. Whatever the NLGI rating, the grease type
(sodium, calcium, lithium, moly or polyurea) should be identical and fully compatible
between the knuckles and wheel bearings.
Given that lithium or polyurea are
the two thickener ingredients in the more popular and available greases, the question is
why sodium has been dropped. Fibrous sodium was a popular pre- and postwar grease. Marfak
has a patent dating to April 1924. These fibrous greases adhere well, resist dust, take a
shock load and have good temperature range. Texaco suggests however, that sodium grease (in
referencing Marfak) has been supplanted by "premium, high temperature extreme pressure
greases like Starfak and Starplex." Starfak has a synthetic oil base stock and is
recommended for trailer hub bearings and gear boxes. I shared data on Starfak in the PDF,
and it is available in NLGI 1, 2 and 0/00 ratings.
Given that these modern greases have
quality adhesion, extreme pressure ratings and anti-rust or oxidation additives, perhaps
you can explain why none of them meet your standards. Lithium or polyurea is found in
expensive greases, so saving cost is not a factor. (Sodium would actually be less expensive
to produce than either lithium or polyurea.) In this modern era, sodium has, as you quickly
noted when I listed Marfak, virtually disappeared from automotive, industrial and heavy
Unless there is a fibrous sodium
grease available in NLGI 0, 1, and 2, there are contemporary automotive greases that work
well with CV axle shaft joints in modern front wheel drive vehicles (and 4x4s with
half-shafts and CV joints). These greases must fold back into the joint and cannot sling
out and leave the joint dry. If such grease is available in NLGI 0, 1 and 2 (or semifluid
SF if and when specified for a given application), there would be a choice for winter,
summer or wheel bearing applications...You call attention to the chassis greases that flew
off your axle shaft joint in the Ford example. The CV-joint greases must flow back into the
joint in service and adhere to bearing balls under extreme pressure loads. They also work
inside a cavity of sorts: the CV boot.
As for the coating or film on the
exposed housing ball, that must be a dust resistant grease. Would a polyurea grease with a
viscous, synthetic oil base stock provide that kind of protection? Have you experimented
with advanced formula polyurea greases in 0, 1 and 2 NGLI ratings? A grease like Chevron
Black Pearl EP, rated in NLGI 0, 1 and 2 types? (1 and 2 are wheel bearing rated, 0 or 1
could be used for the axle shaft joint and knuckle.) Any experience with these
What do you think of polyurea with
synthetic oil base, a high-end automotive application grease with the specified NLGI
To be continued...
P.S.: There was nothing
"special" about the grease your 'Old Man Willys' and Kaiser used in 1941-71 Jeep 4WD front
axles. Sodium was a common choice, and a wise one I agree, for a vehicle subjected to
everything from the Burma Road to the Battle of the Bulge in winter. As I note, Marfak was
around since 1924, and Willys had no trouble, I'm sure, finding sodium NLGI #0 and #1 for
the closed steering knuckles and #2 for the wheel bearings. There was likely nothing
"proprietary" about sodium NLGI 0, 1 or 2 in the Willys first fill, and I've personally
never seen a "Willys" can of grease. Engineers worked with what was commonly available at
the time, and both sodium and lithium were available. Sodium, as you note, was the better
choice than lithium at that level of grease development. While these vintage greases were
well suited for this automotive application, they hardly compare to specs of
So as far as why sodium grease was
dropped, I have a couple ideas. It is used at production level for instance in these
newer Toyota rigs, but not after
market. As to why it was dropped, not
available in the aftermarket?
Well, I have come to a couple of
conclusions but would like to hear yours, as far as this extensive study in 2008 it was
still the best way to make grease:
Production of grease from used lubricant : a feasibility study
by Nabil Fikri , Yaakub (2008)
Production of grease from used lubricant: a feasibility study. EngD thesis, Universiti
"Grease is a
mixture of a fluid lubricant usually petroleum oil and a thickener v (soap)
dispersed in the oil. The base oil (petroleum) can be changed by using the used lubricant.
Other then base oil, thickener may play an important role in the mixture. Soap thickeners
are formed by reacting metallic hydroxide, or alkali, with a fat, fatty acid, or ester.
Since the petroleum prices increase each year, using used lubricant as base oil is the best
solution to produce grease in the low cost at the same time it will decrease the water
pollution. Three types of soap are used in this production that is aluminum soap, calcium
soap and sodium soap. Viscometer was used in this experiment to analyze the quality and
performances of grease product to select the best type of soap to produce grease. The
viscosities of grease are tested by changing the spindle speed for each type of soap. The
different percent of soap are used to know the effect of percent of soap to the viscosity
of grease. In this experiment, grease was successfully produced from used lubricant. The
viscometer test and sample preparation on grease was visualized in this research, where the
viscosity of grease was decreased with the increasing of spindle speed and the viscosity
was increased with the increasing of percentage soap (thickener) added. The best way to
produce grease is with sodium soap, where sodium soap is the strongest thickener compared
to another thickener. Using this type of soap, only small amount of this thickener needed
compare to another type of soap."
Moses, sodium works
the best, cheaper and easier to make...What are your thoughts as to why a grease
that works this good is kept under wraps?
Engen Grease is just an
example of lithium/calcium greases that would be ideal and
work, basically it is this:
the lube needs to flow like a oil but be thick
enough not to leak out, and used in both wheel hub and axle joint
housing. I think John Deere corn head
grease in the #0 grade is polyurea and would be great.
Regardless, the grease that I have
for this application thru Novak Adapters is proprietary, a reformulation of this semi fluid
grease from yester year.
Moses replies to
Frank, sodium grease must be cheaper to produce. However,
the older sodium greases require regular replenishment and interval
service. It is reasonable to assume that lithium, molybdenum and polyurea
thickening agents hold up longer than sodium. I believe that the use of
sodium grease declined with long-term interval service and "permanently
sealed" U-joints and steering components. (Unfortunately, this trend also
led to poorer vehicle maintenance.) Vehicle manufacturers were competing
for long-term intervals between routine service
While we have
waxed nostalgic about "Old Man Willys Grease", let's not forget that
the '40s and '50s were subject to
lubrication each 1,000 miles for chassis areas and U-joints,
each 6,000 miles for wheel bearing
service, and breaker point ignition tune-ups were at 6,000-
12,000 mile intervals! Imagine modern
consumers following such intervals. The full-service gas stations have disappeared, and
"self-service" means putting gas in the vehicle and maybe checking the
oil. Today, most vehicles get neglected to the point of
I worked at a Standard
Oil/Chevron station during high school years in the mid-'sixties.
I worked professionally as a light and medium duty truck fleet
mechanic by the late 'sixties. Following rigid preventive
maintenance schedules, I used detailed grease charts and lubed
vehicles constantly! On that note, molybdenum or "moly" grease
became popular during that period.
Sodium is cheap to
produce, likely the reason for its popularity in India.
Molybdenum or lithium greases cannot be as cheap, and in the
future they will be even more expensive with lithium batteries
everywhere, including hybrid automobiles. Polyurea holds promise
and is not a non-renewable mineral like lithium or
Polyurea is recommended
for CV-joint use and enfolds into the CV-joint rather than
flinging off as you illustrate with some greases. Polyurea grease
tolerates substantial heat, lubes bearings well, meets EP
standards and is a "permanent lube" in many sealed bearing
applications. Blended with the right oil stock, polyurea may well
be the solution.
We agree upon the
importance of proper NLGI rating for the knuckle lube. I am aware
of the #0 and #1 recommendations from Willys/Jeep. Willys and I
agree that wheel bearings require wheel bearing rated grease
My resistance to
#0 or #1 in the wheel bearings is not the ability for these greases
to lubricate. It has more to
due with the temperatures generated by the brakes and how
that affects the wheel
bearing lube. If this were a non-issue, there would be no call
for upgrading greases to
"high-temp" types for disc brake axles and hubs. Note that all of the
vehicle manufacturers changed
specs for grease when they began offering disc front
That said, I
want a wheel bearing lube with temperature tolerance in the front hub
bearings. I have less concern with the
dilution that naturally takes place in the
typical closed knuckle axle
as grease finds its way from the steering knuckle past the spindle
bushing to the hub. A
free-wheeling hub mechanism might deflect some of this migration,
helping to isolate the wheel bearings from knuckle lube. (There's still
a gap between the outer spindle end and the free wheeling hub
mechanism, a path for grease migration.) An early Willys axle
without freewheeling hubs installed has more likelihood of a thinner
knuckle grease migrating out the spindle and diluting the wheel bearing
grease over time. Use of oil in the knuckle would increase this
Given the needs of the
inner knuckle seal, lubrication of the upper and lower
kingpin/trunnion bearings, the wheel bearing lube, and a hollow
spindle with an axle shaft spinning within, my concerns are: 1)
adequate, proper lubrication at each area, 2) lack of seepage
from the inner knuckle seal, and 3) minimal, if any, migration or
mixing of specified lubricants.
You have highlighted the
effectiveness of fibrous sodium grease and semi-fluid lubricants.
I think this works well in the knuckle at #0 or #1 NLGI rating.
(#1 for hot climates; #0 for cold climates; changing these
seasonable would be a pain, realistically.) As you
note, knuckle lube needs to flow back into the axle shaft
joint and not fling outward and stick to the housing (thus
starving the axle shaft joint for grease)...So, strictly for the
steering knuckle, my contemporary lube choices reflect your
findings. As an alternative to fibrous sodium grease, however,
I'd likely use a polyurea CV-joint grease with an NLGI rating for
this application. Interestly, 1.5 is apparently a norm for
CV-joint polyurea lube. (See below.)
If I were using
the polyurea CV-joint grease in the knuckle, I would definitely use a
automotive wheel bearing-rated grease in
the wheel bearings. In the event of mixing or dilution of these two
segments, the greases would be compatible and not chemically reactive.
Here is a possible scenario for use of polyurea
knuckles—Chevron Rykon Premium Grease #1364 or #1426, each an NLGI #1.5
designed for automotive CV-joints. The #1426 will also work for "other
applications requiring a high
temperature, extreme pressure grease". It
might be acceptable to use #1426 in both the
knuckles and the wheel
2) Wheel bearings—Chevron
Rykon Premium Grease EP for "heavy duty truck wheel bearings,
universal joints, water pumps and idler pulleys". This has an
NLGI #2 rating, optimal for the wheel bearings and still
chemically compatible with the steering knuckle's #1364 or
Note: In the lithium
complex grease types, Texaco's Starfak offers compatible #1 and
#2 greases as well. (#1 would work in the steering knuckle at a
moderate to warm climate; Starfak #2 would be an optimal wheel
bearing grease.) Starfak also offers a #0/00 NLGI grease that
could work in the knuckles at colder climates. Starfak is
state-of-the-art synthetic grease. I included Starfak in the PDF
As for your ball coating
film, you suggest that this is one of the great virtues of sodium
grease and a real asset. Proof of the benefit from the film on
the ball would be increased inner seal life and less scuffing or
abrasion of the ball surface. Has this been tested and proven? Do
you have any evidence about greater inner seal stamina by using a
grease that leaves this film across the ball face? Or does the
grease attract abrasive material (dirt, sand and other debris)
and cause premature failure of the seal due to the mixing of
grease and abrasive material?
These are my
takes. I have looked at other niche greases, there are many, some
have phenomenal strengths.
However, I cleave toward automotive applications with a
tested target, greases like
the CV-joint lube or a grease designed for higher speed
automotive friction roller
bearings. An NLGI polyurea grease with a CV-joint rating might work
well in the knuckle. All of these automotive greases I discuss have
anti-rust and anti-oxidation protection with reasonable water resistant
Frank picks it up
As for grease
film adhering to the exposed bare steel, protecting it from rusting and
pitting: Yes, that could be easily tested and proven, exposed
bare steel tends to rust, while steel covered with nice film of grease
won't. In Old Man Willys books he states to cover the ball
with extra grease in the event of prolonged storage.
As for seal life, dirt that would
otherwise be kept out with a properly lubed knuckle, works its
way into the housing and collects near the axle
seal. Then this dirt
acts as a grinding compound and chews into the steel axle
causing a groove in the axle.
"Or does the grease attract abrasive material
(dirt, sand and other debris) and cause premature failure of
Actually, Moses, this is a good thing the
dirt, dust, and grease collect on the wiper seal forming a
additional barrier for keeping contaminates out of the axle.
For anyone that has repaired/serviced one of these axles and
had to chisel off this grease and dirt compound, it can be
quite formidable, forming a very effective barrier of
Actually one of the things mentioned about
this (by Marfak) sodium grease, is that it forms an
additional sealing barrier. On
one 1966 Dodge axle with the correct
form and grade of grease (original with what Dodge called
"short fiber grease"), inspection revealed
what appeared to be #1
grade. Keep in mind this grease was over 40 years
old and may have changed or "oxidized" over the
Inside the knuckle, all parts were in
excellent shape, only required soft parts, seals and gaskets.
The U-joint, lower trunnion bearing and upper bushing were
Dodge short fiber grease is a decent bread
crumb clue, it is associated with soda soap greases which is
another name for sodium base, although information today says
short fiber grease is silicon base. Regardless, a grease of a
more liquid nature. There is a good article
called "Uses for Short Fiber Grease".
So as far as this grease not lasting as long
as lithium, this does not seem to be the case or need to
be replenished or maintained. Of course this is the
thinner grades, #1 or thinner, of any base with more oil in
them, resist oxidation better, or in layman's terms, just don't
let's sum up conclusions...
position is that sodium grease meets or exceeds the needs of
the closed knuckle front axle. You assert that fibrous
sodium grease meets these requirements:
Provides the fluidity and temperature requirements for lubing
the axle shaft joint; being fibrous and fluid, the grease will
not fling off the joint and starve the joint or knuckle
trunnion (kingpin) bearings. This grease is well suited for the
axle shaft joint and trunnion/kingpin
2) It is
your position that sodium grease, even down to the thinnest #0
NLGI rating, provides the needed lubricating ability and
temperature resistance to serve in the wheel bearings of a drum
or disc brake system.
Sodium grease (as thin as NLGI #0) will weep from the wiper
seal at the inner side of the knuckle, just enough to leave a
protective and useful film over the ball ends of the axle
housing. Periodic lubrication replenishes any grease that
leaves the knuckle in this manner.
assert that fibrous sodium grease in thinner NLGI #0
consistency will work at both the knuckles and wheel bearings,
eliminating the need to use specified #2 grease in the wheel
view, after our exchange, rests here:
Fibrous sodium grease does satisfy the requirements for a
closed knuckle live front axle. Willys recommends #0 (winter)
or #1 (summer) NLGI grade sodium grease for the steering
knuckle cavity and axle shaft joint.
Willys recommends a fibrous sodium grease designated "wheel
bearing" type for the hub wheel bearings on closed knuckle
axles. "Wheel bearing" grade fibrous sodium grease is a #2 NLGI
prefer using specified grease, and if using a fibrous sodium
type grease, my choice would be climate specified #0 or #1 for
the knuckle cavities and #2 for the wheel
bearings*, each of similar
properties and chemically compatible in the event of
migration, mixing and dilution.
*Note: I use a disc brake rated "high temperature"
grease for disc brake vehicle applications. I believe that the
thickness of a disc rotor and its integral attachment to the
wheel hub is a completely different dynamic than a drum/shoe
brake setup. Regardless of whether "physics" call for equal
amounts of frictionally generated heat to stop a vehicle's
mass, drum brake heat is applied to the outer rim of the drum;
there is a relatively thin drum face thickness to transfer heat
into the wheel hub. By contrast, a disc brake rotor is much
thicker, from the caliper right to the hub area. The rotor
serves as a bigger heat sink, which dissipates more heat into
the hub and wheel bearings.
proof, try this on a drum then a disc brake vehicle of similar
weight: Work the brakes (safely!)on a lengthy downgrade; at the
bottom of the grade, measure the front wheel hub heat with an
infrared gun. See which vehicle's hubs are
recall disc brakes becoming popular in automotive applications
and the issues around wheel bearing heat and bearing survival.
There was just cause for the use of 'high temperature' upgrade
grease for disc brake wheel bearing use.
Contemporary greases can meet the needs of a CV-joint or axle
shaft U-joint. There are compatible greases for wheel bearing
use. Unless a grease is clearly described as suitable for both
applications, I would follow Willys' NLGI specified ratings for
the wheel bearings (always a #2) or the steering knuckles (#0
or #1, to be determined by climate). I would upgrade to
a disc brake rated grease for the wheel bearings on
a vehicle equipped with disc brakes.
for the issue of a grease film over the ball and any advantage
in terms of seal or ball life: If Willys wanted a grease film
over the closed knuckle ball, then any alternative to sodium
grease needs to also provide such protection.*
*Note: To prove whether Willys intended to provide a
protective film at the axle ball, use the correct fibrous
sodium grease at the steering knuckle and new seals. (Ball must
be in top condition, smooth and without scratches.) If such a
film forms under these conditions, assume that Willys intended
the steering knuckle, I would try polyurea grease in its modern
automotive "CV-joint" designation (Chevron's Rykon #1364 or
#1426, each an NLGI rating of 1.5.) For this test, I might
consider Rykon #1426 for the wheel bearings or use Rykon
polyurea EP type grease (NLGI #2) at the wheel
bearings.* Any change of grease
type requires thoroughly clean parts, free of any previous
grease, debris or cleaning solvents.
*Rykon #1426 meets G.M. #7843867 parts requirement;
if interested in using this grease, research to confirm whether
G.M. approves this product for both CV-joints and wheel
bearings. For wheel bearing use, verify whether this grease
meets disc brake requirements if the vehicle is so
steering knuckle and axle joint lube must be fluid enough to
enfold back into the joint and flow in general. It is
unacceptable for grease to sling outward and cling to the
housing wall without migrating back to the axle shaft joint
(your point as well). Grease must also reach and replenish the
knuckle kingpin/trunnion bearings.
that in any grease approach, to minimize grease loss or mixing
of greases, the axle shaft bushings must be intact and at
proper clearance; to avoid weeping excessive grease from the
inner knuckle seal, the ball surface and seal must provide a
smooth, quality seal.
assembling and greasing kingpin/trunnion bearings or axle shaft
joints, always pack each part thoroughly for initial
protection. The same rule applies to wheel bearings, using a
suitable packing technique. When filling the knuckle cavity,
the type of grease determines fill level. Some greases will
pump out or stress seals if packed too tightly. Churning and
cavitation are an issue with certain types of grease. Always
follow the grease manufacturer's guidelines and
we have presented the facts, the details, our
experiences and opinions in a thorough, no holds barred way. My
magazine's articles and Q&A reflect a willingness to
objectively discuss technical details, experience and
are many readers with 1971-back closed knuckle front axles to
service and restore. May the information we have presented
prompt readers to think seriously about grease types and
their proper application.
You spurred discussion on an
important topic. May vintage Jeep owners benefit from