It all began with a simple check of my 1957 Ford Ranch Wagon. The car had been seeing very little use for the last year or two as I found myself behind the wheel of my recently completed '40 pickup. Recognizing the fact that the wagon had seen limited road use it seemed appropriate to give the car a good going over prior to pressing it back into service. Actually, regardless of use, any old car should be given a complete annual "physical exam."

With that thought in mind I set about what should have been a weekend of maintenance, you know, change all the fluids, oil, gear lube, trans, and brake fluid. Before it was over the car would have all new brakes and be resting almost 3 inches closer to the ground, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.

It was that small trickle of grease running down the right rear backing plate that first caught my eye. Hmm, I don't remember that being there before and of course the first reaction is to minimize the problem. Ah, probably just an axle seal, no big deal. Removal of the wheel and brake drum exposed a thoroughly greased down set of brakes, so it was time to dig in deeper.

As it turns out it was a bad axle seal, that's the good news. The bad news is the axle seal went bad because there was metal in the gear lube from a bearing going bad in the third member. Adding to the fun, the driver side axle bearing was bad, producing a mild growl. Hmm, so much for light maintenance.

We ordered up new axle bearings and seals from Dennis Carpenter Ford Restoration Parts, along with new wheel cylinders and brake shoes for the rear. As for the centersection here was our thought: Sure it was probably a pinion bearing, but the whole unit is 55 years old so we just ordered a new centersection, 4:11 gear from John's Industries, aka The 9-inch Factory. Then the oh-so-common, "while we're at it" syndrome kicked in; after all we may as well remove the housing and give it a proper cleaning.


Dropping the stance on our '57 Ranch Wagon brought it from Brady Bunch to hot rod in about a week of spare time.

1. After discovering a troubling streak of gear lube trickling down the backing plate it was time to investigate further. We were hoping for a simple axle bearing and seal replacement. To that end we removed the four retainer nuts with a socket through the hole in the axle flange.

2. While a slide-style axle puller is heavier, we adapted a dent puller slide hammer to help remove the axle, it worked just fine. A simple piece of angle iron was cut and drilled to fit.

3. After removing the axle you will find the axle seal inside the housing. This seal was leaking but the big question was why?

4. We employed the same dent puller to remove the seal. Simply hook the seal and give it a couple of whacks with the slide hammer and out it comes. 5. With both axles out of the housing we removed the driveshaft and spun the centersection by hand, a slight growl came from the gear set. After draining the gear lube it had a distinctive metallic look, time to dig deeper. An impact wrench, eight nuts, and four U-bolts later and the housing was freed from the parallel leaf springs.

5. With both axles out of the housing we removed the driveshaft and spun the centersection by hand, a slight growl came from the gear set. After draining the gear lube it had a distinctive metallic look, time to dig deeper. An impact wrench, eight nuts, and four U-bolts later and the housing was freed from the parallel leaf springs.

6. We used three jackstands to support the rear housing, one under the front of the third-member to prevent the housing from rotating downward. Of course the car was also safely supported by jackstands.

7. We built this handy little dolly a while back and we use it often. Some 4x4 blocks on top of the dolly made it the perfect platform for the '57 Ford 9-inch rear.

8. Next we turned our attention to removing the old bearings. A die grinder was used to put a deep slot in the collar. A hammer and chisel split the lock ring for easy removal.

9. The same method was used to remove the bearings, chisel in the slot, a couple of good whacks with a hammer and the outer bearing race split. The same procedure removed the inner race with special care taken not to allow the cut-off wheel to contact the axle.

10. We sent the axle housing and backing plates off to Flintstone Media Blasting. When we brought the housing home we cleaned it with Eastwood PRE paint prep.

11. After cleaning with the PRE we applied three coats of Eastwood 2K Aero-Spray chassis black. This provided a nice semi-flat black finish. The two-part epoxy paint is very tough.