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Steel rods corroded into aluminum axle I-beam


Dec 10, 2023
Good Evening, Thank you for allowing me to join, new to Practical Machinist and have seen many links to the site which has straight-forward reponses to questions posed in the forums. We restore antique semi tractors, and need some advice.
Working on a 70's International where the u-bolts are corroded solid into the mounting holes in the aluminum steer axle. What's a good way to get the u-bolt remnants loose with damaging the axle beam? Haven't tried heat thinking we might damage the qualities of the aluminum. How hot could we get the aluminum, without damaging it, thinking of trying th get some beeswax soaked into ithe corrosion. I can get some heat color sticks if needed, Thanks in advance.


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Do not heat the aluminum. I would cut the tops of the U-bolts and then drive the threaded portions out of the I-beam. How are you doing with getting the kingpins out?

There were two models of aluminum front axles, rated at 12000 and 10800 pounds. IH also had a rear air suspension with forged aluminum trailing beams. At the time, saving a hundred pounds or two on net vehicle weight was worth paying a little extra on the optional equipment. I do not recall whether it was Alcoa or Kaiser that made the forgings.

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Yes cut them off with a torch to get a bit of heat going. Spray them with penetrating oil while warm. Use an impact onthe other side. Go back and forth with impacts. It will get warm from using impact wrench. Be patient, it will break loose.
If you're not squeamish, you can cut them flush, then blow them out of the hole with a plasma torch. I've done it on stuck turbo bolts on my COE9670. No preheat to crap everything up, and the cut stream doesn't wander like an O/A cutting rig.

Barring that.........you can always drill them out. If you've ever watched them bend the u bolts for these trucks, you'll know they bend easy, and aren't the hardest steel.
Supposedly Alum can dissolve steel parts out of aluminum. I've never done it but other people seem to have good results with broken tap removal.

In my experience zinc and aluminum get along pretty well. I would see about hot dip galvanizing the bolts in the future. The word "restore" makes me think everything will be stripped out of the housing and it could easily be sandblasted and painted or powder coated.

I'm not familiar with this assembly, but assuming it is a through hole, can you cut the bolts so there is exposed thread and tighten a nut on it against a spacer to pull the remaining stubs?
blow them out of the hole with a plasma torch
I've seen broken taps blown out of a main body jig ball screw carriage assembly for the spot welder at Toyota using this method. Steady hand required.
Done hundreds of rivets like this.......wash off the externals ,and while still hot ,pierce the steel plugs...........generally they fall out ,or a slight tap with a hammer and punch.............alternative is to drill out the steel......which doubtless the Transport Dept would prefer.
Having forged a fair amount of aluminum myself, I am all too aware of how quickly hot aluminum magically transforms itself to a puddle on the floor.
I am old school, I guess, I never shirk from a bit more work to be safe. I would cut em flush, either with a portaband or a cutoff disc on a 4 1/2" grinder, then sand both sides flush so there was no steel protruding.
Then, drill a small pilot hole, high torque low speed drill.
Then use an easy out.
I used to have a john deere riding mower that snapped a bolt (the same one) once or twice a year- it was a 1/2" bolt, and a 3/16" hole a half inch deep took about 2 minutes, followed by an easy out. I got so I could do the whole procedure in less than an hour- strip out the parts in the way, drill and remove, replace, reinstall belts and covers.
Patience, Iago.
U-bolts go through drilled holes in axle I-beams, and are retained by nuts. So cut them off and push them through. No drilling or screw extractor required.

Like he said. No other response will be any easier. You can do this with only a hack saw, hammer and punch. A cut off wheel in a small hand grinder is very helpful to cut off but not necessary.
I’m with Vance and dave, cut them off mechanically and punch them through. The spring pad is the lowest stressed part of the entire I beam, so if you nick or damage it a little it doesn’t matter. Be prepared to have a similar issue with the dowels. If they pull out of the springs just drill them out Of the pad. No problem oversizing the hole and use an aluminum sleeve it to get back on size. Just curious, is it a Rockwell or IH axle center? Back in the olden days I was the engineer responsible for front axles.
I often wondered if hooking up a battery charger to the bolt and Ali, soaking with an electrolyte and humping some electrons through would loosen, nearly tried once but the offending bold beat me to it and freed up
Welcome btw
I would not cut them "flush" , but I would cut them within a 1/4" of the surface. them I would make a drill bushing that locates on the protruding portion. Using a center cutting carbide end mill, along with the bushing, the bolts can readily be drilled with a pilot and then successively larger drill bits. I work with the saltwater marine environment daily, and I have much success with this technique...it's all about tooling, set up, and patience.