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1250 Bolens Front Axle Support Failure

bolens; 1250

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#1 framesteer ONLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 02:02 PM

Since working on Bolens equipment in my Dad’s dealership as early as 1964, I have had a growing admiration for the design engineering of the equipment.  In addition to being on the leading edge of innovation, the execution of the designs was first rate.  As an example, you should look at the rear half (engine, transmission, etc) of an Estate Keeper.  There is a lot of stuff packaged in a really constrained space.  And it all works reliably, is serviceable, and has few deficiencies.

 

We sold only a few large frame tractors out of my Dad’s dealership, so I don’t have a lot of experience with them.  When I found a tired 1250 for a reasonable price, I decided to restore it.  In the process, I found a rare design error that had resulted in a major failure.

 

The steering of my tired 1250 was very loose.  There was play in the normal places:  spindle pivot bushings, steering gears, tie rod ends, axle pivot, etc.  But only after disassembling the tractor did I learn that the majority of the play was coming from an unexpected failure of the axle support casting 1718572.  This support basically connects the main structural channels of the frame to the front axle, as well as providing the structure for the PTO drive.  The casting is a vertical box section and had split down the left hand rear corner.  In looking over the failure, the inside corner of the casting was made at a sharp right angle, without any appreciable radius, ribs, or webs between the left and rear sections.  The right angle corner served as a stress concentration point and resulted in the failure.  As a result, the front axle wasn’t completely connected to the tractor frame, resulting in really sloppy steering and excessive front axle movement.

 

I contemplated different ways to repair the casting, but found a similar casting from an HT-20 (1722832) for sale on ebay.   The pictures on ebay were detailed enough to see that this casting had added webs and a rib in the area where the 1250 casting had failed.  I’m sure the design change was due to numerous failures similar to the one in my 1250.  I made a study of the parts around the casting, comparing the 1250 parts catalog to the HT-20.  There weren’t many differences, so I took a chance and bought the HT-20 casting.  It turned out to be a drop-in replacement I will have to extend the hood hinge mounts on the front of the casting).  Engineering problem fixed. My faith in Bolens’ engineering restored.

 

IMG_2334.JPG IMG_2337.JPG IMG_2335.JPG IMG_2338.JPG IMG_2340.JPG


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#2 blackjackjakexxix ONLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 02:12 PM

You seem to see that more on the HT tractors with more of them having that very heavy 2 stage snowblower and the loaders on them,glad you were able to get a new bolster and get it fixed
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#3 BolensChrisUK OFFLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 02:25 PM

When I get round to breaking up my scrap HT20, this part maybe worth saving then for the other 3 large frames I have then.


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#4 LPBolens ONLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 03:03 PM

The front bolster failure is a common enough problem that one guy overseas actually made one out of plasma-cut steel plate pieces which he then welded together. IIRC, that thread was over on MTF. A number of us had hoped that he would share the cutting file, but that did not happen.


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#5 boyscout862 ONLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 04:32 PM

Thanks for the tip. Please share with us stories from your Dad's dealership and any old pics. Most of us appreciate the history of our machines. I have 3 LFs and 8 TFs, I will be sure to look for parts tractors with good front axle supports. Good Luck, Rick
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#6 glgrumpy OFFLINE  

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Posted February 12, 2016 - 05:24 PM

Seems we were just discussing this same problem here say last week?  Seems to be a common one and have to look harder for good part. Maybe someone that is handy could make a heavy metal plate and sell some?  Just a thought.


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#7 yardiron OFFLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 06:43 AM

Just about every Bolens I've found has had a broken front casting, most are far worse than the one shown above.
I've seen various versions of this casting, The two earlier versions differ at the hood hinge bosses. One has two bosses and uses a spacer, the other looks like the one above. My guess was that the earliest models were the most vulnerable to breaking.

A front end loader or use in a rough field doing farm work is what's hardest on that front end. I broke one myself on a 1250 with a loader by just driving off the lip of my driveway with a loaded bucket, the casting shattered in 5 pieces, the PTO pulley hit and shattered the engine pulley as well. The casting had no webbing at all. I found a newer casting off a 1477 that I used and I added two angle iron supports behind the axle on each side to prevent axle twist on rough ground. The part number I believe was 1722625. They were basically 2" wide pieces of angle iron with gussets to back up the axle so as to prevent movement.

 

The older models didn't come with these, but they can be added. I made and added a pair to all three of my machines, I used 3/8" thick 4" angle iron and cut 2" wide slices from it, then I added a 1/4" steel gusset to the inside of each support. They attach via a single bolt up through the frame, the hole in the axle stop is slotted slightly to allow adjustment.


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#8 WrenchinOnIt OFFLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 09:21 AM

Just about every Bolens I've found has had a broken front casting, most are far worse than the one shown above.
I've seen various versions of this casting, The two earlier versions differ at the hood hinge bosses. One has two bosses and uses a spacer, the other looks like the one above. My guess was that the earliest models were the most vulnerable to breaking.
A front end loader or use in a rough field doing farm work is what's hardest on that front end. I broke one myself on a 1250 with a loader by just driving off the lip of my driveway with a loaded bucket, the casting shattered in 5 pieces, the PTO pulley hit and shattered the engine pulley as well. The casting had no webbing at all. I found a newer casting off a 1477 that I used and I added two angle iron supports behind the axle on each side to prevent axle twist on rough ground. The part number I believe was 1722625. They were basically 2" wide pieces of angle iron with gussets to back up the axle so as to prevent movement.



The older models didn't come with these, but they can be added. I made and added a pair to all three of my machines, I used 3/8" thick 4" angle iron and cut 2" wide slices from it, then I added a 1/4" steel gusset to the inside of each support. They attach via a single bolt up through the frame, the hole in the axle stop is slotted slightly to allow adjustment.

Good point and a needed upgrade, unfortunately the bolster is a weak link, I had all kinds of theories as to why they break, everything listed above can be contributing factors, 75% of the HT's I've gotten into that wore the monster two stage caster have had broken bolsters. They have predominately been HT20's, but this past year I've tore into three HT23's with broken or cracked bolsters , one a late model 23s with no history of heavy front end implements attached to it. It's been over two dozen tractors now, so i'm going succumb to it is a weak link, cast iron is brittle, they knew it was a problem and made engineering adjustments such as the behind axle supports, the larger axle pin, and the improved strengthened bolster. It is what it is.. cast iron, very strong, but brittle by nature... and yes it makes me appreciate our parts salvage/recyclers all the more.

Edited by WrenchinOnIt, February 13, 2016 - 09:23 AM.

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#9 Bruce Dorsi ONLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 09:36 AM

Unlike many of you guys, I'm not familiar with the large-frames. 

 

Looking at the pics, it appears that if the channel frame rails were 1-1/2" to 2" longer, they could surround the front support, and take the stress off the area of the support where the breaks are occurring.

 

What am I missing?


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#10 WrenchinOnIt OFFLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 12:12 PM

Unlike many of you guys, I'm not familiar with the large-frames. 
 
Looking at the pics, it appears that if the channel frame rails were 1-1/2" to 2" longer, they could surround the front support, and take the stress off the area of the support where the breaks are occurring.
 
What am I missing?

This is speculative in nature, only my observations and experiences, if the frame rails were longer and they joined them with a piece of steel , let the bolster only support the mule drive and then backed it up behind the bolster and in front of the engine with more steel and let the axle support pin pass thru all it would of been a better set up. The bolster are porous do the nature of the casting process and I've seen all kind of air pockets in the castings, some large enough I'm surprised they passed their Q.C.
I also believe that the metal they removed for the installation of the Kohler twins from the frame rail also contribute to the additional stress on the bolster by allowing more flex or twist in the rails.
I live in the area thats claim to fame is the tool & die capital of the world, yep I said world, most my kinfolk and friends work in the industry , I'm giving a bolster to my nephew to see if it can be reproduced via a CNC machine, my thoughts are four pieces that I'll weld together with all the machining done and only need to be welded together, similar to the excellent piece on MTF post that the gentleman from Sweden (?) made, we won't have to weld the various pieces on because it is our intent that it all will be machined. No guarantees, may be totally cost prohibitive, but if it can be pulled off , I'll surely let all know
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#11 LPBolens ONLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 01:41 PM

I like your plan! Here's hoping and cheering you on!


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#12 AA Hayes OFFLINE  

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Posted February 13, 2016 - 03:53 PM

I have an Ht20 two stage set up. From what I can tell the bolster is original and in good condition. The axel stops are adjusted properly and the spring assist is used. Knock on wood, with some good maintenance and no abuse with the two stage on it, the bolster will continue to hold up. Though, with that said, if someone made a good steel bolster and wanted to sell me one, I would buy it in an instant and put in on the shelf for a sad day.

Edited by AA Hayes, February 13, 2016 - 03:53 PM.

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#13 freeisforme OFFLINE  

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Posted February 15, 2016 - 04:30 PM

About 15 years ago I was given an older large frame with a broken front casting. It came with a loader and several rear attachments.
The front casting was busted in many pieces, a few were missing.  Not knowing any better, and knowing I wouldn't be using any PTO driven attachments I just went ahead and made a new axle mount from steel. I took two 1/2" steel plates and made the side pieces to match the shape of the frame, I then pieced together enough of the old casting to get a tracing of the front and back basic shape and went ahead and cut out those pieces with a water jet at work. I then made a longer, large diameter axle pin and bushings. I used a 1" pin, the bushings were something I had on the shelf here.
The front plate was 1.75" thick, the rear plate was 1" thick. I tossed all the linkage in the middle, removed and eliminated the PTO pulley and bearings. The machine only was being used as a loader, my thought was to make the axle stronger.

It had a home made loader with a huge bucket, roughly 70" wide. The hydraulic rams were full size, off a larger tractor, and the pump was an old Ford power steering pump with some mods to the pressure valve.

 

After a few years of use I also noticed cracks in the frame rails where the rear axle attached, I welded the cracks and made up some reinforcement plates for that area as well.

 

I would have machined the whole front member from solid steel if I had the time of patience but what I did worked great but I didn't need the PTO.

 

I traded that machine for another about 5 years ago, the new owner is still using it to clean stalls.

 

I've stayed away from various large frame deals because of the front axle bolster issues, most that I've found for sale had broke castings.


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