Repairing Western Snowplow Hydraulic Cylinders

Over the course of 36 years and owning seven Western snowplows, I have never had to replace the packings (seals) in hydraulic turn cylinder.  Yeah, I have a lot of them drip a little here and there, and the snow that accumulated at the end of the cylinder body would be red with ATF, but it was never a big enough deal to bother fixing.

If you have a few rust pits on your rams, and have a little fluid leaking at no more than a drip per minute, don’t worry about it.  It is almost certainly not going to get any worse any time soon.

However the cylinders on my “new” plow, that I bought this spring are leaking quite badly.  The rams are also rust pitted quite badly, worse than any plow I have ever owned.

Now a smart guy (that leaves me out) would just buy two new cylinders and be done with it, (Aftermarket ones are only about $70 a piece, plus shipping) but I always like to see if I can fix things, plus I want to see just how badly pitted rams you can get away with using.

You can get a seal kit for about $10 bucks, but they are made up of about ten packings, and there are no instructions telling you what order they go in, and I couldn’t (at least, as of yet) find anything clear and concise about it online either. Maybe they go in, in the same order as the picture below, but how do I know for sure?
Maybe this kit should also include...

No biggie, right?  Just take apart the cylinder, and use the order of the old packings as a guide.  Guess what?  There ain’t no way that this nut...

...this coming off without heating the shit out of it.  I tried taking it out cold, and half of the hex portion shattered into pieces.  Nothing left to do but heat up what remained, and then removing it.  Needless to say, there is not much left of the old packings after doing that.  So much for using the order of the old ones as a guide.  Looks like I’m going to have to go to my local Western dealer to find out.  I always wonder what they think of me, since I go there at least once a year, asking questions, but I never buy any parts from them.  I wonder why their parts are twice as much as what I can get them for online.  Their advice ain’t worth that much to me.  I’ll figure it out on my own, if I have to.

Anyway, if you ever have to rebuild a Western plow cylinder, you might as well heat the packing nut up right off the bat. There ain't no way that nut's coming off in one piece, cold. Important safety note: If you do this, make sure that the quick coupler, fittings, and hoses are removed, and all the fluid is drained out before you apply any heat. If you fail to do this, this repair attempt might be the last thing you ever do.

By the end of this project, I will have about $25 wrapped up in each cylinder, plus the cost of oxygen and acetylene that I used heating them, paint, plus my labor, (whatever that's worth) and I will still have old cylinders, with pitted rams. I'm not too smart am I? But, I'm more concerned with learning new things, testing ideas, and gaining experience, than I am in spending money wisely when it comes to low buck projects like this. Whatever this cost me, I'm a little smarter now.

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