Top 80 redrive rebuild

by Had Robinson
updated March 2, 2022


Propeller strikes can damage the redrive, especially when it happens at full throttle.  The most common damage is a bent/warped hub which can be replaced without a redrive rebuild.  The hub may look OK but it will cause vibration, even with a perfectly balanced propeller.  Less common is breaking off one of the flanges on the redrive which hold it to the engine.  I do not think it is possible to bend the propeller shaft and, to date, I have never encountered it.

When lines get caught in the propeller, they will wind around the shaft and push the seal in, ruining it.  If the propeller shaft seal is damaged and leaking, it can easily be replaced without opening the redrive.

The bearings on a redrive rarely, if ever, wear out.  The most common reasons for rebuilding a redrive is because of a damaged case, a leaking clutch-bell shaft seal, or a leaking case.  If there is any question about the condition of the bearings i.e. the redrive was run without oil, they can easily be evaluated.

Despite that the fact that the Top80 redrive has helical gears, it is still noisy.  Pilots may notice that the gear box is more noisy when they spin the propeller in the reverse direction but not in the other.  This is due to normal wear of the loaded sides of the teeth on the gears.

If the redrive is of the older type which uses grease instead of oil and needs to rebuilt, go to the Mark Kubisch page.  Be *certain* to read my notes about some errors Mark made in disassembling the older units.  Alternately, pilots would best follow the directions given on this page and then consult Mark's pages on the quantity and type of grease to be used.

Splitting open the redrive case can be easy if it is new and has not been exposed to corrosive air i.e. the air near an ocean.  The potentially most difficult job is removing the (4) 5mm button-head screws on the clutch side of the redrive case.

Special tools, items required


Redrive parts are available from Miniplane-USA.  Unless you have general experience in engine overhaul, I do not recommend other internet sources for parts.  There are many sub-sets of ordinary bearings and seals which most pilots would find confusing.  The Top 80 specs page has some details on the various bearings and seals used in the engine but they, of course, want you to buy Italian made parts which, unfortunately, are not always of good quality, especially their electrical connectors and pulleys.

Before you begin this procedure, preheat the oven to 190ºC (380ºF).


Rebuild steps

1. Remove the hub – Follow all of the steps on this page.  The hub and propeller shaft must always be evaluated.  If you do not have or know how to use the proper tools to do this, buy a new hub.  This page also has the steps on how to CORRECTLY install the hub so that it is not ruined.

2. Remove the (6) case screws – Often the (4) pan-head case screws are frozen and very difficult to remove.  This is because Miniplane factory technicians (among others) will sometimes glop sealant everywhere when assembling the case halves, getting sealant into the threaded holes.  Attempts to force them will only ruin the screw head.  If this happens, the screws must have the heads ground off and/or drilled out which is a lot of extra trouble.  If you have an impact wrench, put it on the lowest setting and attempt to remove the screws.  Do not be tempted to use any setting but the minimum.  If the screws come out OK, proceed to step #3 belwo.  However, if you have difficulty removing the screws, follow the directions in the following paragraph.

To be safe, soak the (4) pan-head screws in penetrating fluid for a few hours or, better, overnight.  Apply heat with a propane torch to the threaded portion of the case for 90 seconds.  If they do not move with 3.6 Nm (32 in lb) or less torque, more soaking with penetrating fluid is required, wait a few hours and apply heat again for 1 minute.  This may have to repeated 3-5 times if you do not want to risk ruining the screw and have an ugly job removing its remains.  Between sessions and soaking, place the bottom of the threaded hole on the flat of a vise and strike the pan-head screw a light but smart tap with a ball peen hammer.  This will help loosen things.  Proper use of heat and torque are KEY factors in taking apart engines.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

If the above does not get the screw to move, use a Dremel with a cut-off wheel to make a slot in the screw into which a heavy duty screwdriver can be inserted.  Secure the redrive, push as hard as possible on the screwdriver and, using an adjustable wrench in the other, gently twist the square shaft of the screwdriver.  This may ruin the screw but it almost always gets a frozen screw out.  An ordinary screwdriver has a greater bite and will achieve a much greater torque on the screw than a small hex bit.  Why Miniplane and others use pan-head screws so much is anybody's guess?  These should all be socket-head screws with washers underneath.

Rarely, a screw can be so stuck/corroded in place that the head of the screw must be removed, the stub grasped with Vice Grips, heat applied, and a judicious move with the Vice Grips made.  Heat and penetrating fluid are the magic bullets to get out stubborn screws and bolts.

So-called "easy-outs" are not easy and rarely work except where the stud is broken flush with the surface and can be easily turned.  If the threaded fitting is frozen in the socket, the "easy-out" will expand the hole in the stud and make it even more difficult to extract.  I repeat: penetrating fluid, heat, and patience are the KEYS to removing frozen fittings.  Liquid Wrench is the better fluid for this kind of problem but the fitting may need 24 hours to soak.

For the most stubborn screws/bolts, pilots should consider using this ingenious Japanese hand tool, the Vessel Impact Driver, to remove them.  It has a 1/2" drive which can take any adapter or socket or hex bit.  This tool will safely remove screws and bolts that an ordinary impact tool will not.

Vessel Impact Tool

The redrive in the photo below had not been opened since it came from the factory.  The Miniplane factory technician had glopped sealant all over the case halves when he assembled it.  Of course, sealant got in the threaded holes and, when the screws were inserted and tightened, the sealant became like cement and prevented the screw here from being removed with ordinary tools and heat.  Fortunately, the screw did not have to be drilled out.  A slot (black arrow) cut by a Dremel cut-off wheel was enough to get it out.  Unfortunately, heat has little effect on fasteners glued in holes with sealant.  They are some of the most difficult fittings to remove.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

3. Split the case – Install the (4) 5mm x 90mm screws in the case.  Place the redrive in the press as on the photo.  Actuate the press with only your hand because you are better able to feel the movement of the press.  The piece of scrap aluminum between the shaft end and the press is to protect the end of the shaft.  Always put a soft piece of metal between hardened surfaces and threaded shafts when pressing or striking them.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

Top 80 redrive rebuild

Here is what the redrive looks like after the halves are separated.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

4. Remove the pinion gear and the clutch bell shaft – Remove the snap ring that holds the pinion gear on the clutch bell shaft.  Lift the gear off the shaft with your hand.  It should not require a puller.  With a dead blow hammer, gently tap the end of the clutch bell shaft.  It should drop right out.  If parts do not come easily apart, they are most likely damaged.  If the pinion gear is a little sticky (rare), place the redrive on some wood blocks so that when the clutch bell shaft drops, it will clear the blocks.  Use a dead-blow or plastic faced hammer to gently tap the shaft.  Both the gear and the shaft should both become free.  (30) seconds of heat from a torch can also help.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

Top 80 redrive rebuild

Top 80 redrive rebuild

5. Remove the propeller shaft and main gear – Hold the end of the propeller shaft with one hand and gently tap each side of the exposed edges of the outer case half with the soft-face hammer.  The case should easily fall away from the shaft.  If the shaft is stubborn, use (2) thin slats of wood (e.g. a cedar shims) to pry out the gear.  DO NOT USE screwdrivers as you will most likely damage or bend the face of the redrive.   At this point you should have (4) bearings and (2) seals installed in the case halves.

Top 80 redrive rebuild

6. Go to the bearing removal page and complete the steps given there.

7. After the bearings are removed, remove the (2) seals.  Use a socket or drift just smaller than the seal bore and press it out (best) or tap it out with a dead-blow hammer.

8. Make sure that the (2) centering pins are present.  The pins must be present to ensure that the case halves are properly aligned.  If one or both are missing, they will have to ordered.  The case halves must not be assembled without both pins.

9. If new bearings are to be installed, consult the bearing removal page installation instructions.

10.  Install the new seals – Always put copious amounts of anti-seize or petroleum jelly (Vaseline) on the parts of the seal that contact the shaft, including the shaft itself.  If the shaft rotates with a dry seal, it will quickly ruin the seal.

11. Clean the mating surfaces of the case halves of all old sealant with a razor blade.  Use mineral spirits or brake cleaner (best) to remove all traces of oil.  Blow dry with compressed air.  Now we are ready to reassemble the redrive with new parts, as needed.  The most common new parts are the seals and the clutch bell shaft seal, in particular.

12. Install the shafts and pinion gear in the reverse order that they were removed.  When installing the propeller shaft in the engine case halve, start the shaft and gear into the bearing and then, we both hands, firmly squeeze the gear evenly.  The shaft should make a "dink" when it is fully inserted into the bearing.  A plastic or dead-blow hammer may be needed to send the shaft home.

It is important to inspect everything carefully before assembly.  A Miniplane factory technician left this chunk of potentially damaging thread cuttings in the propeller shaft screw hole.  Had it cross-threaded with the propeller mounting screw, the screw might never have come out.  QC is a perpetual problem in Italy because of socialism's lopsided view of reality.

thread shavings left in Top 80 redrive by factory

13. Apply the RTV to the mating surface of the prop side case halve.  Only the *thinnest coating* of sealant should be used.  It is best applied with a clean finger protected with a nitrile glove.  Put old screws, toothpicks, cotton swabs or anything that will keep the sealant OUT of out ALL holes while applying the sealant.  Any sealant on the threads will lock the screw and it will be very difficult, even with heat, to remove it.  Any sealant in the centering pin holes will prevent the case halves from coming together completely. Work as quickly as possible.

14. Manually squeeze the case halves together.  Immediately install the (6) screws and tighten them *by hand*, in a cross pattern so that the case halves are brought together evenly around the entire circumference of the case halves.  WAIT ONE HOUR.  Use a ratchet to further tighten the screws evenly.  Torque all screws to 4 Nm.  Make sure that the redrive shafts turn easily by hand.

When the sealant is applied correctly the final result is as here.  Most pilots do not thoroughly clean the case halves nor do they apply the right amount of sealant.

Top 80 redrive

It is always a good idea to wait overnight before adding lubricant or putting the redrive into service.  At a minimum, wait for (4) hours.  This will allow the sealant to properly cure and seal the case halves.

15. Reattach the hub

16. Add oil

17. Reattach the redrive to the engine.  It must be aligned properly when it is reattached or the clutch will drag.