Lotus Elan

Packed out lower steering column mount

PostPost by: JonB » Wed Nov 29, 2017 6:17 pm

Ok.

Tonight I attempted to get the lower shaft out of the splined U/J receptacle. Total nightmare. I have the car on ramps and can just about get underneath it, but access to the pinch bolt is really awkward. With much grunting, I got the bolt off. Next, removal of the lower shaft. I tried to yank it lose but no joy, it's partially seized. Spray of WD40, a Vice Grip on the shaft, and I'm hammering it free by whacking the Vice Grip.

Phew.

Except, the column sprang up about a centimetre when released, so the rack must be low. This is Bad, very Bad. You'd think it was a bodged up kit car that was whacked together with mallets. It means that more packing washers are required at the lower mount, not less; and this is impossible, with the upper column jammed against the dash!

Anyway, I aligned the steering wheel and tried to get the lower shaft back into the U/J. Then I spotted something else that was bad. The shaft has a flatted off face which means it only fits the U/J one way, and thus cannot be used to align the steering wheel / self cancelling ring. I put it back together with copper grease (the bolt too) and I'm back at Square One.

I will refrain from expressing myself fully, as I don't wish to offend anyone.

I can't see a way to get to the other side of the U/J. Maybe by removing the radiator, but I'm not ready to do that yet. I've got a Spyder chassis, if that helps visualise the underside and access.

Totally fed up.

The other thing I found is that, not being 25 any more, I cannot wriggle around under a car with the sump inches from my nose like I used to. Does not bode well for all the other jobs I need to do.

:(
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PostPost by: JonB » Wed Nov 29, 2017 7:13 pm

Some more observations that I would like to get off my chest!

  • The trunnions are dry and there is a soapy residue of dried out grease around the joints and rust at the seals.They have obviously been lubricated with grease, not EP90 (bad, because I am firmly in the "EP90" camp as regards trunnion maintenance). To be fair, I did expect this.
  • Track rod end ball joint seals have split and there is surface rust on the visible part of the ball.
  • No play in the steering rack mounting, but the rubbers feel rock hard. The rack appears to be secured with U bolts and there is quite a bit of thread showing. I'm guessing it is sitting low.
  • There is about 2.5mm play in the splined input shaft of the rack (in and out, not left / right if you get my meaning). I will have to look at the diagrams. Maybe it's normal, but it translates into in / out play of the steering wheel so I doubt it.
  • Pretty well every joint / bush is rusty. Some of the bushes look perished. The back of the car is the same.
  • At least one lower wishbone bolt (driver's side front) is bent and looks not done up properly.
  • Evidence of jacking damage to front cross member (that acts as the vaccum reservoir) and a second bolted on cross member further back, but it looks minor.
  • Evidence of damage to inner O/S front wheel bulkhead bottom flange. It looks like a split or tear in the fibreglass. Not sure I care as the outside panels look good, but the inner wheel arch has only been partially repaired, like the repairer ran out of fibreglass matting. Consequently water can get into the nose cone from the wheel arch, through the 1/2 inch wide gap. I wonder if the chassis is bent and this is causing the steering column to be out of whack? There is no obvious sign of damage or repair.
  • The cable I thought was the speedo cable isn't. It's the handbrake cable (damaged by the steering U/J and there is an obvious witness mark on the lower steering shaft where the cable's been rubbing).

So, I expected to find most of this apart from the fibreglass damage. I begin to think I should take it off the road, at least until the trunnions are done. At least I can get to those! As far as the steering column is concerned, I think I might need expert help.. and a lift.
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PostPost by: MarkDa » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:07 pm

Jon
Yes, you do have to remove the flexible joint to avail yourself of its finer rotational adjustment.
Is the packed support the only fixing for the column? If so then add more spacers if thread length allows.
If it's a secondary bracket - do you need it at all? The two seaters only have one.
Have you spotted the sealing plate on the bulk head? This may need resetting after column relocation.

Glad to hear that you've worked out what the oversized speedo cable actually is!

You can get new ball joint covers if the joints are good - mind you the effort on releasing the TREs may make replacement an attractive option.

My recollection is that the u bolts are long. The brackets they surround pull down the chassis so if the rack is solid then everything is probably ok.

I don't like the sound of the level of end play that you have on the pinion.

We're all getting older and the cold weather doesn't help - but hopefully we're wiser and more patient. Keep the Faith!
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PostPost by: JonB » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:31 pm

Heh. Don't worry, buyer's remorse not set in yet!
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PostPost by: MarkDa » Wed Nov 29, 2017 8:45 pm

That's good to hear!
At least on our cars everything can be fixed and if we've a mind to think long term at reasonable cost per year of eventual ownership.
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PostPost by: Bigbaldybloke » Wed Nov 29, 2017 9:15 pm

Jon, not sure how relevant it is as I have the early one piece steering column, but mine had a stack of four spacer plates on the top mounting, although initially I have only fitted one as this is a trial fit to get the position of the column in the in / out direction to get the indicator switch and cowl in the correct position. But I suspect you may be able to do something similar to give clearance between the column and the dash. The bottom position is determined purely by the plate and rubber seal where it passes through the bulkhead on the one piece column, no other clamp or bracket.
As mentioned by others, the u shaped clamps over the steering rack should be pulled down hard so the metal of the ?u? is against the rack support. I believe you can adjust the play in the rack by a small amount but haven?t done it myself, maybe others can advise.
Keep persevering you?ll beat it in the end, I?ve had mine in bits for over 30 years and it?s only since retiring that I?m finding time to finish it, and the help on here has been invaluable in getting it right. Picture of my column top mounting attached for info.
As for the trunnions, they are pretty simple to remove, wash out and re-lubricate with oil, just ensure you have new seals to hand for them, once the grease is out you?ll soon know if they are worn or not!
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PostPost by: Robbie693 » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:53 am

I'd strip and clean the trunnions too; it'll give you a chance to check the condition of the upright threads - of which failure is potentially more serious than a sloppy trunnion. Also means you can sort out the wishbone bolts! :D

TRE's are cheap, may as well bite the bullet and replace them both.

The play in the pinion can be shimmed out, the manual covers this I believe. It probably needs greasing too, this can be overlooked during servicing. As far as the rack height is concerned, if the rubbers have collapsed you'd see a gap at the top and movement as the mounting clamps are much larger than the rack itself. Even if it is out of place I can't see how this would prevent the column height being adjusted as the UJ takes up any angular differences.

My crossmember has a bit of a ding in it too, probably by jacking or axle stands. May have even been me :oops:

Sounds like you have an earlier lower column, the later ones had a groove for the bolt as I'm sure you are aware, as Mark says it'll have to be the UJ itself that you rotate. Mine was stuck fast and I pretty much had to destroy it to remove it. The rubbers wear anyway and the new one was nice and shiny which was a consolation. You probably don't want to hear this but it's much easier to do with the rad out...

Onwards and upwards! :lol:
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PostPost by: JonB » Thu Nov 30, 2017 6:47 am

Some more findings.
  • The steering column play I referred to is called "pinion float" in the Brooklands manual, and it says to fit shims to reduce it to the minimum that allows the pinion to rotate.
  • There are - or should be - shims under the steering rack mount. On a Lotus chassis, the shim thickness is marked on the chassis mounting pads. However, I have a Spyder chassis, so I'm not sure if mine is marked or not (or whether I can actually see the markings).
  • As I do not think I have bump steer and the car brakes / accelerates in a straight line, I have to assume the rack is mounted correctly. This means I cannot raise it to move the steering column without risking introducing bump steer. So it seems that the only solution to the column catching the dashboard is to add more shims to both upper and lower column mounts, which does not feel right to me.
  • Steering rack removal seems fairly straightforward. It will be necessary if I want to overhaul the unit (a new rack can be obtained from Spyder for ?150+VAT).
  • Trunnion replacement entails more or less complete dismantling of the lower wishbone assembly, hub, brake, drop link. A big job which will take the car off the road for some time.

The car is a rabbit hole. I think it has only survived this long by the skin of its teeth! I feel lucky to have done 200 miles without one of the vertical link trunnion threads shearing off. And to think I only went under there to align the steering shaft! :lol:

Regarding suspension bolts, they use nyloc nuts. Does this mean I have to replace them each time I dismantle / reassemble, or can I use a locking compound like Loctite?
Last edited by JonB on Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: oldelanman » Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:52 am

MarkDa wrote:Jon
Yes, you do have to remove the flexible joint to avail yourself of its finer rotational adjustment.
Is the packed support the only fixing for the column? If so then add more spacers if thread length allows.
If it's a secondary bracket - do you need it at all? [b]The two seaters only have one. [/b]


Probably not relevant to JonB's issue but the 2 seater does have two column mounts......

elan-parts-hb.jpg and
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PostPost by: MarkDa » Thu Nov 30, 2017 8:39 am

I stand corrected. I'd completely forgotten about the lower bracket. It's felt lined so acts as a steady.
This drawing shows the trough that covers the cables and fits in the indentation seen in Jon and Robbie's pictures of an upper mount being used much lower down.
Is this standard in Plus2 ?

And to think all of this has arisen because Jon just wanted the indicators to self cancel properly!!
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PostPost by: JonB » Thu Nov 30, 2017 10:27 am

Like I said.. a rabbit hole, which I am rapidly falling down.

I had a chat with someone at Spyder Engineering this morning, and he suggested fitting one of their steering column U/Js and packing the upper column mount. He said the rack could possibly be turned slightly (would have the effect of lowering the pinion relative to the steering shaft) and that the in/out play (pinion float) could be the lower pinch bolt being loose. I hadn't thought of either of those! He recommended fitting solid mounts, doing away with the rubber ones, so that's another ?100-ish.

Anyway, I'll have to have a closer look. I can get to the rack mount bolts easily enough, but it definitely sounds like "rad out time" if I want to check the lower flexy joint pinch bolt. The Spyder guy said it could be accessed with the rad in situ if the car was on a ramp (I am sure I will hear this many times).

A proper U/J would make this problem pretty much go away. Are there any cheaper alternatives to the Spyder part?
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PostPost by: Bigbaldybloke » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:15 am

Hi Jon
I got my steering uj ?32.17 and solid rack mounting kit ?31.59 from Kelvedon as they are fairly near me, both plus the dreaded vat of course! Option is also poly bushes instead of the rubber ones in the rack mounting ?16.87, standard rubber rack mounts are only ?5.99 a pair.
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PostPost by: JonB » Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:34 am

How about this one?

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/370144440653

Fits Triumph Herald, Spit, GT6, etc.
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PostPost by: MarkDa » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:02 pm

Jon
I can see where you are coming from in going for uj rather than rubber bushed coupling to deal with 'misalignment'.
I think that the best option before buying anything will be disassembly and resetting to see jua what needs to be done.
Personally I don't see need for solid rack mounts - but if that's what you want they are much cheaper elsewhere.
Triumph specialists will probably be the cheaper option for a lot of steering and suspension parts. Try MEV Spares.
Racks can be refurbished direct rather than going through usual suspects - if that's what's needed.
You could be about to take car off road for a while?
Mark
Last edited by MarkDa on Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: JonB » Thu Nov 30, 2017 12:22 pm

Yes; regarding taking it all apart, I had come to the same conclusion. Despite my strong desire to go buy EVERYTHING I need in one go and just get on with it.

However, I'm a bit wary of taking the car of the road just now as I want to take it to the Club meet in a fortnight's time so I can get some hands on advice.
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