Steering Stuff (15 articles)

Steering U/Js

I've JUST done my steering U/J's and intermediate column and it's actually not that bad. Good lighting really helps - I used an inspection lamp, Maglite torch and garage lighting.

1) Remove the front right roadwheel (U.K. cars - obviously use axle stands) and undo all four bolts (2 per upper/lower U/J) and _remove them_. The splines on the columns are recessed to accommodate these bolts and you WON'T get the U/Js off otherwise !

2) Shout at the dog as it's just run off with the spanner you need.

3) Shout at the car as the U/Js are seized solid. (You might be as well to put penetrating oil on all the bolts and around all the U/J recesses the night before you attempt this as overnight it can begin to seep into all the lovely rusty bits.) Basically, loads of oil and judicious use of a hammer will help free up the two joints. Try to free the upper U/J first - not essential - it just makes the job a bit easier.

3a) It's easier to turn the intermediate steering column itself (to get different angles on the U/Js) than to keep getting up and turning the steering wheel. Watch your knuckles though - mine are still growing back ! (Oh, and make sure both wheels are off the ground !)

4) When both U/Js slide freely have a cup of tea (a fine old English tradition) as you've probably spent the last hour scraping grit, salt, rust and general crud off the splines to free up the now much cursed U/Js.

5) Slide everything up towards the steering wheel end (you're trying to get the lower U/J off first). Get the upper U/J up as far as possible, then the intermediate column, then the lower U/J should slide off the lower spline. It IS tight and sometimes if you turn the steering column slightly so that the wheels are off centre you can gain a little bit of extra space to push all the joints up a bit further.

6) Rejoice as the offending article slips easily away from the lower spline, and then smoothly glides off the upper steering column end. Honestly.

7) Grease the splines and note that the replacement U/Js will only go one way round - the steering column end (upper U/J) is bigger than the lower spline end (lower U/J). Clean the U/J holes as any little bits of grit in there really make the things hard to slide on.

8) Align the roadwheels with the steering wheel - or you'll end up with the steering wheel half cocked when you're driving in a straight line ! The U/J's will only go in one of two ways round due to the recesses for the bolts in the splines.

9) Put the new column/U/Js (with all bolts OUT) through the wheel arch (i.e. don't fit it from above through the bonnet) and fit the upper U/J onto the steering column first. (Make sure the bolts will align with the spline recesses) Push all the components up towards the steering wheel and fit the lower U/J. Slide everything down so that the intermediate steering column has equal amounts of rod sticking through the end of each U/J.

10) Fit the bolts loosely and check that the steering is straight.

11) The bolts should be done up to between 16 and 20 lb/ft. NOTE PLEASE :- I found that 16 lb/ft was _insufficient_ and that the column still slid between the U/Js. Nyloc nuts are also a good idea !

12) Refit roadwheel (wheelnut torque=40 lb/ft)


Nice article by mark, just a point I would add. The intermediate connecting rod needs to be correctly placed, if it is too close to the top of the column or the steering rack, It will cause a stiff spot on the steering.

Adjusting steering U/Js

I forgot to answer your other question. Yes, you can change the UJ's without loosening the steering rack. In fact, the UJ's have some room to slide onto/off the splined shaft ends. But note the following tip...

The clamping bolts have to come clear out, not just be loose. You'll discover that the steering shafts are notched for the cross bolt. I struggled with the first one, until I finally pulled the bolt out. Duh.

FYI: In non-PAS systems, the lower joint is a different size. In PAS systems, the upper & lower joints are interchangeable.

Steering 'pull'

On this subject, this doesn't sound like tracking to me

I had a similar type of problem with Custard and it turned out to be play in the steering column which I had to have re-done (wasn't too expensive) wheels out of balance can also make a helluva difference to how the car handles in this respect, although you normally get a judder rather than a sudden lurch...

As with all things Lotus, check the cheap things first, and then work up :) Balancing (worth doing anyway if you haven't for a while) then tracking, then play in the steering anywhere.

Steering 'pull' 2

This may be the tyre tread design/compound, or sloppy front-end parts. I had a car (may have been the Eclat), that the steering seemed to have a mind of its own. The steering followed every irregularity on the roadway, as it jigged right then left (Stateside jigging), then jiggled in a combination of the two. A moderately long drive would wear me out, as it veered all over the road. If it was a new or smooth road, I didn't have any problem. When it was time to buy a new set of tyres, I changed brands and was pleasantly surprised to find that all thar darting about was gone. The car tracked straight and true. I didn't know it was the tyres at the time, until I got the new ones.

The other possibility is the ball joints and trunnions. Jack one wheel off the ground. Place one hand at the 12 O'clock position and the other at 6. Shake it to and fro', looking for loosness. Do the same at the 9 and 3 position. Undo sloppiness will mean some front end work is in your future. Check your steering shaft u-joints, too. That's the short answer.

Steering 'pull' 3

I would suspect a worn lower link bush Or: the lower link could be bent Or: the hole in the lower link that locates the trunnion is oval. Lower links do not come cheap, some 90 GBP 8-9 years ago

Steering 'pull' 4

Jack one wheel off the ground. ...Shake it to and fro', looking for loosness.

You have to make a point of jacking at the _outer_ ends of the suspension rather than at the standard jacking points. This keeps the suspension links at their normal driving positions where the wear or sloppiness is showing. If you jack at the usual jacking points, the suspension goes into full droop and may not show the sloppiness.

Steering 'pull' 5

I'd suggest looking at things in about this order:

. check for something *wrong* in the rear susp. Eg worn diff output bearings, these will let the wheel rock in and out. Or 'soft' rubber bushes esp the one at the front of the long tin box arm. If any of this is wrong, there's no point checking the tracking yet
. if the above are OK, check the rear tracking. also try to check not just the toe in, but for symmetry (see later)
. see if the diff can move about (also see later)
. try tyre pressures. 30 is way too high, try about 22 .

Also have you checked your rack for play? It's easy enough to adjust the 'damper' to take out a bit of play, in situ.

Re rear tracking: as well as toe in, see that both wheels point in an equal amount. If it's say 4 degrees of toe in, then each wheel should toe in 2 deg relative to the centreline, see what I mean? One toe out 2 deg, other toe in 6 deg gives a total of 4 deg which measures OK by itself, but aint. Use a long straight edge across the wheels, line it up, squint along, see where it lines up with on the *front* wheel ... a bit in from the outside ... see that it looks similar on both sides.

The diff moving about - this is my guess, giving a bit of rear wheel steer; it 'sets' in one position and you drive normally, then some bump or something shifts it and yu have to steer a bit to compensate; OK till the next bump ..... dunno how to fix it (yet) but I may think about doing mine, *if* this really seems to be the problem.

Steering damper adjustment

The thing you adjust is the 'damper' which is a lump of metal with a U shaped cutout that pushes the 'rack' onto the 'pinion'. The pinion is on the end of the steering column, the rack is the long slidy bit. The damper sits under a plate on the rack near the pinion.

All done in situ, the good news ... but you need to take the load off the front wheels, the bad news. Eg jack up both sides, get front wheels off completely ie unbolted and removed. You could leave them on but you MUST get all the load off them to feel what's goin on, so you may as well take them right off, get the weight out of the system. Find the plate on the rack, on top near the pinion; not the end plate which is harder to get at, we want the *easy* one just for once!

Remove the plate slowly and easily, try not to damage the gasket, and don't lose the spring. If the gasket gets dmaged, make a new one out of paper. Remove the spring, put it all back together (!) and have a feel of the steering shaft, turning it. Is there some slack? Now take it apart, look at the shims. If there was a lot of slack, remove a thickish one .... if little slack or no perceivable slack, remove the thinnest one. Replace things (but still without the spring) and check again. If the shaft is binding and doesnt turn, or turns with a lot of resistance, you've taken out too much shims. The object is to get it so that it *just* binds a tiny tiny bit; you need the wheels off the ground or you'd never find this point. You may need to make some kind of spacer eg an extra paper gasket to get to this point. If you feel a bit of resistance when you grip and turn the *shaft* (not the wheel!!) this is about right, but it should not take heavy pressure on the shaft to move it, and there should be absolutely no perceivable resistance felt at the wheel.

You will very likely have to remove one shim to get to this point. Then add a small amount of oil, put it all together including the spring, and a bit of sealer on the gasket. Check again that it doesnt bind, but you'll feel more resistance now the spring is back in. That's it. Getting it right can make a big difference to the feel of a car. On a Mini, the proper works workshop manual gives values of torque pre-load (so you can measure how much it 'just binds a tiny tiny bit' in terms of lbf-inches, get it right on a mini and it REALLY feels good (done it!) - but I don't know the figures for the Lotus (yes I did ask on the List). What's written here is near enough, it should be detectable by turning the shaft but *no way* detactable at the steering wheel.

UJ Replacements

In the UK try Edmunds Walker (branches everywhere see yellow pages motor factors). 4 genuine GKN Hardy Spicer UJ's total cost less than £25. Part no. is HS163 do NOT use uj16's

UJ Replacements (2)

I have used the Dana Spicer 153X UJ's. They are about $10 around here. The TRW ones were about $2 more each. Both have grease fittings. The 153X's lasted about 20k in my Elite.

UJ Replacements (3)

Hardy Spicer has two grades: OEM grade u-joints are approx $60 The GKN replacement grade is significantly less expensive, but you get what you pay for. Neither has a grease fitting. Dana Spicer has a HD grade that is similar to the Hardy-Spicer OEM grade, except it has a grease fitting. Part number 5-153X. Cost=$15. Such a deal.

UJ Replacements (4)

Lotus................ A075D6004WH
TRW................. 20021
Hardy Spicer... 94/548450 ($60)
Dana Spicer.... 5-153X ($15)

Hardy Spicer has two grades of u-joints:
1) OEM grade u-joints are approx $60.
2) The GKN replacement grade is significantly less expensive, but you get what you pay for. Neither has a grease fitting.

Grease every 5,000 miles
Esprit--------- 4 zerks on half shafts.
Elite/ Eclat-- 4 zerks on half shafts / 2 zerks on drive shaft.
The front drive shaft fitting is accessible thru a small hole about 1 foot behind the point where the transmission disappears into the chassis.

UJ Replacements (5)

SJ Sportscars can supply a heavy duty type UJ for the driveshafts, with larger diameter needle rollers. The cost is quite high at about 18 pounds each, but that's what I used (hoping to get more than 20k miles out of them). I think someone told me makers numbers for these ... I know I tried a specialist bearing supplier but ended up with totally the wrong thing! I gave up and phoned SJ's - and as usual I got good advice and the right part at an OK price, and to me that's value.

Howling noise and vibration

I experienced similar problems to yours a few months back, with the exception of the howling noise.

My first check for the 70mph vibration would be the rear propshaft UJ for looseness or tight spots. It may be easier to disconnect the propshaft from the pinion drive flange (mark the flanges first) to do this. If you're satisfied the joint moves smoothly and with no looseness try turning the prop 180 degrees before reconnecting it. You can also check the pinion bearings for wear while the prop's off. No play is permissible here. Check the oil level in the diff, which may account for the howling noise (from the crownwheel and pinion gears) if it's low.

Next, jack up and support the rear suspension. Get someone to hold the wheel at the top and bottom and try to rock it firmly with the hand brake off. You're looking for in / out movement at the top of the wheel.

If your lucky your freeplay will show up in one or both of the driveshaft UJs - wrap your hand around each one and try to feel for any movement (mind your fingers don't get pinched between the yokes), as a visual check can be deceptive.

Anything more than the slightest trace of play will require the joint to be renewed, although you may be able to prolong its life for a little longer by pumping some grease into it.

If you're a bit less lucky there will be some wear evident in the hub bearing - not too expensive, but it can be a pig of a job to get the shock absorber bolt and pivot stud out of the alloy housing. I had to get the blowlamp out as a last resort and *gently* heated the casting (over most of its area to prevent it from cracking) to get them moving. Try not to damage the threads on the pivot stud as a new one costs about £15. Ouch!

I managed to replace the hub bearings myself without needing the use of a press by *gently* warming the casting with the blowlamp and tapping out the race (after removing the circlip which was buried in the grease). The bearing should come out without too much trouble (from the wheel side of the hub).

To fit the new one, which is best put in the freezer the previous night, heat the casting in very hot or boiling water for about 5 minutes (after you've worked out how to support its awkward shape on the bench - much easier when cold!) then the new bearing can be tapped in using the outer race of the old bearing as a drift. Mine went in very easily needing nothing more than a couple of gentle taps with a wooden mallet. New oil seals and a new circlip are a must for this job - wear in the hub bearing will have destroyed the old oil seals.

If you are unlucky, you will find play in the output shaft of the diff. The usual sequence of destruction starts as a result of the huge lateral forces exerted on the output shaft bearing during cornering - the inherent weakness of this design. The bearing gets a bit tired of this constant abuse and loosens up a bit. If the rumbling / grinding noise is ignored the bearing will take revenge. The rate of wear increases rapidly until the ball race starts to break up allowing the flailing shaft, the radial movement of which is now restrained only by the brake shoes, to destroy the oil seal and chew up the surface of the shaft on which the seal bears, thereby reducing the shaft to scrap. Oil and bits of metal are spewed into the brake drum contaminating the brake shoes and starving the diff of oil. If driven any distance in this condition the bearing retaining collar will grind away at the diff casing releasing shards of metal into what little oil remains in the diff.

I'll stop there as it's becoming grim reading, suffice to say that if there's *any* doubt at all about the condition of the output shaft bearing(s), spend wisely and soon! A new bearing *MUST* be fitted correctly, with particular emphasis on the proper use of heat and a press to fit the retaining collar. This collar bears the full lateral thrust transmitted through the drivetrain. Enough said?

I was fortunate enough to obtain a good second-hand output shaft, complete with bearing and oil seal, from SJ Sportscars for £35.

Stuck UJ removal


I'm stuck...well, I have a universal joint that seems to be stuck. I took off the right-side radius arm to replace the wheel bearings, and I can't get the outer UJ out. :-(

At first I was easy with it, then got more agressive until I feared messing up the hub carrier. BTW, I was using the hammer-and-socket method, hitting the socket with the hammer to push the opposite cup out. This method worked when I had to get the UJ out of the stuck yoke on the tranny. I even tried the propane wrench a bit, but it still won't budge. WD-40 has had no noticeable effect...

Carrol Smith's "Prepare to Win" and my MGB manual both have excellent descriptions of how to remove and re-install UJs...but neither method works. And the cups don't seem to be corroded in, but they were covered in grease and dirt (cleaned off for disassembly).

Does anyone have a better procedure for getting a UJ out? Possibly pressing with a large bench vise?

A (1)

Aaron, yes, the common way is with the bench vise. Use a socket just smaller than the cup in diameter on one side, and on the other side, one with an ID larger. Simply place in the vise or press and cinch up on it. If lucky, both will come thru, and you will have 1/2 of it apart. If only one side comes all the way out, then you have to use the same method in the reverse direction, but be careful not to damage the needle bearing running surface. This is the preferred method in my book, pounding on them always makes me nervous.....

A (2)

I have always used a vice to disassemble my joints. I always coveted a man's vice. Decades ago, these were only found in serious machine shops, farms, etc. And they weren't cheap! They were prized possessions. (I worked in a steel mill during the late 1960's while going to college, when US Steel was king.) Then I gratefully inherited a serious, antique vice from my wife's family farm. Used this to disassemble all the U-joints on the Europa. But good vices are easy and relatively cheap to acquire today. Now that's what I call real progress!

But seriously, put the U-joint between a serious vice using sockets as suggested. Use your favorite pentrating lubricant if necessary. A big C-clamp, as suggested, might work.

NOW, as you apply force to disassemble, GIVE THE VICE or CLAMP solid whacks with a hammer, if needed. Apply more force, then more solid whacks. DON'T hammer on the U-joint directly.

A (3)

How about the obvious solution-just take it to your local driveshaft or axle shop and ask them to do it? They do it all the time and are equipped with the right tools. In my experience thay don't charge much either compared to the trouble they save you...

A (4)

Do you think that the trick of TIG'ing a rod onto the cup will help here?

It might work. But I'd only want to do that as a last resort. That technique works well for the shift linkage U-joints. In fact it is necessary because of the tight tolerances in the shifter uj's. But driveline u-joints should be easier to remove than Aaron is finding. So I think something is interfering with them which ought to be found and rectified.
For those of you who don't know, Andy is referring to welding threaded rod to a u-joint cup, then using an appropriate socket, washers and nut to pull the cup out of the yoke.

A (5)

Would a gear puller work? I'm going to get a good one for removing the hub and stub axle soon anyway (The gear pullers I've used wouldn't work well since the arms don't grab positively on something narrow.)

I have some doubts about technique here. The forces from a goodly hammer is usually greater than you can apply with a press. Is your hammer at least 20oz? (A standard carpenter's claw hammer is 16 oz). You want at least 20oz, and preferably a dead-blow hammer. Have the cups moved at all? Have you applied any heat? If you got corrosion in there, some heat cycles will break their bond. If the cups have moved but then stuck, you've likely hit a bad spot in the circlip groove. Tap it back the other way and examine the area really carefully. Try WD40 - or veen better use Kroil:

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