November/December 2004 – Steering setup

Steering setup

Of course, the “upper” steering column — the one inside the car — was set into place back in October, but the front section of the steering needed restoration. This includes the “rack and pinion” steering assembly that is attached to the “picture frame” and connects to the suspension pieces. Although all of the rubber parts on the steering assembly were trash, the rest of the parts were in good shape. I had to replace the mounting brackets (a “Metalastic” rubber-and-metal assembly) as well, since the originals were a bit cracked and stiff. The tie rod ends, with their ball joints, were in good shape and had no evidence of bad wear or rust. The toothed rack was pure uncorroded steel. The tie rods themselves were in good shape, and the separated from the tie rod ends with a little effort, some penetrating oil, and some tapping with a hammer. Even though the previous owners of the car repaired rust poorly, they seemed to know how to keep things greased up. I think the grease spared the steering from rusting.

The tube that houses the rack and the pinion had been painted body color, and this paint protected much of it from rust. The aluminum fitting was also protected. I suppose that there is some merit to sloppy paint jobs — at least the previous paint job spared me from too much additional rust repair or part replacement in the steering assembly. I did have to replace the mounting brackets, since they were more exposed to the elements and are made up of rubber fused sandwich-style between steel parts. When I took off the original brackets, I completely destroyed a threaded post that fits through the picture frame. The nut was fused on with rust, and no amount of penetrating fluid would help to loosen it.

I did not replace the bearings in the lower or the upper universal joints. They felt quite smooth, and in case they fail getting to them is hardly a difficult thing. They don’t seem to be too stressed at any point, and so I think the original ones are going to be just fine. The ball joint pins on the tie rod ends can’t be attached until the torsion bars are in place and the hub and wheel assembly is up from its lowest position. Since the tie rod ends do have ball joints, it’s probably a good idea not to stress them too much so that you don’t risk distorting the housings for the ball joints. If that occurs, you pretty much have to replace the tie rod ends. There is one brass bush in the tube holding the steering shaft. That was in good shape, and I left it alone. It’s located at the end opposite the housing for the pinion gear. I don’t think it gets much wear as long as the steering shaft is well greased.

Color scheme on this assembly is simple. You only spray gloss black. I used pictures from Classic Jaguar as a guide, but it looks to me like you can shoot black where it feels right. The extremities, so to speak, stay clear unpainted steel. As with other exposed steel parts, I waxed the pieces to give them some protection. I should note that I am using anti-seize grease on many of the threaded connections, in part of keep them protected from rust but also to keep them manueverable should I want to remove them in the future. I do not think that the anti-seize makes the bolts and nuts any more susceptible to getting loose — except, of course, when you want to loosen them!