Steering Maintenance

Figure 1


Notes on General Layout

There are several maintenance points which are common with most classic Morgans (not including the modern aluminium chassis cars e.g. 4.8 litre V8 & Aero8).The steering description referred to here is based of my 1972 Morgan 4/4 and the system can be broken down into the three following units:

(1) The lower end unit (see Figure 1) is comprised of the steering box, drag link, track rod, steering damper & hubs etc. If you own any classic Morgan dating back to 1936 you will see the same basic layout. Pre 1950's cars are not fitted with the 'one shot' lubrication system and may not always have shock absorbers.

2) The intermediate unit consists of a 12" metal rod with a universal joint at each end. This can be found in the engine compartment. It connects the end of the steering column to the steering box shaft under the offside front wing where the universal joint is protected from road grime by a metal box on the inner wing panel.

3)The upper unit (see Figure 4 & 5) inside the drivers compartment is comprised of the steering wheel & collapsible column, that is fixed by two bolts to a support bracket, which is welded to the bulkhead behind the dashboard. A flange on the forward end of the collapsible column is fixed by three bolts to the bulkhead. From here, the splined end of the column inner shaft, passes through the footwell into the engine bay, where it is connected to a universal joint on the upper end of the intermediate shaft.This unit can be removed independently from inside the car.

Although the collapsible column was invented in the early 1930's, it was not commonly used on motor vehicles until the late 1960's and Morgan have fitted them since 1968.

Lower End Maintenance

Figure 1 shows the general layout of the bottom end steering components. The four ball joints are not sealed like their modern counterpart, but are equipped with grease nipples and should be greased every 5000 miles or anually whichever comes first. Check for free play and the condition of the rubber boots. Any defects should require replacements. If you need to replace them always use a good ball joint splitter. DO NOT USE the cheap fork type. At the time of writing you can buy a reasonable scissor action splitter from Halfords for around twenty pounds. If you hammer a fork extractor on the end of the steering drop arm (2) whist removing the ball joint (A), you may cause serious damage to the steering box (1). The hub carrier (7) also requires regular lubrication via the grease nipple (11) to keep the steering light and prevent rapid wear of the bronze bushes.

Figure 2
Morgan steering layout

The 'Morgan Owners Handbook' recommends using the 'One Shot' lubrication system daily or every 200 miles, but I personally prefer to use the system far less frequently. Click the 'One Shot' link and look under 'Warning' to see why). It is recommended to grease the Hubs every 5000 miles, but I prefer to do this between 500 to 1000 mile intervals. If you are rebuilding the front suspension and happen to replace the grease nipple (11) on the hubs , make sure you use the angled ones, because straight ones make greasing difficult. They are not in the best place to get at (see Figure 2.

The steering damper blade (9) is unique to Morgans. It is fitted between the chassis and a bronze thrust plate which separates the mainspring from the hub carrier (7). Its purpose is to prevent front wheel shimmy. Left click on the steering damper link for servicing details. Morgan stopped fitting steering dampers in 2007 and replaced them with bearings between the hub and mainspring.

Cam Gears Steering Box Adjustment and Servicing

Figure 3


The steering box is a cam & lever box manufactured by Cam Gears. Older models may have a worm & peg box whilst later models can have either Gemma recirculating ball (fitted from 1986) or rack and pinion steering (on V8 from 1986 & Plus 4 from 1991). The 'Morgan Owners Handbook' recommends checking and topping up the oil in the cam & lever box every 5000 miles. What the handbook fails to mention is the necessity to check free play in the steering.

Topping the box up simply involves thoroughly cleaning the top of the box as it can gather a lot of dirt from the road and removing the oil top up nut (the largest).Only use extreme pressure hypoid oil and fill to the top. Figure 3 shows oil at a very low level so that the cam can be clearly seen. It should never be allowed to drop to this level in service. If you are rebuilding the car you will most probably have the unit out of the car, in which case it is wise to flush it out and fill with new oil.

To check free play in the steering box, jack up the front of the car and place axle stands under the front suspension lower cross tube. With the front wheels pointing straight ahead check the position of your steering wheel and make sure you can judge the straight ahead position with the drag link (4) disconnected. Having done this, use a scissor action ball joint splitter on the ball joint (3) at the end of the steering drop arm (2) (see Figure 1) and release it. As mentioned previously, DO NOT user a hammer driven fork splitter. You may not only damage the internal components of the steering box, but you may distort the splined rocker shaft! The steering wheel will now be free to turn from lock to lock. Take care not to move the road wheels from the straight ahead position. As you turn the steering wheel you should feel slight resistance in the central position due to the high spot as the peg travels over cam center. If you cannot feel this, then place a screwdriver in the adjustment screw on top of the steering box (see Figure 3). Hold it still whilst you slacken the locking nut.Turn the adjustment screw clockwise small increments at a time until you can just feel resistance. A torque of 12lb in at the rim is correct as the peg moves over cam centre. If you feel the high spot whilst driving, the adjustment is too tight and will result in rapid wear and damage to the box. When you check the drop arm for play you should not detect it in the straight ahead position. You will however feel a little in other positions, particularly on full lock. If the steering box has covered high mileage the end float of the cam may become excessive. This will involve removing the end plate and adjusting the shims. If the ball cages get out of alignment when the end plate is replaced, the balls can drop out and cause severe damage. If you have to remove the rocker shaft a special extractor tool must be used. DO NOT use a hammer. You should only remove the shaft if it is damaged or the peg needs replacing. At this stage it is most probably wise to let a qualified engineering workshop sort the problem.After adjusting the steering box check that the steering wheel and road wheels are both in the straight ahead position before reconnecting the steering arm ball joint (3)

Removing the Steering Box

After removing the drop arm from the drag link ball joint as described above, remove the two bolts securing the steering box to the chassis. Slacken the two bolts on the lower steering column bracket which fix the steering box shaft to the offside inner wing, then loosen the universal joint pinch bolt on the lower end of the intermediate steering column. Prise the universal joint open and withdraw the splined steering box shaft.

The AC Delco Extruded Mesh Collapsible Steering Column

Figure 4


The upper collapsible steering column illustrated in Figure 4 was fitted to 4/4 Morgans between 1972 and 1994. Delco made the columns and they appear to be the same as those found on MGB's of the same period. In a Morgan the upper steering column mounting bracket (19) is mounted with a plastic spacer and washers to the steering column support bracket (28) (see Figure 5) on the upper inside of the bulkhead by two bolts (18). The lower steering column mounting bracket (15) is secured by three bolts (16) to the engine compartment bulkhead. In the case of a severe frontal collision, the lower hollow steel shaft (26) will slide up over the solid steel upper shaft (27), whilst the steel outer mesh (24) collapses like a telescope. If the driver collides with the steering wheel, the steel outer casing (21) and mounting bracket (19) will be forced forward on the two mounting bolts (18). This will cause the fragile metal behind the bolt hole slots (25) to tear through. Hopefully enough energy will be absorbed by this action to alleviate a fatal blow to the driver. After 1994 the AC Delco columns were no longer fitted and I believe Landrover discovery columns were used.

Removing the Column

Disconnect the battery. Before removing the steering column make sure you make notes on the order of washers, spacers and various components comprising the column. Put alignment marks on the individual parts before dismantling them. Removing the upper steering column is quite straightforward. Look under the bonnet on the offside and you will see the splined end of the steering column (14) emerging through the bulkhead and attached to a 12" steel shaft by a universal joint (12). Remove the pinch bolt (13) and mark the orientation of the shaft to the universal joint. Loosen the three bulkhead mounting bolts (16) where the splined shaft passes through the bulkhead. Disconnect the bullet connectors (30) on the ignition switch wires. There are four of them, but the white wire with green tracer is not connected unless an electric fuel pump is fitted. The bullet connector on this wire should be insulated with heat shrink or by plugging it in to a two way female connector. See Figure 5. Having done this, remove the two screws on the retaining bracket (31) which secures the indicator/headlamp flasher unit and remove it from the steering column. Disconnect the eight way plug (29) connecting the indicator/dip switch wiring to the main loom and remove the two mounting bolts (18) that secure the column to the upper bulkhead bracket. It should now be possible to remove the collapsible column complete with steering wheel. Usually the universal joint clamp needs easing by inserting a sturdy screw driver in the slot, being careful not to damage the splines on the shaft. Thoroughly examine the the shaft for signs of damage. The collapsible mesh should be undistorted and free from corrosion. See if you can detect any play in the bearings either end of the shaft. There should be no play between the outer and inner shafts.The steering column is locked by a spring loaded lug (37) (See Figure 5)when the key is removed from the ignition switch (22) and it is worth checking it operates smoothly if the car has been stored without use for a long time. The ignition switch will not usually need to be removed during restoration, but if it does, it may appear a little difficult, as the heads of the bolts (35) are designed to shear off during fitting. Removing them requires drilling out the blind heads. When fitting a new ignition switch be careful to align the locating stud and keep applying torque to the retaining bolts until the heads shear off. This is to give thieves a hard time releasing the steering lock. Unfortunately some thieves did not have to remove the ignition switch, hotwire or force the steering lock to steal a car. They used a bump key and simply drove away! Using a crook lock made out of some tenacious material is merely inconvenient to thieves, because they can simply cut through the steering wheel in less than 30 seconds. A secret battery switch may keep them occupied for a little longer. On some modern Morgans you can apparently get a boss fitted that enables you to remove the steering wheel. I suppose this can cause a thief a litte inconvenience from stealing a car from your garage at home, but what do you do with the steering wheel when you park whilst out shopping? Luckily for Morgan owners their cars do not appear on the most stolen list and buyers usually want to check the history of the car before buying. I assume this is what makes them less attractive to thieves. With a chassis number, the Morgan Motor Company will supply a Morgan's build history.

If you are undertaking a rebuild make sure you store all of the small parts, ignition keys and notes with the column. You may be surprised how long it will be before reassembly.

Removing the Steering wheel

Prise off the soft pad with the Morgan logo in the centre of the steering wheel. The steering wheel boss retaining nut (33) will now be exposed. DO NOT remove it unless you wish to replace the steering wheel with one that requires a different boss. Make alignment marks on the boss and steering wheel so that it can be replaced in the same orientation before it was removed. Remove the six steering wheel retaining bolts (34) and remove the wheel. It is a good idea to keep the six nuts and bolts in a sealable bag taped to the steering wheel.

Figure 5

Diagram Indicator Mechanical

Replacing the Column

Replacing the column will obviously involve the reversal of the removal instructions. However the correct torque settings for the upper steering column mounting bolts (18) and universal joint pinch bolt (13)should be observed and are:
Steering column mounting bolt 12 - 17ft-lbs torque.
Universal joint pinch bolt 20 - 22ft-lbs. (check alignment when fitting)
If the ignition switch is being refitted new shear bolts (35) will have to be fitted and tightened until the heads shear off.