Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MGB - Front Suspension Refresh (Part 3)

I'm continuing the front end rebuild I started in Parts 1 (See MGB - Front Suspension Refresh Part 1) and 2 (See MGB - Front Suspension Refresh Part 2). At this point, the front beam is stripped and removed from the car. We've evaluated the parts, and made determinations about which to keep and which to replace. Today starts the work of putting it all back together again. WooHoo!

Pivot on the Swivels
There some things really are best left to a shop. I want to do as much as I possibly can myself, but it's not a religion. It's just a strong preference because I want to learn and because I find it fun. I read through the process for removing and replacing the king pins and bushings within the swivels (wheel assemblies). This requires a shop press, which I don't have nor do I have the space for, and a trained eye for determining the viability of the wheel assembly as a whole. So, I contracted the fine folks at British Auto Works to do it. Like so many things, I expanded the job from just swapping the king pins and bushings to also include replacing and grease-packing the wheel bearings. Doing the wheel bearings didn't really increase the cost, and it gave me the peace of mind that the entire front end had been updated. British Auto Works completely strips, and then chem-tanks all of the wheel assembly. after testing and measuring everything, they assemble the wheel and finishes the job with fresh paint. All told, it took them three days, and most of that was because they wanted extra time in the chem-tank. The finished product looks fantastic and delivered that piece-of-mind that they were properly done.

Paint
While the swivels were at British Auto Works, I started working on the beam. For being exposed to the elements, and road debris for almost 40 years, I would have expected more damage or rust. In truth, it was in pretty good shape. So, I cleaned it up, first with a power washer, then by hand with Simple Green. Once cleaned, I could see a few scratches, but it was in really fine shape. I threaded the rusty old bolts which held the front shocks back in. I did that so paint wouldn't gum up the threads. Then I sanded it, wiped it down with mineral spirits and shot it with high-gloss black paint. Since I had the time, I let the paint cure for a week, light sanded it, wiped it down and shot another coat. At this point, I removed the old shock bolts so the paint would cure without them. While I had the materials out, I cleaned up the spring pans and springs, sanded and painted them too. Truth be told, I had lots of other parts around that I intend to re-install, so I cleaned them up, sanded, wiped and shot them too. I'll share some of the tear-down and re-assembly of those things in other posts. Everything got high-gloss black except the springs. Those I shot burnt orange which from afar looks like the vermilion on the body, but its not an exact match. I decided it wasn't a deal-breaker so I also sanded, wiped and shot the underside of the frame where the front beam mounts to it. I figured I wouldn't have that exposed again any time soon so why not?

Beam Me Up
Once the paint has been shot and cured, I was able to start assembling things. First, was the re-install of the bare beam. Since I was working on this by myself, this was a great deal harder than the removal. Why? The beam is held on with 4 bolts. Each bolt has a nut on both ends, and it passes through 2 poly/graphite (or rubber of simply poly) bushings, one on either side of the beam. The drawing on the side, here, with parts labelled 1 through 7 show the front bolt. The rear is similar. Note the orientation of the bolt in the drawing: the lump is on the bottom. This is important since the thinner stretch of the bolt runs up into the frame. If you try to send the lump up, it will not make it through the frame. Yes, I did try it that way. If you're doing this on your own, I fumbled my way into a process that works:

Get the beam onto your jack, and roll it under your front bumper. Looking from above, roughly align the rear of the beam with the rear frame holes, but still a few inches below it.
Pick a side. It doesn't matter which. Take the shorter, rear bolt, and load the bolt, stacking from the bottom: nut, plate, bushing. twist the nut onto the bolt a few turns. Slide the bolt up through the rear hole from the bottom of the beam, placing the top bushing onto the bolt. I found that these bushings sort of held the bolt in place.

With the bolt held in with friction, get more precise with your alignment, but just worry about that one hole and bolt. Raise the jack and re-check. Repeat until you have the bolt and hole lined up. Then, while holding the bolt to the beam, raise the jack, pressing the bolt into the frame. Once the bolt peers through the top of the frame, put the top nut on. Again, thread the nut on just a few turns so the bolt can hold the beam, but there is still a couple of inches between the top of the beam and the bottom of the frame.
The one bolt creates a pivot point so you can align another hole. I did the other rear bolt, following the same routine. With the rear bolts loosely in, the fronts are much easier. Stack the front bolts again from the bottom: nut, plate and bushing. Set the upper bushing, and set the bolt through the frame hole. Thread on the top bolt.
Now you can start tightening the nuts. On all 8 nuts you want some threads to peek out from the nut. If you don't see threads, you may not have enough bite on the nut to withstand the pressures during intense driving. Then, torque to spec (54 to 56 ft/lbs).

Shock Me
Once I had the beam in, I shifted to installing the front shocks. If you remember, the removal was only difficult for the rear bolts because of how close they are to the wheel well. The install is also challenged by this. If you painted your beam, did you paint with the bolts out? I accidentally left one out: the one I took to the hardware store. That bolt hole was a real pain to get a bolt into at this stage. The others just took a little windex on the bolt, and it threaded right in. Once finger tight, it doesn't take much to torque it down... except getting a torque wrench in there is impossible. You'll need to feel it, as you're aiming for 43 to 45 ft/lbs. I actually came back and torqued after I did the lower control arms because the torque settings are so close, I got a good feel for what 45ft/lbs is supposed to feel like.

Lower Control Arm
Now for the fun part. Whether you bought new arms or cleaned up your originals, there are two different arm shapes: one for the rear and one for the front. The "front" has a hole specifically for the sway bar that's reinforced. Pick a side. Grab a spring pan, three sets of spring pan fasteners (1/2" nut-washer-bolt combinations) and your lower control arm bushings. If you got the fender washers like I did, grab them too. You don't need the lower trunnion kit nor the spring yet. On each arm, press in the bushing. If you got the poly bushings, this may require a press. The rubber and poly/graphite fit in without much difficulty.

Slide a fender washer onto each front-back side of the pivot (the thing on the beam that the lower arms attach to). Then fit the rear and front arms on that same side, making sure to have them pointing towards each other and making sure you're using a front and a rear arm in the right spots (rear on rear, front on front). Yeah, that sounds obvious and all, but once you get on the ground all those arms start to look the same. Consider that the flat side on the arm faces the pan (see the picture).

Let the arms hang down and grab the spring pan and one set of fasteners. Holding the pan with the dish facing towards you, lightly thread the bolt through from the outside of the arm through to the pan. Set a washer on the bolt and then finger a nut onto the bolt. Do not tighten yet. Do the other 2 fastener set the same way: 2 on the rear, one on the front. With the spring pan loosely held to the arms, slide the other fender washers on and follow with the castle nuts. Once everything is on, but loose, start tightening things, moving from castle nuts to spring pan fasteners so no bolt gets hung up because it has been left untouched for too long. When everything is snug, torque to spec: 22 ft/lbs for the spring pan fasteners and 45 ft/lbs for the castle nuts.

For the castle nuts, align the castle with the cotter-pin hole and put in the cotter pin (or bailing wire, if you're like me). Better to torque a little too much than not enough, IMHO, but you shouldn't need to go higher than 50 ft/lbs. If you do, re-check your work. Maybe something is hanging up.

That's it for this time. I should be able to finish this up in just one more post. I'll get the swivels and springs on, and then the major efforts are completed. Thanks for following along. This has been an incredibly rewarding effort.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

MGB - Front Suspension Refresh (Part 2)

Continuing from my last post, I'm focusing this group of posts on the rebuild of the MGB front end. Today, we get down to the beam, and get it removed from the car. I'll evaluate parts, and talk about replacement bushing options. Part I can be found here.

Shocking
While the beam is in, and you have access to your front shocks is the best time to evaluate them. On the right side, the shock responded relatively well to my efforts to move the arm up and down. It resisted in both directions, but not as much as I would have liked. Still, I probably could have left it alone. The shock on the left (driver) side, however, offered virtually no resistance to my attempts to move it. In fact, I could push it to the top of it's motion and it would slowly drop down. That shock is shot. Suspension shops usually recommend replacing both fronts and/or both rears at the same time. For a front-end like this one, where the shock absorber is also playing the part of the upper control arm, it is all the more important. These are held in place by 4 bolts. The two against the inner wheel well can be difficult to get to, but you can address them with the most basic spanners and ratchet/sockets. Similar to the engine mount replacement (see MGB - engine mounts), a good supply patience is welcomed here.

Set the shocks aside with the lower arms and pans. To protect the threaded holes, finger the old bolts back into the holes. I took one with me to Orchards and found replacement grade 8 stainless steel ones for the reassembly. I strongly recommend replacing fasteners with stainless steel or zinc coated to reduce the rusted-on effect.

Beam Down
image swiped from 'net,
but that's a stock beam
Now, the front beam should only be connected to the car by 4 bolts. Nothing else should be tying them together. No brake lines, steering bits, etc. but it never hurts to stupid-check (so-called for those moments when you don't check, something bad happens and call yourself stupid for not checking).

I used an ATV / transmission jack, but a more standard wheeled floor jack should work; it will just take more patience with balance. The ATV / transmission jack is nice in that it has two long arms to spread the weight, and improve the balance. Still, with the front end way in the air, and the rear on the ground, the bottom of the beam is not parallel to the floor. So, I slid a 2x4 under the front of the beam when the ATV / transmission jack reached the underside of the beam to make uniform contact. Raise the jack until it is holding some weight, but not much. You want the car stable on it's jack stands.

Relieve the torque on the 4 bolts by cracking the 4 bolts on top. you shouldn't need to hold the bottom nuts at all for this. I used the breaker bar with an assortment of extensions. Once cracked, do the same on the bottom nuts, just so they are not rusted in place. Whether you remove the nuts on top or the bottom or a mixture doesn't really matter. In the end, all 4 bolts need to be un-nutted on both ends. You would think that once the nuts have been removed from the bolts, they would just fall out. Fat chance. How about lowering the jack a little bit? Nope. To free the bolts, the top nut needs to be removed. Then, using a socket extension so you can address the bolt, rap the bolt from above with a rubber mallet. When this doesn't work, use a framing hammer, but be very careful with those bolts. They are not normal and if the threads are damaged, you'll need to order new ones.

Once the bolts fall out, either through banging or playing with your jack or maybe you got lucky and they just fell out... you'll see that these bolts are 2 different lengths and that the longer bolts (that fell out of the front) have a lump in the middle like a poorly rolled spliff. I retained all of this hardware, choosing to not try to find replacements, though I thought about it. Simply lower the jack, and the beam will lower with it. Pull out the front under the radiator and bumper.

Parts and More Parts
At this point, I was pretty spent. From the start of the prior posting to the beam on the ground was at least 2 days. Now that I've done it once, though, I could do it again in 1/3 of the time or faster. As I set with a beer, I looked at the pile of parts and the zip-lock baggies of fasteners. The fasteners were all bare steel, and they had plenty of rust on them. I chose to replace all of them except the beam-to-frame nuts and bolts. I added 4 fender washers to fit between the beam and the lower control arms. I felt this would help the bushings last longer. The fasteners probably put me back $50. Then, I turned to the pile of parts:

front shock absorber /
upper control arm
Front Shock Absorbers (2) New, these are crazy expensive. Moss has them for over $330 each. Instead, I found World Wide Auto Parts in Madison, WI who rebuilds originals. After some research I bought a pair from them at $99 each plus core which was returned when I sent my old ones back to them. They really look great, and if they work as well as they look, I just may go back for replacements of the rears instead of doing the swap-out for non-MGB rear shocks that so many folks do. The paint chips off without much effort, so if you're going for a show-car experience, I'd recommend repainting them.

Lower Control Arms (4) These looked okay, but without tight tolerance measuring tools, I couldn't tell if any of the important holes on the ends were out of round. Replacements for all 4 was $70 with OEM British steel, and the originals could have been worn from the bad seals, so I coughed up the $70.

lower control arms
Spring Pans (2) Like the arms, I couldn't tell for sure if the mounting holes were out of round, but on very close examination none of the holes looked oval. Since no pivoting happens with these pan holes, even a little out of round probably wouldn't matter so I chose to keep the spring pans, and just clean them up instead. New-steel replacements are $32 each at Moss, so they're a little steep cost-wise compared to some of the other bits. Still, if the spring pan won't firmly attach to the arms, your suspension won't be safe, so spend the $64. In the end, there was 0 play after everything was put back together, so my assessment was correct.

Front End Rebuild Kit (1) This was the whole point of this work. I found a few different suppliers for this kit, and resolved to buy from British Parts Northwest for $120. While their return policy is crap, their price is $35 less than Moss. These kits include:
- king-pin set and bushings. These run vertically between the arms and through your swivels
- upper control arm nut/bolts. They call them "fulcrum pin and hardware" and they attach the top of the swivel to the control arm / front shock absorber.
- upper control arm bushings (rubber or all-poly). These pair with the upper control arm nut/bolts to complete the set. I ended up swapping out the kit-supplied ones with some Poly/Graphite bushings I got from a new friend, Basil, in California ($6)

- lower control arm to swivel bolt/nut and bushings. They call these "Lower Trunnion Kits".
- lower control arm to beam ("A-Arm") bushings and bolts (rubber or all-poly). Again, I went with Poly/Graphite ($20) from Basil instead of the kit-supplied ones.

To do the front end rebuild, that's really all you need. I decided, though, that as long as its open, replace the beam-to-frame bushings.... and the sway bar bushings. Again, I sourced these from my friend in California. frame bushings ran $23 and the sway bar bushes were $10. When I consider there was no extra labor for the beam bushings, and very little on the sway bars, this was a very low cost to get the front end as rock-solid stable as possible.

Rubber, Poly and Poly/Graphite
Just for an aside, I wanted to touch on the differences between these three types of bushing. As a general rule, it's best that you pick one and stick with it through the front end. Since they behave a little differently from each other, the front end could be less predictable if your lowers and uppers are not the same material and respond to stresses differently.

Rubber - this is what you had originally. When squeezed between two pieces of steel which want to twist, the rubber twists with it. This smooths out the twisting motion, giving an easy, forgiving ride. For a cruiser, this is great material.


beam to frame bushings
Poly - this is the more common "upgraded" bushing. Unlike the rubber, the poly does not twist with the steel; it resists the twisting motion. This resistance reduces the degree of the twist, allowing more of the force through to the ride. This is a much less forgiving ride, but gives you a much stronger "sense of the road". Installing these bushings can be very difficult, requiring water-based lube or other tricks, maybe the use of a shop press. Once installed, most owners report loving them.

Poly/Graphite - this is in-between the Poly and Rubber in terms of road feel and difficulty of install. Basil described this far better than I could, so I will quote: They look like black plastic that has some give to them. You can put one between your thumb and forefinger and feel it give a little. The polyurethane matrix has a slippery substance called "graphite" (a crystalline form of carbon) in the polymer matrix so a slippery bit is always exposed and thus self-lubricating the bushing. No special install efforts needed.

This post got long again, so I'll continue in another post. At this point, we have the front beam completely torn down, our parts are ordered, and fasteners sourced at the local hardware store. We'll start next time with some painting and then assembly. Thanks, as always, for following along...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MGB - Front Suspension Refresh (Part 1)

Before I took the little British car to a shop for review, I did the brakes on all 4 corners (See MGB - Brake Job). While I had the front end on jack stands, I noticed some weirdness with the front end suspension. Today's post starts the documenting of that work.

Well, That's Not Right
weather stripping?
So, I had the front end in the air and the front wheels off, trying to get after the bolts which hold the calipers onto the front swivels. On my back, lying under the front right (passenger) fender, or wing in British car parlance, I noticed that the front of lower control arm was attached to the front beam, but it looked like the bushing had been replaced with a strip of window insulation. Huh? I pushed and pulled up and down on the arm and it wiggled. Yikes. I looked at the point where the front shock attached to the top of the swivel, and that bushing looked old and tired: brittle and cracked. The top connection didn't wiggle, but something that brittle was at end-of-life. I slid around to the left (driver) side. There, I found more dust and more surface rust, but both the top and bottom bushes on the swivels looked like the top of the passenger side: old, brittle and tired. This front end needed a complete re-bushing before being driven very hard.

Getting Down to the Beam
I had a few weeks between jobs around the holidays, so I thought it was a perfect window of opportunity to do the front end. I did spend some focused time during those weeks, but I also took advantage of an amazing snow season by hitting the mountain a few times, I visited with family, etc, so I didn't exactly get this done within the window. As usual, this took me longer than it would probably take most folks to do.

Since we're working on the front end, we start with loosening the lug nuts and then putting the front end on jack stands. This time, get the front end as high as you can get it without getting nervous about how high it is. The key here is having it high enough so the lower control arms can hang straight down once disconnected. Figure, that's at least 16 inches at the rear of the lower control arm. Once on the stands, remove the wheels and stow them out of your way.

Disconnect the brakes. Start with loosening and then removing the calipers. You may need to pull the pads before the calipers will come free. I was able to remove everything as a unit but I just did these pads. I ultimately needed to disconnect the front brake lines so I'd suggest you completely remove the calipers from the car now. Once the calipers are free, disconnect the brake hard-line from the front beam. Remember that brake fluid is corrosive, so wear gloves, use a catch-pan and dispose of safely. Its nasty stuff on your paint too, so basically, have it avoid everything but the pan.
get it way up in the air

Remove the steering rack. I already had mine off (See MGB - Steering Rack), which was one reason why I jumped into this over the winter.

Disconnect the front sway bar from the control arms. In the picture above, you can see them still connected to the lower control arms out near the wheels. Once the nut is removed on each end, coax the threaded end out the front. Sounds easy, and the second side is. The first side can be a bear.

Orienting on the Lower Control Arms
If you have ideas about doing more than just replacing the beam-to-frame mounting rubber, there's more to do. If not, I get to dropping the beam in my next post. Since I aim to refresh the whole front end, I kept going.

First, pick a side. If you are space-constrained like I usually am, pick the side where you have more room first so you get a feel for the work and don't lose your patience as quickly. If you consider the lower control arm is a capital "V" lying on its face, there are 2 bolts holding it on: one at the bottom and one across the top. The one at the bottom attaches the arms to the wheel assembly (often referred to as the swivel). The one at the top attaches them to the front beam. Extending our capital letter metaphor, the spring comes from above and lands into the middle of that "V", making it more of an "A". Where the spring reaches the arm there is a round cup for the spring to sit in. It is not held in place by any fasteners; this last bit is an important safety consideration during removal.

Pop Goes the Front Spring
bottom of the "V"
Start with putting your floor jack under the spring cup in the lower control arm. Set it far enough to the outside where it will grab the cup edge but not so far out that you can't get a spanner or socket onto the bolt/nut because the jack is in the way. Raise the jack just enough to take some of the energy out of the springs. There is a debate on the internet about how pressurized these springs are and whether there is reason for concern for them launching when the arm is removed. They are under reasonable pressure and there is reason for concern. Take a couple of zip-ties and zip-tie the top of the spring to the beam. If you don't, it will take off in an unpredictable direction when the lower arm is lowered.

Back to the removal... there is a cotter pin running through the castle nut, so remove that. Take note that replacement cotter pins are NOT included in any of the rebuild kits available out there, so either get some independently or do like I did and use bailing wire at install-time. Crack, loosen and then remove the nut/bolt that runs across the bottom of the "V" I described above in Orienting on the Lower Control Arms. The bolt can be hard to remove. Unlike the cotter pins, replacement castle nuts are included in the kit so you can use your old castle nut on the end of the bolt as a target for your hammer. The castle nut doesn't take punishment as well as a standard nut, so you still need to be careful: once the bolt breaks free, you still need to be able to thread the castle nut off the bolt to get it completely out. With the bolt out, the jack is all that is holding the spring under pressure. Make sure the top is zip-tied to the front beam! Slowly lower the arm until the spring pops out of the cup. If you raised the car high enough, you will be able to completely lower the jack and the arm will hang straight down. Sometimes the swivel gets hung up in the arm, so you may need to coax the 2 pieces apart. If you find this necessary, be mindful of how much spring tension is supported by the jack. It will unload quickly if not contained by the jack.

Once the arm is hanging free, cut the zip-ties and move the spring out of the way. You may choose to paint or powder coat them as long a they're out. I shot mine with paint, thinking I didn't have time (nor money, the paint was free leftover in my cabinet) to powder coat.

Spring Pan
Removing the rest of the arm assembly isn't terribly difficult, even for me. The spring pan is held to the arm with 3 nut:bolt combinations. If I remember correctly, they are all 1/2" drive. There are two on the rear and one facing front. The front one was paired with a threaded end of the sway bar which we removed earlier. With the bolt:nut combinations removed, the arms and spring pan should fall to pieces. Set the spring pan aside.

Remove the Lower Control Arms
The inner end of the control arms are held to the front beam with large castle nuts. The nuts are held in place with cotter pins. Like the pins at the other end of the arm, these do NOT appear in any of the kits available out there, so either acquire some elsewhere (local hardware store) or use bailing wire like I did for install. So, remove the cotter pins that hold the castle nuts, then remove the nuts. There are replacement nuts and washers in the kit. Set the arms with the spring pan for inspection.

Upper Control Arm... Er.. Shocks
left swivel top
Unlike lots of other cars, these little British cars don't have a traditional upper control arm and piston-style shock absorber. Instead, the shock and upper control are are one kinda weird unit, but it works. They are oil-filled, and for space purposes, it makes the most of what's available. The top of the swivel is attached in a similar way to all of the others in this job: castle nut, cotter pin,
long-ish bolt that needs to get banged out with a hammer. The rebuild kits also provide parts the same way: all bolts, washers and nuts are provided. NO cotter pins. The swivel is kind of heavy, so put something kind of soft to catch it when you get the bolt removed. If your experience is like mine, you'll be banging away on the bolt and then without any real sign it will suddenly pop out and the swivel will topple. Without something to cushion it's fall, a drop onto the concrete of your garage could damage something.

Now, do the other side. Whee!

At this point, your lower control arms are removed, and your front swivels are as well. Your front shocks are still on the beam, and the beam is still in the car. This is when I will pick it up next time where I'll cover removing the front shocks, evaluating them, the spring pan, and control arms for re-use, buying parts and of course, lowering the front beam.

Thanks for following along. This series of posts represents one of the longest, biggest things I've done since I rebuilt the front end on the bus: the post that launched this blog.

Friday, May 26, 2017

MGB - engine mounts

One of the first things I noticed that needed to be addressed when I bought the little British car was the condition of the engine mounts. "How?" you may ask. I intended to replace the alternator belt and couldn't because the engine was sitting so low in the engine compartment there wasn't enough room between the bottom pulley and the front beam to fit a belt. Today's post covers the fun of replacing the engine mounts without removing the engine from the engine compartment.

virtually 0 clearance
Parts
This seems obvious, but there's more to the story than just the rubber mounts. They are sold individually, but they're not expensive. The originals are around 10$US, but there are upgraded versions for 13$US. If you're going through the trouble, it's worth the $6.

The mounts attach to the frame of the MBG onto mount points which are welded on, one per side. These have a vertical slot in the center for the body-side bolt on the rubber mount. The other side of the rubber mount attaches to an engine mount bracket. With the age of these cars, the bracket often has issues hidden behind the rubber mount. My passenger-side bracket was both bent and cracked. Neat. These were $6 a piece. So cheap. Crazy cheap compared to modern cars or even the old bus.

Last, you'll need fasteners. Those old nuts, bolts and washers are as old as the car, and probably more rusty. These old British cars have lots of different metals in them, increasing their tendency to rust. So, get stainless if you can or zinc-coated if you can't. Plain steel will rust again. All of the nuts and bolts fit a 1/2" spanner except the nuts which fit inside those welded-on mount points on the frame and the lower bolt on the bracket. Those are 9/16". To replace the mounts and the brackets, I got 8 1/2" nuts with matching lock washers and 4 bolts, each just 3/4" long. These are all fine thread. I also replaced the bolts on the bottom of the mounting brackets. They need to be 3/4" long. I tried longer bolts but they bottomed out.

Tools
bent bracket on right
Similar to most of the other projects I've done on this car, the tool list grows as fasteners get harder to reach or harder to remove. PB Blaster (or a like product from the WD40 folks) is critical. 1/2", 9/16" sockets and wrench. Spanners in the same size plus a breaker bar. Floor jack and a small piece of wood 2x4. With all that hardware, the single most important tool is your patience. I kept running out and having to go looking for more.

Process Out Prep
I read a bunch of different opinions before I started. While the mounts are usually replaced when the engine comes out, it isn't required. Some have found that removing the steering isn't necessary. Not me. I couldn't have imagined this with the steering still in place. See, the steering column runs straight through the welded on frame mount on the driver side, making it all the more difficult to address the nut contained within. Some folks have taken a cheap spanner and ground it down thinner to fit between the column and the mount. Fortunately, I still had my steering unit out, so this was academic for me. My advice: remove the steering rack. See how in (MGB-steering rack).

On the passenger side, the alternator blocks easy access to the mount. This is very easy to remove, and you already have the right tools: 1/2" socket to loosen the belt and then a couple 1/2" spanners to remove the mounts on the top. Don't forget to unplug the 2 wires on the back. And, just like that the alternator is out and you can easily see the mounts.

Once you have clearance to get at the mounts by removing the steering rack and alternator, you're pretty much ready to go. Jack up the front end and put it on stands so you can easily get after it from above and below. Then, put that block of wood on top of your floor jack and set the jack under the rear edge of your oil pan, where it meets the transmission. This is it's strongest point. Raise the jack until the weight of the engine is mostly removed from the mounts, and is instead on the jack/wood combo.

Process Out
Pick a side. To stretch my patience, I would do a little on one side until I grew frustrated and then moved to the other side. Start with the nuts which hold the rubber mount to the bracket. These are the easiest to get to. The bolt closest to the driver doesn't have a bolt head on it so it could free-spin on you. Yes, that's frustrating, but with some pressure applied with a screwdriver between the free-spinner and the engine block, I was able to get the nut off. Next, get after the nut that is semi-captured within the frame-side mount. A spanner can only move about 1" up/down at a time, and then you need to flip it over or use the box-end to move it another inch. This tests patience. Once the nuts are removed, raise the engine until you are able to free the mount from the bracket and frame mount. I also leveraged my breaker bar as a lever to tilt the engine a little bit so I didn't have to raise it as much.
right (p-side) replaced

With the rubber mounts off, remove the bolts holding the brackets to the front of the engine. Last, remove the bolts on the bottom of the brackets. This last bolt is very hard to get to until after the rubber mounts are gone, and even then it is partially obstructed by the sides of the bracket. Patience. Once the bolt is loose, I was able to spin the bracket off by hand, not bothering with anything other than a socket on the bolthead to keep it moving with the bracket.

Process In
The install is the reverse, but it was advice like that which inspired this blog all those eyars years ago, so I'm going to run through it. Start with the bolts for the bracket. Don't torque it down, just get it threaded on and then shift to the smaller bolts which attach the bracket to the front of the engine. The bolts go in from rear to front. While this may not look as clean, the rubber mount will dig into the end of the bolt sticking rearward if you don't do it that way. Yes, I did this first. Once the bracket is loosely attached, torque down the smaller bolts and then the large one. If you do it in the other order, the bolts in the front part of the bracket can get hung up on a slight misalignment and you'll have to do it over. Yes, I did this too. :)

With the brackets in, re-raise the engine so you can fit a rubber mount in. I did the driver side first, but I don't think it matters. The driver-side bracket has that one weird bolt that doesn't have a head. I found something that would work at the hardware store, but needed to bore out the hole in the bracket to get it to sit deep enough so the bracket would align properly on install. Crazy. Once that is solved, plop the driver-side mount onto that bolt and shift it into position such that the frame-side bolt is in the vertical slot. Short sentence; could be a long effort. I used the breaker bar as a lever to help that last little bit of space to slip the frame-side bolt into the slot. Get the lock washers and nuts onto the bolts. I found gravity to be a terrible partner in this, causing the frame-side nut to fall off the bolt and down into the nowhereland of garage floor multiple times. Patience. Once the nuts are threaded on, tighten as far as you can without tools. Remember how hard it was to get the spanner in that frame mount during removal? Yeah, just as hard on install.

left (d-side) replaced
Once you have the nuts threaded on as far as you can by hand, give them a couple of runs with a spanner and then lower the engine so the jack is no longer holding any weight. I tried to shake the engine a little bit on its way down to make sure it settled, but it didn't seem like the engine moved at all. Just the same, its a good idea. Once all the weight is on the mounts, finish the tightening with a spanner.

Finish up by re-installing the alternator, and the steering rack. Lower the car off the stands, clean your hands and your tools.

This job was a bear, but the engine sits at least an inch higher than it was. Between the bent and cracked bracket and the twisted / flattened mounts, this job was long overdue. While the engine won't run any better, I'd like to believe that any vibrations will be greatly reduced and the drive train is now aligned like it should have been coming out of the factory.

As always, thanks for following along. For my American friends, have a pleasant Memorial Day weekend. I greatly miss the old Hornings Hootenanny which used to fill my Memorial Day and am left unsure what to do with my 3 days this year. Maybe I'll pull out the welder...

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

MGB - steering rack

The last collection of posts have been about this project MGB I picked up last Summer/Fall. Today's post covers the efforts of removing, cleaning, and repairing the steering.

Context
The steering on these little British cars is only a hair more complicated than the old VW bus. The bus uses a system called "work and peg", which is definitely not used in modern cars. Without opening up the steering box, consider that there is magic inside this box with two arms coming out it. The arm coming out the top connects to your steering wheel and the arm coming out the back connects to control arms that terminate at each of the front wheels. Within the magic box live the worm and peg. The "peg"  rides on the "worm" that is a threaded bar that looks like an auger. As the steering moves from lock to lock, the worm moves the peg from side to side, causing the front wheels to turn. Simple design.

3-armed monster
The MGB has a rack and pinion style. Rack and pinion has a gear (pinion) at the end of the steering column that rides on a "rack". The rack is simply a toothed bar to which the control arms are attached. In the case of the MG, the control arms and the rack are all one piece. Power steering includes more bits to boost the power of the pinion to move the rack. The MGB doesn't have the power assist, but its a tiny car with little weight, so there isn't much need. One other interesting bit about the MGB steering is that over half of the steering column is part of the steering rack so it has 3 long legs/arms to manage on extract and install.

Getting It Out
just removed. note torn d-side boot
Removing the steering rack from the MGB is actually pretty easy. For me, someone who takes forever to do even the most simple of jobs, that's a big statement. At the ends of the control arms are tapered "ends" that fit into the steering knuckles (sometimes called "swivels"). Since I had already decided to replace the rod ends, I separated the ends from the knuckles with a couple of smacks with a hammer. There are gear remover tools that are more graceful, but if you're replacing the ends and the nuts (always replace the nuts) anyway, a hammer works great.

p-side arm measured
With the ends separated from the knuckles, move up to the steering column part up near the firewall. Mark the way the two ends come together so your steering wheel will align properly on your first re-install effort. I shot the joint with a pop of spraypaint, but that was only because I couldn't find something like a paint pen. You can just see the marks in the picture on the right, here. Once marked, loosen the connection so it doesn't hang up on you later.

In order to easily get to the rack bolts, you may need to remove the little section of cowling between the radiator and the front beam. It is made of glueboard and held on with a couple of nuts. There are metal replacements for the cowling available, if your original is trashed. Once you have access to the rack, it is held on with 4 long-ish bolts. With those bolts removed, the rack can be removed by pulling it forward and down. If it isn't budging, check that the steering column is loosened enough.

Cleaning
p-side arm measurement
My rack was leaking, and was identified as a possible replace item by the shop. K2 and I saw that the bellows on one side were definitely torn, so I ordered a replacement set as well as replacement arm ends. We (step-son K2 helped a bunch here) started with simply cleaning everything up first. K2 used "Simple Green" and a lot of elbow grease to get the arms and main cylinder clean.  You can't put new bellows on while the arm ends are still attached, so when it was clean, I marked the control arm end positions with a shot of spraypaint (use a paint pen if you have one). Once marked, I removed the arm ends, and then the bellows. At this point, K2 doubled down on cleaning. He turned the steering from post to post, cleaning up any gunk that he found in the teeth. We removed the cover plate and looked for broken teeth on the pinion as well.

Repairing
Junk. Don't Buy These
The pinion had no broken teeth and the arms were in great shape. We decided not to replace the steering rack, and just re-seal the cover, refill with oil and replace the bellows. I used a very light application of form-a-gasket to help seal the cover. If you use too much, it gets into the gears, and that detail cleaning needs to be redone (guess how I know that). Before the cover plate is sealed on, the bellows need to be put on. Put a little bit of gear oil on the inside edge of the small end before you start. This allows the small end to slide over the end of the arm without tearing. Attach the wide end to the main cylinder and a-fix with the metal band. Before attaching the small ends, check where they should go so that they don't stretch nor bind when the rack is turned lock to lock. If you have marked the old location, its easy. I didn't but I found that once I started zeroing in on a spot, it actually was the same original position (there were tiny scratches on the arms). Tighten the small ends down with the smaller metal bands. Now, fill the system with gear oil: 90 weight (like the VW bus transaxle). "Fill" is about 8oz.

Ends
OEM. Buy These
Once everything above is done, all that's left are the ends. There are two kinds available out there, and I bought both to see the difference. These cars came with sealed ends that allowed no maintenance. So, if you thought your end needed grease, you can't grease it; you need to buy replacements. These replacements are made in England, though, so you're getting a good OEM part when you go this route. There are also replacements available which have a grease fitting. These are Chinese junk. The concept is great, the execution is appalling. The pair that arrived were rusty and the main rubber seal was falling off. Not only would it not hold grease, the rubber "seal" wouldn't stay on at all. I was only able to find them at the Roadster Factory, but don't shop there. When I alerted them to this poorly built part, and returned it according to their rules, I received no communication nor any money back. Vendor: if you sell garbage and then don't honor your own policy, you're a sham to me and will be called out accordingly: do not shop from The Roadster Factory unless you're willing to accept crap parts with no means of return.

Ends On
The OEM part, as expected, looked perfect and fit as you would expect. I threaded it on to the marks and tightened it down.

I am finishing up some other tasks before re-installing the rack, so I will post again when I have that completed. Thanks, as always, for following along.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

MGB - an Expert Opinion

Before I started tearing into the master cylinders, it occurred to me that I should probably get some more expert advice on this MG. I figured I had a pretty decent little car, but hearing that from someone who actually knows what s/he is talking about goes a long way.

The Web
The first, obvious and free place to go looking for expert advice is the internet. Unfortunately, the advice isn't always expert, and sometimes it is simply wrong. These days there are multiple enthusiast sites for pretty much any car, so that just makes things worse. I know the VW scene, for example, has lots of forums, some are more welcoming. On the other end of the continuum, some are downright hostile to new folks.... and each other. In the VW world, it seems like the more level-headed the general discourse, the more accurate the advice. I think this stems from the originator John Muir, and his attitude that is spilled all over the pages of his Idiot books.

For the MG, I go to the MG experience (www.mgexp.com). Unlike the VW world, there aren't as many active board or forum to choose from. The MG Experience is lively with a wide array of members spanning from the ultra-purists to the full-on experimental. Above all, there are little judgments about what you want your car to be, and things get testy usually when someone is suggesting an alteration that is unsafe. I haven't witnessed religious battles over minutia either.
The MG Experience header

With all that context, there were still limits for how much a forum can advise about the condition of your car. At some point, you need someone to look at things and point out the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Local Guy
confused mechanic
If you have a local mechanic who you trust with your car(s), s/he may be perfect for looking at a new project for you. Over the years, I've had my share of mechanical screwings, so there are few that I genuinely trust. Those who I do trust don't own garages, and are kinda gypsy in their approach. The best are usually highly skilled with one kind of car, or a particular area, like my friend Justin the TDI engine man. You can roll the dice with the local Firestone (not picking on Firestone, they all do this), and see what they say. If you can filter out all the up-selling and hear what they are really saying, you might hear about some of the problems. You definitely won't hear about all of them. They have blinders on, focused on the things they do well. Firestone, for example, will do a great job of highlighting issues with your suspension, steering and alignment, but identifying rust or bog under paint? Nah. Engine issues? Probably not. It could still be a useful trip to a local shop if you already know what they can and can't see... and you already know the good the bad and the ugly about the stuff they can't see.

Car Manufacturer Expert
British Auto Works logo
Ultimately, I just jumped to the end and found a local British car specialist shop: British Auto Works in North Plains, OR (website link). I have seen air-cooled VW specialist shops all over the West Coast, and I found the similarities and differences between the VW and British shops simply fascinating. Every garage has some kind of messy going on. Whether its a pile of boxes and parts heaped around or a desperate need for a broom, every specialist garage I've walked into had similar messy. I contrast this with the Firestone's of the world which look really tidy most of the time, even in the shop area. Not sure why that phenomenon happens. By contrast, and maybe this is unique to British Auto Works, the British shop had more space for both working on cars as well as in their lobby. I've seen VW shops where you could barely walk between different vehicles getting worked on simultaneously. The British shop had room for sparks to fly between them.

The Review
The guys at British Auto Works were great. I was introduced to one of their mechanics by the owner when I arrived for my appointment. That mechanic handled my car from that point through to the ring-out at the end. He crawled all over it, test drove it, had it on the lift, used various measuring devices, etc. When he was finished examining it, we did a walk-around before putting it on the lift again so he could show me what he found. The list of bad news wasn't long, which was great to hear.

Future posts will be addressing what we listed:
Steering Rack is leaking. One gaiter is torn, causing the leak. Rack could be damaged. (See MGB - steering rack)
Front suspension is original and will need refreshing. Lower arm bushings look pretty bad.
Rear passenger wheel makes noise on turns. Wheel bearing should be examined.
Coolant pump is toast. It will fail, and fail soon. Replace before driving much more.
very little rust, but driver floor looks iffy.
Brakes are spongey, check the master cylinder (see MGB Master Cylinder(s) Started)
Possible exhaust leak causing a pop-pop-pop noise on deceleration
The interior is pretty rough, but serviceable.... and there's no convertible top

For good news, he really liked the way it drove. Lots of pep from the side-draft weber carb, solid shifting transmission and no weird noises from the drive train. The car sits well, doesn't make suspension noise, really solid. Very little rust, especially the frame.

That's it for today. Once its all written down, that list looks pretty tall, but better to know the full list from a proper shop rather than get a partial list, possibly with wrong items, from somewhere else. Thanks, as always, for following along,

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

MGB master cylinder(s) - started

Continuing on the MGB project, today is all about the removal of the master cylinders. This is the logical continuation of the prior post about MGB brakes where I did all four corners and the rubber lines but I was unable to successfully bleed the rear brakes.

How Works MGB Brakes
pic swiped from MGB forum
I briefly touched on this in the MGB brakes job posting (See: MGB Brake Job). The brake hydraulic system is very simple. From the pedal under your foot, a level presses against the vacuum-assist brake booster which activates the brake master cylinder. That's typical of any modern car. The MGB master cylinder is split into 2 halves, the front and the rear, with a rod connecting them so that when you press on the pedal and the brake booster activates the master cylinder, fluid is pressed out of two chambers. The chambers correspond to either the front or rear. This is a protection in case there is a failure in your brake system, keeping the other system intact so you can stop. Safety Fast!

Bleed Fail
This brings us to our brake problem, I did the four corners, and bled the front system. The rear system, though, would not bleed. First, the air bubbles would not stop and finally, the fluid stopped passing through. I thought I had fouled the rubber line install so I removed it and still couldn't get fluid. Rules out rubber line. Then I put it all back together again, and went to the master cylinder end. I disconnected the one hard line that ran to the back of the car and it could hold vacuum. So, the hard line is good. The master cylinder must have failed.

Master Cylinder
Again, the internet has opinions when it comes to brakes. Okay, pretty much that's true when it comes to anything, but in this case, there's a strong urging from the MGB community to replace the clutch master cylinder when you replace the brake master cylinder. That's because they stack-up against one another and removing just the master cylinder for the brake requires so much disassembly, it's one of those jobs you only really want to do once. There is even a reported odd circumstance where both master cylinders fail around the same time, so even if you avoid doing both, you find yourself replacing the other one within 6 months. I mentioned the rust/patina condition of this little car in my part 2 posting (See: Little British Car (Part 2)) about buying it. The patina on the brake booster was pretty bad, and the pedal box looked pretty bad. There were leaves, and other filth all up in there too. So, I decided that I'd pull all of it out, clean it up and paint what I could. That may have been just one sentence, but many weeks of effort.

Pedal Box
swiped from britishv8.org
The brake and clutch pedals attach to the car in a combined steel box that is attached to the inside of the engine compartment. There is a rectangular hole through which the pedals pass into the driver foot-well. Once the hydraulics are disconnected, the pedals are removed as a unit, still attached to the box. Once removed from the car, I disassembled the pedals, cleaned, sanded, wiped down, etched, primed, re-sanded, re-wiped and painted them (black). I did the same to the pedal box.

I have ordered and since received the brake and clutch master cylinders. I have not installed them yet, though, as other projects have jumped in front of this. The posts on these other projects will keep coming, and as they complete, re-assembly will start, and then I'll come back to the master cylinders. The picture on the right here from britishv8.org is very much what I am aiming for. I've bookmarked this guy's project page for inspiration. Very nice build.

As always, thanks for following along, and I'll post more soon-