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
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.

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.

The steering on these little British cars is only a hair more complicated than the old VW bus. The bus uses a system called "worm 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.

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.

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.

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 ( 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
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 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-