Steering through 2020 in a straight(ish) line

Tales of tinkering with an MGB – or how not to do it!

Well, there I was grumping over having our second show of the year cancelled because of Covid, damn its eyes if it has any, and I thought, I know I will polish my steering wheel. You know how it is, the once pristine wood rim wheel that I installed some 30 years ago, yes that long ago, was acquiring a patina of age that it blooming well didn’t need. So, thinks I, it should be dead easy to remove the wheel and polish it up and while tinkering, I will also set it slightly straighter. It had adopted a left hand down a bit stance, only a little bit mind you, after the front wheels were last aligned. Um, actually that was some time ago and it was another of those jobs that I’d not quite got round to, after all it was only a little bit ‘out’. Looking at the photo reminds me that I’ve yet to straighten the logo, but that’s easy….

Really it was only after recent a run out with lowish fuel in the tank that I became irritated with having to squint round a wheel spoke to read the fuel gauge. I was beginning to wonder if the ‘I think that its OK’ line would still work on the 30 year old unit. Actually, I now think that it does but the fact remained that the steering wheel’s obscuration of the gauge had becoming annoying.

So, lets remove the steering wheel and polish it up and, whilst it is off, lets re-set the boss so that the wheel will be straight when replaced. Easy…..

Step one – remove the wheel. Well the wheel is held onto the boss by 9 sweet little dome headed chromed bolts, all with their screw driver slots neatly aligned around the rim when I fitted them. So all one has to do is to remove the nuts on the reverse side and bingo, off comes the wheel – you wish.

Firstly of course the wheel has a plate on top that is polished aluminium and the screwdriver is hardened steel, so a slip of the latter means a gouge in the former. And true to form, muggins here managed one or two admittedly small scrapes when fighting out the bolts. Just to add insult to injury, two of the nuts refused to budge and the screw heads were damaged by the effort of their removal. However, the wheel and its decorative attachment plate were eventually successfully removed. The photo shows the plate with one of the damaged bolts on the right and its replacement…but read on!

Step two – re-set the angle of the steering wheel boss. Easy, the boss is held onto the splines at the top of the column by a central nut; just remove same and pull. Of course, again the boss had been there for 30 years and showed no inclination to move…whatsoever. So, think (about time too). One could easily adjust the steering rack track rod ends and just so long as one was careful to ensure that a turn on one side was matched by a turn on the other the tracking wouldn’t change but the steering wheel alignment would – genius.

Not genius. The theory is accurate but the steering rod ends are pretty damned tight and I really didn’t feel much like crawling about under the car with a huge spanner so let’s can that idea too.

OK, think again.

Ah, I know, my B has a universal joint between the steering column and the rack as this car was built before folks ever thought about collapsible steering columns. So all one has to do is to release one end of the universal joint, open the joint with a suitable very blunt chisel, pull the steering wheel towards oneself to move the column out of the UJ, rotate it to the desired position, push it back and tighten up the UJ. Simple, why didn’t I think of that before?

Well now, the top part of the joint was the easier to get at but it was clear that the nut and bolt head on the UJ were inaccessible with the road wheels pointing in the correct direction so the car needed to be jacked up after all. Still, once that was done, the rest would be child’s play and lo, the steering wheel could be placed be in the correct orientation. Er well actually, that is not strictly true. If I had looked at the MGB parts list, an essential but oft forgotten as in this case, companion for the amateur maintenance man, I would have seen that the top part of the steering column has a cut out in it.

You can see it in the photo. That cut out means that the orientation of the UJ with the steering column is fixed and no amount of bad language will change that. So, having removed the lock bolt and moved the column out of lock, there was only one orientation available to it; the one where it started. So the procedure would have to be repeated on the lower part of the UJ, the bit that fits onto the steering rack, without the bad language. There really wasn’t much, it just dresses up the story. And lo one can correct the orientation of the steering wheel.

So what did I learn from that? Well I suppose if some 30 years ago I had assembled the steering wheel boss with the wheel square with the top part of the steering column, I would have saved myself some effort now. Moreover, had I looked at the parts catalogue first, I wouldn’t have bothered to disassemble the top part of the UJ!

It only goes to show that a little thought can save one heck of a lot of angst.

What about the shiny cover plate with the new gouges? Well they polished out beautifully. On the other hand the 9 Motolita dome head securing screws clearly had to be replaced in order to ensure that they all match. And that’s when I found out that they come in 2 lengths…doh. So now I’m the proud possessor of a set of short securing screws…the new long ones are in place on the wheel and it’ll be another 30 years before I take those out!

Just as a post script, the newly shined wheel is a great reflector of a low sun. Funny, I don’t remember it ever being a problem before, but the fuel gauge is easier to see!

Francis

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