Steering lower u/js replacement

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Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby geraldferreira » Sun 15.04.2012, 12:36

My steering has been getting stifer over a period particularly in the winter when it;s cooler. I got the Land Rover replacement U/J, so I was about to replace it. There are on this forum various references to this job and how it can be done from inside.

My question is this, Do I have to remove the steering column to get sufficient space to remove the cover around the joint and the joint itself.
Is there on this forum or elsewhere a documented procedure for the whole thing?

Any comments would be appreciated
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Candles » Wed 18.04.2012, 05:59

Steering Rack Page

This wiki is from me when I swapped the rack a while ago. I think you could replace a UJ without dropping the rack, but the access is a total nightmare. I think you would have to loosen the steering column just to provide room to slide off the old UJs.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Kuching » Tue 21.04.2015, 13:11

I think this topic could do with resurrecting as I couldn’t find much definitive information on the forum about it.

The problem I was encountering was a heavy or ‘dead’ feeling to the steering, as if the PAS wasn’t working effectively. Checking the hydraulics suggested that all was well there. Flushing fresh fluid through the system made a marginal difference but didn’t solve the problem.

Acting on the advice of someone far cleverer than myself, I decided to check the column universal joints. The upper UJ is reasonably accessible in between the driver’s pedals. The lower UJ, at first sight, appears to be buried between the bulkhead and crossmember, inaccessible from underneath the car. In fact is relatively easy to get to also from the driver’s foot-well side. It just needs the rubber seal and GF cowling removed to expose it.

To check/replace the UJ, it’s probably easiest to completely remove the whole steering column. This sounds drastic but once the electrics are disconnected and cowling removed, there are simply four mounting bolts and a pinch-bolt on the shaft to remove, and the column can be lifted out. I would suggest removing the lowest pinch-bolt so that both UJs remain on the column.

The UJs can now be checked for free movement in all axes. Mine was very tight across one axis. Before dismantling any further though, put ‘timing’ marks with Tippex or similar to show the relative rotational positions of the UJs to the shafts – it is important to orientate the parts correctly.

One excellent tip I did find in the forum is that the lower UJ is common with the Classic Range Rover / Discovery 1, part number NRC7704, and consequently can be sourced very cheaply. I got mine for £7.59 + postage. I can confirm that this is a direct replacement.

Once back together, the feel of the Elan is transformed. The steering is finger-tip light and feedback from the road comes through clearly.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby epipete » Tue 21.04.2015, 15:06

Very interesting, I know that this thread is regarding the Lower UJ but for completeness has anyone had any failure of the top UJ and does anyone know if a replacement for that has been identified?
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby AndyNW66 » Thu 10.03.2016, 14:28

Having just successfully completed this job on my 120,000 mile N/A I thought I’d offer the following comments and hints for anyone considering tackling the same job.
It is a perfectly reasonable job for a home mechanic to tackle and required no special skills or tools but it did require working in some awkward spaces, i.e. the driver’s footwell behind the pedals. It took me 3 afternoons’ work, say 10 hours, but with what I know now I could probably do it in 5 hours or less in 2 shifts.
Firstly, the symptoms of the problem:
After 24 years of pleasant, low, steering forces, they suddenly stiffened up. The steering didn’t become heavy as such and felt pretty normal for small movements up to say ⅛ turn but required more force for larger angles and it would not self centre. Also it would seem to free again for larger angles still.
Confirmatory test:
Undo the 4 x 7mm nuts holding the glass fibre lower u/j shroud to the bulkhead. The sort of small sockets and “screwdriver-like” drive you get with cheap socket sets are ideal for this. The shroud is underneath the pedals and the carpet will need to be lifted away and maybe a small amount of underlay trimmed away to ease access. Lifting the shroud and its grommet up the intermediate shaft as far as possible allows the lower u/j to be seen and a thorough spraying with oil around all the pivot points is possible. Replace the shroud but there’s no need to put the nuts back on at this stage. In my case a short drive showed that the stiffness had reduced but not gone away.
Replacing the u/j:
Firstly, allow enough space to jack both front wheels off the ground. There is no need to crawl underneath the car but the steering rack spigot does need to be rotated during the process to get good access to the u/j pinch bolt. This is easier by moving the front wheels rather than re-engaging the steering column-u/j on the intermediate shaft splines and the steering wheel on the column and then turning the steering wheel.
Following the instructions in the manual was quite easy and removal didn’t take very long. Removing the steering wheel required some hard pulling/jerking and would have hit me in the face if I hadn’t left the nut in place, but loosened. Refitting was harder, mostly due to difficulties aligning steering column mounting brackets while supporting the weight of the column. The manual suggests that the inner column can be withdrawn from the outer column once the upper circlip is removed and the upper u/j separated from the intermediate shaft. If this can be done with the outer column still in situ then I think the whole job becomes very much easier indeed. Unfortunately the manual doesn’t describe doing things in that order and I didn’t think of trying it myself until after I’d completed the job. Having got it all back together I wasn’t going to strip it apart again to see if it could be done an easier way! The column, inner, or outer and inner together, only has to be withdrawn an inch or so to free the upper u/j from the intermediate shaft.
If removing the outer column:
The column shrouds are held in place by 4 self-tapping screws and three more screws that go into hexagonal extension pieces. The lower shroud requires the column height adjust lever to be down to remove it. The upper shroud requires two of the hexagonal extensions to be unscrewed to allow it to be removed.
For the outer column itself I would initially undo just one of the two bolts holding the bottom fixing to the pedal box. I would then obtain a similar bolt, saw the head off it and screw it lightly into the hole. This will now act as a locating pin for re-assembly and save one of the jobs that took most time. The other bolt can now be removed as well as the two upper mounting bracket bolts and the upper u/j pinch bolt. The weight of the column can now be taken on the lower part of the fascia panel, it doesn’t need to be completely removed. If it has been found necessary to unplug the connector block from the back of the ignition key unit be careful. There’s a small brass rotating contactor inside that may be loose. It may fall out on to the carpet and be damaged during your exertions in the footwell, so put it somewhere safe. It’s easy to work out how to replace it in the rebuild.
The pinch bolt on the upper u/j to intermediate shaft junction has a 9/16 head. The nut is welded to the u/j so it doesn’t require a spanner on it when loosening the bolt. Separate the upper u/j from the intermediate shaft.
Remove the shroud and grommet covering the lower u/j. Leave the intermediate shaft attached to the lower u/j for now. Why will become clear in a moment.
The pinch bolt at the lower u/j to steering rack spigot junction has ½in head. With the bolt across the opening in the floor the nut and bolt can be undone with 2 x ½in ring spanners; one may need to be essentially flat rather than the double-cranked kind because there is not much spare space across the hole. One of them being a ratchet-type ring spanner would also help. Be careful not to lose the nut through the hole in the floor plan. I don’t suppose it would do any harm and might just fall onto the garage floor. On the other had it may hang up somewhere and be lost. The spigot now needs to be rotated through 90deg (by turning the front wheels a small amount to one side or the other) to allow the pinch bolt to be withdrawn.
The u/j and intermediate shaft can now be removed. A large screwdriver will probably be necessary to lever the u/j off the splines.
At this point it may be possible to feel the problem in the u/j by rotating it about all axes, it’s probably a worn or broken needle bearing. If not don’t worry, you may as well replace it anyway now you’ve got this far!
Obtain the (ex-Land Rover) replacement part from ebay, or Britpart, or wherever. New ones are inexpensive, say about £10, so I wouldn’t bother with a used one.
The angular orientation of the intermediate shaft within the lower u/j is critical apparently so find a way of marking the shaft before removing it from the old u/j, Tippex, say, so that it can be immediately replaced in the new u/j with the same orientation.
Re-attach the u/j to the rack spigot aligning the pinch-bolt hole with the flat on the spigot. Insert the pinch bolt and reverse the front wheel movement to allow the nut to be put back on the bolt and tightened. Replace the shroud and grommet.
Re-attach the upper u/j to the intermediate shaft, again aligning the pinch bolt hole with the flat on the shaft. This was one of the parts of the job I found hardest, trying to align the steering column u/j to engage correctly on the intermediate shaft without being able to see either while doing it. Much of this work involved lying half on the garage floor and half in the footwell trying to see enough to work out what I was doing. It may have been easier with the seat removed.
The home-made locating pin should now allow the outer column to be repositioned and refastened quite easily. Without the pin this was another difficult and time-consuming job, supporting the weight of the column while trying to align the holes sufficiently to engage the first bolt. All the steering column bolts and the upper u/j pinch bolt can then be tightened.
At this stage it’s probably a good idea to check the indicator/lights stalk and windscreen wiper stalk still work. Particularly, check the indicator self-cancel is working (put the steering wheel on lightly). If not, it may just be that the indicator unit hasn’t been fully pushed home. With the indicator unit separated from the bearing carrier It’s easy to see the spring-loaded button at the bottom of the unit and therefore to check whether the unit itself is still working correctly.
Refitting the steering column shrouds also took some time. The problem was aligning screws with the hexagonal extension pieces. At my second attempt I used a mirror on my lap whilst sitting in the seat and this way it was much easier to see the necessary alignment.
If you’ve remembered to mark the steering wheel to column orientation on removal then it should be correct immediately on replacement. Otherwise you’ll spot any discrepancy as soon as you drive off and can fix it immediately before fully tightening the steering wheel bolt.
Take the car out for a test drive on your favourite test route (as if that needed saying!). The absolute pleasure of returning to beautifully light-weighted steering makes the grubbing around in the footwell all worthwhile.
I hope that helps someone – if it has please let me know.
Last edited by AndyNW66 on Thu 10.03.2016, 22:26, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Rob P » Thu 10.03.2016, 17:19

Well done Andy, that's quite a comprehensive post given that it is only the 3rd Post for you, excellently constructed and glad to hear the Steering is now back to what is considered normal, will make the car all that more enjoyable I'm sure
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby John_W » Thu 10.03.2016, 19:06

Nice write-up, Andy.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Candles » Thu 10.03.2016, 20:17

Yes, great write-up. Can we add it to the Wiki page?
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby AndyNW66 » Thu 10.03.2016, 22:14

Thanks for the positive feedback. Much appreciated. It's the sort of job you actually only do once but, perversely, could do much more easily a second time. So I thought I'd try to offer anyone else the benefit of that experience.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby RichardK » Sat 12.03.2016, 08:15

Many thanks Andy - Perfect timing on the write up, tackling this job "soon"....changing out the fluids didn't make any difference.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Artaban » Sat 12.03.2016, 08:32

The angular orientation of the intermediate shaft within the lower u/j is critical apparently so find a way of marking the shaft before removing it from the old u/j, Tippex, say, so that it can be immediately replaced in the new u/j with the same orientation.


Andy thanks for the excellent write up I feel confident to have a go at this myself now. My steering is slightly stiffer than I would have expected so I've bought the replacement lower UJ. My question is how can I check that the UJ's are aligned correctly as I've no way of telling whether someone hasn't had a go at this before and not bothered to put them back in the right orientation? I'm not sure what correct looks like.

Also did anyone find a source for the upper UJ. Seems sensible to replace that if I'm going to all the trouble to replace the lower UJ.

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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Artaban » Sat 12.03.2016, 10:29

Ref the alignment of the UJ's I found it in the Workshop Manual, section HC page 9. Can't see the upper UJ in the parts list though. Seems to be no reference to it.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby AndyNW66 » Sat 12.03.2016, 18:57

The upper u/j is part of the inner steering column, i.e. welded to it or made as one piece. If it were to be faulty it would mean you need a new inner steering column. I would assume it's fine! The lower one is exposed to the outside world, so probably has a harder life.
You say you've sorted the alignment of the intermediate shaft? It is in the manual, I think it says 3 splines, and it's different for left and right hand drive.
The u/j alignment is set by the "flats" on the top of the intermediate shaft and the rack spigot, respectively, because of the position of the pinch bolts which run along the flats.
Certainly if the inner steering column can be withdrawn up the outer column the job should be quite easy, but I can't see how the upper u/j can pass through the outer column. Maybe it can.
Best of luck. Let me know how you get on.
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby rdodger » Sat 23.04.2016, 17:12

Did this today. The write up was useful thanks.

My steering had a tiny amount of play in it and thankfully the new joint sorted it.

I did take the seat out and I'm glad I did!

4 hours inverted in the footwell is never fun :(
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby dapinky » Thu 25.08.2016, 20:14

Changed mine today - very useful write-up, thank you......

....... however, now I have no lights working :roll: .....

sides, headlamps, flash - nowt!

Checked all the maxi fuses - all okay - so now where do i look?????
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby AndyNW66 » Wed 31.08.2016, 21:47

Assuming the problem has only just appeared, my guess would be that the indicator/main beam/ flash unit is not fully located.

For my interest , did you find you needed to un bolt the outer steering column or did you manage without?
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby dapinky » Wed 31.08.2016, 22:32

Sorry, forgot to update this thread - the electrical issue was a blown fuse at A4 in the main fusebox - presumably, whilst waving the metal steering column about it shorted out a lighting live.

The only bolts I undid on the steering column were the 2 which hold the upper column to the dashboard support structure (13mm head) and the 2 which attach the column to the pedal box (10mm head) - there was enough movement to slip the steering column off the intermediate shaft (once the captive bolt with 9/16" headed bolt is removed).
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Rice crispy » Wed 28.09.2016, 23:19

Got mine done today. Didn't realise how bad it had got :shock: nice and smooth now, the old one was fine in one way but the other was almost totally siezed. Now noticed I have a water leak somewhere as the expansion tank was empty. Going to pop back for a pressure test as I can see no obvious signs of a leak even when it's up to temperature :(
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby dapinky » Thu 29.09.2016, 09:40

Rice crispy wrote:.... the old one was fine in one way but the other was almost totally siezed....


That's almost exactly the same as mine - except it was totallly seized in one plane - no rotational 'slack' though.... But I agree about not realising how bad it is getting until the replacement is done - it now feels almost like it has power steering :lol:
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Re: Steering lower u/js replacement

Postby Artaban » Thu 27.10.2016, 11:11

The steering was getting stiffer so I decided to replace the lower UJ as the part had been sitting in the glove box for a while. However I was gutted to find it made no difference whatsoever. The old UJ worked though a little squeaky in one plane; replaced it anyway.

Any ideas where to look next? Suspension rebuilt last year will all new ball joints, track rod ends, bushes etc. Fluid changed last year as well. Power steering does appear to work but steering consistently heavy throughout the movement. I haven't lifted the car up off its front wheels yet and disconnected them from the rack so thats the next step but if I do and its still equally heavy I suppose it'll only be the rack or pump or both. Column itself is OK. No one has bashed it with a hammer and top column bearing replaced last month as there was a lot of movement in it.

If it is a rack and pump refurb can anyone recommend a place to get it done. Anyone know what these people are like?
http://powersteeringracks.co.uk/zencart/
Can't think what else it can be. :(

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