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Early BN4 steering box pitting

Csarneson

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I have an early BN4 and my steering box needs some love. After sitting in a field for 40 years it’s got rust pitting on the lower races and turns like it’s full of gravel even after being completely cleaned and greased.

I think i need to replace it. AH Spares sells the replacement adjustable column/cam for $320 but they specify that it’s only for the late BN4 and later. What’s the difference with the actual column? Should I replace the entire steering box? Will a later box bolt right up? New ones are a fortune so I’ll probably try to gamble on a used one. I’m not confident that my local machine shop can remachine the race.

Anybody got a reasonable used one?
 

red57

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The significant difference between the early BN4 steering box and the later BN4 thru BJ8 boxes is the peg. The early boxes are easily identifiable by the flat steel lid where the later boxes have a raised cast aluminum lid. The raised lid allows room for the needle bearing follower peg whereas the earlier box has the peg fixed in the rocker. The earlier system means friction between the peg and worm but the later, raised lid box has the peg in needle bearings so it rotates and there is almost no friction between the peg and worm.
Otherwise the boxes are the same.
IMG_2232.jpg
The worm & shaft, bearings & shims, rocker shaft bushing & seals are all the same - the differences are the rocker & peg and lid.

It may have been because the my original box (w/flat lid) was worn but I found that when I tried to remove excess play by tightening the adjustment screw on the top, there was a noticeable binding whenever the lash was removed. I had to leave a fair amount of free play to avoid the bind which meant sloppy steering. I had a later raised lid box in my shop so I rebuilt it (I also had the bearing races re-ground like John - BTW, you can correct the tight spot being off center by shimming behind the upper outer bearing race so the center of the worm is in the same location, fussy but doable) and installed it in my early BN4 25 years ago and have been very happy with it. I also had a machine shop increase the depth of bore for the rocker shaft bushing so I could stack two bushings end to end as a way to compensate for wear in the upper portion of the shaft bore where there is no replaceable bushing - seems to have helped keep the shaft tight in the bore.

Again, the improvements I felt in the driving experience may have happened if I rebuilt the original box - but I figure the needle bearing follower peg system had to increase production costs and yet they stuck with it thru the end and the bean counters wouldn't have allowed that if there hadn't been a good reason...

If you have to replace the box, unless you are going for "correct", I would suggest your driving experience will possibly be better with the raised lid box, just my opinion. I'm not sure if anybody is producing the early box new.

Dave
 
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Csarneson

Csarneson

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That is super helpful Dave. I didn't understand the differences between them. I will probably be on the lookout for a later-model box then. I've reached out to quite a few used parts vendors so hopefully I will find one. I also tend to scour ebay pretty regularly. Maybe I will get lucky there.

There is a "reconditioned" one on ebay right now for $800 or so but I want to talk to them about what that description means before I move forward. There's also a core charge which I'm not certain that my box would qualify for.
 

red57

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Perhaps unwarranted, but I am leery of buying "rebuilt" parts from unknow mechanics - a bad player could easily clean & paint something and call it rebuilt, or maybe not be as thorough as you would be.

Seems to me there are 3 possibilities - buy new from a known supplier like DW or AHSpares, buy 'rebuilt' from a known & trusted source (someone you have used for other things, or someone your local club or a friend knows), or do it yourself.

Anyway, I forgot to mention the differences between fixed steering wheel and adjustable steering (you are probably far ahead of me but, just in case).
IMG_2234.jpg
Upper one is fixed steering & bottom is adjustable. So, again, easily identifiable in a photo (BTW, the two boxes are sitting evenly at the other end so pic shows relative length differences too).

BTW I'm sure I'm 'preaching to the choir' but be careful with ebay, eg there is a complete steering assembly currently at $500 + $85 shipping. It's complete with cross rod, tie rods, idler box and steering box and seem like a possible core to rebuild - but the last detail photo shows that someone torch cut the splined shaft off to get it apart so, even if all parts inside the box are good, the shaft is not useable (really a shame). There is another one 'rebuilt' that may be good, but has a stupid shipping charge of nearly $300 + core of 150.

Dave
 
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Csarneson

Csarneson

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I completely agree with all of your points Dave.

I'm going to clean up my current shaft and take it to my machinist just in case he thinks he has the capability of fixing it. I don't have high hopes but maybe he will surprise me.

Based on what I am learning I am actively looking for a used late model steering box. I have reached out to Tom's Import (Portland, OR) first because Tom's been a great asset for used parts in the past and I buy all my Moss stuff through him. He doesn't think he has any good used ones but is going to check for me. Norman Nock didn't have any either.

Living in northern WY pretty much rules out any "local" clubs. Denver is the closest and that's a 7 hr drive. Their next event is in Sept and I might try to get down there.

I have a call into the vendor selling the "rebuilt" one on ebay. They appear to be a real british repair shop called "British Miles" in pennsylvania and all of their ebay reviews are positive. The owner is going to call me back tomorrow. They would be a solid second choice.

I would probably rule out buying new just because of budget.

There are two used ones on ebay that are butchered. I'd noticed the shaft on the one being ruined. There's another that looks like the shaft was severely shortened. Strange stuff. I'll probably just watch for a while and hope I get lucky. I have enough body work to keep me occupied for a long while so I can be patient.

Thanks for the advice. I sincerely appreciate it.
 

John Turney

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The significant difference between the early BN4 steering box and the later BN4 thru BJ8 boxes is the peg. The early boxes are easily identifiable by the flat steel lid where the later boxes have a raised cast aluminum lid. The raised lid allows room for the needle bearing follower peg whereas the earlier box has the peg fixed in the rocker. The earlier system means friction between the peg and worm but the later, raised lid box has the peg in needle bearings so it rotates and there is almost no friction between the peg and worm.
Otherwise the boxes are the same.
View attachment 59615
The worm & shaft, bearings & shims, rocker shaft bushing & seals are all the same - the differences are the rocker & peg and lid.

...

Thanks for the info on adjusting the tight spot. What isn't fussy on a Healey?

I understand from Clausager that the steering ratio is a bit faster in the older box.
 

red57

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John, Good info about the ratios of the early vs late - I didn't know that (or forgot :smile:) that explains why Moss doesn't show a part number for the shaft/worm for the early box, but they do show a part number for the shaft/worm for the later box.

Dave
 

steveg

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If anyone's contemplating buying a worm. DW has them in normal and faster ratios. I bought the normal; Russ Thompson says he can't feel any difference in steering effort between the two, as he's installed both and has the faster one in his BN7.
 

CraigC

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The worm & shaft, bearings & shims, rocker shaft bushing & seals are all the same - the differences are the rocker & peg and lid.

This not quite true. The worm for a raised top box is longer than that of the flat top. I have one of each that were cut out of damaged steering boxes decades ago and the difference is noticeable at a glance.( I'll see if I can get a pic tomorrow) I also contacted DW and AH Spares regarding availability of the flat top box worm and shaft and neither supply one, and confirmed they are not interchangeable with the raised lid box worm and shaft.
 

red57

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CraigC Thanks, good to know. I have both types but I actually never tried to mingle parts from one to the other. I don't remember having both worms out of the boxes to see side by side (it was 25 or more years ago).
At a glance they seemed the same other than the obvious lid & rocker - but I opted to rebuild the raised lid box for myself and I still have the flat top box I never took apart that I stashed unopened - I am sorry about any confusion I caused.

Dave
 
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Csarneson

Csarneson

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Quick update:

I took my existing old-style shaft/worm-cam into my machinist and he didn't think there was any way to clean up the pitted race. I had already put in fresh bearings and cups but the box was never going to feel good. The result is that I will probably move on from it. If anybody needs parts from an old box other than the worm/cam gear let me know.

I found a great guy and british mechanic at http://www.britishmiles.com who had a new style box that was re-sleeved,re-bearinged,and powder coated for $479 plus shipping. The peg has been replaced and the worm gear shows no wear. Ultimately I made the purchase and it should be on the way to me soon.

He seems to have a whole building full of spare british parts so keep him in mind if you need something. Super friendly guy and very helpful!

Thanks for the advice guys. Now I'm on to the body work.

Chris
 
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Side note: I have a DWM box for a BJ8 sitting on the bench. I'm currently keeping busy looking after my mom and running her ranch and home and it's #3 or #4 on my list of things to do to my car so I probably won't install it for a couple months. If anybody is in need of a good original box check back with me in the fall. It's got the usual inch or so of play, and leaks from the front cover but otherwise is in good shape.
 

Dandare

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Re regrinding of the bearing tracks; I was visiting an industrial plating establishment some years ago and saw some steering components there.

It was explained to me that they were for a power-steeering reconditioning firm and the tracks were being "Hard Chromed" and machined back to original.

Danny
 
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