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Tight spot on steering box is way off

Legal Bill

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Here's an interesting problem. As I recall, the "tight spot" on the steering was supposed to coincide with the steering wheel's dead center position. This is important to the rest of the story.

I was tired of the 1 inch of play in my steering and decided to tighten it up. After adjusting it (front end jacked up) I turned the wheel lock to lock and noticed the tight spot for the first time. I also noticed it encounters it when the steering wheel (and road wheels) was off to the left by a good bit. So now with about 1/2 inch or less of play, I have a tight spot (for the first time) that I encounter as I'm coming out of a left had intersection turn. It hits at about 1/4 of a turn and I feel it on the return to center. And I have to turn the steering wheel past this point, the car will not straighten out by simply repeating the steering wheel as it had before.

Any idea how this happened? Was the steering box disassembled and rebuilt incorrectly with the worm or peg out of place? Is there some way for me to align it correctly? Can this be done without removing the steering box?

Thank you for reading and thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Best regards,

Bill
 
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The steering boxes were known for this, err, 'anomaly;' that's why AH Spares and Denis Welch offer upgraded boxes. There isn't anything you can do about it, except for replacing the box--or at least the worm--with an upgraded version. I think it was Steve G. who documented his adventures with his box a couple months ago.

One inch of play seems to be the norm; I'd loosen the adjustment a bit to where it's tolerable and the wheel self-returns.
 
OP
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Legal Bill

Jedi Knight
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Thanks Bob. It is quite frustrating to feel how much more direct the steering wheel feels when adjusted a bit, only to hit the tight spot on a turn.
 

steveg

Yoda
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LB - you need to adjust it at the tight spot so you can barely feel it as you go past.

I had undone my front plate about 1/2" to drain the Penrite out. Unbeknownst to me, this allowed the rear bearing to come unseated from its race and to be cocked in the housing. If your steering feels rough when you turn the wheel, it is possible the bearing is cocked. If you do this for a while, you'll ruin the rear bearing and race on the worm gear, as I did.

If your steering feels perfectly smooth, then all you have to do is adjust at the tight spot.
 
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Legal Bill

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Thanks Steve. Guess I'll back it off a bit. Maybe look into the DW worm gear this coming winter.
 
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Legal Bill

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Having studied it a bit, I'm wondering if I just need to recenter the steering arm. line the steering wheel up at the tight spot, remove the nut holding on the steering arm, remove the arm from the box and realign it so that the road wheels are pointing straight ahead. Now the dead spot will be dead ahead and I won't notice if it is a bit tighter. That's the way it was supposed to be from the factory, right? I may need to separate the tie rods from the steering arm first, of course, but does anyone know why this would not work?
 

steveg

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Bill - you don't have much latitude in this. You can move the steering wheel hub to one side or the other on the splines, but you can't do that with the steering arm off the box. It only fits on one spot.
 

DerekJ

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If the steering arm is slightly bent then the tight spot won,t be in the straight ahead position. To check this, with the wheels in the straight ahead position does the steering wheel turn exactly the same amount in both directions? if not it could be the steering arm that is the problem.
 

ozhealey

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Bill,

While there are few adjustments you can make to correct this problem with the Healey’s standard configuration, you can do a little work to get the optimum outcome or you can do some modifications to get the absolute best outcome.



Firstly though, I have attached a quick sketch to try to demonstrate what you are seeing. The three figures are as if you are under the looking up.


Figure 1 in my picture is trying to show the view of the bottom of the steering arm and splined shaft coming out of the steering box. The circle is the bottom of the shaft and the hexagon is supposed to be the castle nut holding on the steering arm. As you can see, there is a small spot or line at the bottom of the circle. If you look at your car from underneath you will see this indented spot or line on the bottom of the shaft. It indicates the centre position of the shaft in the box. When you have the shaft peg in the absolute centre of the worm (the “tight” spot), the little dot will point straight to the back of the car as my picture indicates. This is not adjustable, or at least when I rebuilt my steering box is was not.


The issue though is what happens when you connect the adjustable cross rod and rod ends to the steering and idler arms.


Figure 2 is supposed to show the ideal orientation of the arms for the steering wheel in the centre and wheels pointing forward. You want the arms to be pointing as close to straight forward as possible so that the spot on the shaft is still pointing towards the rear. Here again you have the shaft in the “tight” or centre position of the box with the arms pointing straight ahead.


Unfortunately, the Healey did not come with adjustable tie rods (side arms). So when you connect them to the arms and then the wheels, you need to shorten or lengthen the cross rod to get the desired toe in or toe out for the front wheels.


Figure 3 is exaggerated, however shows what happens with toe in when shortening the cross rod. As you can see, the little spot on the shaft is no longer pointing to the rear. This means the shaft and peg in the box has moved along the worm and you are no longer in the steering box centre position even though your wheels are pointing straight ahead. The steering wheel may also now be off centre, however this can be adjusted to be close to straight using the steering wheel boss splines on the steering column.


The only solution to have your cross rod and steering arms in the centre box position and arms pointing ahead like figure 2 is to make or have made a set of adjustable side rods (tie rods) to adjust toe in independently of the cross rod.


That is what I did and I now have a bit of toe in, a steering wheel which is perfectly in the middle, and the “tight” spot for my steering box in the straight ahead position for easy driving.


I hope this makes sense and maybe helps a little. Just my thoughts.

Cheers
Tony


 

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steveg

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Tony -
Respectfully, I'm not buying your argument which is that all 85,000-odd big Healeys had their steering designed with incorrect geometry.

The factory engineers knew what they were doing and what compromises in geometry must be made.

There has got to be a legitimate engineering reason (even if we don't know what it was) they chose the side rod lengths they did and designed it with the arms angled toward the center.

Observing the side rods, it looks as though their length is such that the inner joint is in a plane between those of the upper and lower A-arms. Therefore when the suspension moves, the steering isn't affected much. It seems to me if you shorten the side rods, you're introducing more bump steer at the front.
 

ozhealey

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Steve,

All good points, and I agree the engineers knew what they were doing. I’m an engineer and would not suggest otherwise. Healey’s have a great track record of achievements and I love my car more than any other I have ever owned.

Bill simply has an issue that to solve the way he would like will require a change in his toe in or out geometry back to spec which he may not like, or.... he will need to use adjustable side rods. If the Healey steering box design did not have the “tight spot” design, we would not be having this discussion.

What I am saying is for the “tight spot” to be exactly in the middle of the turning range AND TO ALSO to be in the straight ahead driving spot then you need to accept the toe in or out associated with having the steering and idler arms pointing almost straight ahead (done using the length adjustment on the cross rod). Once you have done that, when you connect the fixed side rods, your toe in or toe out will be whatever it is and this cannot be changed without changing the length of the cross rod which MUST move the relative position of the “tight spot” in the turning arc. Geometry as you put it, simply dictates such.

A Healey drives perfectly well in the original, standard configuration, however in my experience (which is not considerable only having worked on around a dozen Big Healeys) dont expect all Healeys to have the “tight spot” in the straight ahead position.

My car from the factory had just over 1 degree positive camber on the front. It also had a little toe out when the arms pointed forward to have the steering centred on the “tight spot”. With the tyres of the day in terms of profile and construction, this was not an unusual configuration for British classics. Again, sound engineering.

Indeed I drove my car with the fixed side arms for 15 years with modern tyres however I liked to set a tiny bit of toe in. However this meant I had the same issue as Bill which was the tight spot location with respect to straight ahead driving. To live with it, I simply made sure the adjustment of the tension in the box was such that the “feel” of the tight spot was barely noticable and I simply go used to it.

More recently, I wanted to get a bit of negative camber for my modern tyres. Using the offset trunion bushes, I could only get to zero camber on one wheel and not quite zero on the other. So I decided to use the shorter arm front shocks from a Wolseley. These give me 1 degree negative camber on both wheels, however the consequent geometry of the front end then needed shorter side arms to return to where it needed to be such that the steering arms dont point in a ridiculous 45 degree angle.

So....... I now have adjustable side arms, I do not have bump steer, I have a bit of negative camber, a bit of toe in, my car drives fundamentally better (in my opinion only) and I have the benefit of being able to have the “tight spot” in the centre so when I drive in a straight line I need next to no pressure on the wheel to keep going straight ahead. My lap times have come down considerably when I occasionally go on the track and general handling is awesome.

Interestingly, the reason I dont feel much bump steer is probably because to set the very small amount of toe in I want means the adjustable side arm is only around 1/4 of an inch or so shorter than the original side rods.

I think the difference I felt and enjoyed most of all was the shift to negative camber on modern tyres. However this is not for everyone.

Happy Healeying!!
 

ozhealey

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Danny,

I would not suggest negative camber “enhances” the use of modern tyres, but I do think it enhances my own performance on the track and in very hard driving.

I expect camber preference is a very personal thing and there will be many people in this forum with far greater experience than mine, however happy to provide my own observations and experiences.

Over a few decades I have owned a few classics and have done some very amature racing from go-carts to formula ford, rally, and road circuits. I have been on the track in my Healey, my Mini Cooper S and an early Triumph Spitfire with a rear suspension which would frighten even Fangio. What I have observed is that positive camber provides greater stability and lighter steering, however negative camber gives far better performance and grip when cornering hard with more tyre on the road under cornering. I’m not suggesting this is theory, just my observations and what I “feel”.

I have always driven the Healey pretty hard, even on normal roads and I love the negative camber set up much more than positive, but I find steering is certainly heavier. There are always compromises necessary in design as Steve pointed out very well.

Cheers
Tony
 

vette

Darth Vader
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Steve,

All good points, and I agree the engineers knew what they were doing. I’m an engineer and would not suggest otherwise. Healey’s have a great track record of achievements and I love my car more than any other I have ever owned.

Bill simply has an issue that to solve the way he would like will require a change in his toe in or out geometry back to spec which he may not like, or.... he will need to use adjustable side rods. If the Healey steering box design did not have the “tight spot” design, we would not be having this discussion.

What I am saying is for the “tight spot” to be exactly in the middle of the turning range AND TO ALSO to be in the straight ahead driving spot then you need to accept the toe in or out associated with having the steering and idler arms pointing almost straight ahead (done using the length adjustment on the cross rod). Once you have done that, when you connect the fixed side rods, your toe in or toe out will be whatever it is and this cannot be changed without changing the length of the cross rod which MUST move the relative position of the “tight spot” in the turning arc. Geometry as you put it, simply dictates such.

A Healey drives perfectly well in the original, standard configuration, however in my experience (which is not considerable only having worked on around a dozen Big Healeys) dont expect all Healeys to have the “tight spot” in the straight ahead position.

My car from the factory had just over 1 degree positive camber on the front. It also had a little toe out when the arms pointed forward to have the steering centred on the “tight spot”. With the tyres of the day in terms of profile and construction, this was not an unusual configuration for British classics. Again, sound engineering.

Indeed I drove my car with the fixed side arms for 15 years with modern tyres however I liked to set a tiny bit of toe in. However this meant I had the same issue as Bill which was the tight spot location with respect to straight ahead driving. To live with it, I simply made sure the adjustment of the tension in the box was such that the “feel” of the tight spot was barely noticable and I simply go used to it.

More recently, I wanted to get a bit of negative camber for my modern tyres. Using the offset trunion bushes, I could only get to zero camber on one wheel and not quite zero on the other. So I decided to use the shorter arm front shocks from a Wolseley. These give me 1 degree negative camber on both wheels, however the consequent geometry of the front end then needed shorter side arms to return to where it needed to be such that the steering arms dont point in a ridiculous 45 degree angle.

So....... I now have adjustable side arms, I do not have bump steer, I have a bit of negative camber, a bit of toe in, my car drives fundamentally better (in my opinion only) and I have the benefit of being able to have the “tight spot” in the centre so when I drive in a straight line I need next to no pressure on the wheel to keep going straight ahead. My lap times have come down considerably when I occasionally go on the track and general handling is awesome.

Interestingly, the reason I dont feel much bump steer is probably because to set the very small amount of toe in I want means the adjustable side arm is only around 1/4 of an inch or so shorter than the original side rods.

I think the difference I felt and enjoyed most of all was the shift to negative camber on modern tyres. However this is not for everyone.

Happy Healeying!!


Very Good Tony. My steering tight spot is not dead center and has been that way for 18 years. That's the toe setting and I just live with it. It is hardly perceptible. I adjust my steering box snug enough to the point that the wheels will still correct themselves to center after a turn.
 

red57

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I have been reading this thread and generally agree with the observations posted. However, there is another possibility for the "off center tight spot". I wrecked my car on track in 2013 and am still rebuilding but one of the unusual things I found after the wreck is the pitman shaft had been twisted - the pitman arm was bent and I saw that immediately but was quite surprised when I disassembled the steering box to check things out and found the shaft had twisted. The shaft is about 1" dia at that location and I am still surprised it could twist like that.
Imported Photos 00005.jpg Imported Photos 00001.jpg
This was interesting enough but it gets better - when I went looking for a good used replacement I found 3 that had a similar twist (two in my collection of bits and one on ebay) and talked to a fellow in CA that restores LBCs and said he had seen twisted pitman shafts several times. Obviously this would place the tight spot off center. I have no idea how many are twisted out there but have decided to buy a new one... other than the misalignment, I have to wonder about the structural integrity considering what an important part this is. Anyway, you might look to see if yours is twisted.

Another possible solution. When I rebuilt mine steering box 20 years ago the ball bearing races on the worm were pitted and I had a local shop re-grind them which resulted in shortening the distance between them which resulted in the tight spot shifting. I had to shim behind the upper bearing outer race in order to restore the proper center/tight spot. So, at least some correction may be possible in your box by shimming the bearing races - long shot, I know but maybe possible.
Dave
 

DerekJ

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Dave is making the same point I referred to earlier in the thread. I would check the steering arm is not slightly twisted. they twist at the splines. I’mnot sure that the very small angle of the toe in would give a very noticeable difference in the tight spot position. All the cars left the factory with toe in but the tight spot has always been mentioned as straight ahead not off to one side.
 
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... The only solution to have your cross rod and steering arms in the centre box position and arms pointing ahead like figure 2 is to make or have made a set of adjustable side rods (tie rods) to adjust toe in independently of the cross rod.


That is what I did and I now have a bit of toe in, a steering wheel which is perfectly in the middle, and the “tight” spot for my steering box in the straight ahead position for easy driving...

Cheers
Tony
At some point during the late 70s/early 80s, replacement side rods were supplied as a made up assembly: internally threaded rod-ends (presumably the same ones as used for the center rod, though possibly with only RH threads), jam-nuts of full height, and a solid threaded rod. These have been fitted on my car since forever (well, certainly since that little encounter I had with the side of a mountain driving down from Huddart Park...).

I've never attempted to adjust the side rods individually for length, always being able get the desired toe setting using the center rod. I run minimal (1/32-1/16") toe in; you DO NOT want to attempt a Zero Toe setting with this archaic system, as it requires constant corrections to keep the car traveling in a straight line. Better to have a little load to keep all the slack gathered in one direction, not floating in/out. Oops, getting off track...

Assuming you weren't taking a massive amount of adjustment out of one side rod and putting it back into the other, I doubt much, if any of the previously mentioned adverse affects on geometry would be noticeable during driving (inclusive of driving like you stole it__I consider that normal, anyway). This would be the easiest way, in my opinion, of shifting the high spot back to the center or straight ahead position.

Years later, no doubt fueled by a consumer demand for faithfully reproduced parts, 1-piece side rods were again made available, but making up a pair of multiple-piece ones wouldn't be that hard to do.


Those twisting splines; better to make a critical part soft enough to bend, than have it too hard and fracture upon impact. As deadly as that lance-like column is, maybe there's at least one (>1) concession to absorbing energy!

IMG_7471.jpg
 

RAC68

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Those twisting splines; better to make a critical part soft enough to bend, than have it too hard and fracture upon impact. As deadly as that lance-like column is, maybe there's at least one (>1) concession to absorbing energy!

I very much agree with Randy's statement.

Just checked my Healey as it stands parked in the garage and the center mark is in the center at the rear of the steering box shaft. Since all my front end suspension components are original, and having no difficulties as it stands, I will investigate no further for fear I will find something wrong.

My Father, a non-mechanical individual, had a philosophy he followed as fervently as his religion:
"If the car runs good, Don't lift the hood".
Although normally a non-practitioner of this philosophy, at this point in our Classic Car Season of activities, I will be.

Tony, very good explanation and suggested solution. The great thing about this Forum is finding the "Why" behind things that are happening as well as discussing how to fix the issues.

All the best to all on this Labor Day Weekend,
Ray(64BJ8P1)
 
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