I started this day by attempting to jack up the car, in order to access the nuts holding the (badly made and ill-fitting) battery tray that was put in to house the new 12V battery.
Lifted up a little at the lowest point of the engine cross-member, with a block of wood to take up the slack, I ran out of jack! My little trolley jack just doesn’t have enough travel to bring the front wheels off the ground. I also discovered that the driver’s side front wheel only has five of the six studs holding the wheel on. I learned that this is common, as the driver’s side wheels have a reverse thread on them. I can see the benefit of this if the wheels had a single central hub post with a knock-off spinner but for lug nuts? Not really. So, on goes the air-gun, set to counterclockwise.. rrrTTTTTT, RRRRTTTTTTTTT. RRRRRRRRAK-whooooiEEeeeee. There goes the stud as it’s tightened beyond breaking point.
With the battery tray removed, a lot more access is to be had on the driver’s side of the engine compartment. This was not originally much of a problem as the car was specced with a very slim 6V battery. You can see the bottom of the bracket that supported the original 6V battery, attached to the frame rail.
Both pieces removed from the car- I do not intend on having the battery mounted inside the engine compartment- there simply isn’t adequate room for a modern 12V battery.
Many, many years of dirt adorn the driver’s side frame rail. Access is poor, even with the original battery and that is compounded by any leaks from the battery drip down and collect in the grime. The suspension grease points looked rather dry, also.
I pushed the front end of the car outside and started up the pressure washer to make a start on cleaning up the old oil, grease and dirt in the area. I finished up by using my leaf blower to dry it all down.
The pressure washer did not get everything, but it made a significant improvement.
One thing I had wanted to address was the free-play slack in the steering. Wobbling the steering wheel from side to side inside the car showed that the dead zone of free movement did not turn the driver’s side wheel, but further investigation was required.
I employed some assistance and had my niece turn the steering wheel to and fro while I took a look at the steering system. This showed that the free play was in the bottom of the steering box, where the shaft comes out to attach to the Pitman arm.
Now a lot cleaner, I was happy to remove the filler plug from the top of the steering box. What I saw did not inspire confidence.
As it needed doing, I wire-brushed the filler plug and cleaned it down with carburetor cleaner.
At this point I tried to gently torque down the lash adjustment screw for the output shaft (big screw and nut on view here). That did not improve matters, so I am going to hazard a guess the lower bushing, a plain bronze item- is worn beyond limits.
I opened up the top casing after checking the workshop manual for spring-loaded components. There are none marked.
The top bushing appears to be in really very good order. There’s a lot of regular chassis grease stuck in the top…
The steering box itself is a cause for concern. A common problem is the things are filled with regular chassis grease. That is only good for items designed to use it- in this case the roller (at the bottom, vertical section) sits against the worm (dim, very bottom of the circular aperture), pushes the grease out of the way- “channeling” it. It then never returns to the surface, allowing the pieces to grind with no lubrication. The correct lubricant is a very slow oil, with a consistency similar to molasses- GM specify a “self-leveling” grease. Research shows that John Deere “Corn head” grease has these properties, it’s used in the worm/wheel gearboxes of corn harvesting machines.
Not trying to make too much of a nut-and-bolt restoration, I cleaned up the bolts that secure the top plate of the steering box. I see little point replacing bolts with dirty threads and old grease and dirt on them- all for the sake of a few minutes with a wire brush.
At this juncture I decided that the best way forward will be to work on this once the engine is out- ideally the entire steering box needs to come out but there’s a large nut holding the Pitman arm on and access is not very good from up underneath. However, I do know what the issue is and that can be rectified.