Changing Steering Gaiters - The Definitive Guide

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davew1949
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Changing Steering Gaiters - The Definitive Guide

Postby davew1949 » Mon May 11, 2015 10:09 pm

I asked on this forum whether I needed to remove the track rod ends with a ball joint splitter in order to change the steering gaiters, I never really got an answer, but got some good advice on how to remove the track rod ends.

Well today I did it, so I can give the definitive answer. NO. It is totally unnecessary to mess with the track rod ends to change the gaiters unless you are, of course, planning to change the ends as well. I changed both sides' gaiters - one I removed the ends and the other I didn't, and can definitely say that removing them is a waste of time.

So I thought I would document what I did for the benefit of anyone else like me who has failed the MOT because the gaiters are totally shot but has never tackled the job before.

WHAT YOU NEED
A spanner - to release the track rod end lock nut. Can't remember the size but you'll figure it out.
A heavy hammer - to hit the spanner.
Wire brush - to get rid of some of the rust.
Lots of paper toweling or cloth - I found it a really messy process.
Grease
Cleaning fluid. (I use BC530 Brake Cleaner from Tool Station. Less than £3 and it's brilliant. Spray cleans not only brakes, but oil, grease and all the road rubbish, however I'm sure white spirit or similar will do as good a job)
Wire cutters/grips - to remove the existing gaiter clips.
Tissues - you may cry- but not for the reason you are thinking.
4 cable ties - two medium size and two a little smaller - see below.
Time - despite what you may have read on this forum, unless you have done this before, or your name is Harry Potter, it will take you more than half an hour per side. Although the good news is the second side will be quicker than the first.
And of course new gaiters.

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
A ball joint splitter - you aren't going to be splitting any balls.
A second hammer - one is enough.
A blow lamp.
Gaiter circlips. If you have been given some or have bought some, throw them away. You probably won't be able to get them on in any case. Cable ties are the way to go.
Penetrating oil - we all use it but we know it never really works don't we.

HOW TO DO IT
Jack up the front of the car as far as you can. Remember to be safe, you'll be under the car bashing around, so plenty of axle stands, wheel chocks etc. Ideally you want both front wheels off the ground so you can move the steering easily. Remove the front wheel and turn the steering wheel away from the side you are working on in order to push the steering rack towards you (so if you are working on the off side, turn the steering wheel to the left)
Put the spanner on the the track-rod end lock nut and loosen it a bit. You might have to give it a couple of whacks with the hammer, making sure you are undoing it ie. clockwise. You will find that the nut will loosen off with just a few whacks (despite it being as rusty as hell on the outside, inside the track rod end where the threads are it will be quite rust-free). Undo it (clockwise) about half a turn or so. You'll find that as you turn the nut the track rod also turns with it since the nut will be rust welded to the rod and inside the gaiter the rod is connected to the steering rack via a ball joint. As you'll see later this is about the only time that rust is helpful on a Morris Minor.

Before you undo it completely turn your attention to the clip that is around the narrow end of the gaiter, or what is left of the gaiter. Cut the clip off - I had a metal clip and graunched it off with wire cutters. You need the track rod still connected so you can get some purchase on the clip to lever it off.
You'll see that the track rod and lock nut are pretty rusty - use the wire brush and give them a good brushing to get rid of as much rust as you can - the new gaiter will be slipping over these and you don't really want rust inside it.
Now you can completely unscrew the track rod locking nut along with the track rod. As mentioned, the rod will turn because at its other end hidden inside the gaiter there is a ball joint. No need to count the number of turns - since the nut is rusted onto the rod, when you screw it back it will return to exactly the same place, so no worries about tracking either. Told you on this occasion rust was good!
Once the track rod is free from the track rod end, swivel the end out of the way and turn your attention to the wider end of the gaiter. Again get the clip off whatever way you can, then pull the remains of the gaiter free. Before it comes off completely take look at the rod at the gaiter narrower end. There is a small ridge running round the track rod and the existing gaiter narrow end will either be inside this ridge or outside - mine was outside. You will want to replace the new gaiter in the same place.

Before you push the new gaiter onto the track rod and steering rack it important to stretch the wider end a bit - it might even be best to do this for a few days before fitting. I pulled it as wide as I could and pushed it over a former (well a club hammer head actually) for a while in order to try and make it easier to fit - the more stretched it is, the easier it will be to fit, and to be honest fitting that end is by far the most frustrating and hardest part of the job. While it's stretching you need to clean all the oil and any grot from the exposed steering rack. Once that is nice and clean you have a decision to make.

Some experts on this forum say you should grease the rack. Others say you should follow the handbook and just use oil. I decided to go the grease path, so greased all the exposed bright-ware liberally.
Whatever your chosen path, you need to grease the rusty track rod and lock nut to ease the path of the gaiter over it. Then take your, now stretched, gaiter and lubricate both openings. Slip the wide mouth of the gaiter onto the track rod, sliding it up until the narrow end hits the lock nut. Now it looks like that's the end of the road as the nut is so big and the gaiter opening so small, but with a blunt screwdriver you can actually stretch the narrow opening of the gaiter over the lock nut - believe me, you can and it will go.
You now need to seat the wide end of the gaiter. To help, turn the steering wheel so the wheels face approximately straight ahead. This is so the gaiter is neither stretched , so won't reach, nor concertinaed so you can't see what you are doing.

You will now realise why I said to try and stretch the opening, as getting this end in place is a right B..ger. I can't really tell you how to do this - you just need to push and twist and swear. This is where you might cry, having got so far so easily only to be thwarted at the final hurdle. But don't give up - it will eventually slip into place. I found that using bare hands rather than gloves made the job a little easier.

Once it is in place, put the larger cable tie around the larger opening lip and tighten it up.

Put the smaller cable tie around the narrow opening, making sure it is inside or outside the ridge the same as the old one was, but before tightening it, screw the track rod back into the track-rod end as far as it will go and tighten. As mentioned before, since the nut was rust-welded to the track rod, it is now in exactly the same place as before, so no need to get the tracking done (hopefully).

Tighten the narrow end cable tie, and have a well deserved cup of tea before tackling the other side.

When both sides are completed, fill up with oil as per the handbook if going this route. Personally I greased the steering rack, but also put 10 shots of oil in via the filler anyway.

I hope this little guide will be of help to anyone who is thinking of tackling this job for the first time like me. It's a grotty job but perfectly do-able and straightforward if you don't mind laying on the floor and getting pretty mucky and frustrated.
Good luck and any comments I'll be happy to receive.
Last edited by davew1949 on Mon May 07, 2018 1:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

bmcecosse
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Re: Changing Steering Gaiters - The Definitive Guide

Postby bmcecosse » Tue May 12, 2015 8:53 am

I find it easier and faster to just pop the track rod end, but each to their own.
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Edward1949
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Re: Changing Steering Gaiters - The Definitive Guide

Postby Edward1949 » Sat Apr 27, 2019 4:13 pm

davew1949 wrote:
Mon May 11, 2015 10:09 pm
I asked on this forum whether I needed to remove the track rod ends with a ball joint splitter in order to change the steering gaiters, I never really got an answer, but got some good advice on how to remove the track rod ends.

Well today I did it, so I can give the definitive answer. NO. It is totally unnecessary to mess with the track rod ends to change the gaiters unless you are, of course, planning to change the ends as well. I changed both sides' gaiters - one I removed the ends and the other I didn't, and can definitely say that removing them is a waste of time.

So I thought I would document what I did for the benefit of anyone else like me who has failed the MOT because the gaiters are totally shot but has never tackled the job before.

WHAT YOU NEED
A spanner - to release the track rod end lock nut. Can't remember the size but you'll figure it out.
A heavy hammer - to hit the spanner.
Wire brush - to get rid of some of the rust.
Lots of paper toweling or cloth - I found it a really messy process.
Grease
Cleaning fluid. (I use BC530 Brake Cleaner from Tool Station. Less than £3 and it's brilliant. Spray cleans not only brakes, but oil, grease and all the road rubbish, however I'm sure white spirit or similar will do as good a job)
Wire cutters/grips - to remove the existing gaiter clips.
Tissues - you may cry- but not for the reason you are thinking.
4 cable ties - two medium size and two a little smaller - see below.
Time - despite what you may have read on this forum, unless you have done this before, or your name is Harry Potter, it will take you more than half an hour per side. Although the good news is the second side will be quicker than the first.
And of course new gaiters.

WHAT YOU DON'T NEED
A ball joint splitter - you aren't going to be splitting any balls.
A second hammer - one is enough.
A blow lamp.
Gaiter circlips. If you have been given some or have bought some, throw them away. You probably won't be able to get them on in any case. Cable ties are the way to go.
Penetrating oil - we all use it but we know it never really works don't we.

HOW TO DO IT
Jack up the front of the car as far as you can. Remember to be safe, you'll be under the car bashing around, so plenty of axle stands, wheel chocks etc. Ideally you want both front wheels off the ground so you can move the steering easily. Remove the front wheel and turn the steering wheel away from the side you are working on in order to push the steering rack towards you (so if you are working on the off side, turn the steering wheel to the left)
Put the spanner on the the track-rod end lock nut and loosen it a bit. You might have to give it a couple of whacks with the hammer, making sure you are undoing it ie. clockwise. You will find that the nut will loosen off with just a few whacks (despite it being as rusty as hell on the outside, inside the track rod end where the threads are it will be quite rust-free). Undo it (clockwise) about half a turn or so. You'll find that as you turn the nut the track rod also turns with it since the nut will be rust welded to the rod and inside the gaiter the rod is connected to the steering rack via a ball joint. As you'll see later this is about the only time that rust is helpful on a Morris Minor.

Before you undo it completely turn your attention to the clip that is around the narrow end of the gaiter, or what is left of the gaiter. Cut the clip off - I had a metal clip and graunched it off with wire cutters. You need the track rod still connected so you can get some purchase on the clip to lever it off.
You'll see that the track rod and lock nut are pretty rusty - use the wire brush and give them a good brushing to get rid of as much rust as you can - the new gaiter will be slipping over these and you don't really want rust inside it.
Now you can completely unscrew the track rod locking nut along with the track rod. As mentioned, the rod will turn because at its other end hidden inside the gaiter there is a ball joint. No need to count the number of turns - since the nut is rusted onto the rod, when you screw it back it will return to exactly the same place, so no worries about tracking either. Told you on this occasion rust was good!
Once the track rod is free from the track rod end, swivel the end out of the way and turn your attention to the wider end of the gaiter. Again get the clip off whatever way you can, then pull the remains of the gaiter free. Before it comes off completely take look at the rod at the gaiter narrower end. There is a small ridge running round the track rod and the existing gaiter narrow end will either be inside this ridge or outside - mine was outside. You will want to replace the new gaiter in the same place.

Before you push the new gaiter onto the track rod and steering rack it important to stretch the wider end a bit - it might even be best to do this for a few days before fitting. I pulled it as wide as I could and pushed it over a former (well a club hammer head actually) for a while in order to try and make it easier to fit - the more stretched it is, the easier it will be to fit, and to be honest fitting that end is by far the most frustrating and hardest part of the job. While it's stretching you need to clean all the oil and any grot from the exposed steering rack. Once that is nice and clean you have a decision to make.

Some experts on this forum say you should grease the rack. Others say you should follow the handbook and just use oil. I decided to go the grease path, so greased all the exposed bright-ware liberally.
Whatever your chosen path, you need to grease the rusty track rod and lock nut to ease the path of the gaiter over it. Then take your, now stretched, gaiter and lubricate both openings. Slip the wide mouth of the gaiter onto the track rod, sliding it up until the narrow end hits the lock nut. Now it looks like that's the end of the road as the nut is so big and the gaiter opening so small, but with a blunt screwdriver you can actually stretch the narrow opening of the gaiter over the lock nut - believe me, you can and it will go.
You now need to seat the wide end of the gaiter. To help, turn the steering wheel so the wheels face approximately straight ahead. This is so the gaiter is neither stretched , so won't reach, nor concertinaed so you can't see what you are doing.

You will now realise why I said to try and stretch the opening, as getting this end in place is a right B..ger. I can't really tell you how to do this - you just need to push and twist and swear. This is where you might cry, having got so far so easily only to be thwarted at the final hurdle. But don't give up - it will eventually slip into place. I found that using bare hands rather than gloves made the job a little easier.

Once it is in place, put the larger cable tie around the larger opening lip and tighten it up.

Put the smaller cable tie around the narrow opening, making sure it is inside or outside the ridge the same as the old one was, but before tightening it, screw the track rod back into the track-rod end as far as it will go and tighten. As mentioned before, since the nut was rust-welded to the track rod, it is now in exactly the same place as before, so no need to get the tracking done (hopefully).

Tighten the narrow end cable tie, and have a well deserved cup of tea before tackling the other side.

When both sides are completed, fill up with oil as per the handbook if going this route. Personally I greased the steering rack, but also put 10 shots of oil in via the filler anyway.

I hope this little guide will be of help to anyone who is thinking of tackling this job for the first time like me. It's a grotty job but perfectly do-able and straightforward if you don't mind laying on the floor and getting pretty mucky and frustrated.
Good luck and any comments I'll be happy to receive.
I've just replaced a gaiter (one side only so far) and this old thread has been very useful for encouragement in the horrible task of getting the inner, wider end of the gaiter over the rack! I departed from part of the above advice by removing the track rod end lock-nut, thus avoiding having to get the small end of the gaiter over it. This meant that the tracking needed to be checked, an opportunity to use my new Gunson Trakrite Gauge. Instead of measuring tracking in the traditional way this gauge tells you how much the wheels are "fighting" each other by pulling together or pushing apart (toe-out or toe-in) as you roll the car over it. I settled for a neutral position with a hint of toe-in, and I feel happier with that than trusting to a wheel alignment "expert" at a local tyre centre.


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