BJSmart

How to lube steering universal joints

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Steering on our '05 Passion Cabriolet has been feeling a bit stiff of late. A search tells me there are 2 universal joints to be lubed to address this. I looked in the Wiki but I'm not seeing an Instruction for this.

Can someone give me a quick synopsis on accessing these joints?

Thank you!

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Upper universal joint never gets stiff as inside the car.  Lower universal joint is exposed to the elements sitting just behind radiator and will therefore stiffen up with time.

 

DSC04481.jpg

Above photo shows lower universal joint on my 2002 Cabrio 450 in the process of being opened out.  Needles in cups were all bone dry explainig why steering was rather stiff.

 

DSC04482.jpg

Lower universal joint completely opened out. This UJ opens out and is removed the standard way.
Next job is to remove all needles from cups, clean and reassemble with moly CV joint grease.

 

Instead of complicated UJ rebuild you can fit a new lower universal joint.  Go for Febest AST-1539 or equivalent, size: 15 X 39 mm  They only cost about £8 each.  Same size UJ is used in the Hummer.

 

DSC04485.jpg

I added some improvised protection from the elements when refitting steering column.  Just wrapped parts of an old kitchen glove around lower universal joint.

Edited by tolsen

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There is no way to get oil or grease into these joints without opening them out. 

Opening out and reassembling is rather difficult. Easier to fit new lower UJ.  Steering column must be removed regardless whether one replaces a stiff UJ or the whole steering column. 

 

Clock spring (squib) may suffer permanent  damage if steering wheel and steering column is not removed  and refitted the right way. 

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Thank you Tolsen! I will be visiting our mechanic soon for some other service. Looks like I should utilize his skill and knowledge for this also!

 

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i removed the whole dash when I overhauled my steering column.  There are no real tricky steps but, as already mentioned, it is easy to cause irreversible damage to the clock spring (squib) at back of steering wheel.

 

Steering must be dead straight when removing and fitting steering wheel.  The steering wheel retaining screw locks squib in position.  There is a slot in squib housing that the screw enters when slackened off.  You have to ensure screw positively engages this slot.  There are cables attached to the back of the squib so be careful when lifting steering wheel off steering column.

 

Of course reason why clock spring (squib) can suffer damage is that the spring can only take a certain number of turns and must therefore be fitted in centred position.  it is not a spring but two very long cable ribbons contained in a plastic housing.  One ribbon is for air bag and horn and the other ribbon is for steering angle sensor.  As far as I know, the clock spring is not available on its own and can only be bought with steering wheel, therefore rather expensive to replace if damaged.

 

 

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Our blue smartie has gone through this "stiffening" of the steering a couple of times.  I just spray a load of white lube up into the joint area, and work it in by turning the steering back and forth.  Surprisingly, it seems to work.  I think the first time I did it, it lasted for a year before it started to stiffen up again.   Did it again; and I think that was a couple of years ago.  You are spraying it in pretty much blind; so expect a lot of wasted lube.  

 

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No grease will penetrate the oil seals on these sealed universal joints.  Working it wears flat contact lines on the bearing pins in way of UJ trunnions. These pins are already seized and will not rotate.

Working it only increases internal

play in the UJ and may to the unskilled appear to have cured the problem. 

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If it's sealed so well, how does the salty water get in there to destroy the needle bearings in the first place?

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Vacuum inside the UJ sucks dirty water in.   Salty water accelerates the destruction process. The vacuum is made by temperature variations. 

 

Example:

 

Driving along a wet wintry salt and perhaps grit treated road. 

Lower UJ heats up  a wee bit due to movement and internal friction. 

UJ gets wetted externally and cools down sucking in tiny amounts of water, salt and dirt.

This process repeats over many years until UJ becomes fully seized up. 

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Hence drowning the u joint in liquid lubricant will similarly result in the liquid being drawn inside, giving credence to the testimonials.

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31 minutes ago, Mike T said:

Hence drowning the u joint in liquid lubricant will similarly result in the liquid being drawn inside, giving credence to the testimonials.

DSC04481.jpg

Not so.  I first tried lubing above UJ using penetration oil and wasted two good cans.  Grease will be less effective as too thick.  

 

Too bad my photo is out of focus.  All cups were bone dry as seen.

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Sorry, but that doesn't make sense. If water is able to penetrate then a penetrating liquid

designed as such will work...

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Just being the devil's advocate.

 

Could water from the atmosphere not condense and collect inside on the cold metallic surfaces?

 

How does a headlight lens get water inside?

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Haha this thread is getting funny!

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Condensation is also part of the problem since the seals are not gas tight but condensation does not explain why dirt finds its way inside the bearing caps.

 

 

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Posted (edited) · Report post

Thank you all for the suggestions! Tolsen, I am in no way equipped to dissasemble all that as shown! Kudos to you to be willing and able to do such an in-depth job! My solution as always when I have smart car stuff I can't handle is to drive from Muskoka to London and visit Glenn (smart142). Glenn is my all time favourite mechanic, next to my dad. And dad is 95, so his wrenching days are done!

I visit Glenn every 2 -3 years, get a bunch of routine stuff done plus whatever issue of the moment I am having looked after, and then the car runs flawlessly for another 2-3 years! Since 2014 was my last visit, and  since I already had another issue that (sticky waste-gate/ intermittent over-boost) needed attention ...off to London I went this morning.

Glenn removed the bottom cover panels for improved access and sprayed some concoction all over the u-joints  and we turned the wheels back and forth for some time while applying some heat to the joints. Worked a charm, steering is butter smooth again!!! Glenn has done this for a number of smarts and it seems to have worked out well for all. Will see how long it lasts, maybe I can remember to update in future.  Waste-gate is also fixed, brakes serviced, actuator serviced and tuned, including a mod to extend it's life. Some rustproofing done while the bottom panels were off, a general inspection all round etc etc. Lunch was then had, I think the only thing we missed was going for a beer! Maybe next time ...thanks again Glenn! :)

Smart Blue.jpg

Edited by BJSmart
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Glenn is smart. Heat does the trick. Heat UJ controlled taking care not to overheat and melt UJ seals. Then spray penetration oil liberally to wet seals and cool UJ. Oil

will then be sucked into UJ internals. 

Repeating the process and keep working the UJ by turning steering wheel. I doubt the needles will ever become free but UJ may work for a while as a plain bearing UJ  until it again goes stiff requiring further treatments or replacement. 

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Thanks for the kind words BJSmart!

I use an old hair dryer to provide the heat.

 

I experienced this problem 8 yrs ago. At the time my wife informed me that she had ''heavy steering''on her 05 smart. I took it for a test drive and it felt like there was a flat tire, but all the tires were fine.

 

I researched and found this http://www.evilution.co.uk/index.php?menu=chassis&mod=567 on evilutions site.

The only thing I added was the use of heat with the hair dryer. This has worked on a number of smarts.

 

 

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9 hours ago, smart142 said:

Thanks for the kind words BJSmart!

I use an old hair dryer to provide the heat.

 

I experienced this problem 8 yrs ago. At the time my wife informed me that she had ''heavy steering''on her 05 smart. I took it for a test drive and it felt like there was a flat tire, but all the tires were fine.

 

I researched and found this http://www.evilution.co.uk/index.php?menu=chassis&mod=567 on evilutions site.

The only thing I added was the use of heat with the hair dryer. This has worked on a number of smarts.

 

 

 

I'm not sure what it is about GRP151 secret formula but when I sprayed it around the U-joint and other parts of my car it worked amazing.It freed up the stiff joint like Smartpak! That diesel and varsol blend not only creeps everywhere but lasts and lasts and lasts. Lesson learned don't get it on your clothes or hands its a bitch to get off.

 

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