[Ed. Note- Sorry the images are so small in this article, the original photos were misplaced]
Greasing front suspension
Lubricating the front suspension on an MGB or Midget is a simple task that is all too easily overlooked. King pin or swivel pin wear is a common cause of MOT failure for MGs and is most often due to lack of maintenance. Greasing the suspension is not a difficult job if you are prepared to invest in good quality grease gun and don't mind getting your hands covered in grease.
Other components on your MG that may require the attention of a grease gun are the handbrake cable and the cable linkage. Early model MGs, such as the Z series Magnettes have additional nipples on the prop shaft universal joints, steering rod ball joints and even have grease nipples to lubricate the steering rack.
- Grease gun
- Lots of rags or paper towel
- Wire brush
- Trolley jack
- Axle stands
- Hand cleaner
Loading the grease gun
Unscrew the barrel of the grease gun and press the cylinder part down into the tub of grease. Inside the tub is a clear plastic inner disc with a hole in the centre. Press the cylinder of the gun down on to this inner disc and simultaneously pull back the handle of the gun to draw up the contents into the cylinder. The plastic disc will squeeze the grease through the centre hole directing it into the barrel of the grease gun.
Lock the pull handle into the slot at the back of the barrel and then screw the front of the gun back into place. Releasing the pull handle, will put the grease in the barrel under pressure. Finally, pump the side lever for a few strokes until the grease works through. Occasionally air will be trapped in the gun and be expelled with a pop as the side lever is pumped.
On the wheels
You can reach the front suspension grease nipples without jacking up the car or removing the road wheels. It will be necessary to turn the wheels full lock to the right in order to grease the offside wheel and full lock to the left for the nearside. The only problem with this method is that it is not always possible to get your grease gun into the best position to effectively pump the grease into the nipple.
On jack stands
To gain better access to the grease nipples, jack up the car, support the crossmember on axle stands and remove the front road wheels. The optimum position for greasing the front suspension is achieved by placing a trolley jack under the spring pan and raising it to the same position as when the car is standing on its wheels.
Pumping the grease
Neglected greasing points or nipples often become blocked and ineffective, therefore it is important to ensure that the grease is actually reaching the parts you wish to lubricate. To effectively grease the swivel pins, it is necessary to get a firm location on the grease nipple and to pump away with even strokes. Some grease will come out around the nipple but the majority should make its way into the moving parts of the suspension.
It will soon become apparent if you are moving grease into the swivel pin, as the old grease will work itself out from the joints, usually appearing as a worm like thread of dirty grease. If you continue to pump, the flow of grease will increase and eventually become clean. I usually wipe off the excess with a rag and then smear it over nearby exposed metal parts of the underbody or along the wishbone arms as added rust protection.
Grease nipples may become blocked. When this happens, grease will not enter the swivel pin but just squeezes out around the nipple. This leaves a huge ball of new grease on top of the nipple and around the nozzle of the grease gun, but there will be no sign of any grease, clean or dirty, coming through the joints in the king pin. Sometimes a nipple can be unblocked by pressing in the ball valve in the centre with the point of a small nail. This will dislodge any solid particles in the nipple itself.
However, this will not always cure the problem and then the whole nipple will have to be removed and if necessary replaced. When the nipple is taken out, the congealed grease inside will be revealed. In the worst cases where the grease is very old and congealed, the only cure will be to dismantle the whole swivel pin assembly and clean off all the components, then reassemble and grease everything afresh.
Sometimes you can clear a congealed grease blockage by removing the nipple, then filling its location hole with new grease and replacing the nipple. As you retighten the nipple, screwing it back into place will exert considerable force on the new grease and this in turn may push the old grease through.
Different types of grease
Each type of grease is formulated for the job it has to do. It is therefore important to use the correct type, here is a selection of the options available.
- LM Grease
A lithium based high melting point grease specifically designed as a wheel bearing grease for use over a wide range of temperatures. Also suitable for general purpose applications and ideal for swivel pins.
- Moly grease
Molybdenum based "moly" grease ideal for stress areas where a high load is applied, such as swivel pins or trunnions.
- Heavy Grease
Calcium based grease with excellent resistance to water with good lubrication and anti-corrosion properties, good for wheel bearings.
- Red Rubber Grease
A special rubber compatible grease for use on hydraulic brake and clutch components where hardening or swelling of rubber must be avoided. Useful in assembly of rubber components for brake clutch and suspension units.
- Water Pump Grease
A stiff, smooth lime-based grease with excellent water resistance, ensuring unbeatable sealing properties in vehicle water pumps.
- PH Grease
A white tacky, water resistant grease recommended for inaccessible "long life" applications such as brake linkages and mechanisms, gear linkages, splines etc.
- CL Grease
A soft calcium based grease primarily recommended for chassis lubrication and suitable for swivels and spring shackles. Resistant to salt water spray.
- Graphited Grease
Semi-fluid waterproof grease with added graphite for brake cables, chains and road leaf springs. Not suitable for machined surfaces, such as king pins or steering boxes.
It very good practice to lubricate your front suspension when you carry out a 6,000 mile service or at least every six months. While greasing the suspension, take the opportunity to check everything over. Examine the condition of all bushes, bolts, shock absorbers, wishbone suspension arms, spring pans and mounting brackets.
The whole job of greasing the front suspension can take just a few minutes, and if carried out properly, will allow the main components to last for many more years. If your suspension is not regularly greased, not only will the components wear rapidly, but the steering will become heavy. Perhaps the worst consequence of neglected lubrication becomes apparent when you attempt to dismantle the worn suspension parts. The fulcrum pin on the MG Midget in particular, can become almost impossible to remove from the spring pan, if left without sufficient grease for any length of time. The time and effort required to lubricate the front suspension will be rewarded by improved steering and a considerable extension of the useful life of all the moving parts.
- Richard Ladds
This article first appeared in Enjoying MG Magazine