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Long-dormant Armstrong lever shocks

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CMCon98 Colin C
Dedham, MA, USA   USA
Hey All. My '64 MGB was parked in 1978 and hasn't moved under its own power since then. The rust repair and engine/gearbox rebuilds are well under way, but I need advice on the Armstrong shocks. Two of them have normal-ish damping, and the other two have none and just allow the car to bounce. My understanding is that these shocks seep oil out the shaft area by design, and it seems reasonable that all the oil just leaked out over the almost 40 years that it has been parked. The car has about 64,000 miles on it. I'm thinking of just cleaning up all 4 shocks and changing the shock oil. What's the likelihood that the two bouncy shocks will regain their damping properties with fresh oil? I know I can buy rebuilds, but I want to try bringing these back to life since they're original to the car and have literally never been removed from it.

Thanks for any advice!

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chris Avatar
chris Platinum Member Chris Roop
Pendleton, OR, USA   USA
Where the shocks seep is high up. You shouldn't lose fluid just sitting. Either the car was stored with empty shocks or they are shot.

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ohlord Avatar
ohlord Gold Member Rob C
North of Seattle, N.W., USA   USA
1957 Land Rover Series I "EYEYIYI"
1971 MG MGB
1971 MG MGB "Bedouin 2"
Rebuild them
Peter Caldwell will rebuild your exact ones that are shot.
If the oils gone they are in need of his servive.

"I'm a long way gone down this wild road I'm on
It's gonna take me where I'm bound
It's a long way around"

"These are the days that must happen to you"

RD2 Radar/ Electronic Warfare Technician
Vietnam 1969-1972

course2kid Jeffrey Johnson
Fountain Valley, CA, USA   USA
1979 MG MGB "Lucy (Lucifer)"
While I agree with Chris that the seep point is up high and therefore the shocks should't lose oil just from sitting, I think it's worthwhile to refill them and see if that helps. The reasons I believe that are; 1) I just did that successfully with a bad left front shock, and 2) the shock may have been out of oil before it was put into storage, 3) while much less likely, it is possible that the shock(s) leaked around the gasket between the shock body and the cover.

Of course, if the shocks leaked badly at the shaft bearings years ago (before the car was stored), they will still leak now and need to be rebuilt.

With mine, I figured they hadn't been topped up with oil in years, so, it might just be a slow leak that I can live with by topping up the oil every couple years. Plus, I love taking stuff apart to see how it works and to see if I can fix it. When I get my car back on the road, maybe I will find that I do need new shocks, but, if that happens, replacing them will be easy enough since everything is nice and clean now and I know how to do the job.

Good luck with whichever path you choose!

EDIT (additional info): When I just topped up the oil in my bad shock, it still had a "dead spot" with no damping when reversing the direction of motion. I ended up pulling off the back cover and the shock valve, flushing the shock several times using engine oil flush (I think gasoline would also work well) by driving the arm back and forth full stroke, refilling with cheap hydraulic jack oil to verify operation, then draining that oil and refilling with Belray 20W fork oil. While the shocks haven't been put back in service yet, they have now sat for over six months and show no seepage and have good resistance throughout the full stroke in both directions.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017-10-12 11:13 AM by course2kid.

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RIRaven Avatar
RIRaven Silver Member Dave Wilson
Little Compton, RI, USA   USA
1971 MG MGB GT
1973 MG MGB

It is an absolute no-brainer to send your shocks off to Peter Caldwell to be rebuilt. They will return better than new in a short period of time at a very reasonable price. Call him at Worldwide Auto Parts, 608-223-9400. You won't be disappointed. I'm a happy repeat customer.


MGUK Paul Wiley
Watton, Norfolk, UK   GBR
Hi All

All good stuff. I am in the UK rather than USA so my suggestion may not be relevant there.

Has anyone tried replacing the lever arm units with 'normal' telescopic? Then it is possible to fit adjustable units (e.g. Konis). The change is readily available in the UK from the owners club. At the same time it is pretty standard to replace the rear leaf springs. Wear caused by the ends of each leaf on the leaf above lead to the sprung sticking over bumps. There are parabolic springs available - also from the owners club. These only touch at the ends and where the 2 leafs are clamped at the centre. Supposed to give a smoother ride and better handling. These springs are only available with telescopic shock absorbers.

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