Steering Arm Joint

When I first rebuilt my 1937 Ruby in 1971/2, I replaced the front brake cable, and on undoing the attachments to the front brake levers, was presented with an alarming sight. The stems of the ball-ended levers were suffering from serious wear due to chafing at the cable end attachments. At about the same time, as a new member of the Bristol Austin Seven Club, an article in the first Newsletter I received, and which was also published at the same time in The 1971C Austin Seven Club's Association Magazine from which I repeat the following extract verbatim.  


“When adjusting the brakes, it is as well to dismantle the cable end, at its junction with the cam lever,
and ensure that ball is not being cut through at its neck. This is a vital check, as when partially
weakened in this way, your balls may snap off during heavy braking.
Damaged levers may have the slit filled with weld, but entrust the work only to an expert.”  

Those were the days when there was nothing like the wealth of information and advice available to the average Austin Seven enthusiast, and new replacements of such items were scarce or frankly non existent. I shuddered at the advice given to repair by filling the worn regions with weld, for the forged structure of the lever could suffer and become softened/annealed causing the ball ends to bend out of shape.    I decided for the time being to leave well alone, apply plenty of grease to the affected areas, and hope for the best. There must be hundreds of others in the same condition, and it was only the front brakes concerned, for the car had semi-Girlings, with different arrangements to the rear brakes.


Steering Joint 1A couple of years ago, when I came to address the matter again the situation was a lot healthier. It was now possible to purchase new Girling front brake levers of good quality (albeit at a price!).  I duly did so, and marveled at the difference.  Not only were the levers machined from solid rather than forged, but they were also straight whereas there was a noticeable twist in the older levers. The new balls were truly spherical whereas mine had worn slightly elliptical.  I showed them to another member, who commented sagely that he had worse examples he could show me.  A few days later his examples were available for me to examine, and he allowed me to photograph them for comparison. They are shown in the accompanying picture. His non-Girling balls are not only more cut through, but hard braking without enough lubrication has worn them even more egg shaped.



Steering Joint 2

Why does this damage take the form it does? I can only suggest that apart from abrasion from the cable under tension, the tightened cable twists a little and it is this that causes the necks to wear through. It is a potentially dangerous situation, and one that is most unlikely to be picked up by the average vehicle examiner, but to be fair, I still haven’t heard of anyone’s balls parting company on heavy and sustained braking. Nonetheless it pays to check the steering joint balls for wear, and apply liberal amounts of grease regularly!  





This article, written by Bob Kneale, originally appeared in CA7C Seven Focus April 2016, pp26-27.