REBUILDING THE MORGAN FRONT SUSPENSION
by Lorne Goldman September 22, 2011

SOME DEFINITIONS

Wheel Spindle or Stub axle: the front axle component to which the front wheel, brake caliper and rotor, shocks and road springs attach. Slides up & down on the kingpin.  One per front wheel.

Brake Caliper: on cars with front wheel disk brakes, the clamshell shaped component housing the brake pads, to which the brake line attaches.  Bolts to the back of the wheel spindle.  One per front wheel.  (Replaces front brake drum technology on older models)

Brake rotor: again on cars with front wheel disk brakes, the round flat plate like device which turns with the front wheels. Secured to the wheel spindle by the wheel bearings.  Straddled by the brake caliper, with a brake pad residing on either side of it at approximately 2:00 o'clock.  One per front wheel.

Track Rod: the rod connecting the left wheel spindle to the right spindle, and also the steering arm from the steering box. Each end terminates in a ball joint, which will need to be separated where it attaches to the wheel spindle.

IN PDF FORMAT (old version) CLICK Morgan Front Suspension ReBuilding.pdf

There are VERY few jobs on a Morgan that present a danger to the operator. Of course, as with anything on a car, there is always the possibility of damaging a component or getting the job wrong but few Morgan tasks present a personal danger to the home mechanic who takes standard safety precautions. The Morgan front end disassembly and assembly is an exception to this. There are dangers. Yet it draws amateurs as this task, specific to Morgans only, has become an icon of what the accomplished home mechanic can do. An Everest to climb. That is not altogether a good thing. Without a study of what is entailed and the watchpoints, sadness can result.

Recently, a Morgan internet forum publicly posted how-to instructions prepared by a new owner who attempted the job without advice or research. Sadly, aside from technical errors that will require the job to be redone, his method is inherently dangerous and caused concern amongst those who have done this job before. Word arrived from France last week that a mogger had been very badly hurt following his instructions. Please beware!

We have had a spotless record for 15 years. We used to provided three (3) methods here to do the job, depending on the reader's skill level and experience with a Morgan front end. There has NEVER been a come-back or mishap on any of them in all that time. However, I have decided to remove the more expert methods and concentrate on the one considered the safest. The method below has the least risk. It has been used with uneventful success by hundreds of first-timers for a decade. PLEASE BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT INSTRUCTIONS YOU CHOOSE TO USE.

To avoid confusion, I have made these instructions as detailed as possible. If you have questions or comments, Please contact me. (webmaster@gomog.com)

READ THE SAFETY NOTES FIRST. The ignorance of one of these elements in the other instructions caused the accident referred to above.

SAFETY COMMENTS AND WATCHPOINTS

PRIORITY. The bottom line to this job (which becomes super simple after 5-10 times) is safety. But someone at home, if they use the right components, will only have to do this job once on their car. There are aftermarket components and maintenance, popularized by eMog, that can make a Morgan front suspension last a life time. The issue is that the  spring pressures involved are enough to cause great damage to anything adjacent and one of those things adjacent is YOU. The detail I employ here is a function of that caution. This method is not the fastest one, it is merely the safest one.

1. When working on the front suspension, the cross-axle must be seated on jack stands or their equals. Don't work on the car with it resting on a jack only.


 
2. Make sure the caliper securing bolts have been safety wired such that the wire will tend to tighten the bolts (see sketch). 

3. After the job, check every nut and bolt again after you have put about 100 miles on the car. Also check for wheel bearing play and take up if required.

4. Make sure you have all the parts of the assemblies in the order so that you do NOT forget something and be forced to deassemble again. 

5. ASSURE that the hubs have not been reversed. Look at each knock-off and make sure it threads in the same direction as the rear wheel on the same side. If you have removed the hubs, and install them in the reversed direction (threads going the wrong way), you will loose a wheel. It is no fun --- so check!

6.  Be sure to bleed the brakes if the pipes have been disconnected.

7. Make sure you understand which front system you have. From 2000 on, the MMC has been changing the front and you must be aware of the changes to do the job right. Check with the greasing methods in this Manual to ascertain the necessary watchpoints for each or contact the webmaster.

A SPECIAL NOTE: Pros and old timers have all learned to shun spring compressors to assist in this task. Recently, a first timer installer published a how-to method that relied on them. The queries to GoMoG about it precipitates this update. Because of the (obscured) presence of the kingpin dust protector inside the main spring, NO pre-made compressor can be made to hold with any confidence. The clamp sections of a compressor do NOT have sufficient space to seat properly. But unknown to the first timer, they can precariously hold the springs inadequately until, at high tension, they can slip. Then expand suddenly with enough power to kill or cause great damage. SO NEVER USE A SPRING COMPRESSOR.  I can report to you that a mogger in France who followed the bad advice,  crushed his jaw and eye socket, losing 6 teeth as well. He asked me to post this warning. 



PARTS NEEDED

1. Two hardchrome (preferably) kingpins

2. Two new main springs

3. Two of the new shorter rebound springs.

4. Four bronze bushes. (See bush types.) (The new ones have a grease groove cut in them and should only be pressed in one way which is more or less obvious in examining them.)

5. Two new damper plates. (The damper blades and shims can be changed at any time.)

6. You should think of changing the main spring top bolts and the lock nuts below.

7. You will need wire to re-wire the brake caliper bolts.

8. Bearing grease


TOOLS NEEDED

1.  Rubber gloves (if wanted)

2.  Small trolley jack (borrow one if need be)

3.  Spanners, 21 mm, 14 mm,  13 mm,  11 mm,

4.  Spanners, ¾ in., 9/16 in, 7/16" and 1/2"

5.  11/16 in socket

6.  At least one if not two ratcheting 1/2" (or 13mm) spanners. The job is a pain without one.

7.  Small handheld sledge hammer

8.  Lead knockoff hammer

9.  Two needlenose pliers

10. Jackstands and/or blocks

11. 2 wire coat hangers or empty boxes

12. 12 inch pry bar (flat type used by burglars, available at any hardware store)

13. You may need a tie rod end remover.

14. A cut down Phillips screw driver.

15. Two lengths of 1/4 inch- 20 threaded rod approximately 4.5 to 5.0 inches long. (Cut the rods with a nut already on. Then slowly thread it over the newly cut ends to repair the threads and make sure it is easy to put the nuts on.)



 
 

STEP BY STEP - DISASSEMBLY

1. Clean your front suspension. Use a high pressure hose or brake spray cleaner. The front end can become unbelievably greasy due to oil from the one-shot lube, grease and road dirt. It builds up. This is a much easier job for those who keep their front end cleaned.

2. Jack up the front of the car and place it on stands. You will need about 18" of height.

3. Remove the spinners and wheels.

4. Have little boxes or hangers at the ready and remove the calipers by cutting their lock wire, removing it, and then undoing the caliper bolts. Slip the caliper off the rotor and place it on the little box with the brake line still attached or hang it under the wing with the wire coat hangers.

5. Remove the dampers from their bottom posts only.

6.  Detach the tie-rod ends. I do so by removing the nuts and then a sharp whack or two at the cast joint itself and it falls off.  

Some of you may require a tie-rod end puller. Leave the nut on loosely. With the Snap-on, slip the puller "C" disk between the rubber seal and spindle arm and install the puller. Screw bolt end of puller onto the rod end bolt. Things will separate with a loud snap.

7. Remove the damper blades (if you have any) by unscrewing them from the spacers at the chassis and damper plate.

8. Now... see the two little fittings at the bottom plate on either side of the larger nyloc nut in the middle? (At the bottom of the diagram above.) Remove ONE of these little bolts and replace it with the threaded rod with 2 nuts locked at the top and one at the bottom, snuggled up against the bottom of the plate. Then do the same with the other little fitting. Push the strut attached to the rear fitting to the side. No need to remove it from the chassis side.

9. Now go to the top of the assembly. If you have and are still using the old one-shot oiler, detach it. This is a delicate operation as the brass coupling which screws into the top of the large bolt holding the top of the kingpin in place rounds off very easily with usage.  Use lots of penetrating oil before hand, and unscrew it carefully. Taking care not to bend the copper oil tube, gently  push the assembly to the side once it is removed.

10. Take some small screw drivers and see if you will be able to get them into the top hole when the big bolt is removed from it. I use a smallish size Phillips screw driver and cut off part of the handle to make it fit. The point of this is that 3 inches or so of the little screwdriver, when placed down the top bolt hole, will actually hold the assembly together without you holding it and will allow you to pivot the assembly to straighten it, and important factor. The danger is loosing control of the of the kingpin and spring during assembly or disassembly. 

11. Now, while making sure the rods do NOT pivot (I put my vice grips on the bottom of the rods and hold that to stop the pivoting) I ratchet down the nuts at the bottom of these rods, and go from one to the other to keep them evenish and the kingpin will start to drop SLOWWWLLLLLYYYY. Keep a hammer nearby to make the main spring stay in place if needed.

12. When you have about 3 inches between the now dropped bottom plate and the lower frame it was bolted to..the assembly will become looseish. Keep ratcheting down until you see little or no tension at the little nuts you are turning on the threaded rods.

13. At this point, I take something I have around (I used a deflated folded swimming pool raft). and place it above the kingpin assembly to cushion any impact. I remove the little screwdriver and knock the kingpin and spring off the top. Don't worry TOO much about it hitting the inside of the front fender when extended– its rest position is only 2 inches (approx.) longer than its length when compressed. (BTW, the kingpin is not only held by the bolts.There is a little 1 inch diameter détente in its upper frame spot that the kingpin fits into.)

14. Remove the threaded rods by removing their top nuts. Remove the assembly by lifting it up. You can also slip the kingpin out.
 
NOTE: At this point some people remove the rotors. This makes the other work easier but it is more work and not strictly necessary. (See Bearing and Rotor Removal)
NOTE: You can leave the hubs in place if you have a Devol bush car. The ones with the resultant fit blue nylon bushes as the bushes are that easy to fit. Drive them out with a socket and extension and bang the new ones in with a a hammer and a flat piece of wood. Once in, the fit should be fine without any reaming or other adjustment..

Have a beer. You deserve one.


REMOVAL AND REPLACEMENT OF THE NEW FOR OLD BUSHES

i.  After degriming my friend's stub axles, I went to one of the machine shops in the village and used their hydraulic press. With the help of some blocks of wood, I got the tube in position and pressed out both bushes from one side. ( This can also be done at home with a poor-man's drift.  Nonetheless, I advise the first timers to find a machine shop to do this task!

ii. Then I pressed the four bushes in separately, taking care to get them oriented properly so that the bush "lip" is facing outward..(bottom at the bottom and top and at the top).

Mating New Bushings to the Kingpins (updated 2014)
by Lorne Goldman

Morgan stub axles are not consistent. In welding the kingpin tubes to the axles, they warp the tube. And, save for the Devol bushed cars made between late 2001 and 2006. (scroll down for more information under Devol), Morgan does not address the anolmalies they create by this welding. This would require honing or reaming the tubes themselves to a common ID and alignment of both ends. Without a common ID and alignment, resultant fit bushes are not possible. One cannot simply press the bushes in and expect, automatically, a correct clearance and/or alignment. In layman's terms, without aligning the bushes at each end, you can have one bush askew one way and the other end askew another way, making the kingpins bind and sieze, regardless of whether their individual clearance to the kingpin is correct. So properly mating new bushings to the kingpins is absolutely key to the success of the job. Once the old bushings have been removed and the new ones forced in, they will have to be mated (aligning the bushes with each other and the kingpins and also machined so that the interior diameter of the bushes has the right clearance for the kingpins). This will require either that you purchase some special tools a line reamer) or find a machine shop that will do the work with more sophisticated equipment. I once had mine done at a machine shop with a laser-guided Sunnen honer for about $20 per axle. I admit to using a line reamer since....more convenient.

There are two methods of obtaining this fit. One is to use a line reamer, the other is to have them honed. The consensus of opinion is that the honing is preferred as a better and a computer-consistent precision fit can be attained every time. I have not noticed a difference. As well, honing allows for improved lubrication of the bushes on the same principle that encourages the honing of engine cylinder walls. Knowledgeable owners simply use hardchromed kingpins and forget such niceties.

REAMING THE BUSHES
 


This is my wife Audrey showing how easy it is. She was
able to ream her first set of Morgan bushes from these
instructions without my assistance.
DEVOL cars only, you need not  go through this process. Their blue bushes are a resultant fit and VERY easy to press out and install without causing damage. Drive the old ones out with a socket and extension and bang the new ones in with a light hammer and a flat piece of wood. Once in, the fit should be fine without any reaming or other adjustment.

 
NOTE: With other, bronze bushes This part of the job requires specialized equipment. It can be left to your local machine shop if you wish. The job can be done with a reamer (it has been done this way for 100 years) but for precision a Sunnen laser guided honer is perfect. Here are instuctions for DIYers like me. 

A. Then I went home and fit the axles to be held by a large table vice (the best garage friend of the home mechanic).

B. I then took the Morgan line reamer Norm Patterson lent me 27 years ago. (wry smile) This is a 1" reamer with an attached rod and a removable tapered end that slides on the rod and fits into the other end of the stub axle tube. The rod and taper aligns the reamer and therefore guarantees that your bushes will also be aligned with each other. That is key. You then adjust and turn gently through each bush until the kingpin can just slide through snugly. Don't worry too much about measuring the clearance. Feel is better than measurements here. I greased the bushes by filling the spiral bush grooves with my finger. Morgan line reamers can be had from John Worrall.

C.  I increase the reamer until the kingpin will JUST slide in the bush with a bit of effort. The check is done by putting light oil (vaseline oil, for instance) on the king pin. Insert it in the slider all the way, put the palm of the hand at the far end of the slider and pull the kingpin, if the vacuum thus created sucks the king pin back, good enough for me, job done. White lithium or molybdenum sulphide (water repellants and low friction) give excellent results as front end grease.
 
 


BUSHING REMOVAL
Removal requires a bushing tool (see sketch) that will push out the bushings and clear the ID of the spindle. Use a jack stand to hold the spindle, and a drift (rich man's or poor man's) to drive out the bushing. A brass knock off hammer is about the right weight. Both bushings are driven out from the same side.  

Here is an alternate method from Downunder.

BUSHING INSTALLATION

Installation is best done using a hydraulic press (any machine shops and many garages can do this). In a pinch you can, with care, use the poor man's drift and drive them in. Here is an alternate method from Downunder.

 

ASSEMBLY OF THE FRONT SUSPENSION
 

DO NOT forget parts and the order they go on! You need the little plate that attaches to the kingpin bottom, the kingpin, the rebound spring, the stub axle, the damper plate (or bearing thingie if you are using one), the dust cover and the main spring.

A. Remove the little plates from the old kingpins and fit them on the new kingpins. In case you forget, the sloped edge of the plate is on the bottom and outboard.

B. Gather the parts needed in the right order. Place the correct stub axle assembly (right and left stub axles are different) on top of the opening on the lower arm of the crosshead and then slide the kingpin into the stub axle tube from the bottom. (This is the point were many people add gaiters or steering bearing thingies or O Rings .)
 
WATCHPOINT: Do not forget the damper plate!  And do not forget to place the dust cover inside the top of the main spring before you slide the main spring on. 

C. Go find the threaded rods you sued to remove the assembly and set them up again, through the little plate and through their bolt holes in the crosshead. Two nuts each (locked together) on the top and one nut each at the bottom.

D. Tighten the lower nuts until most of the slack is taken up but before the kingpin starts rising.

E. Now here is the hardest part..for me at least. You will find that the main spring does not politely slip into its place under the top of the cross frame. It won't do that unless it is compressed. Here is how I did it the first time (though I have fashioned a three sided funnel to help me out since).  I put a jack under the "nose" of the stub axle. I angle a strong (3/16" thick) metal plate (about 4" x 15") under the spot I want the top of the spring to go. The main spring top may/will be facing outboard. I use my hammer to force the top flush with the plate and inward. As I am doing this, I use the jack to straighten the end of the  axle and that forces the entire spring to straighten. You cannot do this before you start, because you need the angle outward to give you more length to deal with the spring. This spring will curve and then straighten as you use the jack and get closer to the near the springs happy home.

Keep banging inward until the plate is sandwiched between the top of the main spring and its place under its crosshead position. Once in place, Scott Lankton suggests (wisely) that we tie spring to the subframe with a bit of nylon rope so it cannot get away as we wiggle the steel piece out. Good idea. 

Now here is where life gets exciting. With hammer in one hand and plate grabbed in the other, wiggle the plate out while keeping the main spring in place by banging/positioning it with the hammer. As you wiggle out the plate, you may find that you can slip in your trusty cut down screwdriver. In any event, as you can slip that screwdriver in and once in, you will be considerably safer.

F. Now start ratcheting up the bottom threaded rod nuts. You can measure you progress (it is slow) by seeing the space between the lower plate the kingpin is held to and the crosshead flange which is its destination. You will need the hammer to make sure the main spring behaves and stays aligned as you want.
 
WATCHPOINT: Be very careful not to crush the dust covers with the stub axle tube (it is hard to see inside the Main spring).The dust cover fits over the tube as a very tight fit and it is easier to crush it than not. When they approach the point of contact, make SURE the cover slides over the tube.  see here

G. I find that my top kingpin bolts cannot thread properly if the kingpins are raised fully into their final position. Perfect alognment of bolt and threads is impssible when they are that close. So I leave the kingpin about 25-35mm from the top. I then feel for the kingpin position with the cut down screw driver. If necessary I use a small mirror, flashlight and hammer to carefully center the pin under the bolt hole. Then I search for the kingpin hole with the bolt. Finding the thread can be difficult and could require a number of tries! (PLEASE place the cut down screwdriver back when you are not trying!!!!!!!!) When the center pin is under the hole, thread the bolt (with loctite) home. It is not necessary to tighten it completely.

H. Once you have the bolt threaded, finish ratcheting up the nuts on the threaded rods and then tightendown the big bolt on top.

I. Now remove one of the threaded rods and replace with its bolt and nut. Now do the second one, Don't forget to put the strut back on.

J. Put the tie-rods back on.

K. Fit back the calipers. If it won't slide onto the rotor, pry the pads apart with a big screw driver and try again. In extremis, remove the pads, fit the calipers and then install the pads. Make sure you don't twist the brake lines. Use the wire to lock the caliper bolts..they both have holes for that in them.

L. Fit the shocks on their bottom posts.

M.  Refit the damper blades and spacer and attach them to the damper plates. You can allign the plate with a few knocks of a small hammer. You can bend the damper blades to fit them back into their slot on the frame but I usually remove the shims and lengths of metal, clean them and reassemble after examining them for wear. Adjust the shims (part of the damper blade assembly on the car frame) to ensure that the assembled damper blades have no lateral motion where they attach to the body.  See HERE.

N.  Install the one shot oil pipes. (if you have them and still use them)

O. Pump the stub axles full of grease.

P. You now need a professional wheel alignment.

and another beer!

Q.As a word of caution, ensure that you recheck the tightness of all fittings and bolts after your first few kilometers, and again several times after driving longer distances (I suggest 50, 100, and again at 200 Kms.).

EPILOGUE

My apologies to the pros in our midst, but this article is written for Morgan-owning lay persons.