Front Swivel Replacement

starting the jobhub off, stub axle bolts exposedswivel outer mounted on new inner, no stub axleshalf-shaft refitted and greasedstb axle and brake back plate refittedmain seal and gaiter left loose for pre-loadingEver since the rebuild, the 109 has exhibited a slight pull to the left. Checking tyre pressures and careful adjustment of the brakes made no difference, and a four wheel laser alignment at a suspension and steering specialist found no misalignment other than the camber (outward lean) on the front wheels. The check showed that the near side wheel had a camber of 45 minutes (60 minutes = 1 degree), while the off side wheel had 75 minutes. Factory specification is 90 minutes. This was was a visible fault – the left wheel had always appeared more vertical than the right when viewed from the front.

Even though the swivel pins and bearings seemed in good order, with no play and no visible wear when removed for inspection, I decided to replace all the bearings, pins and bushes to eliminate them as a cause. I also decided to replace the inner swivel housings (the chromed parts) as I suspected the left side housing may have been distorted by some kind of impact and be responsible for the camber difference. Replacing the swivel housings would also mean I could dispose of the old pitted housings which leaked oil and had been filled with “One-shot” grease.

The new swivels were built up with brand new Gen Parts bearings in preparation for the work. The half-shaft bearings from the old housings were drifted out later and re-used as they showed no signs of wear.

The work on the vehicle was done one side at a time, and was started by removing the road wheel and brake drum from that side. Next was the removal of the six bolts securing the swivel main seal and, in my case, the rubber swivel gaiters to the outer swivel housing. The track rod ends were then removed from the steering arm and the track rod and drag link were rested clear of the swivel unit.

With these out of the way, the drive flange and hub was removed, followed by the stub axle and brake back-plate. The back-plate was laid on top of the suspension spring so that it didn’t need to be disconnected from the brake lines, avoiding the need for bleeding the brake system (never fun on these twin leading shoe 109 brakes).

The final jobs of dismantling were to remove the four top bolts and swivel pin, the four bottom nuts and steering arm, allowing the outer hosing to be removed, and finally the six bolts securing the inner housing to the end of the axle tube, allowing separation of the corroded and distorted inner housings.

After cleaning the mating faces, the new inner swivel housing was fitted with its new main seal and the rubber swivel gaiter, and refitted to the axle (with a new gasket smeared with LM grease on both sides – I find it works better than gasket sealant, and is easier to remove on strip downs).

With a generous application of LM grease to the inside of the Railko bush and bottom bearing race, the lower bearing was held in place and the outer housing moved into position. The top pin was then quickly dropped in place to hold it all together while the bottom pin and steering arm unit were refitted. It’s important to make sure the mating faces of the bottom arm and outer swivel housing are clean and that a new O-ring is fitted to the bottom pin in order to obtain a good seal. I again used grease, though the Haynes manual suggests using instant gasket sealant. I also found some shims in this location on one side during strip down, but the bottom pin and arm should have no shims on SIII models.

With the bottom pins and arms fitted and tightened up, the top pins had their bolts tightened so that the swivel pre-load could be measured. This is set by adding or removing shims of varying thicknesses between the top pin and the outer swivel housing – less shims allow the pin to be bolted down further into the Railko bush, stiffening the pivoting pre-load, while more shims hold the pin further out of the bush, lightening the pre-load. It’s important to get it right, because too light a pre-load causes wheel wobble at higher speeds, while excessive pre-load will lead to heavy steering and premature steering component wear.

I used a spring balance from a fishing tackle shop to measure the pre-loads. This is done by setting the swivel in the position of “steering away” from the side on which you are working, and then pulling on the balance, with its hook through the steering arm’s track-rod eye, gently and steadily with the minimum force required to get the outer swivel to move towards the other direction. It’s done with the main seal (and any gaiters) disconnected from the housings.

Now, here’s where I had a little trouble. The Haynes manuals tell you you should have a pre-load of 14-16 pounds. I found on both sides that the first part of the pull started, once shimmed correctly, at 14 lbs, increasing to 15 as the steering straight position was reached, and increasing slightly beyond that as the swivel approached the end of its travel. My spring balance was only calibrated to 15lbs, but the load near the end of travel only just exceeded the scale on the balance and so I could be confident that the upper limit of 16lbs had not been exceeded. On completion of the work (briefly skipping ahead, here), I double checked a couple of minor doubts in the genuine Land Rover manuals I have on computer, and found that their specified pre-load (for the same vehicle spec) is 8-10lbs. Make sure you use these LR values, not the incorrect Haynes ones, as it meant a lot of re-visited work for me.

Once the correct pre-load was set, the half-shaft was refitted, followed by the sub axle, brake back-plate, hub, drive flange, and brake drum. The six bolts retaining the main seal and gaiter were then fitted with the seal retainer and brake hose bracket. Once the swivel was sealed, I immediately filled it with EP 90 to ensure I didn’t forget and because it’s easier with the wheel removed. The wheel was then refitted and the brake shoes re-adjusted. The brake adjustment was made that much easier and quicker by having painted witness marks between the adjusters and backplate before strip down, allowing me to first set the original positions and then refine from there.

The only “extras” were that I stripped the near side outer housing to bare metal and primed it with zinc-base primer before repainting, but the off side housing just needed a fresh top coat, and the off side half-shaft needed a new UJ, while the near side UJ was in mint condition.

The completion of the job has allowed me to return to EP 90 in the swivels, as opposed to the One-shot I had been using for some time. The One-shot does a good job, but has one flaw in that it doesn’t drain out from the swivel drain plugs, so can’t be removed if contaminated with water. The irony is that people generally only use One-shot if their swivel seals are leaking, and that means that water ingress is more likely.

The front wheel cambers are now even, and the steering slightly lighter (I suspect the old pre-loads were wrong). The vehicle steers straighter, though it still follows the road camber a little more than my PAS equipped Range Rover Classic. Basically, I think the steering is now all as good as it gets on a SIII, and I have a lot more confidence in doing long trips without the distraction and irritation of a slight pull. Using Genuine Parts throughout, the job cost me just over £200, but that was doing both sides. Not cheap, but worthwhile for a fussy perfectionist like me.

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  1. I have a 1974 series 111 2.25 diesel 109″ of which the left side pivot bearings had immense play, I stripped it dowm by the book and found that it has a tapered roller bearing top and bottom when the manual says it has a railco bush on top, what could I have here?.
    The rover is olive drab underneath, could this be a military version of the steering pivots? or do you think some one has been playing games in there?
    haven’t the later landyies got a bearing top and bottom?
    Regards Jim Chelepy.

  2. It sounds like you have an early SII front axle. SIIIs all had Railko bushes in the top. You can replace the upper bearing and pin with the later type (infact, the LR manuals recommend it). I think you keep the existing bottom bearings, unless they need replacement too, in which case it’s probably best to upgrade them too, but make sure you check they fit the early bottom pins first. SOmeone like Land Rover Orphanage or Dunsfold Land Rover will be able to give you a definitive answer over the bottom bearing compatibility.

    Good luck – you’ll find the steering and road holding totally transformed once the job is done, especially if you make sure the steering rod ends are all OK and the steering box is adjusted correctly while you’re at it.



  3. Dear Nick

    I have been rebuilding the swivels acording to a series of Lindsay Ported published in Land Rover Monthly in 2005.

    I am not sure they are right when they put the oil seal inner bearing hub with the TWO lips facing the swivel instead of facing it where the grease really is.

    The manual says tha the oil seal lip must face the inner bearing.

    What is your opinion ?


  4. Hi Feder,

    The magazines get a lot of stuff wrong, and while some are indeed what they claim, many of their “experts” are anything but. LRM and LRO have both used Britpart for rebuild articles, not just in terms of parts but also workshop facilities. Most of us know what their parts’ quality is like, and apparently their workshop standards are similar.

    Any oil seal should have its hollow side facing the fluid to be retained. By doing this, the lip is forced tighter against the seal-land when the fluid pressure increases. If a seal is fitted with the hollow side “out”, then the fluid pressure will open the lip of the seal away from the seal land and allow fluid loss.

    I haven’t seen the article you mention, but when fitting hub seals, the hollow side always faces the bearing. Late SIIIs have a double-lipped seal (RTC 3511, as opposed to the earlier RTC3510), with an inner lip to retain the oil AND an outer lip to keep water out. The basic structure of the seal is still the same, though, with solid and hollow faces. I don’t know if the 3511 will fit the older axles, as they were made for hubs with identical inner and outer bearings. They make a good retro-fit for RR axles, which used the same identical wheel bearings as the post 1980 Series axles, and dimensionally similar single lip seals. They may fit a pre-1980 hub and stub axle if the dimensions match.

    I hope that helps.


  5. Thank you

  6. wow this is the article, after years of trying to work out why i have loads of – camber on my right wheel and the other vertical!! worked well but looked doggy!
    i pulled it apart last night everthing perfect, but it must be the swivel ball which attaches to the axel which is bent no real way of checking but will pull the other apart to see the difference!! africa hear i come
    thank for this nick

  7. Hi, What make of inner swivel housings did you use ? I see a lot of discussions about the quality of various manufacturers.

  8. Due to a lack of alternatives, I had to use Britpart swivels. They are of very poor finish, with a fine ribbed surface and painfully thin chrome, which is why I fitted the Bailcast gaiters for stone chip protection – they’d chip and rust in no time otherwise. It didn’t take long for the seals to start weeping oil,either, be sure of the coarse machining finish, so I had to go back to 1-shot grease (which works just as well and didn’t leak, I just preferred oil because you can’t drain the grease for replacement).

  9. Should I grease the lower bearing before doing the preload test?

  10. It may make a small difference, Aidin, so I would do so.

  11. Martin Watts says:

    Just done my 109 and I’m reading about preload. Steering is done to Haynes levels, with new swivel sweep oil seal and a loose swivel it cane to 6 lbs pull. So I did it to 15 ish and put the oil seal back on the rear. Both done the steering is well tight so tomorrow let’s undo some good work and do it properly!!

  12. I’m glad the article has helped you find the correct values. To be honest, Martin, it was so long ago that I can’t remember writing it! I’ll have to reread my own blog at some point to remind myself of all the things I learned along the way.

    Good luck setting it right tomorrow.


  13. Giles Littlefield says:

    Thanks for this guide. It helped me double check I got it right as it’s my first time… Good tip on the Haynes being wrong preload value!


  14. Good article, thankyou.
    I had both swivels completely redone last month by a local garage that handles a lot of Landys.
    Now if I hit the ‘wrong sort’ of bump. I get violent wheel wobble so it seems the preload is wrong.
    I shall have to reset it as best I can given that they also fitted leather gaiters which are very fiddly and I don’t want to remove them or the seals.
    Unfortunately my eyesight is not what it once was for working on close jobs.
    Really I suppose I should take it back, but if people mess up I tend not to go back there.

  15. That is immensely frustrating, to jave paid a significant sum to “professionals” only for hem to do a bad job. Before tou do get stuck in, though, make sure your springs, dampers, bushes and wheel hearings are in good order – problems with any of those can also contribute to “death wobble”.


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