Propshaft Fun & Games

(Spring 2005)


I hope that no-one is holding there breath on it, but the overdrive gearbox is still not in.  I can only say that it is down to me, I didn't fancy crawling round in a cold lock-up on my own over the winter period.  I helped out on the Morris Marina Owners Club stand at the spring Restoration Show at Stoneleigh recently and Ben Clayton, the club secretary, offered to help if I could get the gearbox and the car over to his unit in Warwickshire. 


Needless to say this was an offer I couldn't refuse, so I took the gearbox over in March with a view to taking the car over in April for the pair of us to fit it.  Ben wanted to have a look at the OD 'box before hand to anticipate any problems.  He is fitting a 5 speed LT77 Rover box to his Coupe and learnt a lot in the process and wanted to be properly prepared when it came to do my conversion - good man.


In preparation for the fitting of the overdrive gearbox, I have been working through the other things that may need doing.  I knew for example that the existing propshaft centre bearing had split recently, when checking underneath, I put my finger through it (see right)!  Two of the universal joints were OK, but the back one was very loose and rattled.



I had picked up a new centre bearing off eBay some time ago and was prepared to fit it when the gearbox switch happens.  During a conversation with Ben on fitting the gearbox, I realised that the conversion would have to stop whilst I reconditioned the propshaft, not something that I wanted to do, as one weekends work would turn into two.  As luck would have it Ben had a spare shaft from a scrapped Ital with a good centre bearing, it looked to me like the UJs were original, but the centre bearing had been replaced at some time.  A small amount of cash changed hands and it was mine.  This is the story of how I have rebuilt the prop, a bit boring some will say (particularly if you have done it yourself before), but maybe some encouragement to those of you who have been putting the job off yourself.


You'll notice that the picture shows the prop' partially dismantled, it all came together, but it makes for a very long photograph.




1. Take one rusty propshaft, with a very dodgy rear UJ, but a good centre bearing.

2. Add two standard universal joints (part no. GUJ 119) - middle and rear

3. Add one front universal joint with the grease nipple (part no. GUJ 120) - front

4. One cork seal (more later)

5. One can of Hammerite Smoothrite

6. Mix with one large bucket of elbow grease

7. One 'workmate' and a mini vice attachment

(no workbench or big vice)

8. General car toolkit - socket set, big hammer, small screw drivers, punches, circlip pliers etc.

9. Safety glasses


To begin: - Before dismantling the car, check what sort of propshaft you have.  If the UJs are held in by circlips lucky old you.  If they have no visible means of fixing, then go and find a later propshaft, even the Haynes manual says that you should take the early staked propshafts to a specialist.  The Ital shaft I sourced from Ben is a circlip type.  I sourced the standard UJs from my local motor factor straight off the shelf, they fits lots of 70s and 80s cars like Escrots etc.  I started by attacking the centre UJ as this makes the two halves easier to handle individually.  I had to work on the floor at this stage as the propshaft was too long for my workmate.  The circlip pliers worked on two out of four circlips, the other two broke off, they were very badly corroded, don't worry the new kits come with news circlips.  I decided to get some of the UJ bearings out in the hope that I could then get at the broken circlips.  My Haynes manual isn't very clear on this (bl***y useless) so I worked it out for myself.

Put the yoke with the circlip-less bearing on the garage floor, on top of a socket that is bigger than the bearing diameter, put a little socket on the top of the yoke, inside the broken circlip.  Whack the little socket until the UJ is at the very bottom of the yoke and the UJ bearing is poking out underneath.  Grab the sticking out bearing with some mole-grips and if you are lucky you can get enough grip to twist it out.  If you are like me, you have to whack it all backwards and forwards a few times until it loosens up a bit - congratulations one out of 12 done!  Repeat the process on the other free bearing.

Then get a little screwdriver (preferably one you don't cherish) and tapping it with a hammer, push it into the circlip groove behind the broken circlip.  Using your third hand, get a pair of narrow pliers and grab the circlip and twist, the circlip will either spring out or break in half - wear some safety glasses - I now have a lovely scratch across mine, but a good eyeball.  Now repeat the process on the other broken circlip.  The next bearing you remove will allow you to split the propshaft in two, making it much easier to handle.


Having got fed up with UJs, decided to have a look at the sliding spline at the rear of the propshaft.  Mine was seized of course and it was only with the rear half of the prop' in the workmate, some Plusgas spray and a gert great screwdriver, could I get it free.  It was horribly "grindy" but I persevered and finally the back yoke and UJ came off in my hand.

If you look into the female end of the spline, you'll see a load of crud.  Mine was really bad and broke up as I probed it, I thought that it was a perished rubber seal.  It's actually a cork seal, to keep the grease in the splines and the road muck out.  Neither my BL workshop manual, my Haynes manual or BL my parts manual refer to this, it looks like one unit enclosing the seal.



Time for a credit - I couldn't get hold of the UJ with the grease nipple at any of my usual motor factors and no-one knew about the grease seal at all.  I went onto the net and Google turned up Reco-Prop (UK) Ltd. in Luton, so I gave them a ring.  The guy there was really helpful, he told me that he had the UJs in stock and that my 'rubber' seal was in fact a cork seal and that the cap it was trapped in should unscrew!


I ordered the UJ and a new cork seal and they arrived the next day in the post.  I like these people, proper advice and fast service.

Reco-Prop can be contacted at 01582 412110 and their website is .


I then returned to the two propshaft halves and removed the rest of the bearings and UJs - pretty straight forward really after the earlier trouble with broken circlips - just more broken circlips!  The back UJ was the worst of the lot, one of the bearings had lost all its needle bearings and the edge of the bearing cup was broken.  I reckon someone had had a go at it when the centre bearing was done and made a lash-up.  The threaded cap that retains the cork seal refused to budge, so I cleaned everything out before packing it with fresh grease and fitted the new cork seal by teasing it in with a small screwdriver.


I then took my trusty power drill with some wire brush attachments to the parts and cleaned them all up.  I covered the yokes up with masking tape and degreased the rest with white spirit.  The yokes are quality cast iron and were really clean and rustless, the rest was horrible but sound.  I masked up, as I don't want paint in the bearing holes and particularly not the circlip grooves.  Hammerite Smoothrite is a bu***er to get out of tight places.


Rear spline yoke - all lovely and clean before reassembly.


Good centre bearing - you can see why I wanted this one, apart from a little surface rust it's virtually new.

So to the rebuild, I cleaned up the yokes and lubricated them all with a little CopperGrease, this does two things, makes the bearings easier to fit  and hopefully will be retained so that should they ever need changing again, they should come out a lot easier.  I made sure that there was plenty in the circlip groove.

You shouldn't need a hammer to put the new ones back in; as tapping with a hammer will dislodge the needles in the  bearings.  I bought a woodworking 4" G clamp, and by luck the head on the end of the thread is 2mm smaller than the size of a UJ bearing.  All I had to do was, position the cruciform in the middle of the UJ and loose fit a bearing and then clamp it up and wind it into position.  The fit the circlip.  Then repeat the job another eleven times.  If you do the centre UJ last it makes the shaft easier to handle.

When fitting the front UJ check which side the hole for the grease nipple is, it should face forward.  What you do is build up the UJ and then screw in the nipple.  If it faces backwards, it will clash with the propshaft as it turns and break off, guess how I found out?  I had to dismantle the UJ and rebuild it the right way round.  Once fitted, use a grease gun on the nipple until the grease squirts out of all the bearings.


Don't fit the rear spline and UJ until everything else is done, it makes it easier to handle.


So there we are, another job done in preparation for the overdrive gearbox, I hope that anyone who has stuck with me on this saga now feels that they could 'do' a propshaft universal joint.  The Marinas' engineering thankfully is simple, it's just difficult with so many years crud to get rid of first.