Austin Healey Steering Lever Removal

One of the difficult jobs when repairing or restoring the steering box or steering idler on an Austin Healey 100 – MkIII is the removal of the steering levers. These levers are fitted on to a tapered spline and without the correct tool can be very hard to release without damaging the steering box, steering box lid or shaft.

The Steering Lever Can Be Very Difficult To Remove

Using this simple step by step process should prepare you for rebuilding the steering box or steering idler without damage.

First remove the cotter (split) pin. Sometimes you need to turn the nut a little to allow the pin to be removed.

Remove The Cotter Pin

The BN1/2 nut is 1″ AF, as I recall the 6 cylinder cars use a larger nut. This can be very tight but it is usually not seized, just tight.

Loosen The Nut

Next remove the nut and the large washer that is under the nut.

Once the washer is removed reinstall the nut and turn it down until the top of the shaft is level with the bottom of the castellation slots in the nut.

Castellation Cuts Level With The Top Of The Shaft

This is the secret weapon!

These Pitman Arm Pullers are readily available at Harbor Freight,  Princess Auto and similar discount tool suppliers or on eBay for about $20.

With A Small Modification This Is THE Tool For The Job

The trick is to use a disc grinder to slightly enlarge and “round” the gap between the jaws so that the puller fits under the puller lugs on the steering lever.

The “Secret” Modification

Again … The 6 cylinder component is slightly larger and will require a little more grinding on the jaws of the puller. Remove just enough material to permit the puller to fit on snugly.

Put a little grease on the threads of the forcing screw as these tools are usually shipped “dry”.

The Modified Puller Ready For Use

Tightening the forcing screw will exert the necessary pressure to release the steering lever.  I take it in small increments and check that the castellated nut still turns freely on the shaft between tightenings.

I have had cases where the lever was forced so tightly on the taper that the end of the shaft started to crush down on the split pin holes before the lever pulled off.  If you find that the castellated nut is starting to bind on the threads before the lever is released this could be happening. Try pressing a short piece of tightly fitting steel rod through the split pin hole and start over again. The piece of rod will prevent the end of the shaft from collapsing down on the split pin hole although you may have to use a pin punch to remove the piece of rod once you are done and possibly have to dress up the threads a little.



About Michael

Who is this guy? Born in New Zealand some time back. Went to Maori Hill Primary School then Kaikorai Valley High before joining the RNZAF and an Airman Cadet in 1968. Graduated 1972 with an NZCE in Aeronautical Engineering. Then embarked on the typical Kiwis "Big Trip Overseas". Got to see quite a few places, and spent a while in the U.K. "home" as it was refered to by many New Zealanders in those days, before travelling on to New York and then to Canada by bus!! This trip is presently on hold (has been for the last 34 years). Met my dear wife Judy not long after arriving in Ontario and we have been happily married since 1976. After travelling around New Zealand and the pacific in 1979 I started Precision Sportscar andfor the next 23 years grew the business and helped raise 2 boys Drew and Robin.
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21 Responses to Austin Healey Steering Lever Removal

  1. Bob says:

    So, instead of removing the cotter pin, use a air impact gun to remove the nut and that will shear the cotter pin, leaving part of the cotter pin in the hole. 🙂

  2. Michael says:

    Well I used to do that but once in a while I would run into a cotter pin that was made of steel that was a little tougher than the nut and that method would effortlessly rip the threads out of the nut and ruin the ones on the shaft….so I stopped using it…:-)

  3. brian jorgensen says:

    Nice photos Mike

  4. chris says:

    hi do you still supply water pump kits or price please for rebuilt pump
    thanks regards chris uk resident

  5. Ian Sholto-Douglas says:

    Many thanks for the info re steering arm. I am still battling as Mr. Healey didn’t allow enough room for the puller. I have borrowed one so I can’t grind it!

  6. John Kassabian says:

    Is it possible to do this with the steering column and idler arm still in the car? or does the whole idler arm and steering column need to be extracted from the care first

    • Michael says:

      Actually John I have never tried…
      Fitting the puller into position may be difficult but if you can get it properly installed I can see no reason why it would not work.
      If you cannot get the tool into position correctly quite a bit of work could be saved by removing the 3 mounting bolts, loosening the clamp at the top of the column and then rotating the column sufficiently to provide room.
      Let me know how it works out.

      Michael S

  7. Haylett Clarke says:


    I have a question the steering. We have BJ8 and there is a little play in the steering. I tried adjusting it at the top of the steering box but could notice a tight spot.
    In the Healey worship manual they talk about the shims at the bottom, these are available, will the shims take the play out.
    We live in Canada, about 7 years ago we toured the south of NZ and met several of the Healey owners, it was a great trip.

    • Michael says:

      Hi Haylett,
      I live near Dwight, Ontario where are you in Canada?
      The shins in the end of the box adjust the end float of the steering wheel shaft. You need to eliminate any end float to get the minimum free play however you will never get a result as good as a modern rack and pinion system.

  8. Ken Lybolt says:

    Thanks for the info. I got the oil seal out and replace while on the car. I’m having trouble with installing the idler arm with wheel alignment. I have the steering wheel at 1 1/2 turns. the left wheel seems to toe out. I’ve had the car since 1968. It’s a early 64 BJ8. This the first repair on the steering.

  9. Ken Lybolt says:

    I just removed the steering arm on the car with a Harbor Freight puller using a shorter bolt. Be sure to mark the spline and the arm before removal. This will help to replace the arm in the right position. Also the arm must be at ride height to fit the spline when reassembling. The old oil seal pops out with a screw driver after you remove to top of the steering box and lift the shaft out of the way. Thanks for info from Michael Salter.

  10. Brian Metcalfe says:

    Hi Fantastic photo’s also excellent advice to get into the steering box and sort out the oil seal.
    Can the peg for the worm gear be turned to take up some wear in the worm gear or is it fixed no adjustment
    Thanks again for the great article.
    Regards Brian Metcalfe

    • Michael says:

      Hi Brian,
      Currently I’m in New Zealand and I just cannot remember if the peg on the very early boxes can be rotated.
      All the later boxes have the peg mounted in bearings.
      Remind me around 6 April and I’ll take a look at the ones I have apart.

  11. Peter Clanford says:

    Hi Michael, I live in the uk and am about to change a bn1 from left to right hand steering. Any advice would be very much appreciated, one thing is how to get the steering box and column out, does it come out through the front grill aperture ? The car came from Ontario by the way. Kind regards Peter

  12. Fred Mohr says:

    How do I remove the steering box on my 1957 A. H. 100-6 BN4? I have removed the grill and side sheet metal plates. It has an after market wood steering wheel on it. The turn signals work fine. The steering box is dry, the adjustment screw is turned all the way in and there is way too much slack in steering. So, I want to rebuild it if I can get it out. I would like to remove as little as needed to do this. Would you email me where I might find instructions, etc. for this? Thanks, Fred

  13. Michael says:

    Hi Fred, The factory workshop manual is the “go to” place for almost any repair procedure on your car.
    To get the steering box out you have to remove the turn signal switch assembly (BE VERY CAREFUL TO DO THIS CORRECTLY IT IS BOTH FRAGILE AND EXPENSIVE) then remove the steering wheel by removing the circlip on the top of the steering column..
    Then remove the 2 ball joints on the arm on the steering box.
    Next there is a clamp just behind the dashboard and then 3 bolts and a clamp arrangement securing the box to the chassis.
    The box comes out through the grille aperture.

  14. Johan Mol says:

    Hi Michael.
    Can you give the exact outside diameter of the Idler shaft, and the inside diameter of the bronze bushes for the BN1
    Due to a blocked shaft inside the idler (thick grease) no lubricant to the bushes with result corrosion and pitting of the shaft.
    I have the idee to rework the shaft and install new bushes but need the dimensions.

    Thanks in advance

  15. DARRYL BONNETT says:

    hi Michael,originally from Pukekohe,but been living in Brisbane for 43yrs.Got a BJ8 ex Sacramento now want to convert toRHD do you know of any RHD steering box and idler for the conversion and costs because I will have duty to pay.Would A90 fit as there used to be more of those in NZ.thanks for your help,Darryl

    • Michael says:

      Hi Darryl, probably can’t help much… I’m in Canada where everything was LHD. As I’m sure you are aware people like Steve Pike and The Healey Factory are probably your best bet.

  16. Phil Robinson says:

    Hi there, I have had the same problem as a few in the thread above. I purchased the same puller here in the Uk and was able to remove the steering arm with the box in the car. It required the wheel off and then jacked up a bit (the wheel, the car was on axle stands). This gave just enough clearance to allow the puller to fit in. I was then able to recentre my steering as I had 2 turns one way and 1 1/3 ish the other way. It is as only out by one or two splines on the idler shaft. I ensured the wheels were straight ahead by using a long piece of straight metal as a straight edge from the rear wheels to the front and then measured the gap to the front wheels. It requires a helper to hold the straight edge in place. Hope this helps.

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