Forums General Counties Cars Discussion Advice sought for late 1953 Austin Hereford with heavy/very heavy steering

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    Hello,  I acquired this lovely old car in December 2022..and have enjoyed attending 5 Scottish shows throughout 2023.  The car brought back many fond memories to older show goers..especially when I encouraged them to sit in the driving seat.

    However, the car has two outstanding which I must attend.  The first is that the steering is heavy/very heavy..but only when ‘under load’.  What I mean is..when I trolley jack the car up at the front, the steering is light and easy.  I can grip the tyres at the front and easily turn the wheels from side to side, experiencing almost no resistance.  I can easily turn the wheels using the steering wheel.

    However, when the car is not jacked up, ie. is under load, and I am, for example, manoeuvering the car in a tight/tight’ish space..the steering is, in my judgement, heavy/very heavy..and in order not to put too much strain on the steering column, I execute several back and forth movements of the car in order to achieve the desired manoeuvre.

    My first car (1983) was a 1955 Austin A40 Cambridge..and I do not recall the steering being anything like as heavy as this car’s steering.

    I have inspected the steering box, with top cover is well lubricated and looks ok.  The steering box adjuster has been set as per the Austin Motor Company Service Manual.  All steering grease nipples have been greased.  I have yet to investigate the steering idler.

    The tyres are radials, and set to a slightly higher than normal pressure.

    I have oiled the steering column felt bush twice via the oiling hole below the steering wheel..and will further oil this bush.

    Hopefully some members will have experienced this very problem..and will have the solution to hand.

    So, fingers crossed that you can come up with the solution.






    Hello John,

    The steering on these cars is inevitable heavy – you shouldn’t really expect to be turning the steering wheel unless you are in motion. I sympathise as I have an Austin Sixteen, which has even heavier steering. It also, like yours, has radials – which although a) cheaper than crossplies and b) afford much better road holding, make the steering at parking speeds even heavier.

    I keep mine at 35 PSI all round, which helps somewhat.

    There is also a needle roller bearing kit that I believe you can fit to A70s (but not sadly to Sixteens), which I’m told makes a big difference, and such kits have certainly been fitted to A40 Somersets and A90 Atlantics in the past. It’s worth talking to Longbridge Motor Spares to see if they do the kits, or failing that, try AH Spares who do them for Austin Healeys (no doubt at a price!).

    There are also kits to add electrically-assisted power steering to classic cars. Not cheap, and I wonder if the extra force being put though old steering parts would cause more wear – I have no reports, good or bad about these to rely on.


    Hi from Aussie,

    I have one Austin Atlantic convertible and coupe, as well a Hampshire.  The steering on all is not heavy, though when moving slowly could be considered a tad on the heavy side. Of the three, it has the lightest.  It also is the 5th prototype made, made in 1948.  I acquired in 1998, and the steering box still has the original lubricant, with the box not requiring any attention when I undertook its rebuilding.  I had it out on Sunday jast gone for a short 3-1/2 run each way from Sydney to Orange to attend a car meet, which required driving over our Blue Mountains and the steering was very responsive on the winding mountain roads.  The total mileage travelled thus far is 85101.  The Hampshire has the next lightest, followed by the Atlantic coupe.  Having driven my previous convertible for 475,000 miles, and the coupe I stll have for 300,000 miles, I do not consider them heavy, though when stepping out of my power steerimg modern car, I do notice the difference for a short period of time.

    I have a colleague who has a set of the upper steering bearings in a BN1 100/4, who said it made a big difference to his stated heavy steering, yet on my BN1   when I had it, it was extremely light, as it should be, being nominally 950Kg to the A70/90 at over 1300kg.

    I inflate to 32psi on the 3 cars, so the suggested 35 will assist. I have a colleague who uses 40 on his Atlantics, and has never mentioned any abnormalities with tyre wear.  Something that made me grin recently was that when I took possession of the Hampshire I acquired to fulfill my late wifes wishes to acquire another car like the one I had when I was 16, On the way home, I was really amazed at the lightness of its steering. The following day, I checked the tyre pressure—–50 PSI.  No wonder its steering was so light.  There was a reason, for the owner who had it was still driving it, at 92 years of age last December, and it made it a tad easier for him.

    I would suggest you try the higher 35 pressure mentioned, and also th 40 that one of my colleagues here uses. He has done this for many years,  driving all over Australia in his convertible, often doing club runs of many thousands of miles.

    Enjoy your car



    Hello Pete,

    Many thanks for your reply (of Dec 22, 2023)…and sincere apologies for such a late response. I received your email just before Christmas..and I think the festivities/The Macallan must have erased from my memory, the need to reply!

    You mention that steering on these cars is heavy..especially when not in motion.

    You also mention tyre pressure. I’ll check pressures and will likely inflate to at least 35psi.

    The Hereford came with radials (for, I think, taxis)..I wonder if crossplys would help?

    The needle bearing roller kit sounds interesting..and I will investigate this kit if the heavy steering persists.

    I likely won’t go down the power steering route.

    I was at the Morrris Leslie classic car auction in Errol, Perthshire yesterday..and got talking to Ian Walker of Ian Walker Commercials, Renfrew. Ian suggested, I think, that the problem could be seized kingpin bearings..and has suggested a way of checking this. I’ll follow Ian’s suggestion as soon as I get back to working on the Hereford.

    I will update the forum with any improvements to the heavy steering.

    Thanks again,


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