Out of sight, out of mind, goes a very old and very true saying. If it cannot be seen, why worry about it? Of the many improvements to modern motoring, apart from the radial-ply tyre, the reduction in the amount of servicing a car needs must be one of the applaudable advances.
Because many of us are very use to the modern motorcar that does 12,000 miles between services, a generation has grown up who do not know the joys of the grease gun. The 'filled for life' steering ball joint, or suspension trunion, or the silentbloc rubber bearings so often used now, mean a tin of grease will sit in the modern garage shelf for years, unused.
However, the elderly motor car needs a regular 'fix' of grease to its joints. The M.G./Riley independent front suspension has a grease nipple for both its upper and lower swivel-pin & trunions.According to the cars handbook, such replenishment of grease should be carried out every five hundred miles. A stark contrast with the 12,000 mile service of todays cars! The design means that the M.G. IFS as fitted to the Farina cars, has no reserve built in. Rover cars of the same period had oil filled king pins, giving longer periods between servicings. The M.G.,Riley, and for that fact all the Nuffield group cars, along with the Austin empire, required regular 1000 mile greasings of the then NEW independent front suspension, (IFS). Others firms cars were in need of similar attention.
The design of the BMC M.G./Riley system gave a huge wearing surface, in that a threaded lower trunion pin was used, not a plain bush. This was also normal 'Austin-Morris' practice, and can be seen on the Morris Minor swivel pin as well. The King-Pin, or Swivel-Pin, used a plain pin and bushes, but used threaded trunions.They all still required regular greasing. Our intrepid modern motorist may purchase an old M.G. or Riley and make the mistake that many have, of not carrying out regular servicings. They have not found the joy in wiping off the greasy road dirt to clean the nipple, then to affix the grease gun, only to find it empty. Then to return to the garage and fill the said grease gun, using the tin that has a metal plate inside to assist such filling, only to let go of the little handle that pulls the chain through the gun, to then leave a big grease 'turd' on the garage floor or bench. To then manage to fill the gun with his fingers, and back out to the car, leaving greasy hand prints everywhere. The actual greasing of the various parts is easy,as they are all accessible. Or they should be as long as you fitted the nipples so they all face the same way, so you can access them easily.
Three nipples per swivel pin, one per steering ball joint, four ball joints remember, and one per universal joint on the propeller shaft, and one on the handbrake cable. Not all need such regular greasing as the IFS joints, see your servicing chart. The steering box and steering idler take Hypoy Gear Oil, and not grease. This is even more fun to get into the gun, and incidentally makes a good medium to pump through swivel pins occasionally to clear out old grease, but it is really messy job. Some very old Veteran Daimlers I have seen have grease nipples on each open camshaft bearing, as well as many early motorcycles having grease/oil nipples on their OHV cylinderhead equipment, (great for getting oil over the 'plus-fours' on a nice day no doubt!!)
Now that we have remanufactured items available, built to modern standards, there will be many of our cars with ball joints, and universal joints, that have no grease nipples. Also any old/new stock will have dried out grease inside. Please remove the rubber covers and FILL with grease, such as an LM variety suitable for normal chassis lubrication. It is well worth filling the needle bearing cups full of grease on U/J's on propeller shafts, on fitting them, then at least you know there is lubrication inside. One of the shocks I had was when fitting two news ones last year, and on preparing to fit them to my shaft, I removed the needle roller cups, only to find virtually NO grease inside...must have been a tea break on the production line, or a young boy or female assembler had tiny fingers, ( 'A fingerfull per cup my dear,' I can hear the line manager saying.)
Road dirt will be attracted to our open grease joints. It needs wiping off or it will work its way into the bearing surfaces. A good practice is to clean up the area after each servicing, as well as pumping grease through until clean grease extrudes itself in pretty thin wafer like scrolls from the edge of the joint. It is also easier to grease the handbrake cable with this in the 'on' position, and to keep the cable taught and full of grease, so winter will not allow water to freeze the cable 'on'. Old grease can absorb water, and this will corrode the bearings and joints, so it is advisable to grease cars that are laid up often as well. A very good example of this is the upper trunion bearings on our cars King-Pin, the huge bearing surfaces can corrode and grip the pin, making it rotate inside the casting, ruining the pin and risking it shearing off, a fatal fault if your were travelling at any speed. Heavy steering with both front wheels jacked up off the ground is a good indication of problems. The other achilles heal of the system is the steering idler, it gets forgotten, and no oil, so seizes up as well. On Pre October 1964, the Farina did not have a support bracket on the steering box, bracing it to the battery tray. The need for the extra strength was because radial-ply tryes made the steering so heavy, the steering box was pulling its bolts out of the chassis leg. The first sign are cracks around the bolts in the steel sheet metalwork.
Grease is only a soap with oil in suspension, with a few additives to give it a low or high melting point. There are many types about, so use one that suits the application, as not all are good for both cold steering joints and hot wheel bearings/water pumps. Also remember grease is a good rubber destroyer, and should not be used near suspension silentbloc bearings.
Well off you go and enjoy yourself with the grease gun, just as our forefathers did, obtaining those lovely black finger nails to show your prowess. Oh yes, do use a barrier cream on your hands, or you could contract dermatitus from the chemicals in the grease. Only the little MG Metro 1300, and the everlasting Mini, come to mind of any modern cars fitted with grease nipples. Both have four in fact, in the same places as they were on the Mini, back in 1959.