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MG Midget and Sprite Technical - MG 1500 MIDGET STEERING COLUMN

I have owned a 1977 MG midget 1500 for over 3 years & I have noticed that the steering column pulls upwards about 2-3" without it affecting the steering but will not stay in that position.

I am wondering prior to my purchase that the steering wheel has collapsed. Is it a simple task to rectify this problem or does it need a complete strip down?

Sadly this problem isn't mentioned in any MG manuals.

Can I have other members thoughts on the situation as occassionally when driving it comes up?

Thanking you in anticipation of your favourable advice.
Kindest regards,
John V Bragg

Whether the column has collapsed internally or not, if you get ANY fore and aft movement on the column you should immediately check the pinch bolt where the column attaches to the rack. They do work loose. In fact it should be a regular safety check on all spridgets
Guy W

As Guy says, check the little pinch bolt at the bottom of the column where it attaches to the steering rack pinion.
it is directly below the coolant overflow tank.
They can loosen, but if they don't drop out completely it should not be possible for the column to pull off the rack, but the splines could be damaged or stripped.

Usually these symptoms are due to the plastic pegs that are fitted between the two halves of the column to hold them together, breaking. This allows the outer part and inner part to move over each other in an axial direction, as they are supposed to in an accident, but not in normal use.

I have not done it myself but I have read that they can be replaced by plastic pegs of your own making, or even rawlplugs, but I think the column may need to be removed to do a proper job. That is not difficult.

Often these pegs are broken by owners trying to remove the steering wheel to fit an aftermarket one, by hitting under the boss with a hammer, which shears off the pegs.
JB Anderson

Hi Guy & JB,
Many thanks for your prompt replies & I will have a look at the pinch bolt as you both suggest.

Is the normal position of the steering wheel supposed to be at the fully extended postion & mine is now in the collapsed position due to either the pinch bolt fault or JB's suggestion that it is the plastic pegs being damaged that are holding the two halves of the column together?

I have noticed that the steering wheel is almost impossible to remove so this may have been the cause of the symptoms I am getting!

Where are the plastic pins positioned as they don't seem to be shown in any diagrams in my possession?

I will keep you informed of the pinch bolt inspection situation & look forward to receiving your further comments.

Thanks again,

My comment about the pinch bolt is worth anyone checking on if they detect even slight fore and aft movement at the wheel. But it won't account for as much movement as you have described. It is likely that the nylon pegs that JB refers to have sheared in your case, but you could well have both faults. The pinch bolt is a simple and a worthwhile check to do anyway.
Guy W

The column is actually in three pieces, not two. There are collapsible sections top and bottom, so you will need to remove and dismantle to establish where it has failed.

Also, there aren't plastic pins, as such. There is a wasted section on the inner part of the joint and holes in the outer section, as per the picture below and this section is filled with plastic.

It has been suggested that you may be able to use a hot glue gun to force glue into the joint. Having only recently bought my first hot glue gun, I've discovered that the glue sets very quickly, so the column may need to be heated first for this to be successful.

Dave O'Neill 2

Thanks again for your prompt thoughts.

It seems there is no quick fix so at my earliest convince I will dismantle the column from the rack, checking & possibly replacing the pinch bolt to explore within.

It seems strange that the steering is very positive at all times whether the column is in the extended or colapsed position.

I will let you know when I resolve the matter


As long as there is no rotational play between the separate parts of the column there will always be proper steering response even though the parts move in and out relatively.
It has been about twenty years since I worked on mine so my exact description of the bits is a bit vague, but it is relatively straightforward to get the column out, and then the problem is very obvious, and there are various solutions to replace the "pins" or plastic pegs.
JB Anderson


A picture is worth a thousand words, this is the top end with the column outer to show the relative position.


R.A Davis

and the bottom end

R.A Davis

Many thanks for the pictures & further comments I now know what to look at when time permits.


Nice drawing from 'Dave O'Neill 2' and good photos from 'R A Davis'. Repeating what has been said:

It's important to re-emphasise Dave O'Neill's point that mention of plastic 'pins' is incorrect. What appears to be plastic pins are, I believe, the access holes for the injection of liquid plastic/epoxy into the internal narrow shoulder of the column (the plastic injected during the manufacturing process). The access holes remain filled with the plastic/epoxy, which gives the appearance of 'pins'.

I have never determined the specification of the liquid plastic/epoxy that was used during original manufacture. Obviously any replacement compound that sets too hard will be a bad choice (because it defeats the collapsible/telescoping nature of the sliding column joints). Any plastic compound that is too weak will result in the problem that JV Bragg appears to be suffering from. Whatever is used, the set compound must shear when the car suffers front impact.

I have heard horror stories that some bodged repairs have had a small bolt fixed through a drilled column, through one of the 'pin' holes. Obviously never be tempted to make such a dangerous repair.

Another point: as far as I remember, it is only the pinch bolt (where the column connects to the steering rack) that prevents fore/aft movement of the steering column.

Another point. Once the steering column has been repaired and correctly positioned, it is a good idea to remove the column plastic cowl (that houses the column indicator switch stalks) and inspect the horn contacts. When the steering column has slid fore/aft, it can damage the sprung electrical contact that sits/runs on the circular contact (that feeds current to the car's horn).

Andy Hock

“as far as I remember, it is only the pinch bolt (where the column connects to the steering rack) that prevents fore/aft movement of the steering column.”

This is true under normal circumstances but in the event of a collision the column is prevented from moving towards the driver by the enlarged section just above the nut in my first picture. You can just about see that the outer column is narrower at this point. For this reason the inner can only be removed from the bottom end of the outer.

The slot in the enlarged section is where the steering lock engages via the hole in the outer column.
R.A Davis

My previous drawing was from memory, and my memory probably isn't as good as I thought.

Having seen Bob's photo, it would appear that the holes are further apart than I thought, and casting my mind back to when I dismantled my column, ISTR that there were actually two 'waisted' sections, as per the latest drawing.

What actually shears is the stub that protrudes through the hole. It's probably nylon, or similar.

The important thing is that whatever is pumped in there doesn't stick the two sections together.

Dave O'Neill 2

Is it possible to drill and tap the inner section and secure it to the outer section using a plastic number plate bolt from both sides of the column?
Kelly Hughes

I think that if I had a collapsible column I would want it to work properly but bear a thought for us chaps with a solid steel shaft pointing at our chest in the event of a frontal
Chris Hasluck


When I first got my Midget it had the same issue as yours, I was able to get a replacement from a reasonably local breaker. The first one he offered me was also collapsed and he took a bit of persuading until he brought out a second one that was about 2 inches longer.

The idea is that the pins (or whatever else is in there) are design to shear in the event of a collision, yours are already sheared, as you say, probably by a previous owner attempting to get the steering wheel off.

I read various suggestions when I was looking to fix mine, nylon/plastic pins and even plastic knitting needles. My suggestion would be to try to get a good replacement, as I did, failing that use some relatively soft pins ie nylon. I know Dave has suggested (and I don’t want to contradict him) that they’re not pins but plastic that’s moulded in place, but from memory when I was looking to repair mine it had pins that pressed all the way through. I believe if this is the case with yours you could use any reasonably soft material (not 8.8 bolts) and as long as they shear before the bolts holding the steering column you’ll be ok.

If you’re looking to purchase one a quick search found this but the bracket that attaches the column to the bulkhead which can be seen at the bottom of the outer column, should be welded to the outer column just behind the cast alloy bracket, as in my first picture, so this may not be a good buy.

R.A Davis

Chris. I too get a bit worried about the javelin in my Mk3 Sprite, pointing at my heart. I have thought about fitting a later collapsible type and wondered if it's possible and if so, what sort of a job it would involve. But I must admit, it has always been on the back burner of things to do.
Bernie Higginson

Andy Jennings???

I've never bought anything from him, but he has been helpful anytime I asked a question and I've never heard anything negative about him.

Hi Guys, Many thanks for all your king comments which I have taken on board.

In fact I have now managed to get a replacement steering column which will be fitted when time permits & then I plan to take my own apart & attempt to repairs it as per some of your suggestions.

I will report back my findings in the future & which was the best suitable repair not fix.


JV I posted a repair method using cheap epoxy resin (mix it and pour it into the holes) a couple of years ago. Works beautifully and should be weak enough to shear if required.
PS mine had a bolt through it
R W Bowers

I think the term "Pins" is slightly misleading. I repaired my steering column and when taken apart it looked exactly like the sketch shown by Dave above. The inner section is "waisted" and when manufactured they must inject a nylon/plastic substance which when set, exudes out of the holes which look like pins, When mine was apart the nylon moulding was completely worn. I repaired mine with Gorilla Glue. I Lightly taped with masking tape around one set of holes. Mine had a small pin hole between the 2 main holes which is lined up with a similar hole on the inner section. When lined up I placed a panel pin through these small holes which keeps the 2 sections of column in the correct position. I Put the column on a bench & filled the cavity through the top holes & left it for 24 hours. Gorilla glue expands on curing which fills the cavity between the inner & outer sections. 24 hours later carefully trim off the excess that has expanded out of the holes. I did mine about 5 years ago & it's still fine.
Incidentally, re the pinch bolt. It would have to be virtually removed for any excessive movement
Nigel Axtell

I use the 1500 column in my race cars. I break the nylon joints so I can trombone the column to get the steering wheel where I want it. I then drill small holes through the column and hammer in a shear piece of thin wall aluminium pipe bought from a model shop. This locates the column pieces up and down but should shear as per the nylon pieces in the event of a heavy impact.

I hope this helps.
s page

Thanks to everyone who gave me all your useful remarks.

Once job done I wiil report back.
Seasonal greetings to everyone on this forum.
Kindest regards,


S Page - that's clever.

This thread was discussed between 09/11/2015 and 19/12/2015

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