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MG MGA - bendix lubrication

My MGA failed to start today with the bendix spinning but not engaging. Took the starter out and found that the teeth were worn but more importantly the pinion was hardly sliding on the shaft due to hardened grease. I've ordered a new bendix but what should be the lubricant -standard grease again or graphite or copper grease? Starters about 4 years old.
J H Cole


There should not be any grease, perhaps just a light lubrication of very thin oil at the most, I believe. Barney will correct me I am sure.

Do you have the standard MGA starter motor with the split pin holding the bendix in place? Otherwise, if yours has the split ring or cotter you are welcome to borrow my spring compressor. Barney added details of it a week or 2 ago:

Who is the bendix supplier? I could do with a couple. I have 3 spare motors on my workbench and not one good bendix between them.

Steve Gyles

Thanks Steve for your kind offer but I managed to release the split ring by compression with 2 clamps although it wasn't easy because they kept pinging off. I got the bendix from Moss 19.96 plus 3.00 p&p. Interestingly Brown & Gammons show 3 types on their website and I was not able to differentiate between them other than I think that one is secured with a nut and split pin. I'm hoping that the moss one will be suitable and able to be secured with my existing split ring. I think this is one of those times when your not exactly sure until you get the goods and try them out.
Surely the bendix needs more than light oil since its not a maintenance item and susceptible to drying out. I suspect that the drying out of the lubrication has led to the demise and short life of my bendix since it was not fully shooting back and becoming completely engaged thereby putting too much wear on the teeth.
J H Cole

I was told by one motor factor that no lubrication whatsoever was best.

Steve Gyles

Steve's right. I remember cleaning up a Bendix drive (not an MG) with fine wet and dry to get a good polish and oiling with 3 in 1. No more trouble. Like Steve I also was told by an old hand not to lubricate it but it didn't seem right to leave it dry..........Mike
m.j. moore

Standard prescription is to put nothing on the Bendix parts, but do exercise it regularly.

If you want to put something liquid on it, then maybe try Lock-Ease. It is a very thin oil with graphite powder. The thin oil works into the lock mechanism, and when it dries it leaves the graphite behind for long term lubrication.

I would rather use dry film lubricant, Moly-Lube, like Z-Powder. This is molybdenum disulfide (MoS2, and I hope I spelled it right). Dust a little of that on the moving parts, and it will be slippery forever.
This stuff is also good to lubricate the starter ring gear teeth. It is very tenacious stuff.
Barney Gaylord

JCR Supplies in the UK do the complete starter pinion range for the different starter motors plus other starter motor parts. I just bought a M35G pinion from them.

B Bridgens

I think my chemistry teacher on this side of the pond would have spelled it molybdenum disulphide.

I don't mean to be rude, but my pedantic english teacher would have said "spelled it correctly."

{ and let's not bother with spelled vs spelt ... )

So long as we all know what we are talking about it doesn't really matter.

cheers all,

J N Gibson

Unfortunately Jim, your chemistry teacher would have been wrong or at least out of date. The body that sorts out such things as spelling of chemicals is IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry) and they decreed that the spelling was sulfur back in 1990. However, all is not lost as they have also standardised on aluminium not aluminum.

Malcolm Asquith

Steady there Jim!
Barney has spoken!

Barney is ,as usual, correct here, In the USA the correct spelling is sulfide.

You could argue that we named it sulphide first over here, but they outnumber us by almost 6 to 1 and they have a much larger armed forces than we do!

I quite like the transatlantic variations that we
get on this forum, they keep me on my toes when I try to reply to a post in the USA.

My favorites are

Bonnet -- Hood
Wing -- Fender
Hood -- Soft-top
Sills -- Rockers
Rockers-- Tappets

There must be many more


Colyn Firth

Actually Malcolm, he would have been neither.

He would have been speaking in the 1960s, so if that decision was not made until as recently as 1990 ...

This sort of detail is sometimes merely amusing, sometimes important.

How about the time ( late 1990s ) I found that a suite of software was using two different sets of conversion factors between litres and other units. The definition of the litre, and so the conversion factors, changed in 1964; at least one of the several programmers had obviously used a well out of date reference for the factors.

J N Gibson

Moly-Slip is the UK oil I remember using in the past.Sulphur will always be spelled with a ph for me despite IUPAC just as USA will always use aluminum rather than aluminium - we are two nations divided by a common language and always will be - it's more fun that way.
Cam Cunningham

I am always amused when I hear an American pronounce "soldering" as "soddering". Sounds like something you may be arrested for...
g Harrison

As I had assembled my engine with it I also used Graphogen, with its carbon content, to lubricate the starter bendix and bearings. It seemed a good idea at the time amd has proved fine over the last 3/4 years and also seems to have stopped the starter's tendency to suffer from half-speed-whirl. Anybody else tried it?
P N Tipping

Attached is a picture of the wear on my bendix that shows it snarled up at the edge of the teeth. This wear pattern is different to previous occasions when the wear has been further down the teeth and more uniform. I attribute this to the bendix being restricted in its full travel and just slipping against the ring gear. On balance I'm going to settle for a thin application of light oil this time. Now to assemble it and replace no doubt with difficulty on both counts. Working under the car in winter is no fun.

J H Cole

A picture's worth a thousand words... That bendix was certainly jammed up with something and just graunched the ends of the teeth when trying to engage and finally giving up as they rounded-up. Good luck with the new one.
P N Tipping

Graphite is the only lubricant you should use. Anything greasy or oily just holds clutch dust then the whole thing gums up. At one time graphite dust was sold to lubricate locks. Scrape a soft pencil lead if you can't find the lock lubricant.
Allan Reeling


With that type of wear you have to wonder what damage has been done to the ring gear. You should be able to inspect it with the starter motor out.

Steve Gyles

Steve, I've tried to inspect the teeth with a mirror from the rear but its difficult to get a decent view. Looking at the flywheel from the front through the opening for the starter motor I think you see the back of the ring gear that is always good. Inspecting the other side is more difficult and I don't want to take the floor boards up at this stage.
J H Cole

Starter's now back and all appears to be working correctly. Out of interest is there a preferred way of removing the starter? I ended up taking out the distributor but I've read that the oil filter can also be removed.
J H Cole

I have the high starter position with my 1800 and the spin on oil filter modification. I found that I had to take-off the canister. I don't know about the distributor as an alternative, although if it had looked a viable option I might have gone for it. Less messy to do a re-timing than wipe oil off my arm from my hands to my elbow!

Steve Gyles

I use the inverted spin-on filter adapter. Starter comes out without disassembling anything else.
Barney Gaylord

Graphite oil is available from Fertan for 1.80 for a small bottle.

You'll probably need to copy and paste the link
Dave O'Neill2

Thanks Dave and others for comments, in the end I bowed to the weight of opinion and washed the light oil off the bendix and put it in dry. If I'd had more time I may have gone down the graphite route.
J H Cole

This thread was discussed between 03/12/2012 and 09/12/2012

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This thread is from the archive. The Live MG MGA BBS is active now.