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Problems and challenges this week, Roll Bar, Steering and Exhaust

I hit some major issues this week and I have to admit I’m feeling pretty flat with the build, questioning why I started, even whether to proceed. There seems to be little fun in the process at moment.

Starting with the Track day roll bar.

I got in from work on Wednesday evening and thought I’ll do something quick and easy. The track day roll bar seems straightforward and I’m aware it needs fitting before any rear suspension. I was also keen to have an alternative contact point from the body work when moving the car around on the movable axle stands.

Reading the fitment instructions for the track day bar it seemed pretty straight forward. Basically remove the rear suspension bolts which were already in the chassis, they needed to be removed as they obscure one bolt on either side. Then place the bar into the recess on either side immediately behind the driver and passenger. Use the appropriate bolts from underneath the chassis up through and into the bar, don’t fix the rear fastenings, insert those last.


Unfortunately my drivers side recess no matter how much I tried, simply wouldn’t aligned and the bolt hole and bar was out by about 2mm.

After much debate I went with what I had, hopeful the bolt would bite on enough and pull the bar true. Of course it didn’t and the process resulted in damaged threads in the bar. I’ve since had Mark the chap that helped during the engine install who is an experience mechanic on both cars and plant machinery diagnose the situation. He concluded that I’d done nothing wrong and there was no way the bolt was going in straight.

I spoke to Derek @ CC over email last week about the issue, and he’s agreed to ship me a replacement bar. I am hopeful the alignment issue was with the bar and not the chassis. There doesn’t seem to be any flexibility from the underneath of the chassis so if its the chassis that is out I shudder to think what will happen.

On Saturday after reviewing the track day bar Mark and I decided to install the steering column. Basically in a bid to do something successful. Unfortunately we hit another snag. The lower steering column bush which is installed by Caterham at the factory came through, and at a funny angle too, it got jammed, after that I decided to call it a day.

Prior to that the steering column installation had gone well. It took a bit to work out how the top bush should be inserted. We greased the bush as stated and tried pushing with our fingers but just couldn’t get the bush in. Of course we'd ensured the round circles which are embossed into the rubber were at 3pm and 9pm so they’d locate into the holes in the steering tube. Eventually I rested against the bush with my inside palm and it slide in. The next step was to slide the upper steering column down the tube and meet with the lower section already connected through the pedal box to the steering rack universal joint. It was at this point the upper column must have push the lower bush through. At this point I called time.

Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to take many photos due to the grease in use.

Later the same day I did go back to the car to see if I could identify a route forward. As mentioned the plastic seemed jammed and I didn’t want to damage it. So I decided to remove the the two bolts which were inserted downwards into the chassis and held the front plate which the column passed through against the firewall. It turned out that the plate was part of the steering tube assembly. So I continued and essentially removed the entire steering tube and ignition lock system. Once I had the tube out of the car I could sort out the lower bush and refit. This went well and I took my time putting everything back together. Having removed the tube I gained a much better understanding of how the column is construction and basically what is down at the bottom. It made joining the upper and lower columns much easier.

My advice to anyone that is attempting the upper column install is this;

  • Get the lower column into approximately the correct position, should be around 0.5cm away from the firewall.

  • Start carefully and slow sliding the upper column down through the dash and when you feel resistance against the bottom stop.

  • Now slide a finger from the engine side up into the hole ensuring you put pressure on the bush to stop it moving. The gap is tight as the lower column is just in the way.

  • As you are holding the bush, with your other hand gradually move the end of upper column until you feel it slip passed the lower bush.

  • Now simply align the upper and lower section.

If use the above technique you should avoid pushing the lower bush through and find the process very simple. Use plenty of grease.

My approach seemed to work a treat, because I had to do it for a 2nd time too, using the technique a second time took around a minute. So I’m confident it works now.

Before we move on it is worth noting that Caterham use a sealant between the tube face plate and firewall so that is something I need to sort.

Some pictures from the activity, no particular order.

Why did I have to use the technique a 2nd time? Well I installed the steering without putting the exhaust primaries on. I understood you could build in that order, however after getting 3 out of the 4 primaries on, the 4th, that which is furtherest from the driver was impossible.

I therefore opted to remove the 3 primaries already installed, and the steering, fit all exhaust primaries and then reinstall the steering. The steering was easy having worked on it a couple of times already and without the steering in place the exhaust was easy too, although the last primary is a bit of head scratcher. My tip is leave all the primaries very very loose, you need the wiggle room on the last one. Go as loose as you can.

Having had some success installing the steering for a second time and getting the primaries installed I felt on a roll.

Next up gear lever.

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