We've been reading much lately about steering dampers/stabilizers, and I understand and appreciate the various positions stated — from "don't need 'em if you keep your speed down and the front end in good shape" to "Any improvement in safety and control is welcome".
But now I'm curious... the Montana 500 cars are clearly in tip-top condition AND driven twice the speed of Ts 'way back then.
If the rules allow it, do most Montana 500 cars use a steering damper and can those drivers share their experiences around this accessory?
Rules from Montana 500
C13. Steering dampeners are not allowed
As for the use of a dampener, I have the one made by Frank Fenton on my touring '26 that is used for many of the tours we go on.
I like it. My front end is in fine shape, and all Ford parts used there, bushings good, spring hangers, tie rods, etc. The car steers fine without the dampener.
But.....and this is the reason, when you are touring most times my eyes are on the road for pot holes, rocks, loose debris, sand patches, etc.
With the dampener, there is less 'throw-back' to the steering wheel when I encounter these obstacles in the road. Keeps the steering wheel from wanting to jerk out of my hands.
So....I like the use, you do have to check attachment points regularly, as the brackets can shift, and once they did...noticed that left turn won't go full over, the bracket shifted on the tie rod. But that happened on a very very rough dirt road with lots of pot holes, a real FL gravel washboard type of road. Shook me up and loosened up some of Dixie's nuts and bolts too.
Can't even see it, but the dampener is there
Dan - ....."less throw-back to the steering wheel" you say. I know what you mean! Maybe instead of "steering dampner", they should be called "thumb protectors", 'cause that's really about what they do!
Steering dampers can loosen and slip causing you to lose control of the car. Don't ask me how know.
Ted, was that a preventable issue, or a failure?
You can prevent such failures by removing any steering stabilizers you see on your car. When they are not there they cannot fail.
I have expressed my thoughts in depth on this subject. Check the thread, Wood Spoke Safety.
I am not familiar with steering dampers. Looks like something to go in the disagreements category along with water pumps, Kevlar linings, 6v vs 12v systems, coils vs distributors, bare wood spokes vs painted and engine colors. Can someone post a picture of an installed steering damper system from the front of the car so I can see what the controversy is about and how ugly they supposedly look?
My steering is fine with out them, but I would think that anything that will stabilize the Model T's steering and firm it up for possible evasive maneuvers in today's traffic would make it safer and be a good thing. There are many inventions that were not around back in the T days that can be used in modern times to make the T safer for today's driving conditions, such as, the modern inattentive drivers, faster speeds and heavier traffic. In normal driving the difference might not be noticeable until an emergency when the stabilizing effects of dampers might really be needed to make the T go where you want it to in an instant. Like a gun, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Jim Patrick
I rebuilt the front end of my 26 with new everything including the spring, aligned the wheels and made sure everything was tight it would shimmy badly so we rebushed the spindles reamed them checked everything again and it would still shimmy badly, i went to a front end seminar in Richmond with Milt Webb and he said that the 21" wheels would do that more than the 30", he recommended rebuilding and making sure everything was tight and if it still shimmies use a steering damper, i put one one my 26 and the shimmy went away, i don't have one on my 24 as it has never shown a tendency to shake, so they do work.
Jim, these are close up shots of the stabilizer. As you can see from the outside, the only visible part you can see from the outside is the clamp on the axle. If you get in back of the front wheel inside the wheel-well, you can see the whole stabilizer. If anyone wants to look my car over that closely for it, that's their problem. As I said in my other thread, I'd rather see this and the accessory wishbone support then what a Model T looks like after a roll over. Everyone will say if you drive Model T speed you shouldn't have a need for the stabilizer.
I DO NOT DRIVE MY T's AT A HIGH SPEED EVER! Another issue that has not been clarified is: there are a lot more vehicles out there now, going much faster then was dreamed of in the Model T era. My feeling is anything we can do to make us safer in today's driving conditions, is a plus.
Show me where the ugliness is on the stabilizer? You can hardly even see it.
Stabilizers are not new,you were able to buy them in the T era.
Jim (and others), here are photos of the steering damper on Dirk Regter's Model T World Tour '15 Touring. http://www.tfordworldtour.org/
Clearly, there are many other modifications on this car for long-distance and poor roads, but I must say I have never ridden in or driven a T that felt so solid, so planted, and so quiet at speed — all the more remarkable considering this car has just been driven from Holland to South Africa and then Houston to Alberta via California.
I asked Dirk if he had experienced any particular problems that led to installation of the damper. He said no, but it seemed like a reasonable idea considering the journey ahead. He purchased the damper and hardware from a US vendor but discarded their tie-rod bracket as unsatisfactory for this application. The bracket you see in the third photo is his design, and clamps around a solid tie-rod.
My particular interest in dampers concerns the '24 Speedster you can glimpse in the second photo. We are setting off on an 1,800 mile road trip next month, traveling largely through mountains and foothills. We drive 45+mph on the open road and I regularly pull over to let the moderns pass.
Ted is absolutely correct in stating that the dampener attachments can loosen, slip and jam the steering. It happened to one of our chapter members and nearly caused an accident.
I won't debate the theory of steering dampeners as being beneficial, but I DO question their safe application on a T.
The My opinion as why steering dampeners aren't allowed is: They are typically installed to correct steering problem. This falls into the "band-aid" section of auto repair. By not allowing them it insures that all the competitors repair all steering components and insure they are in tip top form. When the front end of a Model T is correctly rebuilt it requires little effort to steer. The wheels don't shimmy, the steering wheel doesn't jerk from your hand, and it certainly doesn't wander about the road.
Steering dampeners are a "band-aid" they don't fix a problem they just cover it up.
Just like the majority of fasteners on every T Jerry, they need to be checked frequently.
Thank you for the pictures. As far as being ugly, I can't hardly see them from the outside of the car and as far as other merits or demerits, I am not qualified to offer an opinion, however, if they can, for sure, make the Model T steering more reliable and safe and offer the occupants of the vehicle more peace of mind, I would not be against them. Jim Patrick
Rick, did you check and set your toe-in and caster correctly? I bet with all that new stuff, setting the geometry spot on will make the problem go away.
I like the damper idea as a problem preventative, not as a cover up for an existing problem!
Here's a steering dampener that is designed to simply mount in between your gear housing and brass threaded cover. This installation eliminated any wandering or sudden "bump steer" that could plague the thin-wheeled Model T. This was accomplished with heavy duty springs and cams located internally. The steering gear cover shown in the photos was not supplied with the unit; you used the one on your car. I screwed the cover on to show how it would look before you pressed the steering wheel on.
Terry, yes the toe in and caster were spot on we did need to tilt the axle forward a bit, that is a tough job because you are bending the wishbone where it connects to the axle as well as the spring perch holds it.I check it every time drive it but the damper works.
That is an interesting device, but I do not think it would be as effective as a shock mounted on the tie rod, as there is enough flex in the steering shaft that there would already be some movement before it started to dampen the steering. Most steering related crashes are caused by over steer on the part of the driver, the T has a very short coupled steering system, and takes a bit of adjusting to drive safely. In an impact with a road obstruction, the dampener would lessen the amount of travel induced by the obstruction, and it would reduce the panic over correction by a person who is accustomed to a modern steering system. Now if a T is safe enough if driven the way it was designed to be driven, then those who are taking that stand are saying that no one should be allowed to drive Ts except them. There was a reason that there were aftermarket steering shocks available when Ts were sold new, then I suspect that they did have a place. Furthermore, if shocks are unnecessary, how is it that every car made in the past 75 years has come equipped with them, they are not necessary, they just improve the ride.
There is not one car made today that has a steering damper. It is simply an irrelevant device if your steering is properly maintained, one that is poorly designed and subject to fail in such a way that it causes loss of control.the Montana 500 guys are wise to ban the use of these devices.
The one on my car now is from a VW. The one sold by Langs was from a MoPar or something. It doesn't matter what fwd cars use.
How many VW did they make with steering dampers? Was it 22 million, or more?
A steering damper would be kind of redundant with power steering, which most all cars have now, also.
You are wrong, nearly every car made today has a steering dampener, I doubt that you can find a car that does not have power steering, and the hydraulics of the power steering is the shock dampener. True, a steering shock can fail and cause loss of control if not properly maintained and installed, just as loss of control can be caused by any other poorly maintained part of the steering system.
You said in another thread that you drove a T with a dampener and that it just made the car heavier and did not improve control, Did you drive through a pot hole? Did you drive with one wheel in soft sand? I doubt it. the steering dampener is not to improve handling on smooth surfaces, but to reduce the shock load on the hands when striking an obstruction, as well as slowing the panic response on recovery (over-correcting in accident reports).
My father restored a 1918 Model T in 1960. He installed a steering damper made from a car shock absorber to give the car better steering control, and he also used the 1919 axle with the low wishbone instead of the original high wishbone axle. I drove the car back and forth 6 miles every day to my summer job for a couple of years, on a busy highway, and routinely pulled from the pavement on to the gravel shoulder to let cars pass. It was no different than driving a regular car, and I thought all Model T's handled that way as it was all I had ever driven. My brother still has the car and drives it. A few years ago I bought a restored 1918 Model T with no damper and the high wishbone. Hitting any kind of pot hole or roughness in the pavement was scary. I immediately added a damper from Lang's which tamed things considerable. I am now adding a brace to the wishbone after studying the problem of flexing of the high wishbone changing steering geometry. I realize now that as a 16 year old driver, I could have easily been in an accident in that car if my father hadn't had the engineering knowledge to improve the steering when he restored the car. It may not have been 100% authentic, but it was definitely a lot safer!
A steering damper is NOT a band-aid. It installs between the axle and tie rod and dampens the movement of the tie rod. It DOES NOT mask any loose tie rod ends (bolts in a T) or loose king pins or drag link ends or steering pinions and pins. It does not install between any of these parts and does not compensate for any slack or looseness in these areas. If any of these parts are loose or worn they will continue to be loose and worn.
A damper is a shock absorber. A piston containing orifices moves back and forth in an oil filled cylinder. When it moves slowly as in normal steering, it moves easily, but if a force attempts to move it quickly through the oil, the oil cannot get through the orifices and so the action is dampened or slowed. It is the same as the other shock absorbers or dampers controlling the wheels of a modern car. Try driving around without those!
In the period damper shown above, when an action from below tries to turn the steering wheel, the roller runs down the ramp and jams against the housing locking the steering. It works similar to a one-way clutch in an automatic transmission. When there is movement from the steering wheel, the spoon shaped piece pushes the roller up the ramp where it can roll freely, and so the steering wheel can be turned.
The steering on a T is through planetary gears, 4 to 1 ratio. A large movement of the wheel makes a smaller movement of the pitman arm, but when a wheel strikes something it is reversed! A small movement of the linkage below makes a large and quick movement of the wheel above. Can it surprise you? YOU BET! Can it jerk the wheel out of your hands? ABSOLUTELY! Can you hold the wheel if you have a good grip on it? Possibly.
Later cars with worm and roller, or worm and sector steering were improvements, but how many of us have driven an older vehicle (even up into the 60's and 70's) with manual steering and pulled into a parking space and hit the stop block with one wheel and had the steering wheel take a spin? Modern recirculating ball hydraulic power steering absorbs or dampens this. Modern cars are also self centering. The suspension geometry, especially the "king pin angle" or axis that the wheels pivot around combined with the weight of the car tend to make the wheels return to center. This also helps to dampen any "shimmy" or unwanted movement of the wheels. On a Model T, the kingpins are vertical and the driver must return the wheels to center and hold them there. Sometimes a T, even with all good and tight parts, and all adjustments correct, just wants to dance! It usually happens on a slight turn and maybe a small bump is hit. The wheel starts to shake and can become quite violent. The natural reaction is to stop, however the slower you go, the more violent the shaking becomes. A damper could help in this situation, and may even prevent it. Volkswagen Beetles had dampers and needed them. They did shake if the damper was bad or missing.
Many modern vehicles DO have dampers, Ford Excursions and F series Super Duty trucks are factory equipped with them. Is Ford applying band-aids at the factory? Are they trying to cover up bad parts?
I do not have dampers on any of my T's, mostly because I haven't felt the need, but I am not against them. Some of the comments here were about them coming loose. They should not come loose. I don't particularly like the axle clamp bracket, and a bracket with a couple of u-bolts around the axle would probably be much better, but then it would be more visible which is one of the arguments against them. If it is installed correctly, and checked often (like every other bolt and nut on a T) they should not come loose.
Jay, Here are some pictures of two more steering attachments.
E-bay item # 261251997680 one I have never seen before.
an answer to your comment, "but how many of us have driven an older vehicle (even up into the 60's and 70's) with manual steering and pulled into a parking space and hit the stop block with one wheel and had the steering wheel take a spin?" I drive Ford pickups from the 70s, they cam equipped with power steering assist with a hydraulic ram between the tie rod and axle and a spool valve in the drag link. When working, steering was great and you could feel the road just like with manual steering, the problem was the spool valves would regularly fail, giving very bad manual steering, I converted 6 mid 70s pickups to manual steering. The first one I did, I did not bother putting on a steering dampener, for the first couple weeks. Driving on rough rutted roads encountering rocks and holes was not much fun, and I learned to drive with my thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel. The addition of a steering shock made all the difference in the world, and from that time on, I always added a steering shock when I removed the steering ram. I would have to argue with any one who says a steering stabilizer does not good, as I have experienced situations where it helped me keep the vehicle on the road, and situations with out a stabilizer where I left the road. In a 3/4 ton 4wheel drive pickup, it is no big deal to briefly leave the road (in this case the range was actually smother than the road) as it will just roll over what ever is in its way, but to do the same with a T will likely result in an overturn.
I've got a couple of these Eagle steering gadgets. They are dangerous, and can cause the steering to lock up unexpectedly. Looks neat in the box though.
Here's another accessory stabilizer.
Did the raising of the spindle on the 26-27 have anything to do with solving this shimmy problem with the intro of balloon tires or was this new part only for lowing the chassis? I have seen several 26-7 with earlier spindles that appear to do OK.
I think the lowering of the improved body in 1926 was an attempt to make the Model T less spindly looking and more streamlined to appeal more to the changing tastes of the public. Also, the original reason for such a high chassis that made the T look like an old time carriage was the abysmal roads, which were often deeply rutted from the wooden wheels of the horse drawn carriages and wagons of the day which by 1926 had been totally replaced by motorized vehicles and as the roads became better and paved, the cars of the day were lowered as being so high was no longer necessary. Jim Patrick
If running your right front wheel off the pavement onto the shoulder produces enough side force to break the right wheel, then why doesn't the left wheel break as well ? If we put a wire wheel on the right front, would the whole overturning problem be solved ?
Remember your Newtonian Physics ? In part, it says that, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Side force on right wheel must be reacted somewhere. Doesn't the left wheel have to provide the equal an opposite force ? Why don't both wheels break if that's what is breaking them ?
Don't tell me that it's the weakest wheel that breaks. If that were true then there would be as many broken left wheels as rights.
(For the engineers in our midst, please don't give the answer away too soon. Let everybody have a crack at it. I'm trying to redirect the issue into a more enlightened vein.)
The right wheel will often be sliding because of the loose gravel, the side load will come as a sudden shock to one part of the wheel because the wheel is not turning. The left wheel will be turning on the hard surface, and the side load will be dissipated by the turning wheel.
I believe Chris asked about Montana 500 drivers and the use of steering dampeners.
Having driven my first 500 "endurance run" of course without a steering dampener. I would not advise for one and do not feel that I needed one.
Driving some of the very nice and smooth highways this year there was no need if your car was in top condition. We did have some down hill loose gravel sections of road repair where I really wanted to feel the road. Operating at a fast speed on this slightly loose gravel and on a down hill I really liked the feel of each correction to the wheel and while getting a little sideways a couple of turns the wheel always gave the positive feedback I expected.
Ya your right this was near the extreme for a T but it also proves how well they can actually be driven.
It is allowed to have shock absorbers installed which I believe would a big advantage.
Auto Polo: Extreme driving without dampers. Would they have turned over so easily with dampers?
You know I don't see one broken spoke in any of those pictures. Maybe cause the wheel didn't hit any resistance?
Modern cars don't have dampers because with power steering, dampers are irrelevant.
I say that a damper is a very good idea on just about any car with manual steering, but a T is slow enough that at 30 mph, it's not that big of a deal. But on the Montana 500 where Ts go much faster than that, I say that it's a great idea!
The driver's thumbs are the steering damper in a T. What other car of the era had a silly little steering gear like that?
At high speed the gyroscopic effect makes abrupt steering less likely - just like a motocycle.
Some modern cars do have dampers right from the factory. Ford trucks come with them factory installed! Big 4X4 trucks often have dual dampers added to help control the effects of huge tires and other modifications. There are even dampers for motorcycles used on racing bikes.