Rolls‐Royce cars built with leaf springs were fitted with leather gaiters. These not only look good but also do a good job in preventing the springs being damaged by the continual spray of water and salt from the roads. Many early body designs had visible front springs. It was not until the mid‐thirties that coachbuilders removed the large cut‐outs at the front, between the wings and the front valance, which had the effect of hiding the front springs, but also made access more difficult for the mechanic to adjust the front brakes. I think it is important for owners of the early cars with visible front springs to keep their gaiters in good condition and replace the gaiters if they do not do justice to the rest of the car.
Gaiters are an essential part of a Rolls‐Royce fitted with leaf springs. The suspension is designed on the basis of the leaf springs being well lubricated, with any damping coming from the friction or viscous damper fitted. Henry did not expect any damping to be produced by the friction between the individual leaves of the spring. Indeed, on the later cars fitted with central lubrication there was a supply to the ends of each leaf spring and grooves machined to permit oil to spread throughout the spring. Lack of gaiters will result in excess friction coming from the springs themselves and premature wear and damage.
In the heyday of these cars there were two main suppliers of gaiters, Jeavons and Wefco. When I bought it, my 20/25 was fitted with Jeavons gaiters and I had tried to keep these in good order, but it became obvious that it was a lost cause and that the car and its appearance would benefit from a new set. Luckily for owners of these old cars, Wefco is still in business, although it is now a division of a coach trimming business. They advertise regularly in The Advertiser. All gaiters are made to order, to fit the car, and delivered within a few weeks of order. The owner completes a form to give the main dimensions of the springs and this ensures that the gaiters fit perfectly. They are made from high quality leather, with a non‐ porous liner to keep the oil in, and have a thick felt oil reservoir running along the underside of the spring to hold any excess oil.
The new gaiters can be easily fitted in a day. Firstly, jack up the car and put it on axlle stands, which must be suitably rated for your car. Remember that axle stands are usually r ted as a pair. Remove the wheels to allow easier access to the springs. Remove the old gaiters and clean the springs thoroughly. This will take some time as they will be covered with years of grime, hardened oil, road dirt and other detritus. Fig 1 shows the result on my car. There is still evidence of the original cadmium plating. Of interest, is the thin copper pipe travelling along the length of the top leaf. This is the centr l lubrication feed to the front axle, which feeds lubricators in the king‐pins and steering joints. Once thoroughly clean, wrap the spring with medical bandage, as shown in Fig2. This will encourage the oil to travel around the entire spring by capillary action, and so get into all the grooves between the leaves.
Fitting the gaiter can be a little tricky and requires some strength in the fingers. With the car on high axle stands, lie under each spring and work from below the spring. Each gaiter is fitted from above, and has interleaved edges running along thunderside, fastened with a heavy oiled thread through eyelet protected holes. A special sailmakers needle is supplied, without which the job would be impossible. I found that the job was made easier if I used electrical tie‐wraps to hold both ends of the gaiter in place first, before lacing. Make sure everything is as tight as possible and that the various layers of membrane, leather and inner felt are correctly positioned on the underside of the spring. Finally, tighten the strap and buckle at each end. Figs 3 and 4 show the end result.
Early cars not fitted with central lubrication usually have Enots oiling points fitted to the gaiters. Wefco will fit these if requested. On my car, although it is fitted with central lubrication, I decided to fit lu ricators to ensure that the springs would be properly lubricated. I found that ther was insufficient headroom above the front of the front axle spring to fit the Enots gun so I fitted flip‐top lubrications instead. These were found on eBay, and easily fitted by punching a suitable hole through the leather and membrane and then fitting a tapped thick washer on the inside.
The end result is a beauty to behold and a talking point for any car enthusiast. If you own a car with visible springs please take care of them and fit new gaiters if the old ones are shoddy or are absent.
Reprinted with kind permission of the author and the magazine it appeared in: