STEERING COLUMN REPAIRS
- Gerry Masterman
of: 17 April 2006
the things I hear complaints about is the 1968 on collapsible steering
columns. It seems, all too often they wear out long before the
rest of the car does; or, at least, when the rest of the car is
repaired, the steering column is ignored. That is often because
the factory never offered any replacement parts. So, when they
wore out, you either had to find a replacement column or you just had to
put up with the worn parts.
The ball bearings used from the factory were of the worst design
possible. They were cheaply made and of an oddball size that
was/is not readily available. Bearing replacement kits are now
available from GEM Enterprises, elsewhere on this site, for a reasonable
cost. So there is no reason to put up with a sloppy column.
Another of the problems with these columns is the telescopic joint in
the steering shaft. For the column to be able to collapse in an
accident, both the outer steering column housing and the inner shaft
have to be able to collapse. The outer housing is perforated to
provide for easy collapsing. The shaft, made of two pieces, is
designed to telescope within itself upon collision. One piece, the
outer tube, is basically a hollow tube with a modified socket to receive
the inner shaft. The other, the inner shaft, is solid and threaded
to attach the steering wheel.
The inner shaft has two flats formed on the sides to match the outer
tube. There are also two recesses around the inner shaft in the
area where it fits into the outer tube. From the factory, these
recesses were filled with a hard plastic to act as a friction material
between the inner shaft and outer tube. Often, if someone
disassembles the steering column, the plastic is broken into pieces and
cannot be reinstalled as original. Reassembling the column without
this plastic adds rotational play in the steering shaft and allows
metal-to-metal contact between the inner shaft and the outer tube.
Left alone this will eventually wear the shafts to the point of failure.
|One solution is t drill two
holes through the inner shaft and outer tube and install 1/16"
split cotter pins. This allows the shaft to hold together as one
piece until an impact causes the cotters to shear. When the
cotters shear, the column collapses as designed. The downside to
this method is that the cotters can also shear when you do not want them
to do so. For example, if one uses the steering wheel removal
method of backing off the steering wheel nut and hitting the shaft/nut
with a big hammer, the cotters will likely shear requiring steering
column disassembly and cotter replacement.
|Another solution is to weld
the two shafts together; but this would eliminate any possibility of the
column collapsing as designed. I have never believed that safety
devices should be over-ridden, so I will not recommend this method.
third method is to replace the plastic that was injected at the factory with
something very similar. To do this, I completely disassemble the steering
column. The two shafts are separated and the old plastic is completely
|On the outer
tube are four small holes about 1/16" in diameter. I
use a center drill to taper two of these holes to act as a socket
for the nozzle of my hot glue gun. With the two shafts back
together and in their proper positions, I heat up the shafts with
a propane torch or heat gun. The idea is to heat the metal
to around 165° so the hot glue will flow all the way around the
recesses before cooling and solidifying. Before
you do this, be sure that the bottom steering column bearing is in
place because, after the shafts are assembled, the bearing cannot
With the shafts good and warm and the glue gun warm as well, I
insert the nozzle into one of the funnel-shaped holes and force
the melted glue into the hole and the space between the two
shafts. When the cavity is full, glue will start to ooze out
of the hole on the opposite side.
I then repeat the same technique
for the second hole. I allow the shafts to cool then remove
the excess hot glue from the outside of the tube. The
steering column can now be reassembled with new bearings and will
be as good as new.