Monday, June 26, 2017

1964 Barracuda Steering Overhaul – Part 2 - Rebuilding the Steering Column


Steering gear box fresh out of the 1964 Barracuda.


The steering column rebuild project on my 1964 Plymouth Barracuda was spread out over several years.  It started way back in 2011 when I pulled out the steering column to make room for floorboard replacement.  At that time, besides the column, I removed the power steering pump and the steering gearbox.  You can check that post out at Steering Overhaul – Part 1 Disassembly. At this point, the steering overhaul project is about 75% complete.  I still need to work on the power steering pump.  But hey, if you have been reading this blog for very long you already know the no project on the Barracuda is ever 100% complete.

Steering Gearbox
The steering gearbox was very loose.  Several years ago, I sent the original unit to Feel Firm Inc. for a complete rebuild.  They can rebuild to stock specs or 3 steps of added firmness.  Although, I can’t find the paperwork at this moment, I believe I asked for one step of added firmness.  If I find the paperwork, I’ll post in the comments.  As soon as the unit came back, I loosely bolted it back in the car.  I tried to reattach the pitman arm but it required a lot of torque to mate the splines.  I had a big wrench but since the car was close to the ground I could not get any leverage.  I decide to hold up on the project.

Fast forward a couple of years.  I discovered that the spline shaft on the gearbox had 4 keyways that had to line up with the matching keyways on the pitman arm.  I was probably just mashing the keys into the splines.  So once again I removed the steering gearbox.  Next I removed the pitman arm.  It was a real pain breaking the pitman arm loose from the centerlink.  After trying several tools, I final found that the AMPRO T72074Universal Pitman Arm Puller would fit in the tight space and actually worked.


With all the parts laid out on the garage floor it was easy to line up the keys and keyways.  I am not sure why they didn’t just use one keyway.  Four keyways gives four possible installation positions.  It took some experimentation to figure out the right position.  In hindsight, I should have scribed an alignment mark on the gearbox and pitman.  

AMPRO T72074 Universal Pitman Arm Puller


Puller attached to centerlink joint.  Not much space to work.

If you look close, dead center in the picture, you can see the keyway on the gearbox spline.
The gearbox has 4 of these keyways equally spaced around the shaft.

In this picture, you can see all 4 keys on the pitman arm.  
The easiest one to see is left center on the picture.  This design allows the 
arm to be installed in 4 positions 90 degrees apart.  Simple test fitting made the 
correct position obvious. With the steering gearbox in place and  the wheels 
straight, the pitman arm must align with the centerlink joint.   The big
white mark is a dab of paint I used to mark the location of the key.

The rebuilt steering gearbox back in place.


Steering Column Removal
Removal the steering column was a piece of cake.  I unbolted the steering coupler from the steering gearbox, removed four bolts inside the car on the firewall, removed the steering wheel bracket at the dash and pulled the column into the car.  Done.

Disassembly was fairly easy too. However, the column has a surprising number of parts to keep track of especially around the steering wheel.  I took a lot of pictures but not nearly enough. I will let the pictures do the talking.

Steering Column on the workbench.  Notice the original gold paint.  

This is the plate that seals the steering column to the firewall.

Original steering wheel.  Very worn and BIG.

Steering column wiring harness.  To get the harness out of the column, 
the wires must be removed from the connector.  

Horn button removed.  This is part of the horn mechanism.

Horn ring.  Notice the black Bakelite is broken in several places. 

Horn stuff is out of the way and the steering wheel nut is loose.  I used a steering
wheel puller to remove the wheel from the steering shaft.

With the steering wheel removed you can now see the turn signal mechanism.

Turn signals.  Lot of parts.

Steering Coupler Rebuild
The small box gadget attached to the end of the steering column is the steering coupler.  It is the connection point between the column and the steering gearbox. The steering coupler also acts like a shock absorber dampening vibrations from the gearbox.  Theoretically, the steering coupler is packed with grease but mine was dry as a bone. The coupler is held to the steering shaft with a pressed in pin.  Here we go again with pressed in parts!  Check out my post about presses and driveshafts (1964 Barracuda Driveshaft Rebuild).

Turns out, no one makes a rebuild kit for the 1964 steering coupler but a kit is available for 1966 to 1976 couplers.  Several people on the internet said you can make that kit work so I ordered up one.  The biggest difference I noticed with the rebuild kit was that the seal plate and seal were a different shape than mine.  I messed with installing the new parts and the internal parts fit fine. However in the end, I trimmed the new seal to fit into the old seal plate. This seemed to work well. And yes, I broke down and bought another press.  The first one, from Harbor Freight, wouldn’t cut it so I stepped up to a Dake Model B-10 ManualUtility Hydraulic Bench Press - 10 Ton Capacity.  It did the trick.  Now, I need more things to press.  I wonder if it would work on Brazil nuts?  After all the steering coupler parts were installed, I packed it with bearing grease.  The final step was the crimp the seal plate back on.  It needed to be tight so the grease would not leak out.  That was not as easy as you might think.  It was an odd shape and the steering shaft interfered with regular clamps.  I found these nifty CH Hanson 09500 9-Inch Forked Jaw Self-AdjustingLocking Pliers at amazon that would clamp the seal plate in place perfectly.

Pretty grungy!  No grease on the inside.  It's all on the outside.

Dake 10 Ton Press.  Now, where to store the thing?

Dake at work.

The steering coupler has just been filled with bearing grease and is ready to be sealed up.

Found these Hanson Forked Lock Jaw Pliers to reach
around the steering shaft.

The steering coupler lets the shaft move around some an dampen vibrations.
Note the steering column end seal.  The white ring is like a little bearing.


Steering Column Rebuild
The steering column has a bunch of parts that needed to be replaced.  I could not find any one source for everything I needed so I had to place several orders. Here’s the parts list:

Roseville Moparts - Upper Steering Column Bearing - 2265656
R/T Specialties - Shaft Repair Kit - 1000093, Steering Column Plate Grommet - 2265697, Steering Column Seal - 2266738
Old Car Parts NW - Turn Signal Switch - TS102
Summit Racing - Grant Steering Wheel – GRT-213

The most worn part turned out to be the turn signal switch.  I planned to reuse the original switch because the wires were not too bad.  However, check out the picture of the horn ring follower.  As you turn the steering wheel the little wheel rolls around the horn plate making an electrical contact point.  Pushing the horn button completes the circuit.  No wonder my horn never worked, the entire little wheel was gone.

The original steering wheel was BIG!  With the new Feel Firm gearbox, the number of turns from stop to stop is much fewer than stock.  Also the car has power steering so no real need for the BIG wheel.  The new wheel is obviously aftermarket but I think it looks good.

The hardest part of the reassembly was remembering the correct order to put things back in.  Of course, I had no clue and ended up taking the whole thing apart 3 or 4 times.  I sure hope it is in correct now.  Oh well, I’ll find out on the first test drive.  Anyone going with me?


Steering Column Schematic.  Look at all the parts.


Steering shaft bearing. Greased and ready to go.  Part on the left is a spacer.


Bearing and spacer installed.

Comparison of the old and new turn signal switch.
The old one doesn't look too bad.

Old horn ring follower.  Looks odd.

Oh! That's what it is supposed to look like.  Maybe my horn will actually work now.

Steering column painted and ready to install.


Close up of wiring.


Grant Classic Wood Steering Wheel.

The Grant wheel is smaller.  I think it looks good.

Steering Column Removal
Once the steering column was rebuilt, it slid right back into place.  I connected the front bracket to hold it in place while I connected the steering coupler back to the steering gearbox.  Everything was aligned so I bolted up the firewall plate and tightened up the front bracket.

The Grant Classic Wood Steering Wheel came with an installation kit that made it a breeze to install. 


I still need to install the power steering pump and hoses and fill the system with fluid but that project is for another day.

Firewall opening where the steering column passes through.



Everything back in place.
The power steering pump has not been installed so no fluid in the gearbox yet.




Under dash shot of the column passing through the firewall.

Clamp supporting front of steering column.

Grant Classic Wood Steering Wheel installed.




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