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10.3 - Replacing Steering Column Bushings ( Bob McAnelly,  February 22, 2006 )

Replacing the bushes is one of the easier repair tasks on your
car, and very drastic performance improvement once you are done
pretty instant gratification.But, just like any other old car
repair, what looks like an hour job ends up taking four times
as long, plus a wasted week while you wait for the "other" part
you broke to come in the mail, etc.

But, the process is rather simple. While it might not be
absolutely necessary to remove the steering wheel, it is a lot
easier if you do.Remove the 4 screws from the back of the horn
push assembly, then the three screws holding on the horn ring.
The jam nut and main nut holding on the steering wheel come off next,
and out with the wheel.Don't lose the two half moon spacers.

At the bottom of the column, loosen the hose clamp that holds
the column to the bulkhead.While down there, disconnect the purple
horn wire from the column. Remove the trim panel below the instruments,
and note how the clock and odometer cables poke through.

If an auto trans. car, disconnect the shift linkage.Open the bonnet and
remove the bolt from the lower end of the column center shaft where it
attaches to the u-joint.You need to remove the nut and push the bolt
out of the end of the shaft, as it is an interference fit.Go back
into the car and remove the two screws attaching the turn switch, then
the two bolts that attached the column to the instrument panel, and
note the location of the alum. spacers.The column should now
come out.As the central shaft might not want to come out of the u-joint,
give it a good tug. You might need someone under the bonnet to help you get it out.

Once removed, there is a plastic or bronze "fork" that keeps the central shaft
inside the column.It is hidden under an aluminum collar down near the
bottom of the outer column. Pry the collar off, and the fork can then be removed.
Pull out the column and you will then gain access to the two bushes.

Remove the old ones (or the partial remains of the old ones) and stick in the new ones.
I have found the new bushes to be slightly over-sized- with the hole in the center a bit
too small.I have used a file or sandpaper to open it up a little. You don't want them
too tight, as you will have difficulty in turning the steering wheel, or the wheel will squeek.
I hone them out and add a little white grease.

And, of course, it all goes back the reverse of how you took it apart.Hardest part is
getting the end of the steering column back into the universal joint.It helps if you have
someone up front to guide the end of the shaft into the joint.It can only go one way,
as there is a flat spot on the shaft over which the bolt passes.If you don't get it
into the correct spline alignment, you will not be able to slip the bolt back in.
You don't need to force the bolt-- if it won't go in, you do not have it indexed properly.
Might help to mark the two ends before disassembly with paint or a scrape of the
metal pieces so that a shiny scratch is created.

While you have it all apart, clean the horn contacts inside the column and maybe
bend the contact finger to ensure that it makes good contact. When slipping the
central shaft back into the column, make sure you do not bend the contact.You
should be able to ease it past the contacts through the hole in the column where the
horn wire is attached.It will be quite obvious once you get it all apart.

Several of the parts sellers list a kit for rebuilding the horn contacts. The ones I have
seen to date are junk.The contact pieces are soft brass and not spring bronze, and
they do not keep their shape. You are much better off keeping the original pieces.
However, if your parts are damaged beyond repair, before ordering one of those repair kits,
ask on this list if anyone has found a reliable supplier.


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