CORVETTE TIPS AND TECHNIQUES

STEERING SYSTEM PROBLEMS, AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM 1953-1962 


In another article on this website, I went into detail on how to diagnose and completely rebuild the steering gear box on the C-l Corvette. This article showed an overview of the gearbox, and what the internal parts look like. We looked at good original parts, and typical worn and damaged ones. I went through the process of a rebuild, and showed some tricks of the trade, which may be helpful in getting the job done without the special tools originally intended for us to use. Those tools are both expensive and generally not available today, so it is necessary to know how to get the job done without them and how to get it done right. 


Since I wrote that pair of articles, I have assisted in dozens of rebuilds with N.C.R.S. members around the country. I have learned that there are many more problem areas in the steering system, which continues to cause trouble for early Corvette drivers. These were not problem areas to the owners years ago, when the cars were new, but are causing a lot of grief today because so many of the cars have had poor repairs done on them, incorrect parts installed, parts adjusted improperly, or, due to crash damage, passenger car or truck parts were substituted which do not work correctly.  Because I keep hearing the same questions over and over, I have tried to write a summery of some of these problem areas:  I recommend that you follow the instructions in the Corvette Servicing Guide (ST-12) with particular attention to the installation of the various parts. Also, make sure that the parts that are installed in your Corvette are the correct parts.  


Many times I will get calls from people who are working on a car, which was put together incorrectly years ago. It is difficult for me to tell over the phone if all the parts are there, if they are correct, and if they have been installed right side up. Sometimes, we go over the problem until we both decide to open the ST-12 or the assembly manual and refer to a drawing of the parts. When we refer to the schematic together and we discover that some important part is missing, or improperly installed, we wonder what else may be wrong as well. 


The steering gear box itself must be installed with the cast iron spacer between the box and the frame, and with the steering stop installed on the inboard side of the frame. This is shown in the assembly manual. You may need to use shims on one or more of the three mounting bolts in order to get the upper end of the steering column to emerge in the center of the instrument cluster. By shimming the gearbox in such a way as to avoid binding. That is, the shims will position the column to the right or left so that the upper clamp will not have to force the column to stay centered. 


Another important thing to know is that the steering wheel must only be installed in one position on the steering shaft. Even though the wheel can be installed in about two dozen positions on the spline, it can only work properly in one position.  If you will look closely, you will see that there is a "hash mark" on the upper end of the steering shaft. It is right on the end of the shaft, encircled by the nut that holds the steering wheel on. This mark looks like the hands of a clock. As you turn the steering wheel, the mark will pass the 12 o'clock position five times from lock to lock. When the hash mark is placed in the 12 o'clock position, in the center of its travel, the steering wheel must be installed with the two turn signal cancelling pins close to the left door. They will be one above the other, and equally close to the left door. At this time, one spoke of the steering wheel will be pointing straight down. This is the only way the wheel should be installed.  With the steering wheel held in this position, the third arm of the steering linkage should be oriented straight ahead as shown in the illustration.


If it is not as I have described, the drag link must be used to make it so. The drag link has a built-in turnbuckle, which will adjust longer or shorter. It is by this adjustment that the two major parts, the steering wheel and the third arm can both be exactly centered. When this has been accomplished, lock the bolts on the drag link so that it will not turn.  By the way, the drag link should be disassembled and checked for damaged or incorrectly installed parts as well as the rest of the steering system parts. The two ends of the drag link are different, and the internal parts are different also.


I have seen many examples where parts were installed in the wrong end of the link, and this caused excessive play in the steering system. The springs in the drag link are very stiff so that it can maintain zero endplay between the Pittman arm and the third arm. When assembling the drag link to the steering linkage, the end caps should be tightened all the way to lock up, and then backed off only 1/4 to 1/2 turn. This way the springs inside the drag link will be under constant tension, and therefore there will be no play.


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SteeringProbs.pdf