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Author Topic: Steering Column Disassembly  (Read 35244 times)
Biff1212
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« on: March 11, 2009, 06:30:18 PM »

I just rebuilt the steering column in my 77. Not really because I wanted to but mostly because I didn't have a choice. The nylon pins were sheared during disassembly and the only way to get that deep into the steering column to replace the shaft is to dismantle it. I found a little info on the internet on how to take the tilt column apart but there were a lot of things that were unclear so I decided to post what I had done since I figured it would prevent a little aggravation for some of you.

Anyone with some mechanical skill and a few hand tools as well as some specialty tools can tackle this job all you need is a decent work bench to work on.

With the column on the bench firs thing I did was to remove the steering wheel. Since mine was a T/A it had a formula style wheel so I just removed the 6 allen bolts and popped the horn button off.
After the horn button is off you will see a snap ring and a nut down inside the horn switch. Remove the snap ring as well as the nut and horn switch assembly.



Once the nut is removed you can then pull the steering wheel hub from the steering column shaft. The threads are 5/16 UNC so I used a puller and some threaded rod with washers to pull the hub. My puller has seen better days but thats what you get when you buy junk  Smile





Once the hub is removed you will see a plastic cover. This is fairly easy to remove by prying with a flat screwdriver through the slots on the front.



The picture shows prying from the side which is NOT the way to remove this piece.



Once the plastic cover is out of the way you will see the lock plate. There is a snap ring that will have to be removed before the plate will come off. This piece is spring loaded so be careful when removing it.



I made a tool from a piece of flat bar I had sitting around the shop but you can buy a tool to do this job as well.

Don't compress the plate too much or you will end up bending it. Just enough to remove the snapring that is holding it to the shaft.



Once the snapring is removed carefully back the nut off the tool and release the spring pressure. The lock plate will come off as well as the cam.

I took pictures during assembly and disassembly and I'm using both here so thats why its so clean in some of them.



With the lock plate, spring and cam removed you will see the seat and inner race. Remember how these come out so you can put them back the same way. You can remove the turn signal lever at this point by removing the phillips head screw.



You are now looking at the turn signal switch. Remove the hazard light knob from the side of the column by removing the phillips screw that holds it on (78 and up shown).



There are three phillips head screws that need to be removed and the switch can be pulled away from the column. The wires will still be inside the column so just move the switch out of the way.



The ignition lock and warning buzzer switch will be removed next.

To remove the ignition lock you will need a thin blade flat screwdriver. The ignition cylinder itself has a spring loaded tang which locks it in the housing. You will need to depress this with a thin screwdriver inserted in the slot while pulling the ignition cylinder out from the steering column housing. See arrow in picture for the location of the slot. Make sure the ignition is in the run position before trying to remove it.



To remove the buzzer switch carefully pull it from the housing with a small pair of pliers. Be carefull not to lose the small spring that will come out with it. See arrow.



The tilt lever can be removed next by unscrewing it from its housing.



You will now see three larger phillips head screws. These screws hold the housing onto the tilt assembly. I had to use an impact driver to remove these because they were very tight.





Now you will have to remove the signal switch and wiring from the column assembly. Remove the connector from its bracket on the column and remove the plastic cover shown by the arrows in the following picure.





Carefully slide out the harness towards the front of the column. Use a small screwdriver to help position the plastic connector to pass throught the housing.



Now we are left with the tilt assembly. To remove the spring for the tilt away you can use a screwdriver to depress the spring and turn the cap 1/4 turn. This will release the cap from the housing and allow the spring to be removed



Now the small cover and spring holding the sector to the lock shaft can be removed. Just pull the small cover off. It is just sitting in place over the rack. Remove the screw and the spring shown in the following picture. Make a note of how the spring attaches the sector to the lock shaft.



Be careful not to lose the spring under the rack. It is installed with the bow facing the rack (see arrow in picture below for orientation)



You can remove the sector by prying it off the lock drive shaft. Apparently some columns have a snap ring holding this to the lock drive shaft but mine was just press fit on both the 77 and 78 columns I have.



Once these components are removed you are ready to remove the tilt pins. These are press fit into the tilt away housing and you will either have to buy a special tool ot make your own to remove them. I just made my own from a piece of pipe that had a little larger ID than the OD of the pins and an 8-32 capscrew, nut and some washers. I ground part of the pipe away on one side so it would sit flat on the housing during the removal process.



Thread the screw into the tilt pins and tighten the nut against the washer. Make sure you have enough of the 8-32 screw engaged with the pin so you don't strip the thread. Now you can tighten the nut with a wrench while holding the 8-32 screw which will pull the pin from its housing.







With the pins removed you can then remove the tilt housing. You may have to reinstall the tilt lever and reposition the housing to get it out.



The following picture shows the lubrication point for the tilt away and the bearing during reassembly.



During reassembly it may be tricky to keep the rack and the ignition rod properly engaged with each other. The following photos shows how they are supposed to align with each other.





The steering shaft will pull free at this point. Make sure to clean and regrease the ball joint before reassembly. The shaft should come out as one piece as shown. If the nylon pins are sheared I believe there are replacements available to repair it. I had a steering column from a '78 so I used that shaft when I rebuilt my '77



If you haven't removed the ignition switch yet. you can remove it and the actuator rod from the housing.



If your column was sloppy then usually these 4 torx bolts are the culprit. Neither of mine were an issue but a lot of columns have had these screws back out over time. It is a good idea to loctite them when reinstalling.



With the top end disassembled you can remove the bushing on the bottom end and repack it. There is a snap ring which has to be removed and then the seal and bushing just slide out. Clean and repack before installation.







Assembly is just the reverse of disassembly, except for a couple things. To reinstall the pivot pins all I did was use a large enough c-clamp and some small washers. Be careful not to scratch your new paint job



Make sure to line up the mark on the steering wheel hub with the mark on the steering shaft. The one on the shaft is hard to see in this picture but it is there.



Be sure to clean and lubricate all wear points with good quality grease during reassembly and your steering column should last another 30 years. I hope this information is useful for some of you out there.  Very Happy


« Last Edit: March 13, 2009, 11:38:28 AM by Biff1212 » Logged

Jay
Calgary, AB
1977 4 speed W72
Biff1212
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009, 04:15:14 PM »

As an unrelated note. This is why the steering wheel hub has a splatter finish on it from the factory. The hubs are rough castings so instead of machining them they were just painted with a textured finish to cover up the rough finish. The photo below shows a hub after the paint has been removed by bead blasting.





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Jay
Calgary, AB
1977 4 speed W72
ILLTA77
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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009, 09:10:16 PM »

Thank you for taking the time to document and post all those step by step photos. I'm sure you have inspired others to tackle a job like this now..  Very Happy
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sinister76ta
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009, 09:33:41 PM »

Nice job!! I had planned on taking one apart this summer and redoing it, now I'll have some step by step instructions to follow instead of just wingin it.  Wink
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73 Black Formula 400 4 speed
74 Admiralty Blue T/A 455 auto
75 Candy Apple Red Firebird 350 auto
76 Cameo White T/A 400 auto
76 Starlight Black T/A 455 4 speed
76 Sterling Silver T/A 400 4 speed
77 Glacier Blue Esprit 400 4 speed
81 Black Formula
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76 Carousel Red T/A parts car
76 Trans Am parts car
78 Skybird parts car  -sold-
RENOVATIONS
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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2009, 10:41:53 PM »

EXCELLENT thread!!
Thanks for taking the time to document and share this  Very Happy
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Jeff


Current Projects:
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1978 Trans Am 400/auto
1970 Camaro 350/auto
yazcomotor
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2009, 01:03:42 AM »

thanks, we need more people like you!!!!!!! Very Happy
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Christian_GM
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« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2009, 04:04:54 PM »

Hi guys,

did someone sells a "rebuilt kit" with common wear parts?

thanks

bye
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1980 Trans Am Pace Car Clone Project
383 LT1 - 4L60E

Push the pedal to the metal!
mrpontiac80
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North west Arkansas


« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2009, 03:45:39 PM »

Thanks.   Ive seen some tips and pics now and then, but never this detailed.   My 80 steering column is sloppy at the tilt and the turn signal does not catch on the left and the steering hub is slightly miss aligned.  Needless to say, I can benifit from this post!!   I saved the info and pics allready for that day I finally get off my lazy arse and get it fixed!
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Michael Russell

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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2009, 05:37:24 PM »

Thanks.   Ive seen some tips and pics now and then, but never this detailed.   My 80 steering column is sloppy at the tilt and the turn signal does not catch on the left and the steering hub is slightly miss aligned.  Needless to say, I can benifit from this post!!   I saved the info and pics allready for that day I finally get off my lazy arse and get it fixed!
I know how to fix your turn signal problem, it is a black phillips screw that connects the turn signal lever to the switch. Mine was loose and my turn signals didn't work at all, I tightened it and everything works/ clicks now. You can see what it looks like in the 8th picture, you can reach it without taking the round black gear thing off in the 6th picture, hope this helps!!
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79 Blazer- sold
94 Camaro- sold and cut up for parts
95 Camaro- sold
70 GTO- sold and cut up for parts
80 S/E T/A- sold
Two 69' fastbacks- Someday
99 WS6 6 Speed- Daily Driver
73 Camaro-current project
70 Charger next in line..
mrpontiac80
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2009, 07:46:57 PM »

Thanks.   Ive seen some tips and pics now and then, but never this detailed.   My 80 steering column is sloppy at the tilt and the turn signal does not catch on the left and the steering hub is slightly miss aligned.  Needless to say, I can benifit from this post!!   I saved the info and pics allready for that day I finally get off my lazy arse and get it fixed!
I know how to fix your turn signal problem, it is a black phillips screw that connects the turn signal lever to the switch. Mine was loose and my turn signals didn't work at all, I tightened it and everything works/ clicks now. You can see what it looks like in the 8th picture, you can reach it without taking the round black gear thing off in the 6th picture, hope this helps!!


Well, I wonder if that is true.   Mine is a cruise control car.   In the pics of the catalogs and etc, it looks like standard levers screw on while some others like mine (?) push i and lock with a snap ring or something.   Now I have never had mine apart so I can not say for sure.
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Michael Russell

TreySmith
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2009, 08:12:14 PM »

Mine is a cruise control car too. It's not hard, nothing to really worry about breaking in there.
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79 Blazer- sold
94 Camaro- sold and cut up for parts
95 Camaro- sold
70 GTO- sold and cut up for parts
80 S/E T/A- sold
Two 69' fastbacks- Someday
99 WS6 6 Speed- Daily Driver
73 Camaro-current project
70 Charger next in line..
mrpontiac80
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North west Arkansas


« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2009, 09:49:29 PM »

Are the standard lever and the cruise lever both the same where they attach?  With a screw in other words?   If so, I would love to buy a standard lever as mine has the whole plastic end broken off and the standard is lots cheaper. 

Sorry bout highjacking the post here...
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Michael Russell

ILLTA77
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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2009, 11:47:52 AM »

Up untill 1978, the turn signal levers used a screw to hold them on to the turn signal switch, after that, they switched to the style with a 1/4 turn.   You can see the black phillips screw holding on the turn signal lever in the 8th photo pictured above.  If the veh has cruise control or non-cruise, the stick attaches the same way. The t/s arm with c/c will just have wire coming out that go down the column as well.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2009, 09:56:14 AM by ILLTA77 » Logged
Z_T/A
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« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2009, 12:54:59 PM »

The later ones (79 and 80) that I’ve seen have a screw attaching them to the switch and the lever itself snaps in place. The cruise is the same just with a separate wire that goes down into the column and removes just as easily. It seems to all match up with my 78 service manual.

Are the standard lever and the cruise lever both the same where they attach?  With a screw in other words?   If so, I would love to buy a standard lever as mine has the whole plastic end broken off and the standard is lots cheaper.

A new lever will just push in. The ends between a cruise and a non cruise lever are different styles but interchangeable. You don’t need to unscrew or take anything off. As long as the pivot for the lever is in good shape.

« Last Edit: May 31, 2009, 04:44:06 PM by Z_T/A » Logged
firebirdparts
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firebirdparts
« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2009, 02:53:39 PM »

Are the standard lever and the cruise lever both the same where they attach?  With a screw in other words?   If so, I would love to buy a standard lever as mine has the whole plastic end broken off and the standard is lots cheaper. 

Sorry bout highjacking the post here...

Yes, but there is no screw where they attach.  They will interchange.
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Joe Bays
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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2010, 12:47:57 PM »

looks like my car will be sitting in the garage for a loooooooooooooong time
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thefirebirdman
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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2010, 01:14:02 PM »

Awesome thread!! Thank you very much!!
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Jimmy
www.firebirdgallery.com
1969 GTO 400/400 Gold/Gold
1971 Formula 400/400 Blue/Blue
1973 Trans Am 455/4-Speed White/White
2002 Trans Am WS6/6-Speed Pewter/Charcoal
LeighP
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2010, 06:14:58 AM »

I agree...missed this one when first posted....great thread, thanks!  Very Happy
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Regards,
Leigh

Sydney, Australia
Former Firebirds -
1971 Pontiac Firebird 455
1977 Pontiac Trans Am
1976 Pontiac Trans Am
1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 convertible
1967 Pontiac Firebird 400 coupe

iowabird
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« Reply #18 on: January 27, 2011, 10:36:39 AM »

Great post, thanks! FYI, the special U shaped tool mentioned here (and in the Haynes manual) to get that C clip out (and reinstalled) is called a steering column lock plate removal tool. I bought one on eBay for 15 bucks, since I am not resourceful enough to make my own. It definitely makes this job a lot easier. There is no way I would have gotten my clip back in without it.
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1977 Silver TA 4-spd W72 w/T-tops
sixgunsblazing
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« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2011, 09:31:17 PM »

Great post, thanks! FYI, the special U shaped tool mentioned here (and in the Haynes manual) to get that C clip out (and reinstalled) is called a steering column lock plate removal tool. I bought one on eBay for 15 bucks, since I am not resourceful enough to make my own. It definitely makes this job a lot easier. There is no way I would have gotten my clip back in without it.

Great, now I gotta find an column lock plate removal tool.  Of course I've found this out after taking the wheel off
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ILLTA77
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« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2011, 11:43:57 AM »

Some auto parts stores may rent the lock plate tool...
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kmfdm665attak
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One-day is someday


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« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2011, 07:37:52 PM »

is there supposed to be any type of grease on the directional contact piece? (the one immediately after the lockplate is removed)
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js1977
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1977 Trans Am


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« Reply #22 on: May 29, 2011, 08:12:54 PM »

Thanks for this detailed thread, now I know how to get to my turn signal now...
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angelo
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AngeloMandato
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« Reply #23 on: February 29, 2012, 10:37:24 PM »

Thank you Biff1212! I started disassembly of my column this past weekend and so far so good. I did mangle the lock plate retaining ring in the process of pulling it out, I presume bending it back to shape will be acceptable, otherwise I'm going to have to find a replacement.

I'm rebuilding an 81 column with tilt and cruise. There are a couple of differences with the turn signal lever as well as the high/low beam switch. Otherwise these directions are spot-on.

While I'm going through the process I'm documenting all of the tools needed (e.g. external torx E8 socket, 1/2 socket, 13/16 deep socket, etc...) as well as a list of the possible parts that can be replaced (e.g. neutral safety switch, turn signal switch, ignition lock, ignition switch, high/low beam switch, etc...). I'll post the info in this thread when I'm done.

The main reason I'm working on my column is the "left" turn signal lever will not engage. I thought the turn signal switch was the problem, but now that I have it apart, I see that it's actually the pivot arm or pin that the turn signal lever pivots on for the dimmer. I did some searching and I haven't found any real answer how this is fixed for an 81 column. Does anyone know how to fix this type of lever?

Thanks!
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81' ex-Turbo Trans Am
Status: restoring interior, completing engine, then hitting the pavement!
4Speed78
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« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2012, 08:44:40 PM »

Ok,  that very first retainer clip...yeah, I broke it  Confused Where can I get another?

Also putting that first nut back on, I don't know how far to turn it down. It's tight now but I'm afraid of over doing it and breaking that casting.

This Monday (after the insurance is put back on) will be the first time is been back on the road since '05!

Bill
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