OK, I know, you’re thinking “Duh- the steering wheel’s on the left.” And now you’re thinking “…unless you live in a country which requires you to drive on the left side of the road” (For a great site on which countries drive on what side, check out http://www.brianlucas.ca/roadside/), although this doesn’t absolutely determine which side the steering wheel is on.
While putting the steering wheel in the center of the vehicle may be a priority for some readers, this article deals specifically with making the top of the steering wheel point up when you’re driving straight.
Step 1: Unbolt the Pitman arm. You don’t need to completely take it off- just detach it from the steering box so when you turn the steering wheel, the wheels don’t turn.
Rotate the steering wheel all the way in one direction, then mark the top. I used masking tape so I didn’t have to write on the leather.
Then, rotate the wheel in the opposite direction and count the amount of rotations. When it stops, mark the top again.
Divide the amount of rotations in half, then backtrack that amount, and the ‘left’ and ‘right’ marks should be about horizontal. Mark the top, just so you don’t forget.
Your steering box is now centered (and centred too).
The Pitman arm should be pointed forward when the wheels are straight ahead. “Forward” is different than parallel to your frame rails, remember. It should be parallel to the centerline of your frame.
The tie rod ends on the drag link should be LH and RH threads, so it’s easy to just spin the bar to lengthen or shorten the center to center distance. Don’t attach the Pitman arm to the steering box before you have it pointed straight ahead – then you can adjust the bar until the splined hole in the arm is directly below the output shaft on the Pitman arm.
If you’re confident you’re Pitman arm is pointed straight ahead, there are ways to adjust the steering wheel rotation without affecting the Pitman arm.
1. Unbolt the steering wheel from the hub (if you have one), rotate the wheel, and bolt it back on. Since there are usually 5 or 9 bolts, this isn’t a very macro method.
2. Unbolt the hub from the steering column. It’s usually splined, so you can get a finer adjustment than unbolting the steering wheel. A combination of 1 and 2 may be required if your horn wire is interfering with the hub. You’ll know what I mean when you get there.
3. U-joints: If you have used splined steering shafts, you can rotate the shaft in a U-joint by a spline or two. This can cause some negative effects down the road though, if you ‘misalign’ the joints out of phase. You’ll know what I mean if it happens- you’ll have a few stiff spots as you rotate the steering wheel.
This is a polished aluminum steering box by Mullins. It has all new innards and looks amazing. Basically, we just installed the Pitman arm, moved the box forward and backward until the drag link was parallel with the tie rod, then moved it up until the top of the upper tab was about flush with the top of the rail. We marked the hole, and then carefully lowered the box out of the way. I was holding it in position with one hand over my head in an awkward manner for about 5 minutes while Cam was moving it around. Try doing that with a cast box!
Steering box bracket: WS2072, Welder Series (after welding)
Before you set up the box, make sure to get the car sitting where it’s going to be driving down the road. If you set the steering up when the frame’s not sitting as low as it should be, the geometry won’t be as good as it could be. Notice the driver’s side motor mount is missing a gusset – we’re waiting until we know exactly where the steering box is going to be before we install the gusset, in case any trimming will be required for steering shaft clearance.
Continue reading “’32 Update: Steering Box Install (article 7, archived)” »
Marking the column location
We wanted the column to come out at the same line as the center of the steering wheel, which is also where we put the wiper. That way, everything will be in line. The only people that will probably notice it are those who are watching this buildup, but it’ll still be ambiguously appealing.
Here is the ididit column we’re using. It’s a 28″ steel tilt unit, with a Lecarra Mark 9 steering wheel on there for now. I’ve wrapped giant Saran wrap around it so that the oil from my hands doesn’t make it rust.
This is a tricky part. The firewall on the Bear body is about 2-1/2″ thick. In order to put the column through that behemoth firewall, the holes on either side need to be staggered vertically, and also they’re not round holes, they’re ellipses. We decided to use a 1-7/8″ hole saw to cut through, and then clean the rest out by hand. This should result in a very clean looking firewall – there won’t be the typical billet floor mount. Just a hole exactly the size as the column. If I’m good.
Column position is a crucial part of the comfort level of the car. If your column is in the wrong spot, it won’t tilt properly into position, and it won’t be in the optimal spot when you’re driving down the road. We established the position by sitting in the car, holding the column up at the bottom, and then marking the top of the output shaft on the tape. The left to right position was determined by dropping a plumb line from the wiper hole center, which is also the center of the steering wheel. It’s a bit tricky to get all this stuff lined up, so take your time. It will be worth it when you’re comfortable. Oh, and make sure you have THE SEAT THAT YOU’RE USING installed. NOT a milk crate, or a toilet, or whatever else you think might work.
Continue reading “’32 Update: Installing the Steering Column (article 12, archived)” »
Paul gets comfortable with the column in its lowered position. After all, it is his car. We used a coat hanger to rig it into place. As long as you can secure it temporarily while you measure, you’ll be fine.
Next, it’s important to make sure you can actually get out of the car without knee pads. Looks like this will be just fine!
Continue reading “’32 Update: Column Drop (article 13, archived)” »
I was hoping to use only two u-joints for this car, but after mocking it up and finding that the shaft is too close to the header, it’ll have to be three. I played around (see the next few pictures) with extending the input shaft on the Mullins box, but all that did was increase the angle on the lower u-joint. We’re using all aluminum joints and shafts from Borgeson. These are amazingly light! I forecast a 2hp gain over steel systems. Just joking.
Now I had to decide where I wanted the shaft to sit in relation to the frame. Since it’s going to be an open hood car, I decided to tuck the steering in behind the header a bit. I think it will be less noticeable than bringing it right over to the frame rail from the column. We’ll see… you decide.
Measuring for the Support Bearing
Since I’m using three joints, a support bearing (or Rod End) is a necessity. Measure from the rail to the center of the shaft where you want the bearing. I’m going to put it right beside the center u-joint, to hide the splines I was left with on the lower shaft. If you’re forced to use a three joint system, buy the joints you’ll need, then use a broom handle or some 3/4″ dowel to mock up the shaft lengths. Or, you can use a double ‘D’ shaft which you buy in either 18″ or 36″ lengths, and cut it to fit. The splined shafts come in 2″ increments from 4″ to longer than you’ll ever need.
Making the Rod End Support
I didn’t want any threads showing on the rod end when it was installed, so I had to do some measuring. I needed to know how long the mounting tube I was going to make should be in order to cover all the threads and keep the steering shaft where I wanted it. So, I measured from the frame to the near side of the shaft, and added 3/8″ to get a dimension to the center. Then I measured from the center of the rod end bearing to the end of the threads so I knew if I had to trim any of the threads off. Conveniently, I didn’t. Next, I measured from the nut to where I knew the frame was based on my first measurement. Make sure you measure to the far side of any angle. We now carry a 1″ OD tube with 3/4-16 threads for this purpose: #219600
The rod end couldn’t come straight off the frame because the angle was too much for the bearing. So
I just ground a corner off the tube, and it will be welded to the frame.
Oh yeah, I got the rad shell and the grille insert installed. The front end will be down about 1-1/2″ or 2″, so don’t you worry about a thing.