Wednesday, November 3, 2010

getting back rollin'

After completing the work on the trunk, the obvious next step would be to deal with the surface rust inside the C-pillars and around the inner edge of the roof, before (probably) moving on to the dash and so on. The thing is though, apart from being the kind of person who never likes to do the obvious, I actually have a more pressing need to get the car out of the middle of the garage so that I can make some space to work on a couple of other more urgent projects...and that means getting it rolling again.

I never got around to pulling the motor and transmission out of the car, mainly because of the space issue, although I did remove absolutely everything I could from the crank case and engine compartment (note regarding photo below: yes, it's a six banger, and not even the original one at that; the motor is actually from a 78 Fairlane). The whole front end is still in place too, which means I'm just a rear suspension, rear axle and steering column away from being able to roll the car in and out of the garage at will. I'll probably put the trunk lid and gas tank back in the car as well because between them they take up a heck of a lot of real estate.

Well, where to start? If you've been reading this blog since the beginning (and if not, come back when you've caught up!), you'll already know that I am absolutely meticulous about cleaning every part I take off the car, and then sealing it in a labeled baggie. I also have a list of all the removed parts and where I stored them (box, coffee can, in the basement etc, etc). This made it very easy to print out a list of steering column parts, and then collect them together - almost everything was in the garage in various boxes, except the steering wheel which I stashed in the basement ages ago. I thought I'd start with the steering column, as I was expecting it to be straightforward...and that was my first mistake...

I started by bolting in the column and pedal support housing. I'll be getting this media blasted before it goes back the next time.

Then I reassembled the column and put it in for a test fit. It seemed OK... I bolted the column to the support housing (four more bolts)...

...and fitted the old rubber seal and the right side of the retaining bracket to the firewall. At this point the column was still rather loose, so I started to wonder what I had done wrong/forgotten to do?

Maybe you can tell from the photo below? The inner and outer sleeves were loose, because...

...because I forgot to put the plastic insert into the end of the outer column sleeve. This is what it looks like after re-insertion. I actually figured out that this was the problem by going through my pile of steering column parts and then looking again at the pictures from the tear down.

This is what the column looks like when correctly assembled - obviously I had to take it back out of the car before I could put it together this way. (Note: you can do this without the hedge trimmers!)

It seemed like a good time to bolt on the lower flange, because this part also holds the two sleeves together.

Test fit again, and then bolt the column back in...

Adding the outer flange and then fitting the two snap rings and the bearing was rather tedious. Eventually I slackened off the bolts at the rag joint so that the shaft could be pulled just a little bit further inside the car, and then forced on the second snap ring. I hate to say it, but another mishap actually led to me unbolting the column a third time before I FINALLY installed it at the fourth attempt.

Bolting on the wheel was easy - it was more trouble finding the steering wheel in the basement! I put the horn ring and spring back on, but I'm not really sure why because I left out the horn/column electrical wiring - there really was no reason to screw around with it since the main wiring harness is nowhere near the car, and neither is the battery! Still, after a couple of hours the car now has steering again, even if it is just as loose as ever!


  1. Nice work! I'll be using this as a reference when the time comes to refurbish my steering column and reinstall it.

  2. That's great to hear. I hope you reinstall is less hassle!