Tips for Choosing Steering System Components

Steering System ComponentsOften the result of any classic car build is reflected not in the components selected, but rather in the quality of the products used to connect them. The greatest battery in the world is no better than the cables that deliver the power. Similarly, when it comes to steering components, a trick steering column and brand new rack and pinion are no better than the components that connect them.

Cutting corners on components for your car’s steering, brakes, or other safety items is foolish. The consequences could be serious and too often the lesson is learned the hard way.

Years ago, after purchasing an early ’50s Ford F100 pickup that had more than it’s share of poor build decisions, I was amazed when I opened the hood and examined how the steering was connected. An unsightly mass of poorly welded sockets, and 3/8-inch drive universal joints left me wondering how the previous owner had avoided disaster for so long.

Steering System Components

Engineering a high quality steering system is not difficult, and using quality will ensure your safety.

Steering System Components

Here are some important precautions you should consider when designing your system:

SHAFT SIZE: Never use steering shaft sizes less than 3/4-inch. Even a 5/8-inch shaft is 42-percent weaker than a 3/4-inch shaft diameter.

NO FLEX CABLE: Ford used a flex cable on the Pinto in the ’70s even though it proved unreliable, a problem compounded in a front-heavy hot rod.

NO WELDING: While common for racing enthusiasts, many states have laws against welding on steering components. Heat transmitted to the universal joints can cause them to fail prematurely; additionally, hairline cracks in a weld can go unseen and fail under stress.

COLLAPSIBILITY: Design your system with some means of directing the energy away from the driver in the event of a collision. This can be done by either incorporating some angles in the system to deflect the column away from the driver or by using a telescopic steering shaft or collapsible column.

Discussion
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12 Responses to “Tips for Choosing Steering System Components”
  1. gary nation

    i am putting a 454 chevy i am trying to put a 454 chevy in a 1948 ford pu fi the problem is the sterring box it hits the exhaust any ideas thanks gary

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Gary,

      One of the biggest problems for many when stuffing a Big Block engine into an older engine compartment is dealing with the steering. Generally the complaint I hear is the exhaust is in the way to prevent a direct connection from the column to the gearbox which is often best resolved with a series of steering joints, shafts, and support bearings. If the gearbox itself is in the way, you may need to relocate the engine either higher/lower or further forward/back until it clears.

      If all else fails you could look into a more compact steering gear like “Rack and Pinion” or even replacing the front suspension with a compact but efficient Mustang II based system.

      Wrench Safe,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      Reply
    • Eddie Davis

      What parts do I need to convert from manual to power steering in a 1957 Chevy pickup 1/2 ton model 3100

      Reply
      • Customer Service

        Hello Eddie,

        You’ll need a power steering gear box, a pump, pump brackets for your motor, hoses, pitman arm, etc… it is easier to use an assembled kit with all of the components you’ll need.

        Check out the offerings from cpp (www.classicperform.com)

        They offer basic to deluxe conversion kits starting at just over $100.

        Wrench Safe,

        Mark
        Classic Car Restoration Club Video Membership

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        Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello David,

      I am not aware of a power assist unit that will bolt up to a ford 4-cylinder and the stock steering box location.

      Wrench Safe,
      Mark CCRC Video Membership

      Reply
  2. Gregory Cozad

    How do I know how long steering column should be how do you measure it thanks. I have a 39 Chevy sedan stock firewall 350 motor and 700 r 4 on 75 carmaro z-28 sub frame Greg

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Gregory,

      For most late 30s street rods, I look for a steering column between 32″ and 34″ length.

      In my ’35 Chevrolet Master, (which is very close to your ’39 in dimensions), I used a 34″ column, and have been pleased with the fit.

      Wrench Safe,
      Mark Classic Car Restoration Club Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      https://go.classiccarrestorationclub.com/C11416

      Reply
  3. Allan Kelley

    I would like to know what type of power steering would work on a 1962 chevy impala 4 door with a v8 350 installed

    I would like to know what type of power steering I should use in a 1962 chevy belair 4dr with a v8 350 installed. Presently 6cylinder with manual steering

    Reply
  4. Andre Slaney

    I am restoring a 1945 GMC pickup. I got an S-10 chassis under it. Using a 350 engine to power it. Bought the S-10 conversion kit complete with proper shorty headers. My problem is where the steering shaft runs through the headers to the firewall. There is about a 5” offset between steering column shaft and the shaft through the headers along with only 4” depth between firewall and shaft from steering column. Is there a design possible for this application?
    Thanks

    Andre

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Andre,

      When building street rods and customs, there are more often those “Head Scratching” moments.

      Let’s face it you’re re-engineering a complete car.

      Situations like yours can be overcome with additional steering joints, intermediate shafts, hanger bearings, etc… and don’t assume you won’t have to modify your headers as well.

      Try to keep your steering as “Simple as Possible” to avoid binding issues, and be creative… I have seen many solve the same type of issue as you have, and there is no ONE WAY to get the job done.

      Rather than cut up a bunch of Double D rod while planning out your steering system, I like to use wooden dowel as it is inexpensive, it can be easily be cut and fitted to you U-joints. Once you’e happy with the layout the wooden dowels can serve as a template to cut the steel rod.

      Wrench Safe,
      Mark
      Classic Car Restoration Club Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.

      https://go.classiccarrestorationclub.com/C11416

      Reply