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.

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14 Responses to “Tips for Choosing Steering System Components”

  1. Rick Brunner

    I am using an OEM slip joint and rag joint from a Ford and these joints are not in phase by any means. When I connected a Double d shaft to an after market double D u joint to a spline end to fit my t bird rack. The factory to the after market u joint doesn't line up to have proper phasing either. The steering turns free with no binding so I am guessing that the oem manufacturer doesn't seem to bother with phasing.

  2. George

    What’s the best steering rack pinionfor a 1956 ford f 100

  3. chuck

    Kindly ID what I need to changeover steering components for a 63 Avanti . TX!

  4. Tony McCargar

    Have a 66 El Camino with a 454 shoehorned in with headers. What length steering column would you recommend?


    I have a '68 F100 with the 240 and automatic transmission. Is there a complete kit out there to convert to power steering? I checked the CPP website you reference but don't see one available.

  6. Karl Petz

    <strong> I have a 66 Ford F100 with manual steering 352 engine I would like to convert to power steering .Is there a kit available complet 2 grove crank pully,pump + bracket to fit 352 and steering box+ hoses?

  7. Rafael Deleon

    Need best replacement steering for a 1989 gmc sierra with a rag joint. Cannot find it separately at auto parts stores.

  8. The Dad

    picked a work in progress. A 1947 Chevy Fleetline with a 402BBChevy I removed the Chevy van column the past owner installed and replacing it with a 36in Summit street rod column. I intend to cu down the column to 23in and use 3/4DD universals to the now rack and pinion steering unit. this allows the actual steering shaft to clear the header and the 34in DD universal clears the header past to the connection to the steering rack 3/4inDD universal.

  9. fuentes_er

    I want to upgrade manual steering to a rack and pinion system. What gear ratios can I consider. I have a 1970 Ford f100

  10. 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