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Technical Shorten steering column?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by Weaponsusmc, Apr 8, 2019.

  1. Weaponsusmc
    Joined: Feb 10, 2013
    Posts: 9


    Is there a correct way to shorten the steering column? I have a 30 model A pickup with what I believe is an F1 steering box, and the column is way too long. While sitting in it, the steering wheel (that is way too small for manual steering) will rest against my chest. The truck was built in 57' and I cannot fathom anyone ever driving it like this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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  2. dana barlow
    Joined: May 30, 2006
    Posts: 3,387

    dana barlow
    from Miami Fla.

    First,sell the steering wheel to some one that owns a gocart,its too small for a car ! Ok, yes you take the shaft tube off
  3. Does the steering wheel end of your shaft have splines or a keyway?
  4. GordonC
    Joined: Mar 6, 2006
    Posts: 1,409


    If I were thinking about shortening it I would pull the cover off the shaft and take a good look at it. It is a hollow tube which your horn wire runs down through. If you wanted to run a horn like the original, down through the center, then you would need to cut the shaft, butt the ends of the two halfs, and sleeve the shaft either inside or outside at the cut. This would allow you to keep the original steering wheel mount. If inside it will need a hole for the horn wire. If outside the shaft it will need to be thin enough to fit inside the mast cover. Either way should work fine as long as your welding skills are up to the task and if they aren't get someone qualified to do the welding. This is one place you don't want a failure! OH, then cut the cover accordingly!
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2019
    Johnny Gee likes this.
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  5. rusty valley
    Joined: Oct 25, 2014
    Posts: 682

    rusty valley

    when i do it, i take it apart, press the worm off, and shorten the bottom. no welding. a ford light/horn rod can be cut shorter and tig welded with a piece of brake line in the joint for a backer
  6. Corn Fed
    Joined: May 16, 2002
    Posts: 2,511

    Corn Fed

    Your box is an F1 and has a hollow shaft. Unless the shaft was swapped out with an earlier one, it has splines.
    When shortening columns, I like to remove the shaft from the box. It is much easier to handle and you should check your gears and bearing races for wear before investing time it.
    I like to cut the shaft in the middle of the length. After removing the required amount, I put a heavy bevel on both ends to allow a deep root weld. I use plenty of heat when welding to ensure full penetration. To keep it kinda straight during welding, I place the shaft sections into the "V" of a piece of angle iron and clamp them in. Weld what you can and then remove it from the angle iron. Grind the weld flush. Reinstall in angle iron and weld the remainder. Fill any low spots with weld and grind it all flush.
    You now need to find and install a sleeve. Use as thick of sleeve as you can find, but be sure the OD of the sleeve is still small enough that the bearing and race can still fit over it. A sleeve 1" to 2" long should be fine.
    Slide the sleeve over the weld joint. Weld the sleeve 360 degrees on both ends. Grind these welds down too.
    You will now need to straighten the shaft. Put it back in the box with the bearings/ races and turn it to see which way it is bent. You are really just trying to get the wheel end to run a little bow in the shaft is ok as long as the end is centered. Since the weld area is where the bend is going to be, that is where you should do the straightening. I set the shaft over 2 heavy steel blocks I have about 18" apart then carefully use a sledge hammer to lightly tap (at the weld joint) to straighten it out. Take your time and dont get heavy handed.
    Once the shaft is straight, cut the bottom of the outer tube to the correct length.
  7. Frank Carey
    Joined: Oct 15, 2009
    Posts: 445

    Frank Carey

    I did such a job many decades ago. I cut at the center but cut an overlap joint of about 1-1/2 inch. I drilled two holes thru the assembled joint, tapped one side and bolted it together after grinding a bevel along the joint edges. Then began the tedious job of checking alignment with a straight edge. Take it apart, file as needed, and reassemble for checking. After several iterations of this I had it straight. I took it to the welding shop down the street because I didn't trust my own welding on steering or suspension. This guy was pleased to see my lap joint and beveled edges.
    At the top of the column the shaft turned in a bearing that was molded into a rubber biscuit and pressed into the tube. I pulled the biscuit out, cut off the top of the tube as needed, and pressed the biscuit back in. (Column might have been GM truck)
  8. Andy
    Joined: Nov 17, 2002
    Posts: 4,399


    I tried the full bevel of the shaft. I did not like the result as I had weld glob in the center. I made a sleeve that was a light press fit. The sleeve allowed the shaft to be easily positioned in length and rotation. Full fillet welds provided excess strength. The sleeve diameter was small enough to pass the upper bearing past it. I was able to retain the horn rod and use the switch at the box.
  9. Don’t forget, this is now the time to pick any steering wheel that you love. Don’t be constrained by what fits on the top of the existing shaft. Pick your favorite wheel and grab the top foot of its shaft and you can have whatever you like best.

    I did one a couple years ago using a short piece of heavy walled tubing fitted inside the two shafts. The two shaft pieces were different inside diameters so half of the tubing was turned down a small bit for a close fit with the shafts. A couple rosette welds plus a butt joint weld tied it together. I stuck the new shaft on the press for very minor straightening and then had it magnafluxed. The top of the new wheel’s column may be used for a better fit if needed.
    49ratfink likes this.
  10. Rocket-Boy
    Joined: Jun 21, 2008
    Posts: 88


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