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Technical Upgrading a 55 Chevy's Steering Column?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Mr. Sinister, Apr 8, 2021.

  1. I'm getting ready to install an AAW Classic Update wiring harness in my 55 along with some other things to make the car pass tech at the nostalgia drags my local track holds. So I figured why not update my old worn out factory steering column while I'm at it.
    I'm running a stock steering box and intend to keep it as it works well.
    I'm looking specifically at Speedway columns. Can anyone tell me what length column I would need to match the position of the factory column? I'd like to upgrade to a tilt column, so I'd imagine that would mean I will need a column that is shorter than the factory unit to accommodate for the tilt mechanism?
    Additionally, what else will I need to make the swap? Will the shaft on the new column plug right into the stock box or will I need an adapter?

    Thanks as always guys.
     
  2. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 21,398

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    if you have the stock steering box, the shaft that goes thru the column and bolts to the steering wheel is one pc and does not disconnect from the box. Why not just replace the bearings or bushings in your column?
     
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  3. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,273

    squirrel
    Member

    I second that. Get that stock column working right, it's the best column for the car.

    Yes, the turn signal switch is finicky....

    Look around for used columns, that others have removed to "upgrade" their cars. Don't be the "upgrade" sucker, yourself.
     
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  4. Ralphies54
    Joined: Dec 18, 2009
    Posts: 750

    Ralphies54
    Member

    pretty much any aftermarket column is going to require cutting the shaft off close to the box and grinding the shaft to accept Double-D Rag joint to mate with the after market column which will also have a Rag joint. Ralphie
     
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  5. 2OLD2FAST
    Joined: Feb 3, 2010
    Posts: 3,384

    2OLD2FAST
    Member
    from illinois

    Should be some kind of motto ," Most upgrades aren't !"
     
  6. I could rebuild it sure, but I'm a little worried about the wiring in the column coming apart when the new harness goes in as well. If I'm getting into rebuilding and rewiring the whole thing, I figure I might as well upgrade and get tilt while I'm at it.
    But to play devil's advocate, how bad are the stock column to rebuild? Mine currently will move up and down a bit if you lift on the steering wheel (column stays put I'm pretty sure, so it's an internal issue), and the turn signal mechanism is a mess. They work, but the whole collar moves and there's no self-cancel. I also get a pop out of it when turning far enough sometimes. Apart from all that it steers OK!
     
  7. Makes sense. So remove the box and have the shaft nub machined to match the rag joint of choice.
     
  8. Mr. Sinister likes this.
  9. I'm sure I can find a used stocker. Will the factory shaft pull out of the steering box?
     
  10. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 21,398

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    no, the shaft does not come out of the box.
     
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  11. If you keep the stock steering box, then what are you upgrading? Just a tube with a shaft inside.

    I have a completely stock column, you can buy all the parts required to repair them. Horn works, turn signals, the whole nine.

    It's not that hard to match the stock column harness to the aftermarket harness. There are lots of companies offering wire terminals that will make the job look, and work, factory.
     
  12. OK, so let's talks rebuilding.
    If I can't pull the column out of the stock box, am I going to have to cut the shaft and install a joint? There's gotta be a bearing or bushing at the far end of the column that would get replaced while rebuilding, no?
    The AAW harness kit has an adapter harness for the factory column wiring. My worry is the factory wiring literally falling apart while messing with it.
    I'm floor shifted and still have the column shift collar, so I'd want to replace that as well.
    A rebuild kit definitely saves me some bucks for other stuff.
     
  13. 325w
    Joined: Feb 18, 2008
    Posts: 5,608

    325w
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Only wire in the column is the horn wire. And the turn signal wires. The horn wire is apart of the upper column where the bearing goes. It will take ten times long to retro a tilt into the car than fix what you have. After you put the tilt in you may find the stock wheel sits to far back. Then you need a different steering wheel. If you have to have a tilt buy a good one. Yeah they cost more.

    Buy a new horn wire kit a new upper bearing and a new turn signal switch. While you have the top end apart do a little grinding on the shift collar and fill the shifter arm hole. It’s been done many times.
     
  14. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 21,398

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    you take off the steering wheel, unbolt the column from the car, unplug the wiring and slide the column up over the shaft. then once it is off, you can replace the worn parts of the column. The shaft is not part of the column on a 55 it is part of the steering box
     
  15. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 21,398

    Moriarity
    SUPER MODERATOR
    Staff Member

    I am sure that Danchuk or someone can sell you a reproduction turn signal switch complete with its wiring...
     
  16. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,273

    squirrel
    Member

    The wiring for the turn signal switch is part of the switch, they are available new.

    It's likely that the wheel is loose on the column, or the upper bearing is loose, due to a part being missing, that pushes down on the upper bearing inner race.
     
  17. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 49,273

    squirrel
    Member

    http://chevy.oldcarmanualproject.com/shop/1955/55csm0913.html

    shows how it comes apart.

    If you have a floor shift, you might want to do some work to make the column into a "floor shift" column, by filling in the holes for the shift parts, and removing the shift arm(s) from the shift tube. The shift tube needs to remain in the column, as a spacer.
     
  18. pprather likes this.
  19. If I recall correctly, that upper bearing is lunched. I seem to remember seeing that when I installed my current steering wheel. I do remember it was something I couldn't fix without buying parts. I think I need the bearing kit, and the turn signal kit with harness.
    I hear you on the column shift bits, there's a couple of ears hanging off the lower column that just move about freely.
     
  20. Going to Danchuk, I'm buying:
    Part #008 Chevy Steering Column Bushing Bearing Kit
    Part #580 Turn Signal Pawl Kit
    Part #1741 Turn Signal Bushing & Rubber Pads
    Part #1272 Turn Signal Cancelling Cam
    Part #904 Turn Signal Mechanism
    Part #409 Turn Signal with Wiring
     
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  21. Matt55folife
    Joined: Nov 28, 2020
    Posts: 126

    Matt55folife

    I put a new wiring harness in my car and it came with new wires to run inside the column. As far as the turn signals go sounds like u should pull ur sterring wheel and just check all the small screws inside. Those old columns are more simple than u think. Im not sure if it will b worth the headache to try to put a tilt in there but if you must then go for it! Good luck.


    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
     
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  22. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,129

    Squablow
    Member

    You're doing this the right way now. Replace all the moving parts inside the column with new stuff (there really isn't much, I think your list is pretty comprehensive although I'm not sure if some of that turn signal stuff has overlapping parts, does the turn signal mechanism not come with the related pads/pawl/cam? Maybe it doesn't, I'm not sure, just seems like they'd sell the whole shebang together) but once you get it all back in place it should function great. The original stuff all functions well in my '57, I would not consider an aftermarket tilt or a 70's era GM tilt retrofit to be an upgrade.
     
  23. Yeah, watching the video posted earlier convinced me. I'm betting on the hardware inside being trash, everything else on this car was before I replaced it.

    It's funny, every individual part on their website links to parts other people bought when buying that part. I couldn't find a complete kit, so I just ordered every part available for the upper column. Duplicates are just spares!!
     
  24. FWIW, I would drop 904 and get a new turn signal lever. The turn signal mechanism most likely is good, but the other parts are worth the cost to swap out.
     
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  25. I got the lever too, since it was cheap.
    The mechanism might be ok, but since I'm putting all new parts in it I'm just replacing everything. Anything that still looks serviceable will go in my spares box.
     
    427 sleeper likes this.
  26. cfmvw
    Joined: Aug 24, 2015
    Posts: 706

    cfmvw
    Member

    Another suggestion to save downtime is pick up another '55 column and rebuild it, then just swap them out.
     
  27. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 4,323

    olscrounger
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    see quite a few stockers at swap meets. Usually cheap too. Just check the notches where the plate and screws hold the turn sig mechanism--sometimes broken
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2021
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  28. DDDenny
    Joined: Feb 6, 2015
    Posts: 15,054

    DDDenny
    Member
    from oregon

    Good advise there, once you are tore down you are commited for the duration.
    My experience is there always seems to be something else that holds the project up and it's either another part that needs replacing (that didn't get ordered) or something that is backordered from the vendor.
     
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  29. 325w
    Joined: Feb 18, 2008
    Posts: 5,608

    325w
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    Forgot to say at the top of the the column there is three tabs. It needs all three to work perfect. Easy to fix if one is missing. Don’t have a picture.
     
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  30. olscrounger
    Joined: Feb 23, 2008
    Posts: 4,323

    olscrounger
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    ^^^ Yep--many are broken--easy fix
     
    Mr. Sinister likes this.

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