About three years ago I found the lower bearing on the steering column was in BAD shape. The rubber was cracked all the way around. I was also concerned about the steering coupler as the seal on that was in bad shape too. I decided to try and fix both these problems.
After some inquiries, I found that a rebuild kit did not exist for the early couplers. One company claimed to have New Old Stock (NOS) rebuild kits, but wouldn't sell the kits by themselves. Instead, I had to send in my entire column to them for a complete rebuild. Nor something I wanted to do....
Then I read about the coupler rebuild kit that was available from Chrysler (PN4443436AC). It was advertised as fitting '66 and later, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway.
|An overview look at the components.|
|The '66-'76 rebuild kit will fit the '65 and earlier coupler bodies. The tabs on the cover plate do not line up exactly, but will still work.
I thought I was the first to figure this out but learned otherwise after looking at Mosher's Web Site.
If you look at Mosher's project car pages you will find photos of finished steering columns. The tell tale orange seal of the rebuild kit is visible in several of the steering column photos.
|Keep your original clip and reuse it. The newer clip will not fit in the pre-1966 coupler bodies.|
|Original shoe from 1964 is squared off on the ends with a slight round over on the outboard edge.
Rebuild shoe has a noticeable taper on the outboard edge. While this taper is of no consequence for the 1964 and earlier couplers, it is required to fit the 1965 and later coupler bodies.
|I recommend removing the steering column to replace the coupler. It just makes it so much easier to work on. If you decide to remove the turn signal wiring during disassembly, it is relatively easy to do.
First make a diagram showing the position of the different wires in relation to the "bump" (circled in red) on the plastic connector.
Then, insert a stiff wire on both sides of the wire connector. I did one side firs, pushed down slightly on the connector, and then did the opposite side. I found that the copper staples used on cardboard boxes worked perfectly well for this task.
The wiring can then be pulled out by removing the turn signal cam. after inspecting the wiring, I found the insulation was extremely thin in a few area on some of the wires. Forty years of rubbing on the steering shaft had worn it down. I put some heat shrink tubing over the wire bundle to protect it from further wear.
|This pin is the hardest part of the rebuild process. I attempted to use a C clamp to press it out. That method did not work at all. I then used a small hydraulic press which worked very well. I also have heard that a large bench vise will work. I urge caution if using a hammer to remove the pin: the pin could mushroom and thus become even more difficult to remove!
Make sure to put the cover plate and seal on the shaft prior to putting the pin in. Forget, and you will have to remove the pin again.
|An assembled coupler view easily shows why using the original spring clip is required. The larger "lip" on the new spring would not allow it to fit in the 1965 and earlier coupler bodies. Imagine the empty space in the middle occupied by the steering shaft. Fill the coupler body 3/4 full of grease and insert the steering shaft / shoe assembly. Push the assembly approximately halfway into the couple body. Then use a knife blade or putty knife to fill the remaining space on top with grease. Drilling and tapping the lower section of the steering coupler body for a grease fitting is an option to consider. That way, no disassembly is needed in the future to add grease.|
|Kramer Automotive Specialties supplied the replacement lower bearing. Replacing this bearing while you have the steering column removed is a good idea.
The bearing seals off the end of the column so if your's is torn or dry rotted, exhaust gasses and odors can travel that pathway into your Mopar's interior.
I actually had paper towels stuffed inside the column to block the airflow prior to this repair.
|When reassembling the steering column and coupler, make sure the that the master splines are aligned. There is one spline on the steering box, steering coupler, and steering column. Set them all at the same clock angle. On my car they all lined straight up at the 12 o'clock position in order for the steering wheel to position properly. It is possible to assemble the coupler and steering column 180 degrees off. The car's steering wheel would appear upside down with the steering centered in that case.|
|On 1964 steering columns there is a witness hole in the shaft. The 1964 Factory Service Manual specs calls for aligning the center point of the hole 13/16" above the top of the coupler. This measurement ensures that the coupler is centered in the range of travel. I assume there is a similar setup in other year models.|
|Use of clamps is highly recommended to ensure the cover plate is sealed firmly against the coupler body. Since i reused my original cover plate, I was able to use pliers to crimp the tabs back down. New cover plates may require a combination of tools to get the tabs tightly crimped.|
|It is also a good time to clean and paint the cover that attaches the steering column to the firewall. I highly recommend that you mark the plate and rubber seal in relation to the steering column so that you can reassemble at the same clock angle for easier installation. The rubber seal that fits inside the plate hole takes an oblong "set" over the years. Trying to realign the seal and plate while under the dash was quite a chore.
If reinstalling the steering column, leave the upper clamps loose on the column and loosely install the bolts in the plate pictured. Ensure the steering shaft is centered in the steering column tube while looking at it from the engine compartment side. An off center installation will pull the column bearing to one side. Move the steering column tube around to center the steering shaft. Then tighten the bolts and clamps.
Schumacher sells the firewall gasket kits.
|The finished result: a rebuilt steering coupler and new steering column bearing. I used paints from Eastwood and mimicked Moshers steering columns.
Of course, all that effort on the steering column just makes the engine compartment of my 1964 Plymouth Belvedere look that much worse.....