1958 Buick Steering Column
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In the process of resurrecting my 1958 Buick from it's long hibernation, I ended up removing and disassembling the steering column to fix a problem with a tight shifter. It required so much effort to move the shifter from gear to gear that I was afraid I was going to snap something off! I did some basic troubleshooting with the shifter linkage to isolate the problem - by disconnecting it at each piece along the way, I could isolate the tight/binding part - and sure enough, it was inside the steering column. Life sucks sometimes, huh?

The factory service manual was no help - apparently when they built these cars they either figured you should be smart enough to figure this out on your own, or that the steering column would never have any problems while GM cared to service the car. So, I removed the column from the disassembled it with no idea if I would be able to get it back together again. I already knew how to remove the wheel and horn assembly - I had previously had to reposition the wheel to make sure the straight ahead position on the steering wheel agreed with the front wheels. (Apparently a previous owner had moved the wheel instead of aligning the car right, so if you aligned the tire rod ends like you should with approx equal spacing, the steering wheel was off about 30 degrees... Lame.)

It all went reasonably well until I put the column back in the car and I managed to 1) hook it up to the steering box 180 degrees off and 2) snap off the shift pointer. So, it's got to come back out again and get more work done to it. At least the shifter works right now...

Oh, and the problem? The design on this thing is pretty freaking stupid. The shift collar threads down over an inner piece that bolts to the top of the column tube. As you move the shifter, you are literally loosening and tightening the collar on those threads. No bearings, or bushings, no grease. Just threads. And they collar is aluminum (or a similar alloy) that is threaded into a large steel assembly. Guess what happens when steel and aluminum touch over long period of time and don't move around - especially if they get damp? They have a chemical reaction and they essentially weld themselves together. You do the math for a car stored in a damp area like Seattle. *sigh*

At least I now know how to do this for when I need need to re-paint the column in the future.

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Page last updated 01/02/2009 01:51:39 PM