C1 Steering Box Restoration - Restoring The C-1 Steering Gear

Straight Steer From A Vintage Worm-And-Roller Gear!

Moses Ludel Sep 9, 2009 0 Comment(s)
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Getting the steering gear to this stage begins with disconnecting the pitman arm and draglink while in the chassis. If necessary, loosen the gear from the frame and rotate slightly to access the sector. Use a pitman arm puller to remove the arm. Follow the ST-12 manual's steps when removing and installing the steering gear assembly. Unless damaged, the mast should be left in place during the rebuild.

This rebuild kit provides all wear parts except the sector shaft and sector adjuster. The new roller kit must be used with the original sector. This is fine as long as there is no spline wear, thread wear or excessive wear at the sector's adjuster slot. The fit between the adjuster thrust washer, button head and the slot is precise and critical. Excessive thrust clearance is an issue. The adjuster clearance or correct fit within the slot must be restored.

Before Rebuilding, Separate Steering Issues
The '53-'62 Corvette steering system has many wear points that create steering looseness. Lack of lubrication, poor adjustment techniques and improper front-end alignment can also contribute to steering quirks. Before rebuilding the gear, which entails a good deal of effort to remove, pinpoint the wear and weaknesses in the Corvette's system.

Points of concern would be: 1) the kingpin bushings, causing shimmy and wheel wobble, 2) wander and sway from loose tie-rod ends, draglink cups or bellcrank/third arm bearings, and 3) loose wheel bearings creating wobble, shake and wander. Eliminate any of these wear issues before condemning the steering gear. If roughness or binding persists, disconnect the draglink from the pitman arm. Slowly rotate the steering wheel from left to right extremes, feeling for roughness or notchiness. Binding is common when the sector adjustment has been over-tightened as an ill-fated attempt to reduce overall steering play.

When steering won't return to center after turns, check for steering gear bind or insufficient caster angle at the front wheels. The caster angle should be 4-degrees positive, plus-or-minus 1/2-degree. Camber, caster, toe-in and toe-out on turns must each measure within specification. Total front-end alignment is critical and often overlooked on vintage Corvettes. Setting just the toe-in is simply not enough.

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Saginaw worm-and-roller steering is a rugged design. Compared to Gemmer and Ross manual gears of the period, the Corvette C-1 steering gear has much better sector shaft support and a superior roller bearing design.

There are numerous wear points on the front end of a C-1 model. Common checkpoints are much like a 1953 Chevrolet passenger car: the kingpins and bushings, tie-rod ends, steering knuckles and spindles, wheel bearings, control arm bushing wear, worn sway bar bushings, coil spring sag or a loose steering gear. Combined, these features make up the handling and safe steering of your vintage Corvette.

If your search narrows to the steering gear, approach this job with the 1953-62 Corvette Servicing Guide (ST-12) in hand. This factory workshop manual details the removal and installation of the steering gear, the overhaul steps and the proper methods for adjusting the gear. The book is available in reprint form from automotive literature and Corvette parts sources. Every vintage Corvette owner should have a copy. Consider the steering gear rebuilding steps. Decide whether tackling your gear is a home project or sublet to a Corvette restoration shop.

Set up properly, the C-1's Saginaw worm-and-roller steering gear is a rugged and reliable unit. If the original gear got your Corvette this far, a precisely rebuilt gear, with modern upgrade components, should easily last another half-century!

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