Prior to 1969, GM had tilt steering columns in production, but these were typically only available in their luxury models. From 1969 on up, tilt columns were readily available in most GM vehicles. These new tilt columns featured the ignition in the column rather than on the dash. Since then, hot rodders, street rodders and every one in between uses the GM tilt column when they build their cars.
However great these columns are, they do have some inherent problems. After several years of use and abuse they tend to malfunction. The tilt no longer has any tension and you can literally lift the column up and down with a pinky. Should one attempt to drive the vehicle with such a tilt column, it can make for some scary moments when suddenly you find the steering wheel in a completely different location.
I asked a friend who happened to be a GM master mechanic about the floppy column syndrome. He said they fix those columns all the time and that that particular repair is the shop's bread and butter (meaning these mechanics fix it in less than an hour, while the customer ends up paying the shop's basic hourly rate and the mechanic gets to pocket the difference). Bread and butter baby, bread and butter. Let's butter our own bread and save about 100 bucks by doing this repair on our own.
Our pals at Harrison's Restorations in Upland, California, gave us a step-by-step tutorial on how it's done without having to remove the column from the vehicle. The idea of breaking down a steering column can be a bit intimidating if you've never done it before. Keep in mind that the parts in these columns are layered like a cake. It might help to put them in the order in which you removed them, and if you have a digital camera, taking a snap shot of every part as it looks before disassembly is a valuable reference tool.
Before you start any work, disconnect the battery. The next obvious step is to start the process of removing the steering wheel.
After the wheel is gone, remove the wheel hub.
This is the horn relay and wiring; remove it and set it to the side.
This is where the lock plate tool gets used. The lock plate is compressed against the spring, which allows you to remove that little retaining ring. Notice the red arrow pointing it out.
Remove the spring and the canceling cam. Lay them out in order on a bench if it helps keep track of their order.
Don't lose that retaining ring. We don't think the guy at the local parts counter would ever be able to find this in his computer, especially when they ask questions like: Does it have air conditioning?
Remove the emergency flasher knob and the signal lever.