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Old 02-18-2022, 01:32 AM
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Default Steering Column Bearings

I'm rebuilding my 68 steering column and I see it needs a new lower bearing for sure. Also see that no one seems to produce that part.

Ames does sell a "conversion" kit to use a 69 lower bearing on a 68 column. Is it just a 69 bearing? Or does it have something special included to adapt it?

On both the columns I have I noticed the upper bearing is in decent condition ... but the shaft just spins inside of it unless it's lubed up and worked loose. Surprising since both columns look pretty good from the outside.

Any advice on steering column rebuilding is welcome.

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Old 02-18-2022, 02:00 AM
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It took me quite a while to find a ‘68 lower bearing. If I had to guess, I suspect the difference has to do with the locking column. Looks like the plastic housing is different which I assume means the bearing is different too. Probably not super noticeable once installed.

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Old 02-18-2022, 10:39 AM
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I wouldn't be concerned about originality on a part like that, so the conversion kit would be suitable .. just wanted to find out if there were other options before I dropped $85 on that kit with shipping.

I've got one sacrificial column to work with, was wondering about trying to locate the actual bearing that was used to see if I could just buy an off the shelf bearing and put it in the plastic carrier.

I have a thing about bearings ... I love finding the actual bearing an OEM supplier used and replace them with high quality off the shelf stuff

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Old 02-18-2022, 02:06 PM
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Original part number is 7804200

Here's an NOS

https://www.ebay.com/p/21019689046

Search of the web:
https://gmtiltcolumns.com/product/67...-and-clip-new/

Upper bearing:
https://www.ebay.com/itm/39394466157...IAAOSwLd9iD8K6

I restored my column a few years ago. Using the service manual its relatively straight forward and after cleaning, I knocked it out in an afternoon.
In the SM, just ignore all the info about the column shift mechanism. Take lots of pictures during disassembly.
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Old 02-18-2022, 05:53 PM
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Is that a conversion lower bearing you are using, or all 68 stuff? Mine has white carriers for the lower bearing.

Luckily I have two identical columns so one to practice on.

After seeing those NOS prices I guess the Ames kit isn't that bad a deal.

Quick question ... is the rectangular section of the steering shaft inside the column supposed to slide up and down inside the upper portion? Seems like it did when I pulled it apart but now it's not moving, but I could be imagining things.

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Old 02-18-2022, 07:03 PM
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This??

Yes, the bearing I have was a conversion piece. Waited about 6 months for an NOS piece to show up that wasn't $$$. So I went with the one you see from a Camaro vendor. Can't remember who though. About $80 if I remember right. Receipt is in one of my "boxes".
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Old 02-18-2022, 07:17 PM
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I also used this to glue the plastic piece back on.
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Old 02-18-2022, 11:20 PM
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I was asking about the lower bearing, the conversion kit so a 68 can use a 69 once piece lower bearing.

This is from the Ames site .. although they say it's not an actual photo of the part.
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Old 02-19-2022, 01:56 AM
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You know those three screws that go through the turn signal mechanism, then through the springs etc? How do you know how much to tighten those down? I assume you don't totally compress the springs.

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Old 02-19-2022, 03:08 AM
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Screws tighten down to 35 inch - pounds

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Old 02-19-2022, 04:26 AM
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I assume that's in the service manual if I'd read it instead of looking at the pictures.
Thank you.

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Old 02-19-2022, 12:12 PM
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When following the service manual, there is numerous references to the shift linkage. With the floor shift you can just ignore all of that. (67-68 only)
There are a few parts that require a little thinking and ingenuity when installing but nothing thats beyond the skill of most people.
I couldn't seat the upper bowl bushing. After struggling with it I noticed it had a keyway. duh... This bushing btw, does not wear with a floor shift. It supports the rotation of the column shift bowl.

Another thing to remember is the outer tube and shaft can be easily damaged if dropped on end. Once the C clip and lower bearing are removed the shaft is free to fall out of the tube.
And use the mounting tabs when placing in a vise.
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Old 02-20-2022, 01:08 AM
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Great idea on the vice ... mine's been flopping all over the bench.

I've got the top end figured out pretty well now. Working my way down.

Measured up the lower bearing, appears to be nothing close off the shelf, what a cheap little bearing, looks like a flanged pedal crank bearing from a cheap bicycle. Was hoping to find a sealed high quality replacement. Waiting to hear from Ames when their lower bearing kits will be in stock.

I don't see anything that appears to be an external seal protecting the lower bearing, degraded over time?

In the diagram below ... is "part 1" supposed to slide in and out of "part 2" or is fixed into place?
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Old 02-20-2022, 03:42 PM
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No, it is fixed. Upon frontal impact, both the column inner and outer tubes and the steering shaft collapse.
If you look carefully at the shaft and the inner tube, you can see the plastic (?) retainers that keep it as a solid piece. On impact the plastic retainers are sheared allowing the shaft to collapse along with the tubes.
Which is why you don't want to drop these on end.

There was a tape type of insulation wrapped around the inner tube near the lower bearing. It was severely degraded and I just left it off. I may put a wide black tape over the opening where the shift fork/forks would normally go to keep dirt out

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Old 02-21-2022, 04:32 AM
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Having a heck of time finding the lower bearing that is not either an extremely overpriced NOS part, or someone gouging on the price of the reproduction because everyone is out of stock.

Read tons of forum posts on the subject ... one guys solution, pressing a 2" OD, 1" ID sealed ball bearing into the column, had to leave some parts out I think. Just so happens in the ID of the column tube is 2".

I'm getting to the point where I might just get on the lathe and build a carrier that holds a high quality sealed roller bearing on the end of the tube. The OEM bearing really appears to be an extremely cheap bicycle head stock bearing (even heard one poster saying he knew someone that found a suitable bearing at a bike shop).

Pretty sure I could turn up an aluminum 2" OD flanged carrier that would fit into the tube like the original plastic carrier, Could probably even groove it to take the original clip. After looking at it, there is no magic down there ... just a plastic thing that holds the bearing (and not every well), big spring on the inside, little spring on the outside.

The way things are going supply wise lately ... could probably sell a bunch of them. Quality sealed ball bearing in that location would last probably 100 years of daily use.

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Old 02-21-2022, 06:03 AM
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Did some research ... I'm up for this project. Going to use either a Delrin, or Oil-lite Bronze bushing for the 1" steering shaft. Will make a carrier that holds it similar to the OEM piece. Will work better than the OEM piece and cost less (already have all these materials).

Noticed that aftermarket hot-rod, drag car etc. steering systems use Delrin bushings. Shouldn't a problem to get the total thickness the same so the inner and outer spring function as OEM.

On both my columns with the OEM bearing it was a filthy mess full of grit that totally destroys those cheap bearings. Perhaps I'll even machine a provision for a seal of some sort, and an oil hole on top for an occasional drop of oil or graphite lubricant. Should have way less slop than even a new OEM piece.

For some reason I find myself afraid to make parts for this GTO, I've made parts for racing motorcycles for 20 years, stuff that operates way more on the edge and requiring way more precision than a passenger car. I've been paying way too much for NOS or reproduction parts that are often pretty low quality when I could have made functional replacements myself. I could have literally fabricated a working replacement myself in less time than I have spent searching for a suitable factory style replacement.
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Old 02-21-2022, 08:08 AM
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I went through this with the '68 tilt column in my '64. At first I thought the bottom bearing was bad. After cleaning it in the parts washer it felt fine. I packed it with marine grease. It appears that a spring keeps the clearance out of the bearing. I'm not sure I have the correct spring though. Will post some pics later. I should do like you said. I should find a sealed bearing and machine an adapter. I think mine is fine if I can verify that I have the correct spring for it.

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Old 02-22-2022, 02:17 AM
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You know .... when I looked at the OEM bearings I had a feeling that is what the forward spring is for, between the lower column and connection to the intermediate shaft. Much like a bicycle steering neck bearing it needs pressure on it to maintain proper clearance.

When I was checking slop one column did not have the lower spring installed, the other column had it installed and held in place with a zip tie ... BUT, the zip tie was not compressing the spring nearly as much as it would be installed.

So, before I make the final call I will clean up the old bearings, grease well AND compress that spring and see what it does to the slop in the lower column.

Still ... I'd be excited about having a beefy sealed bearing down there. People that have done the modification have said it really improves the smoothness and feel of the steering.

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Old 02-22-2022, 05:58 AM
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The original bearings I have, failed the test. Cleaned them, greased them, compressed the spring, still the way too much slop, probably 1/8" total.

Did some very close examination, these columns are an odd piece. First .. they are in the majority .. Metric. The lower tube I kept getting a 2.045" ID for ... well that's 52mm, the lower tube OD (2.16") is ... 55mm. The lower bearing small OD is 37mm, the lower bearing large OD is 42mm ... the only thing Imperial on that bearing is the 1" ID for the shaft.

Now the lower end of the inner column tube is Imperial ... ID 1.25" OD 1.365"

Shame the large column tube is metric .. 2" OD stock is too sloppy to use. I did find the materials below in my stock. Some 2.25" OD 1.25" ID super high pressure aluminum pipe, and some 1.5" OD Delrin (or perhaps PTFE, or maybe UHMW polyethylene) that should work fine. Or I may go with a bronze bushing ... I'll do the drawings and see how things work out.

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Old 02-22-2022, 06:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dataway View Post
The original bearings I have, failed the test. Cleaned them, greased them, compressed the spring, still the way too much slop, probably 1/8" total.

Did some very close examination, these columns are an odd piece. First .. they are in the majority .. Metric. The lower tube I kept getting a 2.045" ID for ... well that's 52mm, the lower tube OD (2.16") is ... 55mm. The lower bearing small OD is 37mm, the lower bearing large OD is 42mm ... the only thing Imperial on that bearing is the 1" ID for the shaft.

Now the lower end of the inner column tube is Imperial ... ID 1.25" OD 1.365"

Shame the large column tube is metric .. 2" OD stock is too sloppy to use. I did find the materials below in my stock. Some 2.25" OD 1.25" ID super high pressure aluminum pipe, and some 1.5" OD Delrin (or perhaps PTFE, or maybe UHMW polyethylene) that should work fine. Or I may go with a bronze bushing ... I'll do the drawings and see how things work out.

I also considered making a bushing to replace the lower bearing. Nylatron would work well and it's charcoal gray. So it would be inconspicuous. Will likely stay with the factory stuff since it appears to be in good shape. It's is a poor design I think. Another idea is using a split collar to adjust the preload instead of the spring. Dunno if there's room for that though.

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