Q&A / Tech

Ask Away with Jeff Smith: What’s the Right Steering Box for my Early Chevelle?

I have a ’67 Chevelle that I have decided to swap in a faster ratio steering box. All the stories I’ve read suggest that an ’88 Monte Carlo steering box is the way to go, but I think they are probably all gone as I can’t find one anywhere. Any ideas on a good alternative?

M. S.

You are in luck because it seems that the early Chevelle steering box envelope was used in numerous applications. To jump right into this, we’ve included a chart that lists a bunch of 1990s vehicles that should be relatively plentiful in the boneyard.

YearCodeApplicationRatioEffort
(in.-lbs.)
Travel
1985-88YAChevy Monte Carlo SS12.7:124-3087°
1988-90WZFull Size Chevy12.7:120-2687°
1991-94CPFull Size Chevy12.7:117-2287°
1995CTFull Size Chevy12.7:117-2287°
1992-94ALJeep Grand Cherokee12.7:120-2687°
1995JHJeep Grand Cherokee12.7:120-2687°
1996KDJeep Grand Cherokee12.7:120-2687°
1997-98WKJeep Grand Cherokee12.7:120-2687°

But rather than search through the junkyard in hopes of finding the right box, a much easier method is to jump up on Summit Racing’s website and look for remanufactured gear boxes for these applications. As an example, A-1 Cardone offers a remanufactured steering gear box for the ’88 Monte Carlo that sells for $79.99 and requires a $29.00 core charge, but with free shipping the total cost is $108.99 and this is a remanufactured piece-not a leaking junkyard refugee.

Before you bolt it on, be aware there are some changes you will have to make. First of all, the steering input shaft diameter changed after 1976 to a smaller ¾-inch shaft from the early Chevelles’ 13/16-inch along with a different spline count. This means you will need a different rag joint, that rubber donut-looking piece that isolates vibration between the steering shaft and the steering box. The good news is that GM built several vehicles that will adapt the box to the shaft – and that rag joint is a Dorman part that Summit Racing carries. Some mild modifications will be required on the Chevelle’s steering shaft flange that attaches to the rag joint, but this is easily accomplished with a die grinder.

This is an aluminum Earl’s o-ring fitting also known as a Saginaw fitting for the connection to a Saginaw power steering pump. It’s best to use a steel fitting for the steering box as they are more robust.

This is an aluminum Earl’s o-ring fitting also known as a Saginaw fitting for the connection to a Saginaw power steering pump. It’s best to use a steel fitting for the steering box as they are more robust.

Next, the newer steering box is metric but don’t fret. Your Chevelle Pitman arm will bolt right up. However, the fittings in the box for the high pressure and return lines will be metric in the new box. This will require a decision on your part. The easiest way to go is to use high quality, braided steel or, my favorite, that fabric-covered rubber high pressure hose with push-on steel fittings. Earl’s, for example, sells metric steel O-ring fittings (also called Saginaw fittings) that will bolt right into the steering box with a -6 male connection for the AN hose. The high pressure 18mm fitting and the low pressure 16mm fitting are both $9.95. The power steering pump will require an inverted flare adapter to a -6 male for both the high pressure and low pressure sides. I prefer to use steel fittings here as they are more durable. The Earl’s 5/8 x 16 thread inverted flare to -6 male is $9.97.

You will note on the chart we listed the Pitman arm travel in degrees. The 87-degree arc is exactly the same swing as a stock Chevelle steering box, so there is no loss of turning radius. You may have heard that a third-generation Camaro (’82-’93) will work with a Chevelle, and it will. But the travel arc is only between 68 and 72 degrees, which means the Pitman arm will not travel as far, reducing the Chevelle’s turning radius. I’ve tried this swap and discovered that this loss of turning radius is very aggravating so I don’t recommend you use a third-gen Camaro steering box. We didn’t get into it on the application chart, but in theory the S-10 trucks and Blazers effectively use a Monte Carlo style front suspension, which means the steering box will also interchange. There are probably ratios that are quicker than others, so that’s another option should you choose to go that route.

One last note: Once you have the box installed in the car, and hoses connected, use a high quality fluid like Royal Purple, Lucas, Red Line, or the Joe Gibbs Driven fluids. With fluid in the pump reservoir, do not start the engine yet. It’s important to bleed the air out of the steering box before starting the engine and creating pressure. With the front tires off the ground, manually swing the tires to full lock left and right numerous times. You will notice air bubbles emerging from the fluid and the level will drop. Maintain the proper oil level in the pump reservoir until no air bubbles emerge as you swing the steering lock-to-lock. Now start the engine and again rotate the steering through its entire swing before lowering the front tires to the ground. The system now should be fully purged of all air and ready to test drive. Double check all your steering connections to ensure everything is tight before you drive the car. Then enjoy your new fast ratio steering. The difference will be amazing.

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