Q: How do I measure for a new steering column?
A: Measuring for a new steering column is pretty easy.
Follow the steps below to ensure you will get the correct-length column to make your vehicle as comfortable and safe as possible.
1. Before you start, the seat you will be using or a good facsimile MUST be in place. That means no milk crates or lawn chairs are acceptable. The steering wheel position and the pedal position all relate to the comfort of the driver. Getting them right can be the difference between pleasure and pain behind the wheel.
2. Equally as important is the location of the engine, cylinder heads, and headers. These components, or good mock-ups, should be in place to assure you have proper clearance for your steering linkages.
3. The position of the transmission linkage is also important. If you do not have clearance for a solid rod style linkage a cable shift linkage may be necessary. Be sure to leave yourself two inches of space between the column’s lower shift linkage and firewall.
4. Center your column on the driver’s seat. Offsets and angled columns are awkward and uncomfortable.
5. Position the column/steering wheel so your arms are relaxed and comfortable when the seat is adjusted for pedal control.
6. Locate column for maximum use of the tilt mechanism. It does no good to have the wheel tilted into the dash or down on the seat.
7. Column drops should be made to fit both the bottom of the dash and the column snugly and in a stable fashion. No wobbles or vibration should be expected.
8. Lower mounts should be stable and able to fit the angle of the floor or firewall where the column passes through (or a fixed custom made mount fabricated). This mount MUST also be sealed tight from exhaust fumes, heat, dirt and water.
9. If you have a floor-mounted brake and/or clutch pedal assembly, make sure you have clearance for the column.
10. Use of more than two steering U-joints requires the use of joint supports to keep the linkage operation smooth, strong, stable and safe. Use of a double U-joint anywhere in the steering system counts as two U-joints and will require a support bearing.
11. Manufacturers recommend using a splined or DD steering shaft instead of a welded or pinned shaft for safety reasons.
Tech Tip for Determining Column Position and Length
Using an aluminum pie tin and a length of wooden dowel is an excellent way to determine column position and length. Use about four feet of dowel. Add between 1 1/2″ and 3″ beyond the firewall/floor if using a steering box.
If you are using a rack, you can go as far as 5″ into the engine compartment. Watch for clearance.
Simply tack the tin to the dowel (as in steering wheel to column), and have one person hold them in position while seated in the driver’s seat. A second person can then measure and mark essential dimensions such as overall length and the distance between the center of the column and the bottom of the dash.
Also important is the point where the column will pass into the engine compartment and the center-line of the driver’s body/seat.