If you’re like some other gearheads, you may have some questions when it comes to designing and installing your steering system. Luckily, Flaming River has put together some answers to these tricky questions. They answer everything from column installation to horn functionality and universal joint installation.
Flaming River Industries strives to maintain stringent quality standards, improve the design of products, and offer long range product availability. Their tilt steering column program and their Rack and Pinion Cradle Kits have both won SEMA’s Best New Product Awards.
The article, which you can find in its original form here, gives us four main sections of solutions to common issues. Steering Column Installation, Column Wiring, Clocking the Canceling Cam, and Universal Joint Installation. These solutions should provide answers to your most common problems and should help you in setting up your steering column properly.
In the first section, Steering Column Installation, Flaming River takes us through column angles and lengths. First, we look at how to figure out and solve the issue if you have an incorrect column angle. When the angle of the column going through the firewall/floorboard is incorrect, it can affect the entire steering system and cause problems. You’ll notice these problems the most in your steering linkage (universal joints and intermediate shafts). Having a column at an incorrect angle can cause binding due to extreme angles, which can end up turning a relatively simple two u-joint system into a three or four u-joint setup. The impacts you’ll notice the most from inside the vehicle is constantly having to tilt the position of the column. If you’re having to fully extend your arms to drive, this is a good indication that your angles are off.
When looking at the column length, it’s important to order the right length. If your column is too long, it can impact the way you feel as a driver, making you feel cramped or crowded while driving. It can also cause binding in the universal joint system if it’s going through the firewall too far. On the other end of the spectrum, a column that is too short and doesn’t extend far enough through the firewall will interfere with the ability to properly connect and engage the steering linkage, causing different types of issues. Figuring out the exact length steering column your vehicle needs is incredibly important.
The next section that Flaming River takes us through is Column Wiring. One of the most common errors that happens when replacing a stock OEM steering column is that they will remove the factory original column without taking the time to verify the wire colors and what they relate to. They oftentimes incorrectly assume that their car’s column is original and that the previous owner did not modify the wiring or electrical system, and that can cause confusion and issues when trying to hook it all back up. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache taking the time to verify what color wire operates what (front and rear turn signals, brake lights, horn function, etc.). You can also run into problems if you don’t properly ground the column, as this can cause the horn and turn signals to work erratically or not work at all – especially in fiberglass bodied vehicles. You’ll want to check to make sure it is grounded or even attach a ground strap from the column to the vehicle chassis. Lastly, a standard flasher can’t be used when using LED style lighting for your turn signals and brake lights. You’ll need a special LED flasher that will be able to pull enough to cause the flasher to open and close the circuit properly.
Next, we take a look at issues with Clocking the Canceling Cam. The canceling cam has two functions: First, it acts as a contact for the horn, and second, it cancels or turns off the turn signals when the steering wheel straightens out. If your canceling cam is not clocked or timed correctly, the turn signals will either not turn off on their own, or they will turn off too quickly. To clock or time the canceling cam correctly, look at the top of the column as if it were the face of a clock. You’ll see a stem that sticks up about 1.5″. Imagine this stem as the hour hand on a clock and adjust it to the 10:30 position. This position will ensure that your turn signals cancel at the correct time each time you utilize them.
Lastly, there’s the Universal Joint Installation. The most common error that people make when installing a universal joint is not dimpling the steering shaft. When you install it, you’ll notice that the ends of the set screws provided with the universal joints will have a cupped point and won’t sit flush on a flat surface. If you don’t dimple the steering shaft, the set screw may feel tight, but it will eventually come up and loosen itself and will result in play in your steering system. By dimpling the shaft, you increase the clamping force of the set screw and allow it to really sink in and “bite” into the surface, creating a tight fit between the universal joint and steering shaft that won’t loosen itself with use. Another equally common error is putting too much shafting into the yoke. When you install any universal joint, you only want about 7/8″ of the shaft in each end of the yoke. This will put the shaft flush with the yoke itself. If you let too much of the shaft through the yoke, it can cause interference with the bearing cross in the center of the joint and make it feel as if the joint is binding up.