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ClearStar Online Locksmith Association (COLA) Presents
 a Gonzo ClearStar Online Magazine Installment
Posted by Rod Williams - Phoenix, AZ - USA - Gonzo Impressioning on February 21, 2003 at 00:02:35:
Column Service

Rack Gear & Tightening Loose Columns

After removing the 3 T30 Torx bolts, (they are not tight and need not be tight, just firm, their job is minimal, just to hold the column lock housing in place), remove the T20 ignition lock retainer bolt, grasp column housing and pull upward. There is a good chance that you will have enough slack in the wires but if you do not, remove lower service panel and find connectors to turn signal and wiper, either disconnect or move around.

The hardest part of this job for many of the tilt columns is removing the tilt lever arm without scratching it. LocTite is used on the threads. The earlier columns had a flat spot to help removal but that was eliminated in the eighties. I use a small Sears water pump plier to grasp the rod at its closest point to the column and unscrew a turn at a time. No fun but that's the most difficult part, the remainder is easy.

The screw that holds the steering locking pin return spring has the same machine thread that the pivot pins use. In a pinch you can use this screw along with a small carpenters claw hammer to remove the pivot pins but a professional pivot pin tool is recommended.

Do not remove all of the Star headed bolts, leave at least one in otherwise a steel plate could slip out of position making the
job harder. Do not tighten the upper right Star bolt too tight as there is a weak area here, just firm.

After all bolts are firm, turn car to the On position by sliding the linkage rod located on the left side of the column upward, dash lights will come on. Now check and make sure that shifter works smooth. It is possible but rare to tighten column down enough to restrict the shifter movement.

When reassembling, use good orange grease on all moving metal parts
including the plastic gear. There is often extra grease on the tilt tension spring assembly. Especially give the rack gear a good coat of grease and the end of the tilt tension spring would like a dab on the end cup.

The turn signal assemble does not like regular lubricant so be careful, a little dab of white lithium grease on the right where the tensioners are would be helpful.

All in all it's a simple job, once you service a Saginaw tilt column, it's
becomes easier. Through the years the column stayed much the same with a few obvious minor changes here and there but nothing too tricky to figure out.

Saginaw Tilt Column Service is a fairly simple and lucrative field. After you become familiar with this common  column, the above job will take about 30 minutes to complete, add 10 minutes for airbag.

The Saginaw Tilt column is used on many General Motors vehicles, AMC, Jeep, Chrysler, International and on many motor homes.

I want to add for everyone that the Snap-On pivot pin puller will also work as well on the majority of Ford tilt columns, same size thread.

Also a good quality quarter inch socket will work just as well as a dedicated Star socket for tightening the 4 column bolts, no discernable difference.

That the reason you start off by placing the steering wheel in a 90 degree turn is so that the center shaft can easily be removed and replaced. The center shaft will not come out in any other position except for the two 90 degree positions.

At times when replacing the center shaft, you will need to put a big bladed screwdriver behind the knuckle and push it up towards you to facilitate reassembly. It's not hard, I have done it hundreds of times without a failure yet.

In the 22 years that I have been tightening Saginaw columns, there were only 2 cases where I was not successful and both times the automobile had been in a fairly serious front end collision, too many parts were broken. I tell the customer to get another column because to fix it would be too labor and part intensive.

Any Snap On truck should have one, you can check the current price at their website. I bought my first one for $13. and have replaced it free of charge at least 10 times. There is a weakness with it, when a pivot pin is real tight, the puller housing tends to bend. The tool can be reformed to a point but Snap On guarantees their tools.

You never want to screw a puller in tight because if it breaks, you want to be able to run the broken threaded stub out with an ice pick. I usually tap on the pivot pin to break it free a little before pulling. Some pivot pins are loose and to save time, I use the little screw that holds on the lock pin spring along with a small claw hammer. It's just like pulling a nail and sometimes a flat bladed screwdriver under the hammer is a good idea. In some cases, the dash juts out enough so that a hammer cannot be used and a few times I have seen rusted in pins.

Kent Moore may still sell a pivot pin remover, I know they did years ago, were somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 and I believe they were made of solid metal.

A local wrecking yard would be a great place for a practice run before working on a customers vehicle. I remember my first one well, it was a blue Oldsmobile that was at one of my car lot clients. I was told that the vehicle was going to the crusher and that I had a license to do with it whatever I wanted before the wrecker came.

I sat in the seat with my tools next to me, took the column down and put it back together. I learned that to separate the metal housing from the lower portion, use the tilt lever, pull back on it which will retract the gears that lock onto a fixed shaft then pull.

The pivot pins are not threaded, they are a pressure fit except for a fine machine thread in the outside center so that the pins can be removed with a puller.

For some strange reason the Saginaw people saw fit to use Loctite on the tilt lever shaft and not on the star bolts. Had they reversed that, used Loctite on the star bolts and not on the tile lever, columns would not come loose causing a dangerous situation. Go figure.

On the newer GM tilt columns as in the ninty modular models, two large pivot pins are used just as in the Saginaw arrangement. The main failure of the newer columns is that one or both of the pins will fall out and replacing them is a challange as they tend to want to come back out. If you look at one on the newer vehicles, you will see giant stake marks around the parimeter of the pins. Staking it does not work well as the pins will come out on their own. I replace the pin(s) back into the column, use a little teflon tape to make them tighter then stake the hell out of the area around the pins. I really don't know how well they hold up, it's design thing, the weight of the air bag, people grabbing them when gettin in their vehicle all attribute to their failure.