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How to Rebuild the Steering Column

STEP BY STEP WITH PHOTOS

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#1 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 07:02 AM

Ok, here is another how-to thread.  This one is a simple rebuild but the results are pretty impressive. I tell you what, rebuilding this column resulted in a noticable improvement in the drivability of the vehicle.  The wheel turns so smoothly...it is like driving a brand new car!  

Have to add my disclamer:

Please note: I am not a mechanic who works on cars day in and day out! I don't have an unlimited supply of specially tooling! I am an auto enthusiest/backyard mechanic like the majority of us on this site. I've done my best to document how I performed this particular rebuild using standard hand tools and the factory service manuals as my guideline. If you see something in error, please respond via PM. If you see something that may be performed in a simpler fashion, again please respond.




First and foremost: YOU NEED THE FACTORY MANUALS FOR ALL REBUILDS! Enough said.

Parts required: None for this rebuild...unless of course you find a worn out part.   Number one worn out item in the column assembly:  Steering Coupler.  Number two:  Steering Coupler boot.   Both are NLA by Mitsubishi and there are no aftermarket replacements.   I have heard a member say that he was able to use an off the shelf bellows boot from another vehicle to replace the steering coupler boot, but he didn't provide the part number. So you may be hitting up some junkyards and/or searching on here for a good used coupler/boot, as req'd for your rebuild.

Tooling Req'd: This rebuild was performed with just basic hand tools with exception of the following:
  • Steering Wheel Puller;  don't dare try removing the steering wheel without the proper puller....these pullers cost $10.
  • External Snap Ring Pliers:  I consider this a basic hand tool but will include it here
  • Magnet:  One of those retractable magnets used to pick up dropped bolts in your engine compartment works great for this rebuild
  • Dremel tool with small grinding stone:  this is a contingency only...but I had to use it, see details in the thread.
Consumables:  Grease...I use two types of grease for this rebuild
  • Green Grease:  Doesn't have to be green, I just like it...but you want to use a grease suitable for bearings/axles for the internal components of the steering shaft
  • Lithium Grease:  I use lithium grease for all of the joints that aren't continually used on the column as well as the joints that are open to the cabin of the vehicle....for the simple reason that lithium grease doesn't have much of an odor.
  • Permatex:  Or any type of glue to adhere a rubber plug to the aluminum outer sleeve of the column
Note:  I was rebuilding two columns at the same time when these photos were taken;  one for my daily driven CQ and one for the CQ I'm restoring.  So you may see some minor differrences between the photos due to there being two columns.   Sorry if that is confusing.

kev


Edit 11/5/2014: Lately I have been receiving many requests from club members asking if I would consider rebuilding their parts per the steps shown in these ‘how-to’ threads. Although I am humbled at your trust in my abilities to rebuild such critical parts of your vehicle, I respectively have to decline any such requests. With a family of four, a demanding career, and just the normal responsibilities in everyday life, I have difficulty in finding time to work on my own project vehicles much less take on additional work. However, I encourage you to review the thread in detail, try to gather the required parts and tools, and attempt to rebuild the items on your own. My goal in developing these threads was to give members the encouragement to perform these component rebuilds at home while gaining valuable experience, saving some $, and simply having fun with the hobby. I hope by sharing this information and by including my own trials and mistakes along the way, help to achieve these goals.

Regards,
kev





#2 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 07:32 AM

Starting point:  column off of the vehicle.  Yes the dork who pulled this column was too lazy to pull of the steering wheel first, lol.   What can I say, this is from my daily driver...less work laying on my back out in the driveway and more work sitting on a comfortable chair in my garage.    It probably is a good idea to pull the wheel as the first step in removing the column from the car...it gets it out of your way.

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Pulling the wheel (note I used my harmonic balancer puller...not sure why because I own a steering wheel puller...but both work)

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Remove the two phillips screws for the turn signal assembly.  Be careful with this part...

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OK the outer tube of the column is a two piece assembly and is adjustable.   You want to make a score line across the tube to aide in reassembly.  Do that now and get it out of the way.  A simple pick tool is all that is required...just need to score the paint.

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Hmmm...take a look at this...obviously somebody has been here before me.  You can see signs of someone improperly trying to get out the lower bolt.  There is a new upper bolt but ther person didn't even snap off the head as intended.  Odd...very odd (this was on my daily driven CQ btw)

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Center punch the bolts holding the ignition switch (two of them...but in this specific case, only one, lol):

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Drill the bolt head until it just breaks thru.   Then use your magnet to capture the filings.

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Again, I didn't make those cuts around the bolt...that was from a former owner.   Once you have the bolt drilled this far, use a flat scewdriver, wedge it in the newly drilled hole and tap the bolt in a counterclockwise direction...it should just spin out because you relieved the preload.
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Now, go to the other end...lets get that coupler off.

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Carefully pull the coupler boot up without damaging it.  And clean off all the grime on the coupler.  It should be nice and clean like this prior to disassembly.

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Use a pick to remove the lower c-clip just below the plated sleeve.

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Slide off the sleeve, this is what you should see.  Clean it up if it is grimey

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#3 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:03 AM

While holding the coupler, apply a force towards the column with your hand and at the same time use a magnet over one of the steel dowels to remove it.   DON'T TRY TO HAMMER OUT THE STEEL DOWELS...IT ISN"T A SOLID DOWEL...YOU WILL DESTROY YOUR COLUMN IF YOU HAMMER THESE!!!!

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The dowel should just come out with ease with the magnet.  If it does, spin the shaft 180 degrees and remove the second one.   In my case neither dowel would come out.  You can see it move about a 32nd of an inch but then stop.    Don't bother with a larger magnet, it isn't the problem.  Instead inspect the part further.

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Look real close, you can see a small burr on the coupler that is preventing the dowel from coming out.  In fact, there is one on both sides of this specific coupler.  On my second column, I had a burr on one side of it but the other side was fine.   I've also ran into this one time in the past on a former car.

Well, here is the fix.  Again, don't bother with a larger magnet,,it is an interference problem..the dowel will never come out because of the burr.   So use a dremel tool with a small grinding bit and remove the burr.

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You just have to kiss it...the burr comes off in a second.

Grab your magnet and try removing the dowel.  See how easy it comes out!

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Other side:

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The coupler slide off of the column

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Hammer out the pin in the cage with the proper punch.

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#4 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:12 AM

Back to the steering wheel side.  Remove the retaining ring with your external ring pliers

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Remove the washer and rubber grommet

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Slide the inner shaft out of the column.

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Ok you are done with the guts of the column.  Now to disassemble the rest of the external features of the column assembly.

Remove the three nuts for the mount plate and remove the spring.

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Remove the clamp and slide out the lower tube and plastic liner.

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Linkage assembly.  Snap a pic so you know how it goes back together (or use this pic as reference).  Remove the cotter pins and take it all apart.

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Spin out the bolt on the column adjuster and remove the assembly.

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Ok, lay out your parts.

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#5 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:20 AM

CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN.  Use mineral spirits in a parts washer.  Pay particular attention to the ball bearing in the end of the outer column.   Cleaning is really the reason why we are doing all of this work.  Get rid of that 25 year old gunk so we can re-grease, inspect and reassemble.

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Lay out your parts and inspect for any excessive wear, damage, etc.  Especially look at your coupler.

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Time to rebuild.   Here is the grease I used for assembly.

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Lets start with the linkage and get it out of the way.  Grease all pins, shafts with Lithium grease.

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First apply the washer to this welded pin on the outer column.

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Lay out all the linkage components and grease them up good now prior to assembly

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Install the bushings on both clevis joints of the linkage.  The just pop in...the lithium grease holds them in position for assembly.

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Column adjuster assembly

Grease it up good.

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Install the adjuster.  Play with the backing nut into you find the position where it gets tight like this.   It must be installed just like this or it won't work.

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#6 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:24 AM

Follow the photos for linkage assembly.

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Ok the linkage is done for the time being.   Verify it functions properly.  We will revisit it in a little bit with a little modification to address a factory safety issue.

Install the plastic liner

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Slip the clamp over the outer tube.  Slide in the lower tube until it lines up with your scribe mark and tighten your clamp.

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Proper clamp orientation

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Ok, outer column assembly is complete for now.  Now on to the guts of the column.

#7 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:36 AM

Grease your inner shaft in the following places with a good axle grease
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Slide on your firewall boot now.

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IMPORTANT, slide the first rubber grommet onto the shaft as shown prior to installing shaft

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Install the inner shaft..up thru the bottom

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Grease everything up really really good.

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Install outer rubber grommet.

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Install washer

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Put on retaining ring but leave it an inch or so off of it's final position.  leaving this loose for now aides in assembling the coupler.

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Note:  back it off another inch or so from what I show above.  I had to back it up on assembly anyhow

Grease up your lower ball bearing pack

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Slide ball bearing pack onto shaft and apply permatex to the grommet.

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#8 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 09:58 AM

OK, this is just to show how this piece gets installed.  DON'T PUT IT ON YET.  You have to first install your coupler boot or you will be pissed....believe me, I forgot it the first time.

Slide it on in the factory notch
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Twist 90 degrees as shown.

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Again the above two pictures were to just illustrate how this part goes on.   Prior to installing it, slide on your boot.   This is where you may have to slide your inner shaft down a little to give you more room to work...hence the reason why we didn't snap in that retaining ring yet.

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Used a zip tie to aide in keeping the boot away from the joint.  Install your socket joint again as described earlier and hammer in the dowel pin.

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Oops forgot about lubing them up prior to install.

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OH CRAP....DON"T DO THIS!!!!

Not sure exactly what happened...I hit the joint with the hammer or I had it braced poorly....but one thing is for sure, I wasn't taking my time and thinking what I was doing!!   Note:  I could have easily skipped those photo but thought that I'd include it just as a simple reminder that it is so easy to screw up even the simplest rebuild!

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This was for the column for my daily driver too.   I ended up swapping coupler joints from my resto project to get my driver back up to par while I searched Mitsubishi for a replacement part.
  
Thank god for Southwest Mitsubishi!!!


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Now to properly install the pin. Make sure that joint doesn't bare on anything while you hammer in the dowel!

Sorry I didn't snap a photo of the setup I used to drive in the pin...because I was just overly concerned with doing it right this time rather than creating this thread, lol.   But what I did was use a large socket (I believe it was an 1-1/4") as a brace that reacted off of the inner shaft of the column without touching the joint.  I set the socket on the flat of my vise and cribbed the column such that is was perfectly horizontal.   Then carefully tapped in the dowel with the hammer until it was about a 1/4" from the joint.  Finally I used the proper sized punch to drive it home...again taking my time on every hit.

It should look like this when done:  Make sure the dowel doesn't protrude from the joint on either side.

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Install the upper c clip on your coupler

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Gather all of your coupler parts.

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Lube them up good as shown.
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#9 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:13 AM

Follow along with the pics on coupler assembly

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Ok..installed.  Now lube it up more, lol!

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Slide your boot over the joint....this was kinda difficult

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Slide your inner shaft all the way back up now to put in the retaining ring.

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#10 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:21 AM

Now for the safety modification.

We know about the annoying issue with the tilt wheel releasing while driving.   Most of us did the quicko fix by placing the return spring on the brake lever up to the linkage arm.  That serves the purpose but it isn't ideal.

Here is a modification to solve the issue once and for all.

I bought the following extension spring set from home depot.
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Drill an 1/8" diameter hole in the linkage arm in the approximate position as shown.

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Attach the spring as shown...and test her.  You should be able to operate the tilt mechanism with ease but it now will stay in the latched position.  The extension spring should be slightly in tension with the lever in the locked position.  It doesn't have to apply a large amount of force, but just enough to keep it from vibrating loose while driving.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see that the spring is in tension.

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Mount your ignition switch.  If you aren't worried about theft, you can use standard socket head cap screws as shown.  Or buy the factory Mitsubishi bolts.   I'm not going to a great amount of detail on the ignition switch at this time.  I'll add a detailed ignition switch rebuild section at a later date.

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There you go, you are pretty much done

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#11 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:28 AM

Ok, I'll add a couple sections on a minor cleanup of the turn signal switch assembly.  

Starting point

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Pop off the grey spool piece (not sure it's technical name)

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Continue minor disassembly as shown.

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Clean everything up with electrical cleaner

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Put lithium grease here

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Grease up the ball bearing and set in position

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Install small spring

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Keeper installation

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Lube as shown...Qtips are great for this purpose

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Install large spring and grey sleeve

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All done. Clean excessive grease as required.

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#12 kev

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Posted 10 July 2012 - 10:32 AM

Don't have any further pics on assembly of the turn signal and steering wheel but that is pretty simple.  Make sure the steering wheel mates with the 'knubs' on that grey spool piece upon assembly.

kev


P.S.    SOON TO COME:   Pictorial representation for rebuilding the ignition switch per Ken's instructions provided here:

http://www.starquest...pic=92298&st=20





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