The Pantera Place
"Your de Tomaso Connection"

Rebuilding the Steering Column

By Mike Dailey

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My Pantera had very slight free-play in the steering column linkage that was caused by the nylon clips in the steering shaft slip joint wearing.  The play was small compared to many Panteras Iíve seen but I decided it should be fixed.  It was one of the few areas of the car that I hadnít inspected or rebuilt so I knew that it deserved some attention.  While I was looking at the slip joint I also noticed that the U joint at the bottom of my steering column was rubbing on the bottom of the steering column tube.  Someone had put a large washer between the parts and lubed it up pretty well so it wasnít noticeable when tuning the wheel.

My car has an aftermarket Lecarra steering wheel and after seeing no gap at the bottom of the steering column tube and the U joint I knew someone had most likely over tightened the steering wheel retaining nut and damaged the lower bushing in the column.  The Lecarra wheel does not have a very large tapered area below the splines and over tightening the nut will pull the wheel down, coil binding the spring on the top of the steering shaft and will pull up and or damage the lower bushing.

This article will go through the process of removing and rebuilding the steering column.

Remember that anytime you are working on the steering system of any car you are working on an absolute critical part of the car.  Mistakes could cause the steering system to fail resulting in the loss of control, the car crashing and serious injury or death.  You should seek a professional and certified auto mechanic with experience with the Pantera steering system to do the work for you.  If you are not a professional and certified auto mechanic do not attempt to work on the steering system of your Pantera. 

Before starting the steering column removal, disconnect the battery and center the steering wheel.  The parts are greasy so itís a good idea to cover your floor mats.  The steering column is held to the steering column support with four bolts.  My car had Allen head bolts in the back bracket and normal bolts on the front bracket.  The plastic cover around the turn indicator lever and ignition switch cannot be removed until the column is dropped down away from the dash. They are held with one screw on each side and the front parts have large holes that go above the back mounting bracket. 

I made this coat hanger tool to help hold the column up after the mounting bolts are removed so it is easier to work with the wire terminals without putting a strain on the wires.

 Mikes Steering 1.JPG (155877 bytes)

I dropped the column down enough to get plastic covers off and then held the column up with the tool to work on disconnecting the terminal strip and removing the turn indicator assembly.  Make a chart for the wires before you remove them from the block.

The turn indicator assembly is held on to the column tube with a clamp and two screws.  I left the steering wheel on until I removed the column assembly from the car.  Be sure to scribe a mark on the wheel hub and shaft so you can put in back on in the same position.  After the wires are disconnected the steering assembly can be lowered and detached at the slip joint. The upper shaft just slides out of the lower shaft.  I scribed the slip joint to make sure I could put it back on the same side. 

My Lecarra wheel does not have a place to install a wheel puller so after removing the retaining nut I used a block of wood and hammer to drive the steering shaft out of the wheel hub.  Be sure to mark the red turn indicator cam so you can put it back in the same position.

Before removing the U joint from the shaft I scribed the end of the shaft and the edge of the U joint so I could put it back in the same spline position.

I was surprised to see that the lower plastic bushing was in good shape but that the spring steel retaining ring had slipped out of the groove in the shaft and had moved down to the bottom of the shaft.  I was even more surprised that someone had gone to a lot of work to neatly peen the shaft to hold the ring in place at the bottom.  I donít know why they would do that.  They apparently didnít understand that the ring belonged in the groove about 1Ē further up the shaft and with a washer rides against the lower edge of the bushing to hold the shaft in position.          

I used the shaft to tap the upper bushing out and the then used the shaft to push out the lower bushing out. 

Images of the column parts.  I dressed the peened mess up at the bottom of the shaft with a file so the new bushing would slide over the area smoothly. The washer that goes between the lower bushing and the steel retaining clip is cutout on one side so that it covers part of the clip to keep it in place. 

Mikes Steering 2.JPG (129399 bytes)

Mikes Steering 3.JPG (97705 bytes) Mikes Steering 4.JPG (118145 bytes) Mikes Steering 5.JPG (121508 bytes) Mikes Steering 6.JPG (124699 bytes)

The old plastic bushing on the right and spring spacer on the left.

Mikes Steering 7.JPG (157490 bytes)

After cleaning everything I tapped the new bushing (purchase from Pantera East or Pantera Performance) up the lower end of the tube until it seated on the tabs in the tube. I used a large socket that was almost the same size of the inside diameter of the column tube so the force was on the outer edge of the bushing. The bushing is a tight fit.  I greased the bushing well after it was in place.  I greased the shaft well and inserted it from the top of the tube and through the new bushing.  Before putting the washer and retaining ring back on the shaft I reshaped the ring smaller so it would be a very tight fit in the groove. The lower part of the shaft is tapered so the retaining ring can be pushed up the shaft and into the groove.  

The next step was greasing the upper bushing and tapping it in place.  View of the assembly.

Mikes Steering 8.JPG (125281 bytes)

I greased the bushing and shaft well and slid the spring on. To provide more space for the spring and prevent coil bind I did not use the upper spacer that was originally below the spring.  The U joint was installed on the lower end of the shaft.  I decided to put the big washer back on just in case I had a problem in the future with the retain ring.  The steering shaft should turn feely in the bushings.  

View of the complete assembly.                   

 Mikes Steering 9.JPG (108752 bytes) Mikes Steering 10.JPG (119142 bytes) Mikes Steering 12.JPG (101711 bytes) Mikes Steering 13.JPG (106442 bytes)

The tension nubs on the plastic clips used in the slip joint were worn down a little and currently new ones are not available from the vendors or the factory.  I debated about welding the slip joint as some vendors recommend but then others say absolutely do not weld.  I decided to try inserting steel shims (made from galvanized steel flashing about .015 thick) under the plastic clips to compensate for the worn nubs.  I tried a full C shaped shim that wrapped around both sides of the shaft but it was too thick so I cut one side off making it J shaped and it was perfect.  A friend recently used this idea on his car and it took a full C shape to take up the play.  The shim covers the flat part of the shaft and wraps around the curved side. The thickness of the shim needed is dependent on how badly the nubs are worn.  Before putting the slip joint back together I greased the shaft and nylon clips with silicone grease.  The tight fit required tapping the inner shaft into the outer shaft.  Keep in mind that any force applied forward on the shaft is transmitted directly to the pinion shaft in the steering rack so use caution. So far the slip joint repair has worked out very well with no radial play.  Just removing the minimal free-play made a big difference on how the car feels and steers on the road.   

View of the clips and shims.  The shim shown is before I cut off the one flat side. The clip goes on so it covers the curved side of  the shim.  Note the direction of each clip.  

Mikes Steering 14.JPG (94237 bytes) Mikes Steering 15.JPG (131909 bytes) Mikes Steering 16.JPG (121112 bytes) Mikes Steering 17.JPG (114973 bytes)

I used the coat hanger tool to hold the column while hooking up the terminal and turn indicator.  Views of the column assembly being installed back in the car.  It takes a little work to get the right and left cover to line up so the male and female parts interlock correctly.  It is helpful to leave the back column mounting bolts loose while you get the two cover halves positioned and then tighten the bolts.             

Mikes Steering 18.JPG (148908 bytes) Mikes Steering 19.JPG (161192 bytes) Mikes Steering 20.JPG (137796 bytes) Mikes Steering 21.JPG (143185 bytes)

The turn indicator on my car has never canceled correctly after making a turn.  While I had the steering wheel off, I noticed that the red indicator cam was in the wrong position when the steering wheel was centered.  

The Lecarra wheel can be located on the hub in eight different positions but the hub only has two different cutouts to key the red turn indicator cam 90 degrees apart.  The wheel was positioned incorrectly on the hub so that the key was in the one-o-clock and seven-o-clock position rather than the nine-o-clock position required for the cam to work with the turn indicator pawl.  I removed the wheel from the hub by removing the nine bolts and nuts so I could reposition the hub.  For some odd reason the keys on the hub cannot be positioned exactly at nine-o-clock but it is pretty close.  Ideally the center of the red indicator cam should be centered with the turn indicator pawl.  The width of the red cam that works with the pawl is designed so that you can set the turn indicator lever for a turn and then move the wheel back and forth a few degrees without the turn indicators canceling, e.g. making a lane change before turning. 

The images below show the eight wheel positions on the hub, the red turn indicator cam placed close to nine-o-clock and the keyway in the hub. 

Mikes Wheel 1.JPG (162406 bytes) Mikes Wheel 2.JPG (157348 bytes) Mikes Wheel 3.JPG (112066 bytes)