How To Diagnose and Repair Problems with Your Imperial's Steering Box


Imperial Homepage -> Repair  -> Steering -> Box


Tip from Norm:

In order to check whether the pull you are experiencing from your Imperial is from the box or the alignment, perform this simple test:

Park the car and turn off the engine, note the position of the steering wheel with the engine off, now start the car and notice the position of the wheel-especially if it jumps as the car is started. If it does not, don't touch the valve body on top of the box-it is adjusted correctly.

As for slop in the box, here too I would only attempt an adjustment on the box if you have ruled out all other causes: poor alignment, bad idler arm or tie rod ends or center link or other bent or broken suspension parts. Also, a broken rear spring will cause the car to pull or behave irregularly.

Then, there is always tire pressure and set. Sometimes a light pull can be "corrected" by switching the front tires-right on left, left on right. They can take a "set" which causes a pull. I have seen this work countless times.

If all these things are checked and are ok, THEN and only then would I attempt to adjust the box. Do not expect miracles from the adjustment, most often it will just lead to a small improvement.


Tip from Brad on How To Adjust Your Steering Box:

If you were to look at the top of the steering box, you'll see a screw surrounded by a large nut. The screw is about 3/8 of an inch in diameter, and will have either a slot (for a standard, straight-bladed screwdriver) or a hex (for an Allen-type driver) in it's top. The nut is a 3/4- or 11/16-inch nut that locks the screw. Holding the screw with the needed driver, loosen the large nut. This will free up the screw. Turn the screw in (tighten) about a 1/4 of a turn. Snug up the locknut, again while holding the screw to keep it from turning, start the car, and see how loose the steering is. The wheel shouldn't move more than about an inch before you see even the slightest movement at the front wheels. I you need to, repeat the process until you get the desired amount of play at the steering wheel.

A little adjustment goes a long way. Be VERY careful not to turn the screw in too far. Too tight will make your car REALLY notchy on the road, and overburden the pump, boiling the power steering fluid. And you MUST check the play with the engine running. Looseness when the engine off is normal.


Tip from Mikey on how to remove the steering box from your Imperial:

You need to look at the connection between the box and the steering shaft, there is a clamp affair there you will need to loosen. You also need to loosen the bolts holding the column jacket to the dash \ floor to be able to slide the column up (into the car) for clearance. Slide it up enough to be able to get the box off the column, or column off of the box as it were, you may wan t to tie it up there out of the way. Unhook the hoses, cap them or drain them, or they will drain themselves anyway, remove the pitman arm and the gearbox bolts. Then its just wiggling and jockeying for room to get it out, on my dodge I had to lift the left side of the engine a bit.  The service manual has a couple of notes, one that says the starter may be in the way on some models (not specified) and two, that some columns are attached to the box with a coupling with a roll pin in the center that is driven out of the coupling, otherwise the same. I have seen these, its just a big roll pin thru the middle, you'll see it if its there.


Tip from Bob on rebuilders:

If your steering box is truly worn out, I would recommend two shops you can call that advertise in the MOPAR mags. and have had good press in same from folks with project cars.

1)  Firm Feel  Mopar power steering kits & performance suspension accessories. '62-78 Mopars. Do it yourself kits $125.00 We rebuild yours $299.00 Rebuilt box outright $350.00  Call: 425-640-8038

 

2.) Steer and Gear Your direct source for quality remanufactured Chrysler power steering units. Specializing in customized steering firmness of Chrysler power steering gears. Available in Standard, Firm and Extra Firm Feel in stock or for the true Chrysler loyalists. Car power steering gears: standard, firm, EX firm 199.00 w/exchange Car manual steering gears: Standard Ratio 165.00 w/exchange Pick-up PSG 3 1/3 and 4 1/4 ratio 265.00 w/exchange Call for a complete price guide Steer and Gear Power Steering Specialist 1000 Barnett Rd. Columbus, OH 43227 1-800-253-4327


Tip from Elijah (1969-1973):

As a part of my current project on my '71 Imperial, I decided to replace the power steering gear box. It just so happened that my mechanic checked with the local Advance Auto Parts (which I assume is a national chain), and they in fact do have that part. The rebuilt power steering gear box costs $169.99, plus tax; the core refund (for returning the old gear) is $35.00, making the actual price of the gear box $134.99. The Advance part number for this item is 3790207, and they had the part ready for me before 10:00 a.m. the next day. I'm not sure exactly which years this gear will work on -- I'm positive it will fit '69 to '73, but it might possibly work for other years as well. 


Question from Anthony:

I have been looking for a place to either rebuild my steering box or to sell me a seal kit. Can anybody help me?

Replies:

From Frank:

If you are handy to a NAPA store, they may be able to send your gearbox in to be rebuilt. you may also be able to purchase an already rebuilt one. If you just need lower seals on the pitman shaft, you should be able to do it yourself with the proper tools. I think you can buy lower seal kits from napa, as I have bought them there. You didn't mention your car year, but if it's not way back I think you'll be able to get them. I and my employee just recently purchased 2 rebuilt boxes for a '77 New Yorker and '77 Plymouth Trailduster.

From Bill:

If you do take it apart, try to salvage the seals as best you can (no damage) and take them to NAPA, they can most like likely match them up by description or part number cross reference, rather than by application. "Automotive" seals (and bearings) are not all that unique, your seals might also fit anything from a go-cart to a Cat Bulldozer.


Question from John:

During the (steering box) adjusting procedure, should the engine be running?

Reply from Kenyon:

Engine off, preferably cold! so that you keep from getting burned on the exhaust pipe. Once your motor is spinning the power steering pump, your ability to feel the mechanical components is totally masked. The '6o that I know so well has pinky finger steering, and you can't feel a thing if the engine is running. Check you Field Service Manual about this for diagrams and instructions. I didn't state it as explicitly as possible, but a good linkage will have a rubbery feel that is very progressive, almost as if you are loading up a rubber bushing as you twist the wheel, letting it go causes it to rebound and "uncompress" and should be almost without slop before it starts to compress going the other way, if that makes sense. If there is a little play, your power steering will mask it, so don't try to go for perfection - close will usually work better than over tightening things. While in there, inspect the hoses that go to the Power steering pump. The one with the threaded metal fittings is easy to unscrew and replace if not really good looking. This is the pressurized "sending" hose. The other one is the return hose and is not under as much pressure, thus only has hose clamps. If either deteriorate and pop, your power steering has just left you and you will have a 5000 pound steering adventure that will test your upper body terribly. I have had this type of PS hose failure happen once. -Never again! It scared me worse than when I fell off my motorcycle, because the car got 10 times harder to steer, and I was near a cliff, and I'm a pretty good sized guy. Got it back, but under different circumstances it could have led to a crash.


Question from Steve (1956):

I would like to hear from any of you who've had the steering box replaced, or removed, rebuilt, and replaced, as to the labor cost in terms of shop hours required. Unfortunately, do it yourselfers won't help me here. I'm having mine done and would like to know what the range is and what I should expect to pay.

Replies:

From Carl:

I had mine in a 'regular' flavor Chrysler rebuilt, it's the big diameter steering output shaft and cost me about $175 and took a day to have done. I still have a little slop, but that's from the steering linkage not the gear.

It was a little tight at first but loosened up after a little driving.

$175 is the best price I've found, it was at a shop who specialized in steering gears, alternators, electric motors etc.

From Denis:

A lot of the labor cost depends upon where you have it done. Here in Redwood City, Ca cost vary from $69.00 per hour to a high of $139.00.  I was charged 4 hours for the 62 LeBaron, and I thought that was too long, but I could not have done it that fast.

From Chris:

I had the boxes in my '78 NYB, '67 Imperial and '72 Charger all replaced... Each cost about $400 for parts and labor, and both were unsuccessful. The Charger box began to leak at the top seal (a tiny o-ring, but it's easier just to put in another rebuilt box) after two years. The new box, installed by a good old-timer mechanic who understands what these cars are supposed to feel like, is wonderful.

The Imperial's box was done by a shop that didn't tell me until after I returned for the third time that they "don't really like working on old cars." (Um, the car wasn't much newer when I brought it in, guys...) The steering feel is far too firm, self-centering is weak, and the freeplay is too loose. I will ultimately just fork over another $300 with a good old-car mechanic I now use to have it done right as soon as I find this much change between the couch cushions. Oddly, this same place did a good job on the NYB, which was leaking from misuse... one of the pitfalls of a super-low-mile car.

Bottom line: expect to pay about $300-400. Make sure the mechanic knows the rebuilder and knows that cars of this vintage are not supposed to steer with the firmness of a new Mercedes. And make sure they know how to bolt the box in properly. My Imperial's had also loosened to the point that it could have fallen out had I not noticed something was up.

From Henry:

We have paid $350 to have Imperial steering boxes rebuilt (each) Straight Line Steering in San Jose, CA. Labor, don't know as we did it ourselves. My guess is expensive as it's difficult to get the thing out when the engine is there. Best to do it if you happen to have your engine out for rebuilding. Failing that, it's not impossible, but very, very difficult as there just doesn't seem to be enough wiggle room to get it out once it's loose.

From Donald:

Jeff Carrothers, Mark Harris and I replaced the unit in Jeff's '56 in a little under 2 hours. None of us had ever done a job of this nature on another 1956 Imperial. The service manual was of great help. I cannot see why this job should pay more than 2-3 hours time. It was pretty straight forward.


Question from Marc (1960):

About three weeks ago I changed the lower seal on the Steering gear box. The car hasn't been driven yet, but today the car was started and the steering wheel turned while the car was running. Now I have a leak again! Did I do something wrong on the install? I don't see how I could have. I even put some Power steering fluid on the inner part of the oil seal before I reinstalled it. Can I go with a bigger seal, or is the shaft worn too much, or did I possibly get some contaminate between the seal and shaft. 

Replies:

From Bob:

Years ago I had that problem on a '64. I bet I put 6 seals in the damn thing and it would be ok for a week and start leaking again. Never did fix it because my dad sold the car. I always surmised that the shaft was too worn for a new seal to seat properly.

From John:

If the steering wheel turns by itself with the engine running, this is a sign that the valve on top of the box is out of adjustment. Since you probably didn't disturb that, I'm wondering why that would happen.

From Mikey:

The lower seal, at the pitman arm shaft end, of the power steering box has a snap ring and a spacer on my '62. I don't know if the '60 is the same design, but the '64 or '65 that was also mentioned should be the same. I know that this seal HAS to have that retaining ring and spacer installed with it, or it will be pushed out of the housing the first time you apply power to the unit.

I changed the seal on mine several years ago, and had the car on jack stands at the time so there was no weight or load on any of the steering parts other than their own weight. I know that if the snap ring and spacer aren't installed and specifically if the snap ring is not seated in its groove then either there is some end motion of the pitman arm shaft as the cross shaft moves it, or there is a small amount of pressure that is applied to it.

I observed that each time the seal came back out, there was a loss of fluid which I attributed to accumulated internal leakage past the various seal rings in the gear box itself, and even with the engine off, the fluid would continue to leak until the box itself had drained.

Once I was able to get the seal, spacer and most importantly get the snap ring back fully in its groove I have had no problems since. This seal is fairly universal in application, for the Mopar constant control power steering box...I believe I got the seal kit from a Chrysler dealer, which also included the small o rings for the inlet port and the worm shaft seal.

While I had the car up, I carefully observed the wheels at the point where the engine started and pressure was applied to the system, because as we all should know by now, if the wheels are wanting to turn left or right when the pump applies pressure ( with no steering wheel input ) then the inlet port needs to be loosened slightly and adjusted...but that's another story for another post.


Question from Greg (1961):

To fix a leak of power steering fluid, my mechanic replaced o-rings and gaskets on the steering sector of my '61 Imperial. After this repair, inexplicably, the steering wheel turns to the right, on its own, unless you hold the steering wheel.  Is there some sort of spring, or check valve that may have failed inside the steering box during this process? Any advice on how to fix this new problem would be appreciated. Should we just install a new steering box?

Replies:

From John:

The steering valve needs to be adjusted. This is located on top of the steering box where the hoses are connected. When this was put back together that adjustment should have been made. Since you paid someone to fix, I'd bring it back & let them adjust. If you choose to do yourself, loosen the 2 bolts and move VERY slightly either up or down. Retighten & check operation.  If worse, adjust the opposite way. If better but not perfect, move a little more the same direction.

From James:

I had the same problem in my 76 NYB, the dealership wanted to put in a new pump (they had it for an oil change since I wouldn't take it to those dishonest louts for anything else). A steering clinic was able to put in a new power steering valve for 10 bucks, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the pump.

Follow-up from Greg:

When we started the car today to try and adjust the gear box today, the reservoir cracked.   Apparently this was due to the pressure that was built up.  I will be replacing the reservoir and will again attempt adjustment to the valve. If this does not work, we will replace the steering gear box unit as I found a rebuilt one from NAPA. I also have a spare power steering pump, if needed.


Question from Sheldon (1961):

My '61 tracks the same way. Mine, however, has some play in the steering, and as I have just acquired the car, I do not yet know whether this is a simple alignment issue or not. Does anyone have experience with play in the steering on these?

Reply from Dick:

Looseness in the steering can be caused by a BUNCH of different things. But I would start by doing the minor adjustment at the steering box.

If you were to look at the top of the steering box, you'll see a screw surrounded by a large nut. The screw is about 3/8 of an inch in diameter, and will have either a slot (for a standard, straight-bladed screwdriver) or a hex (for an Allen-type driver) in it's top. The nut is a 3/4- or 11/16-inch nut that locks the screw. Holding the screw with the needed driver, loosen the large nut. This will free up the screw. Turn the screw in (tighten) about a 1/4 of a turn. Snug up the locknut, again while holding the screw to keep it from turning, start the car, and see how loose the steering is. The wheel shouldn't move more than about an inch before you see even the slightest movement at the front wheels. I you need to, repeat the process until you get the desired amount of play at the steering wheel.

A little adjustment goes a long way. Be VERY careful not to turn the screw in too far. Too tight will make your car REALLY notchy on the road, and overburden the pump, boiling the power steering fluid. And you MUST check the play with the engine running. Looseness when the engine off is normal.

If that doesn't completely cure your play, then there are lots of other things to check. Control arm bushings, ball joints and wheel bearings have to be checked with the car's weight off the wheels. Looseness here is often, but not always, accompanied by "clunking" noises at the front end. The idler arm, pitman arm and tie rod ends can be checked with the car on the ground.


Question from Vince (1962):

I just purchased a 1962 Imperial Custom Southampton. The seller states this car needs a rebuilt steering box. The car steers okay, with a slight sway left to right, right to left, at lower speeds. He does not recommend trying to drive the car above 55 mph until the steering box has been replaced.

Replies:

From Dave:

If the slight "sway" is the only reason for replacing the steering box, - I would check the adjustment on it first. If someone has (inadvertantly of course) "overtightened" the adjustment screw on the box, - what you describe is exactly what will happen. I would loosen the nut, and back the allen screw out a bit, then go out and see how it drives. You might be (pleasantly) surprised.

From Steve:

Steering boxes often get blamed for things that arenít their fault. Before you do anything I would check out the front end and see if other components are worn causing the problem. Idler arm is a very common wear point that can cause this issue as is the center link. Tie rod ends also come in to play and ball joints.

If your steering box does need to be rebuilt Lares will rebuild it for you as well as a number of other places. Lares supplys the rebuilds that NAPA uses so I feel pretty comfortable with them. http://www.larescorp.com/ Iím not aware of anyone that is still selling already rebuilt steering box although strangely enough they do still sell one for í58 to í60.

From John:

I would check other things like tie rod ends, ball joints, idler arm, bushings, loose wheel bearings, proper tire balance etc before touching the steering box.

From Bob:

Look for a badly bent rim. That will cause that to.

From John:

If you decide that there is a problem in the steering box, the first hting to do is get the service manual for 62, and follow the instructions to the letter about adjusting the steering box. While it is true that after 40 years a little wear is to be expected, few mechanics follow the instructions of the factory to adjust these boxes--of any brand. I believe more people have paid for a rebuild when all they needed was a correctly done adjustment.


Question from Zan (1962):

My steering box is leaking (I've known this for a while) and I either need to replace it or have it rebuilt. What should I know about this?

Reply from PEN:

The first place to start is the valve body which is located on top of the steering box. It is where the hoses from the pump go in. There are three rubber O-rings between the valve body and the steering box which get hard with heat and start to leak. If that is where the oil is coming from, then take off the hoses, remove the two bolts holding the valve body onto the steering box, and lift off the valve body. Take the old O-rings to a parts store to get new ones the same size, and replace them, and put the valve body back on, but do not tighten the two bolts too much yet. The valve body will slide up and down the top of the steering box, and when the hoses are connected again, and the car is running, it will cause the steering wheel to turn. Centering the valve body will center the steering wheel, which is what you want. If you tighten back down the valve body bolts when it is too high or too low on the steering box, the steering wheel will pull left or right, and rotate all by itself. Tighten the bolts down when the steering wheel stays straight on with the engine running, but you may have to road test the car to determine the precise setting. That will fix leaks from the valve body, but if the leaks are coming from the steering gear itself, permit me to join my voice with yours and say: HELP! One thing I do know is do not ever put transmission fluid in the power steering: it will overheat the O-ring seals and cause leaks galore.

Follow-up question from John:

I'm wondering where the power steering fluid is going to go with the engine running & the valve not tightened all the way down?

Reply from PEN:

The valve should be tightened down just enough so that you can gently tap it up or down on the steering box to center the steering wheel. During this operation, the front wheels should be off of the ground, but not so much that you can't bend over the side of the car to get to where you are working. With the engine running, the power steering fluid will not leak, because no strain is being put on the system, and the new O-rings will contain the fluid simply re-circulating between the pump and the steering gear when the bolts are partially backed off from the tight position because the pressure is very low. However, if you push the valve body all the way up or all the way down the steering box, the steering wheel will suddenly rotate all the way left or right by itself, hit the end of its travel, and you will get a flood of fluid pumped past the O-rings, so be careful. The amount of travel of the valve body is only a quarter of an inch or so, so try to approximate the center position when you put the valve body back on. Then tighten down the bolts and back off slightly. Start the car, hoses all connected, plenty of fluid, and gently tap the valve body up or down the steering box until the steering wheel is centered. Then tighten the bolts the final 1/8 of a turn or so, and make sure the steering wheel is still centered. You may have to do it again or several times until you have got it just right. Two other things. When you have the front end aligned, make sure that the engine is running and the steering energized when the guy sets the tie rod ends. That way the car will steer straight ahead on its own, and the steering wheel will be centered. Second, consider encasing the high pressure steering hose inside another bigger hose. That way, if it bursts, the oil can not spray onto the hot exhaust manifold and set your engine on fire.


Question from Jim (1962):

While my '62 Custom is off the road this winter, I will take the opportunity to have the steering box rebuilt. I would appreciate any info. on
the proper removal of the gear box and even the packing and shipping method.

Reply from Kenyon:

I took mine out of my 1960, which should be similar to yours.

There's a floor plate to be removed that should be resealed WELL when you're done.

When I did mine, I dismantled the steering column. When I reassembled it, I was utterly confused about the order and orientation of the various shims and washers, to my dismay. The turn signal cancellation cam was out of line and I never got it back before parting with the car.

Lastly, I did mine without removing the engine with the car on jackstands. The steering box is heavy, but not outrageously so ----- when you're standing there with it out. If you remove it from a complete car, remember that your arms will be at a really odd angle and you'll probably drop it if you're underneath it by yourself. Don't hurt yourself. This is one of those things that can get away from you if you do it wrong...

In hindsight, I'd have a buddy hold it with chain or rope and lower it as you remove the fixing bolts. I did it by hand from underneath, and was personally proud of having removed it by myself. If I had had a buddy, it would have been better.

I have no idea what that wedge shim is besides alignment for centering the steering wheel, but I didn't mark mine before removal, and always wondered if I'd reinserted it correctly. I'd mark yours with a file or something other than pen prior to removal.

Lastly: these boxes are almost indestructable. The seals can be changed while the thing's in the car. The seal kit is available at your local parts place. My '60 and '73 boxes appear to be identical and other cars may have used them too.

If it's sloppy, you can adjust the play by design, just in case you didn't know. Unless something sheared or failed, you may be spending more time, money, and energy than needed on that. I left mine in the car that I otherwise stripped and just did seals.

If you're going to pull it anyway, don't have a catasrophically failed unit, and have not done so already, you might want to try tightening up the adjuster bolt on top of the dome on the box first. Too tight is bad. 3/4-1.5 inch slop in the wheel side to side as you turn it when the engine's off before the wheel starts to load up will be completely masked by the power steering when it's on.

I have done the "miracle adjustment" on 5 other's steering boxes and cured them this way.....


Question from Denis (1962):

Got my LeBaron back and it seems that a really bad leak from the steering box has developed. Was slight about 3 or 4 weeks ago, but not really bad. Is this a really tough job to do?

Reply from Brad:

I had problems with a '60 Chrysler that leaked from the Steering Gear. I found that the Spring Hose Clamp had weakened over the years and oil seeped out between the hose and the barb at the top of the Gear. Invisibly at first, until I happened to identify it. Hope this is the case for you since a new Clamp (and maybe a new Hose) would repair your car. Does the Gear have any other symptoms besides leaking? Sometimes one can see the Pitman Arm wobble as the wheel is turned (then the gear needs rebuilding).


Question from Steve (1963):

The í63 is hemorrhaging power steering fluid from around the bolt/screw combination that you use to adjust the play in the steering box. I really canít see down there very well but assume there is a seal that has gone. Have any of you ever replaced this seal before? If so how hard was it? I really donít want to pull the steering box and also I am worried about messing up that adjustment boltÖ.

Replies:

From John:

There are 3 O rings underneath that valve. Your concern about messing up the steering is a valid one, as the adjustment travel is very small. If you adjust a little too much one way or the other, the steering wheel will likely turn by itself to the end of travel when you start the car.

From Paul:

You may be better off swapping out the box for a better one that isn't leaking. Bob Hoffmeister at Imperial Heaven should be able to help out. His information is listed in the Web site as a parts supplier. Once you get into that steering unit, you may not be able to get out cheaply or quickly.

From Mikey:

If you are talking about the valve assembly o rings, as John stated earlier that's a no brainer except for the tedious part when you have to tap the stupid thing up or down slightly to center the pressure between left and right.

If, as I surmise, you are talking about the nut and screw combination on top of the dome shaped cover where you make the backlash adjustment thats almost as easy. There is a seal under the locknut where you do the backlash adjustment. There is also another much larger o ring around the cover itself. If its leaking around the larger diameter of the cover then you have to take the cover off, if its leaking around the nut and adjustment screw then all you do is back the nut off while holding the screw from turning ( it will probably want to turn a bit but dont sweat it ) and then replace the o ring.

Ma mopar used the same o rings and seals in the constant control boxes for about forever and a day, the worse thing is that you may have to get a kit from a Chrysler parts dept if you cant get them from your local parts store. And fwiw, if you have to readjust the backlash on the steering gear its a snap. You do a basic setting with the engine off, turn the wheels from left to right a couple turns and then return to center. Then with the engine on, you tighten the screw until the backlash is just gone, then tighten another 3/8 to 1/2 turn and torque the lock nut.

The FSM shows this very well and describes it in section 19.

Go for it, its not hard!

From Eric:

Someone mentioned a steering box leak. Firm Feel Steering & Suspension, near Vancouver, WA, specializes in Mopar steering boxes. http://www.firmfeel.com/powerst.htm


Question from Dan (1963):

A friend is looking for a steering box for his '63 Le Baron. Would a '64-'66 steering box fit? If not, are the internals the same if it won't match externally?

Replies:

From John:

I believe '63 & older is what you need. They changed the coupling in '64. I believe '61-'63 would all be the same on the big Chryslers as well as the Imperials.

From Denis:

According to the Auto Interchange System '59 to '63 are the same & will work for you. '64 & '65 are different.


Question from Ken (1963):

I need to replace the steering box on my 1963 Crown. Before I get too far into it, I was wondering if anyone who has done this before would be willing to give me some tips on removal and replacement. Also, any recommendations for a good steering box rebuilder?

Replies:

From Luke:

I've just done the whole dirty business on my '60. It's not really all that bad. One man job I found. In fact the hardest part was getting the nuts off the steering link and Pitman arm. Sadly mine where on so hard, the puller I used crushed the bolts beyond recognition and I had to replace otherwise good link joints. Take a lot of care also in removing your steering wheel. Get a proper steering wheel puller. You don't want to damage the bit you spend most time looking at.  The steering box comes out through the firewall easy enough although I chose not to take the steering shaft off before I pulled the box. I found it easier to take off once on the bench.  Make sure you disconnect all wiring before you do this... I missed the horn wire and couldn't' work out what the box was catching on until I snapped the wire - DUH!! I didn't' attempt to rebuild the box myself so I sent it to a good local power steering shop and they did the whole thing ready to drop back in for $300.00.  That included three new bearings that are $50 each.

From Dick:

I would suggest he call Red Head Steering Gears in Seattle (1-800-808-1148). When I went in there a few months ago to get the steering gear rebuilt for my '59 Imperial they already had one ready for me right on the shelf. Ken's '63 uses the same box as my 59 I believe. My trade-in may be there on the shelf right now waiting for him to grab it. $300.00


Question from Bobby (1964):

What would you expect to pay for rebuilding a steering box and what could you pay to just buy an already rebuilt box? Mine is off the car and has been waiting for two weeks for what was supposed to be a 2 day turn-around. It may be cheaper and faster for me to just buy a new one for my '64 Crown. Where could I find one?

Replies:

From Bill:

Probably at your local NAPA, might take a day or two if they have to go to the warehouse.

I have heard nothing but good things about Steer-n-Gear. The owner is a Mopar driving drag racer too.

From Steve:

I spent days looking for one for a '63. I don't think you will find a new one anywhere. If you do please let us know so we can add the source to the website. As far as cost goes the best buy I found was Lares.. They will rebuild it for $200 regardless of what it needs (assuming you have a decent core). http://www.larescorp.com/

From Eric:

Firm Feel, near Vancouver, Washington performs this procedure. http://www.firmfeel.com/powerst.htm

From Chris:

I was just researching this piece of work myself, this morning. Here are my results: my local NAPA does NOT do this work, neither do they do power brake boosters. Steers and Gears, a shop here in Columbus, OH, quoted me $160 to replace the gaskets on a 5 1/2 inch wide pump, or $125 on the smaller version. I believe my '66 Crown Coupe has the larger one. He also said he could replace the guts, using the same gear box, to make my car steer "much more like today's cars: not so floaty." He said that even it would appear stock from the outside. The cost to do this work was $265, and the price was the same to open the box and refurb the existing guts.

Personally, I like the light, floaty touch of the steering on my '66. It matches the suspension feel!


Question from Don (1964):

Tried to adjust my power steering gear box on my '64 Crown today. As I loosened the 3/4" nut the upside down cup device upon which it sits started turning with the nut. Is this normal? I was not able to affect any improvement on slackness/travel of steering wheel. My steering wheel will travel from about 1 O'clock to 3 O'clock position without any movement of road wheels. This was done with engine off. With engine running I get immediate response when I move steering wheel. Is this normal??

Replies:

From Philippe:

I think that Chrysler power steering have the same problem: a lot of play with engine off but OK with engine on. Don't adjust yours if your steering works well while running.

From Dick:

I can't tell if the free play with the engine off is excessive or not without examining a particular car myself, but I want to point out that by the laws of physics, any power steering system by its very nature has free play, as that is the control valve's method of detecting the fact that you need some assistance in turning the wheel. When the engine is running, the servomechanism is energized, and upon detecting even minute motion of the sensing device (spool valve or whatever the steering wheel is linked to), immediately applies hydraulic assistance to minimize the valve displacement, which the driver feels as zero free play.

To put this in simple terms, free play measured with the engine off is not an indication of a problem.

Free play with the engine running means there is a problem somewhere, and it is most likely outside the servomechanism, for instance in the tie rod hardware or Pitman arm bushings. This could be disastrous, and should be seen to immediately.


Question from John (1965):

I just pulled the engine and trans out of my '65 Le Baron and now I need to pull my steering box and send it out to have it rebuilt. To be perfectly honest, I can't tell at all how to pull it, My shop manual does not even begin to explain how to pull it. First of all, it seems that the pitman arm has to come off completely. Is this correct? If so, any tips on doing that? Second, I can't tell how the box connects, or rather disconnects, from the steering column shaft spline. How does that work?

Reply from Kenyon:

There's probably a way to do it that I didn't know about, but here's what I did:

When I removed mine, I had to take the steering wheel off to remove (upwards) the outer "jacket" cylinder that goes down and surrounds the steering wheel's shaft and has a bearing near the top that the shaft pivots in. By pulling the cylindrical "dust cover" that runs from wheel to box, pulling upwards, you expose the steering shaft to box connection. Dis-connection is self evident at that point.

You then take the nut off the end of the pittman arm. I used a hammer to pop the idler arm off of the pitman arm, and left the arm on but whoever rebuilds will have to pull it to get at that lower seal. If you're not rebuilding it I would not bother and try to get your money's worth out of the rebuilders. Be certain that it gets reinstalled at 0 and not off to the left or right of TDC or whatever you call the orientation on a steering box's pittman arm...

Before removing the box, use a scribe or something to mark the present location of the steering box. My 1960 had some metal wedges in between it and the frame. I regretted not marking them and their locations and had to realign the front end if memory serves.

I also remember having a heck of a time getting the steering colmn parts back in the right order and orientation so that there wasn't any vertical slop if you pulled up on the wheel, and I lost the self-cancel feature of the turn signal because the cam was no longer lined up with the turn signal cancellation striker or whatever you call it. There were some washers and things up at the top that put me through fits trying to re-assemble, but you're probably smarter than I am about that stuff. It really only happens to me I've heard.

I would lay out a white piece of paper or cloth and drop the steering column parts onto it in order and orientation if I did it again.


Question from John (1965):

What tools does one need to remove the power steering box in a '65? The shop manual insists you have a special puller. My friend was helping with it the other night, but got stuck because he couldn't get his standard puller on the tie rod end (?) or was it the steering arm...and didn't want to bang it up with a pickle fork. Apparently the factory tool is offset to fit in the restricted space.

Replies:

From Bill:

If you mean to remove the pitman arm you need a pitman arm puller, which has very thin fingers to fit between the arm and the housing. AutoZone and such have them cheaper than the tool trucks. To remove the steering shaft joint, it technically doesn't require a puller, just punch the pin out and it SHOULD slip back and off the splines.

From Dick:

I've never done a '65 Imperial, but I have a standard NAPA pitman arm puller, and it has done any other car I have ever needed it for. You can probably rent one for a few dollars at a rental yard, or buy one (but get a good one!) at a good autoparts place, or better yet, stop the Snap-on truck and get the best! Snap-on tools are usually a little higher grade of steel, which means they are less bulky for the same strength, and will fit tight places when other brands won't - and this applies to all their tools.

From Mikey:

I have found that loosening the box to frame bolts a couple of turns will let the entire assembly move a bit so you may get a better angle on the arm. I have done this on my '62, as well as a couple other Mopar products. Sometimes turning the wheel will also help orient the arm in a better spot to get the puller past the linkage. As I recall, the upper connection to the steering column wasn't much fun either.


Question from Mark (1965):

My '65 has recently developed what appears to be a minor problem in the power steering function. At low speed when turning either direction it feels "pinched", not as smooth as it should be . I added a little power steering fluid but it has not had any noticeable effect. The car steers fine and is tight, no excessive play. If it is not a steering problem could it be the suspension?

Reply from John:

Sometimes, just running the steering wheel back & forth from lock to lock several times with the engine idling will clear trapped air out. Does the pump tend to shudder when you turn the wheel or the belt flap loosely? If the belt is flapping, it is either loose or too long, not uncommon. The pump mounting bracket is also known to be troublesome. There is supposed to be a rubber block stuffed in between the pump & bracket; available from Gary Goers.  I don't often see these in place & the pump seems to be fine but sometimes it may make just enough difference. I had a problem such as this with a 63, but only  when turning left. That turned out to be the spool valve mounted on the  steering box.  An easy item to come by , but a bit tricky to adjust.

Follow-up question from Mark:

I took a look at the set up. The belt is tight but does look a little worn. I will replace that.  The bracket assembly is tight. Didn't notice the rubber block but I will double check for that. I also checked the reservoir and the fluid looked low, I added more and the "pinch" has disappeared. I now deduce that it must be a leak somewhere. The rubber tube connecting to the steering wheel assembly looks good. No obvious signs of a leak. Is there another area that should be investigated?

Reply from John:

Just about every Imperial I've owned has had least a little leakage in the power steering. One place is the pump around the pulley or where the reservoir joins the pump. This usually shows itself as a dribble of fluid on the lower radiator hose. The other place is on top of the steering box where the 2 hoses connect to the steering valve. There are 3 O rings under this assembly & they tend to leak I also found on one of mine that the return hose, the larger of the 2 was very brittle & leaking on top of the box, giving the appearance of the valve leaking. The valve does leak some, but most was coming from the return line. Another spot is under the steering box at the pitman arm. I suggest parking the car in a spot that is free of oil or put a sheet of cardboard under & see if any leaking shows up. I've found that Prestone power steering fluid with sealer will greatly slow down , stop leakage. I also suggest that if it leaks just a little, a little meaning just needing to top off once & awhile, leave it be, don't waste your time trying to fix it. If it empties out every time you use it, then you don't have much choice but to spend some $$ & fix.


Question from Rob (1966):

Would someone with an interchange book please advise me which models and years the 66 Crown steering box is interchangeable?

Reply from Lawrence:

According to my '50-'65 Chrysler Interchange manual - '64 and '65 Imp are the same - no other matches- compared my '65 parts car with my '66- they appear identical.


Question from Tim (1967):

My '67's power steering gear box is leaking pretty badly. It seems that nobody sells gear boxes for '65-67 Imperials, although '68 and up are available, and they're also available for '65-67 Chrysler products in general, just not Imperial.

What's my best strategy? Can a '68 model be used in a '67, perhaps with some monkeying (to be done by a pro, not by me)? Or can the '67 C-body unit be adapated? Or should I buy a used '67 box and have it rebuilt by Steer-n-Gear or somebody like that?

Replies:

From Kenyon:

The boxes in my '60, '64, '70, and '73 all look identical aside from the adjusting screw, but I can't see the connection to the steering shaft to compare those. Can you see a difference between them?

Hollanders says '67-'75 interchange. Says '60-'66 interchange.

From Mike:

Before you replace it, Tim, here are a few tips to try. If you have tried them already, humor me, I just performed them myself on my '67's leaky box and they worked great. First, make sure you had been using only power steering fluid in the box. If not, drain it all out as best you can..or just wait for it all to leak out. Next, fill the power steering box with a blend of 20W-50 motor oil mixed with brake fluid..use about a tablespoon of brake fluid for every quart of oil you put in. Make sure you shake it up really good before putting it in. Using this solution to top it off should slow the leak. Gradually switch to using straight 20W-50 oil, and as long as the leak is lessened, you can use thinner oil (like a 10W-30) when you top it off subsequently. But use the 20W-50 till the leak subsides. If it does not, you may have to use a thicker oil like straight 30W or straight 40W. If even the 40W doesn't stop the leak, then you need the box rebuilt.

As far as I know, there is no harm to using motor oil in the pump, Dimitrios taught me this stop-leak procedure which he's used on both his '68's and he hasn't had any other problems with the pumps.

I don't see why a '68 box wouldnt fit...the cars are virtually identical except for cosmetic differences. Check www.partamerica.com and look under '67 Chrysler Imperial, I believe they list the part.

From Jody:

According to Hollander's, it says Imperial '67-'68 (in the reference) "note power steering 15.7 to 1 ratio 3.5 turns lock to lock Imperial '67-'68".


Question from Bruce (1967):

I am removing the power steering box from my '67 Dodge Coronet. It has the same coupler attaching the steering box shaft to the steering column as shown in the FSM of my 1969 IMPERIAL COUPE. My problem is, I'm not sure how to get it off. It's a simple rectangular
block fitting over both shafts, with no visible way to tighten or loosen. It does have a hollow pin runnning thru one side of it, which the manual shows as coming out. Am I supposed to drive out this pin while the box is still attached to the steering shaft? The manual only says to "remove the block." It seems that I could cause damage by tapping the pin out. Anyone with experience here?

Reply from Steve:

The roll pin has to be driven out preferably with a roll pin punch. The coupler will then slide off the stub on your steering gear. You'll see there is a wider spline at the top to index it so that it can only be put back on one way. When you get if off (sometimes it takes a gentle pry) you'll see there is basically two sections of spines on the gear. The area in between in where the roll pin goes to hold the shaft on the gear.


Question from Bill (1967):

My '67 Imp's power steering box leaks so bad, it leaves a trail of fluid as you drive down the street.  It appears to be leaking around the gear-shaft adjusting screw locknut. I have cleaned it off several times, but with-in seconds of turning the engine over the gearbox is covered with fluid.  There is an o-ring and seal in that area,  I am certain that is where the problem is at.  It looks like it takes a special spanner wrench type tool.  Is that special tool unique to this application or can I get it at any autoparts/tool store (universal). 

Reply from Chris:

It's just an o-ring that seals the steering shaft below this nut, but it's not as easy to replace as it sounds. Removing the shaft means you need to re-center the steering when you're done, and to be honest, you're best off rebuilding the whole box or replacing it with a good rebuilt box. By the way, power steering fluid is one of the most flammable things under the hood. If the seal goes and allows the fluid to spray onto one of those very hot exhaust manifolds... well, yikes. This is not a stain-on-the-driveway problem! I must also encourage you to find a mechanic familiar with older cars, as it makes all the difference in getting the new box adjusted properly. The guys who replaced the box on my '67 did not understand the nuances of torsion-bar suspensions and the correct feel of 1967 luxury-car steering. The first box, from a reputable rebuilder, was so out of adjustment that they rejected it, and before I would take the car from the shop with the second box, I had them reinstall the torsion bars (they were a full notch off and the car sat too low), and readjust the steering twice. To be honest, I am still unhappy... steering feel is still too firm, self-centering is too weak, and free play is too high. I will probably just pay to have it done again soon by someone good, as budget allows. I had the same repair done to my Charger less than a year later at a different shop and it came out spot-on in every respect in half a day.


Question from Mike (1968):

I have a '68 Imperial when I drive it wanders. I've been told it's the steering box from some people others have told me there's a way to adjust it. Could someone help... if its the box that needs replacing anyone know where to get one?

Replies:

From Demetrios:

There can be many reasons for the car "wondering". One of them is worn out and loose upper control arm bushings. If that's the case, the peoblem will be more pronounced at highway speeds, especially when the car moves up and down due to road irregularities.

However, a loose steering box could also cause imprecise steering. There is a large screw as I recall on the upper part of the steering box. Again, from memory, there is a nut you have to loosen, and then with a large flathead screw driver, you tighten the screw, and then retighten the nut. What this does is get the gears a bit closer together. If the steering effort gets too tight, or the steering does not return back to the straight ahead position, you tightned too much and you need to back off. If this adjustment does not help, your upper C.A. bushings need replacement (assuming that your ball joints and wheel bearings are good, if you don't know how to check those, ask).

From Mark:

If you want to learn more about Power Steering, be sure to check out the Master Technicians' Conference series on-line at the Imperial Club. Here's a pointer to Session 275 on Power Steering Fundamentals.

Also check out earlier years that cover detailed adjustment of steering box.


Question from Ed (1969):

Has anyone had experience changing the steering gear box on a 69 Imp? I took the car out for a drive yesterday and when I pulled back into the garage it was dripping steering fluid from the gear box. Checked the hoses and they are ok. The guys at Advance Auto say they can order me a unit but do not show a kit for the o-rings and gaskets. The FSM says the seals and gaskets can be replace with the unit still in the car, this is what I would like to do if I could find the o-rings and seals.

Replies:

From Elijah:

If you can't find the O-ring kit for the steering gear, you should be able to just remove the offending O-ring and take it to any parts store -- they'll probably have a container full of various O-rings, and will be able to match it right up.

From Steve:

Where is your '69 Steering Box leaking? Chances are, it doesn't need to be replaced because of the leak.

Possibly it is leaking from the Pitman-arm seal. If so, a trustworthy garage should be able to easily replace the seal for you....and without removing the box. The Pitman-arm is the big, heavy arm which comes out of the bottom of the box and attaches to the Drag-link. A Pitman-arm puller is needed, as well as a huge socket(1-3/8?) and an air-impact gun. Whatever you do, make sure that no one ever uses a large ball-joint/tie-rod splitter (a.k.a. Pickle-fork) to remove the Pitman arm. In that case, force (banging with a hammer) is used between the box case and the arm...putting enormous stresses on the bearings inside the box, ruining the bearings and gouging the case where the seal is....sometimes to the point where the seal cannot be removed.

You are better off bringing it somewhere to have the seal replaced...because the tools cost more than if a garage did it.

From Wayne:

For a kit of seals and o rings for the steering box, try your local Chrysler Dealer Parts Dept. I think that is where I got the kit for my car.

From Marc:

I had the same problem with my 60 Imperial. I went to Kragen auto parts and rented the Pitman arm puller. I took it home and pulled off the pitman arm. Drove back to Kragen and got all my money back in less than an hour! Then I started the car, turned the wheel hard to the right and whoosh! The seal blew out! I pulled it off the Pitman arm and went back to Kragen and they put one on order for me. Kragen seal # 12350. That simple. No special seal pullers or anything (you wont have room for one anyways). When I get the seal, It should be just as simple to put it back in!

From Steve:

If you pull the pump out of the car you will be amazed how easy it is to get the reservoir off of the pump. Take it off, pull the o-ring, and get your handy dandy NAPA to match it up for you. They had one in stock when I replaced mine a while back.

Also power steering stop leak is about the only snake oil I have found that actually seems to work. You might give it a try if you don't want to pull things apart.


Question from Chris (1970):

I've just had an alignment and new tires put on my '70 LeBaron and was told my steering gear box needed adjusted. I adjusted the top adjuster prior to taking it in for the alignment. The part that the shop says needs adjusted (they said that they would have done it; but, they didn't know enough about that gearbox to do it) is the input shaft (if you want to call it that...it is the shaft that goes into the gearbox from the steering wheel). It moves in and out as the wheel is turned. Not excessively; but, enough for me to want it adjusted.

Anyone who has done this adjustment or knows anything about how I can do it please respond.

Just to let you all know, the rest of the steering system is good...no wear/play.

Replies:

From Kenyon:

I have not had a 1970 apart, so this may not apply, but the 1960 and 1973 that I have played with were so similar that this may be of help.

The shaft that your wheel turns that in turn spins your steering has a pin in it that goes through both the shaft and the recepticle on the steering box. They are not too tight and not too loose when connected. There is a bearing with a nut at the top of the steering column, and I would inspect that area first, as the point where the shaft goes into the steering box has an oblong, oval hole that the fixing bolt could float around in (by design). Having the shaft shimmed snug on the bearing at the top of the steering shaft made all the difference for me.

If you can pull on the steering wheel and have it move up and down, you may want to pull the steering wheel and make certain that the nut holding the steering column shaft is shimmed correctly. I bet that your slop is at the top, and not at the bottom. This happened to me when I took the box out on my first 1960, reinstalled everything, and messed up on how I reassembled it. I had to insert a washer that I'd left out if memory serves, but it's been 7 years and I remember pulling the steering box off of the frame and onto my finger on the floor more because I misjudged how heavy the thing was than what the solution that I found for the slop was.

From William:

On my '70 Chrysler product, it got the loose steering situation and I similarly adjusted the sector shaft jam nut on the top of the gear box. Yet, even when I tweaked that adjustment to not be too tight and not too loose, it still was. I noticed that when I could turn the exposed part of the steering column from under the hood, with the engine off, I could see that in the center position, when I turned the steering column shaft either way, it would move outward instead of turning smoothly. That led me to suspect there was an adjustment on the input side of the steering gear box--where the spanner nut is. But I ended up just tolerating the slack that wasn't slack--after a while, you get used to it.

I inquired with one of the mechanics at the local Chrysler dealer and he said there was no adjustment up there, BUT that did not explain how they did the initial adjustment at the factory when they built the gearbox. But then too, that particular adjustment was something that few people knew about back then. Seems there was an article in one of the Mopar magazines recently that mentioned how to set up that adjustment on the input side too--like just tighten it down or similar. Whatever it might be, getting the adjustment done on that side of the box can be just as important as the sector shaft adjustment.

I might be missing something on the steering wheel nut, but when that nut is torqued down, it will only go so far and all shimming under it to take slack out at that point, would only pull upward on the input shaft seal/bushing and possibly wear them out sooner, it would seem.

In some of the later C-body style steering columns, there are a few other wear areas in the intermediate shaft part of the complete column itself. I don't think they typically cause any problems, but if the "bearings" are not installed correctly, it can make the column seem worn out up there, but putting them in correctly makes it feel new again.


Question from Brad (1972):

Has anyone replaced (or removed, rebuilt and reinstalled) their steering gearbox. It doesn't look all that complicated, but of course there's always something. Any tips would be appreciated.

Reply from Jack:

Steering box is a straight forward job. Park car with wheels straight ahead. Raise front of car off the ground. You may have to remove left front wheel Remove roll pin in lower steering wheel shaft raise lower coupling enough to clear the box. Note relation of pitman arm for later reinstallation You want to get pitman arm on the same spline on the rebuilt box. You will need fork to separate pitman arm from center link.  Removing pitman arm from the steering box requires a puller. Disconnect high and low pressure hoses Undo bolts Be careful box is very very heavy. I was able to get a rebuilt steering box for my 72 Newport for 170.00. While your at it check out the rag joint connection, mine was shot. the difference is incredible. I was able to order the rag joint from Chrysler.


Question from Steve (1972):

My power steering is leaking at the bottom of the steering box were the pitman arm is bolted on. the seal around the steering shaft seems to be shot. Can anyone tell me if I can replace this seal by taking the pitman arm off and digging the old seal out. Or is this something that has to be rebuilt after I remove the whole steering box from the car? (the latter being something I would rather not do if possible).

Replies:

From Steve:

Do you have a puller to get the arm off?? As far as I know...that is the only safe way to get them off w/o ruining the steering box.

From Mikey:

This is maybe a 2 1/2 eagle job.......with one and a half of them getting the pitman arm off. once you get the nut off the arm, which isn't too bad, then you have the fun of getting a pitman arm puller in between the arm and shaft, and getting in amongst the frame rail. It really isn't that bad, I have done this on my Imperial. It can be was harder than other cars because of clearance, but by loosening the bolts that held the box to the frame a little bit, I was able to finagle the puller in where I needed it.

Once you get the pitman arm off the shaft, its an easy deal. Just remove the snap ring, take out the seal and spacer arrangement, and replace them.  Mopar boxes use common seals for a lot of years, just find a knowledgeable parts place and get new stuff, or go to Mopar for that matter.

One caveat, if your car has the wedge spacer between the box and frame, make some punch marks or scribe marks to align the spacer back where it originally was. The pitman arm has a master spline so it should only go one way, fill with the appropriate fluid and have fun!  Make sure you get the snap ring seated back all the way though, if not the first time you apply pressure to it the seals will pop right back out and you'll have a leak like you never seen before!

From Pete:

Chrysler has a special tool designed to replace the pitman arm seals (I think there are 2 stacked together) with the steering box still in the car. I had the operation done (on a 73 Swinger V8) at a local Chrysler dealer a few years ago. If you haven't done it already, I'd drain the system and fill it with genuine power steering fluid. This has been discussed here before and I've found that doing it really DOES stop some leaks.


Question from Frank (1972):

Can anyone tell me if the steering box from any other Chrysler can be substituted for a '72 LeBaron ? My mechanic tried to stop the leaking, and when the box was reassembled the feel is sloppy and pulls to the right. The o-rings (seals) inside were not replaced with the factory parts !! Does anyone know if these seals can be purchased ?

Replies:

From Elijah:

Just walk on down to the nearest Advance Auto Parts, and tell them that you want a steering box for a '72 Imperial. They will probably give you weird looks, and you'll have to explain to them to look under Chrysler, etc., etc. But then they will find that the steering box is available (remanufactured) for about $130, with the exchange of your core (old box). I purchased one this way for my '71 Imperial about two years ago. There are also several companies that rebuild steering boxes -- pick up the most current issue of Hemmings Motor News, and look around.

From Dick:

The steering box can be rebuilt by any NAPA store, they will send it out and when it comes back it will be like new.

From Pete:

The symptoms you've described don't necessarily mean that you need another box. If the steering feels sloppy, the sector shaft end play may not have been set correctly. It's not hard to do this. Check your service manual for instructions on how to do this.  Pulling to the right indicates that the spool valve hasn't been centered. This should be done on the car and, again, isn't difficult. Ditto on checking the service manual.

From John:

The steering box problem may be that the valve is a little out of adjustment. If way out of adjustment, the steering wheel will actually turn by itself. The adjustment on this is very fine so I'd ask the mechanic to do it if you're not so inclined.

From Kne:

I put a steering box from a C-Body in my 1970 LeBaron. I'm not sure now if it was a '71 or possibly '72 or '74. (?!?!?!?)(I had parted out those year Fury III's) Anyhow it was a perfect match.


Question from Wayne (1972):

I have a '72 Imperial LeBaron that has a rather worn steering box. The front end is fine, except that the steering is a little less certain than it should be. The front end guy says its a worn box. Any suggestions?

Replies:

From Elijah:

Advance Auto Parts and Autozone, as well as many other parts houses, carry rebuilt units, usually for about $150.

From Kerry:

I made a substantial difference in my '73 by tightening the screw on top of the steering box a turn or so. Have to loosen the lock nut first. Went from 4 inches of slop to about 1.


Question from Kenyon (1973):

The '73 that I just got has steering that is as precise as a sailboat tiller. Slop appears to be in the box.  I took out a box once before and know how to adjust it with the nut/bolt on the top, but did it on a workbench last time, where I could really feel what was going on with the thing not attached to any other parts.  Anybody have a horror story or tips about doing it on the car?  I was going to tighten it down with wheels off the ground, steering wheel free so that I can inspect for continued freedom of movement, and then back off a smidge to avoid inadvertent binding.

Replies:

From Mike:

If your Imperial is set up like my friend's '72 Monaco was, there's this doughnut-like coupler in the middle of the steering column under the hood. (I believe this is to allow tilt column flex but I could be mistaken.) The slop in this car was over the top; I believe by the time it was over it had something ridiculous like 3/4 turn play in it. This was in the days before everyday folks had Net access. Chrysler no longer stocks this part (or so they said) and my friend was unable to find another coupler, so he wound up junking the car. I assume someone out there somewhere still has these.

From Roger:

As Mike says, there's a coupler in the steering shaft to change the angle. Once we were motoring to LA in a '70 Imperial, 70-80 mph at night, got to LA and turning into a parking spot that coupler completely broke-- no steering at all.

From Kerry:

Two different things here. Steering SOMETIMES can be tightened by loosening the lock bolt and turning the big screw on the top of the box. The joint thing is called a rag joint and replacements are made by the company that has all the weird stuff hanging in your friendly parts place, door knobs, window cranks, Think they are called Hello. If you car has a bad rag joint. DO NOT DRIVE IT. If it fails, you have NO steering as it functions an isolator and u-joint of sorts in the steering shaft.

From Norm:

The nut on top of the steering box controls the fit of the gears in the box. It is a delicate and specific adjustment which sometimes reduces or eliminates the sloppy feel. There is a description of how to do it in one of the FSM's.  The Left/Right pressure bias is adjusted by tapping MINUTELY via loosening two bolts on top of the box that are the bolts that hold the pressure valve body on top of several eccentric fluid passages.  If you tap the cover in one direction, the bias goes one way, the opposite is true of the other way. THIS IS AN EXTREMELY SENSITIVE ADJUSTMENT AND SHOULD NOT BE ATTEMPTED BY ANYONE WITH POOR SMALL MOTOR SKILLS. You can easily wind up with much more bias than you started with-enough, in fact to make the steering wheel quickly turn by itself when the engine is started.


Question from Guy (1975):

I need a Thompson type pump for an Imperial 1975 440 engine, without air pump and with A/C.  Any ideas?

Reply from Lawrence:

Your '75 uses the same pump as my '74- I replaced mine about 2 years ago with a rebuilt unit - I think it was about $60 with a lifetime guarantee- it was a shelf item at my local  auto parts store- these items are readily available through most auto parts chains throughout the US.


Question from Joe (1981-1983):

Has anyone changed out their steering box on an '81-'83. I need to replace mine and need to figure my "plan of attack". Remove exhaust and starter, etc., and remove steering box from below? Or remove exhaust manifold, battery tray, and power steering pump, etc., and remove steering box from above? I could use some advice from any members who have done this swap with the engine in place.

Reply from Bob:

I've just read the FSM on steering gear removal and here is the heart of the text. Disconnect the negative battery cable. Remove the Steering Column from the car, I'd suggest you disconnect the coupling and under dash mountings and slide the column into the car. Remove the flow and return hoses from the steering gear and tie up and away from the area.  From under the car, remove the steering arm nut and washer, and with a special tool, pull the arm off the splined shaft. Remove the three bolts from the steering gear to frame mounting and drop the gear down. You can probably rent the tool to pull the pitman arm off. You should have the steering wheel in dead center location, then shut off the key to hold it in that position. Look for alignment marks on the sector shaft serrations and the steering arm splines. I don't think that you need to remove all the parts in your message, but I haven't done that on my '81.


Question from Rob (1981-1983):

My '83 was pretty much all gone through by the guy I bought it from, but the steering is a little loose. He told me it was a different box from other M & J bodies. Is this true? can I swap in a police firm feel box? I'd like a little quicker handling and more road feel.

Replies:

From Gregg:

As far as interchangeability, I would think that the steering shaft and box would be close to F body stuff, if not all M, J, and R and F bodies using the same components.

I wanted to add my opinion on the firm feel box...I've driven three Chrysler products with it, and I didn't like the feel of it in any of those cars.  Now my understanding of factory power steering boxes is that Good Munching had variable ratio steering back in 1969, and indeed my '76 GM was so equipped and I could feel the difference. Easier in parking and tighter on the highway. I have a 1978 Thunderbird and the steering box and column were rebuilt in that, its not as good as my '76 GM but even with a reported 3.9 turns lock-to-lock and only one ratio its OK.  Now with my 1970 Chrysler, the steering is light, and my experience with Chrysler products of the 60's and 70's is that they were even lighter with less road feel than other leading brands.  In parking though, all the Chrysler Products were a little tight, because the faster the pump rotated the more assist you got.   I would get a stock box when the time comes: The box itself is tighter, yes, but there is still play in the column, the pitman arm and the steering linkage.  Even if everything is in good shape there is still enough play somewhere between the steering wheel and the front wheels that make steering corrections very annoying on the road.

From Dick:

My '81's steer very well, in my opinion, compared with any other car of that era. They certainly do not show any play in the steering at all. My '82 does, but it is a high mileage car which was apparently abused. If you are comparing it with a 2001 almost anything, it is going to disappoint, though. Driving a recent car is a revelation to this old codger, who for years said "who needs a new car, the old ones are just as good". You'll no longer hear me say that. Even my pickup truck handles better than any old car I own, and is quieter, rides better, outperforms and gets better mileage too (to be accurate, it gets about the same mileage as my best '81). They sure don't make them like they used to!! My only regret is that when something breaks, I'm going to be hard pressed to fix it myself!

The power steering "gear chuck" and "worm, with piston" are unique to the Imperial, so you were given the correct information. However, the housing is the same for all F,G,J,E,T,X,S and Y, (all the rear drive cars) so perhaps these will interchange with some difference in steering characteristics. I also note that the various repair kits and seals apply to all those same cars, so the difference must be limited to the steering ratio. Since the LeBaron box will fit, and must be easily available at any junkyard, I'd give it a try, just to see what the difference in feel is. By the way, the parts that are unique to the Imperial are also the same parts that are unique to the police box (although not the same part numbers), so that implies that you could put a police box in the car with no problem. I think if you do this it will make the headlight doors flap up and down like mad as the headlights blink, though. It might also make the horn sound kind of funny.


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