Imperial Homepage -> Repair -> Steering -> Steering Wheel
HOW TO RESTORE YOUR STEERING WHEEL: by Don Tudor
After many years of cruzin' under the hot California sun, the plastic steering wheels in the Ol' Mopars inevitably develop cracks and breaks. Rather than spend a month's rent on a reproduction or NOS steering wheel, the Eastwood Company offers a restoration kit that will make a tired Mopar wheel gleam better than new. If you enjoy mixin' paint, foolin' with air compressors and using the old "primer it and sand it, primer it and sand it" system, read no further. But if you'd like to restore your original wheel at low cost, using no special tools, this article is for you. And believe me, if I can make a steering wheel look good using my limited talents, anyone can do it !!
REMEMBER !!! EVEN FACTORY NEW PLASTIC STEERING WHEELS HAVE MINOR IMPERFECTIONS SUCH AS CASTING LINES, EXCESS FLASHING, BUMPS AND GROOVES, ETC. The best part of the restoration process you are about to read is that you can restore a steering wheel to the quality that fits your needs. If you want an absolutely perfect wheel, better than new, for a show car, you can make it with the Eastwood kit. If you have a daily driver or shine N' show car and want to leave a few fine "spider web" lines in the plastic to match an unrestored, slightly weathered but nice interior, you can make the wheel look "vintage".
The steering wheel I wanted to restore had been taken off of a '65 Cuda. It has three metal spokes and a plastic rim. It was in pretty good shape having only a few "spider webs" but there were several deep cracks in various places across the top of the rim. My car has a blue interior, the Cuda wheel was a faded tan color. I wanted a "paint" that would not only be a close match to the blue interior but would also look like the original molded plastic.
STEP ONE: Get the Materials
The first thing I did was to gather together all of the necessary materials. I called the Eastwood Company (800-345-1178) and ordered the following items:
1) Item #1943, the Steering Wheel Restoration Kit which consists of: "The Steering Wheel Restoration Handbook" by Jack Turpin and," PC-7" a two-part epoxy. (If you need a steering wheel puller, order Eastwood item #1966 which includes a puller, the handbook and the epoxy, all for about $35.00).
2) Item #3858Z, which includes "Plastic Prep" (a cleaner), and "Sand Free" (a sandless plastic primer).
3) Item #3833Z, "Vinyl Coat" in Wedgewood blue (a light/medium blue). Vinyl Coat comes in 15 colors to match just about any interior.
After a quick trip to my local auto parts store, I had the rest of the things I needed:
4) 1 can of Dupont #7 polishing compound. 5) 1 can of car wax (I used "Rain Dance"). 6) An assortment of sandpaper, #150; #220 and #400 wet/dry. 7) One roll of 3" masking tape. 8) One roll of 1/2" masking tape
A few days later, UPS delivered the Eastwood products and I was ready.
STEP TWO: Do the Homework
I read Jack Turpin's "Steering Wheel Restoration Handbook" to get familiar with the techniques I'd be using. Mr. Turpin's handbook is loaded with photographs and easy to follow directions. The handbook was an important part of my restoration. The only difference is that the "paint" supplies I ordered from Eastwood are aerosol sprays rather than the kind that require mixing and the use of a spray gun/compressor set-up as described in the handbook.
I read the labels of each Eastwood product carefully to become familiar with exactly how the products work and how they should be applied. Since the aerosol products I received are different than most other paints and primers, reading each label before using the products is essential !!!
STEP THREE: Clean the Wheel
I inserted the end of a wooden broomstick through the center of the steering wheel and used a woodscrew and washer to attach them securely together. By inserting the free end of the broom stick into my work bench, I was able to spin the wheel while I worked on it. I cleaned the wheel rim thoroughly using a plastic scrub brush and "Simple Green" detergent. After wiping off the excess water, I put the wheel outside in the sun for the rest of the afternoon to make sure it would dry completely.
STEP FOUR: Mask the Wheel
The next day, after the wheel was completely dry, I used the 1/2" masking tape to carefully cover the spokes where they attach to the rim of the steering wheel. The tape must be as close as possible to the plastic without touching it. Using the 3" masking tape and some newspaper, I covered the rest of the spokes and the center of the steering wheel leaving only the rim of the steering wheel exposed. This protected the spokes of the wheel from scratches and damage while I worked on the rim of the wheel.
STEP FIVE: Epoxy the Cracks
With the broomstick attached to my work bench, I mixed the PC-7 epoxy and filled the deep cracks making sure that the epoxy went all the way to the bottom of the crack (to prevent an air pocket). I left a very small amount of epoxy, about 1/16th of an inch, protruding from each crack so that I could file the epoxy smooth and even with the rim later. The PC-7 epoxy is easy to use and allows about an hour of work time before it starts to set up. After applying the epoxy to the steering wheel, I left it attached to the work bench for two days to ensure that the epoxy had completely cured.
STEP SIX: Sand the Wheel
Using a medium grit flat file, I carefully filed the epoxy even with the rim of the steering wheel. (Had there been cracks in the curves of the finger grips, a rat-tail file would have handled them). I used first the #150, then the #220 paper to lightly dry sand the epoxied areas and areas where the plastic had spider-web cracks. Since I wanted the steering wheel to match an interior that was a little weathered but nice, I left a few very fine crack lines in the rim. Next, I lightly sanded the entire wheel with dry #400 paper to take the sheen off of the smooth plastic. When finished, I had the texture of the wheel looking exactly the way I wanted it to. Had I wanted a perfect wheel, I could have sanded the entire wheel completely smooth.
STEP SEVEN: Final Prep
I set the steering wheel up outside my garage in a clean area sheltered from the wind. I've found that since I don't have a spray booth, painting outside using indirect sunlight gives me the best results. Having the wheel on a stick really makes the job easy. I made sure that there was no residual sanding dust anywhere on the steering wheel then wiped the wheel rim completely clean using the "Plastic Prep". To test the "Sand Free" primer, I dabbed a very small amount on a spot inside the wheel where no one would see it. "Sand Free" slightly softens the plastic to permanently bond the first coat of color to the wheel. The "Sand Free" worked perfectly.
STEP EIGHT: Color
I sprayed the entire wheel rim with a solid coat of "Sand Free" and waited a few moments for the plastic to soften. While the "Sand Free" was still slightly wet, I sprayed the entire rim with the first coat of "Vinyl Coat". I waited about 30 minutes to everything to harden and dry. The first coat covered the wheel completely, none of the epoxy or sanded areas bled through. "Vinyl Coat" sprays on somewhat thin (like lacquer-based paints) so I sprayed on an additional three coats, allowing 15 minutes between coats for drying time. It took almost two hours but when finished, the wheel looked great. To fill in the wait time, I kept a copy of the Mopar Collectors Guide handy. After the final coat had dried, I put the steering wheel back in the garage and left it for two days to "cure".
STEP NINE: The Finish
The "Vinyl Coat" color dries to an almost semi-gloss finish. I wanted the rim of my wheel to look as much as possible like original molded plastic. Rather than use a spray-on semi-gloss or gloss finish, I chose to use the #400 wet/dry sandpaper and polishing compound to bring out the luster of the "Vinyl Coat". I wet the sandpaper and using very light pressure, I wet the flat parts of the wheel and sanded the surfaces smooth. After wiping off the sanding residue, I dabbed a little polishing compound onto a damp rag and lightly rubbed out all of wheel rim except for the finger grips. To add some gloss highlights to the wheel, I rubbed on just a little bit of "Rain Dance" car wax.
I carefully pulled off the masking tape and newspaper and the wheel looked exactly the way I wanted it to. The Eastwood products worked great!!
If you have any questions not answered by this article, call me, Don Tudor @(310) 539-2771.
Tip from John:
The typical cracked steering wheel job involves filling the cracks with a two part epoxy putty, sanding smooth and then painting. Plumber's epoxy (the kind that is used to putty over leaky pipes) works fine although you can pay more for the stuff if you buy a steering wheel repair kit. If you can spackle cracks in a wall with decent results you can fix your steering wheel. A good way to gauge your craftsmanship and get a little practice is to start off with a $10 junkyard wheel. Nobody, as far as I know, can repair a clear wheel because the epoxy putty is opaque.
Tips from Elijah on how to switch an Imperial from non-tilt to tilting steering wheel:
This job will be MUCH easier than you might think! Let's see...you've got three nuts just beneath the dash, and then two bolts at the firewall. Pull those loose, disconnect the relevant wiring, and just pull the entire steering column. The tilt/telescopic column will bolt right in. The steering wheels, however, will NOT interchange. The release/hold mechanism for the telescopic part is built into the wheel -- if you tried to use a "standard" steering wheel, you'd have one that would just slide back and forth at will (which could be fun, in it's own way!). You will need to use the lock cylinder from the donor column. The two different columns use two different lock cylinders (I think -- not 100% sure on this, and anyone please correct me if I'm wrong). Aside from that, it should be smooth sailing!
Tip and Question from Mikey:
Tonight while visiting my in-laws, I was browsing some of dad's street rod books. he is a street and hot rodder from the vintage years of the 50's when you couldn't just order whatever you wanted or could think of from a catalog. Anyway, in this copy of "street rod" was an article about a company in Arizona that does old steering wheel restoration. There were a half dozen or so photos, and they use some type of modern elastomeric compound that they guarantee NOT TO CRACK in extreme heat or cold. They also can do CLEAR wheels. The article said they can do any kind of wheel, and have some permanent molds and also make temporary molds for the one of a kind jobs that come along. They also offer a lifetime guarantee on their products. The company is:
2533 West Cypress Street
Phoenix Arizona, 85009
Reply from Bill:
JB Donaldson has a website and it is loaded with links for all kinds of parts & services.
Question from George:
The steering wheel on my '64 LeBaron needs some minor crack repair. Has anyone done this repair before and what did you use to fill in the cracks? Any special requirements for the finish paint?
Mix the color in the epoxy and heat it up just a little (so it get more liquid), then it will be easier to fill the cracks.
If the cracks are VERY minor, they can often be polished out.
There is a wheel repair kit sold by Eastwood.
Modern paints are applied to the rubber bumpers found on cars these days. They sometimes have a flex-agent mixed in, or so I have heard. I was planning on using paint with such and investigating when I got to that point on my car.
Beware that one normally pulls on the wheel getting in and out, and this will flex it, so whatever agent is used must have some flex, which would make the choice of filler especially important. Prep of the crack could make a difference, I should think.
I "chased around" a lot looking for a solution to the steering wheel problem on my '59 LeBaron. It appeared impossible to find a replacement or an individual/small company/anyone who could repair steering wheels.
Eventually I found D & D Automobilia who built me a new one. The job was excellent (a few other IML'ers have had one built by him and share that opinion).
It is not an inexpensive solution.
Question from Mike:
Does anyone on the list know of a company that fixes or repairs steering wheels? My beige wheel on my 81 is cracked and looks like heck. Any help?
There are a number of companies listed in Hemmings Motor News who repair cracked steering wheels. Look in the "Services Offered" section. Or you can try looking under individual makes such as Chrysler, Cadillac, Buick etc. Also try on line. Type in steering wheel repair and see what comes up. I am having my '65 Crown convert. steering wheel recast by a company called D & D Automobilia. I am not sure if they repair steering wheels or just do the recasting. Mine was too far gone to repair so, after looking for another wheel for several years, I decided I wasn't probably going to ever find one like my original so I would just bite the bullet and have a new one made using my old wheel. It is expensive to say the least but it was pretty much my only choice. Hope yours can be repaired to your liking.
I had the wheel on my '60 New Yorker recast by www.qualityrestorations.com They are expensive but did a great job.
It is rather interesting that this subject has come along again because I have just been in contact with a fellow who fixes old plastic radios as a hobby. He can take a cracked or chipped plastic cabinet and repair it so it looks like it was never damaged, right down to the colour. All that he uses is some two part epoxy, made by West industries, and mixes in the appropriate die mixture so the colour matches. Afterward it can be machined and polished so everything matches up. The reason that I was asking was because I wanted to reproduce some rather hard to find radio knobs but it may prove usefull for my steering wheel, if I can't find another one. I think that I will be speaking with this gentleman in future about his tecnique.
Question from Jack (1938):
Anyone have a 1938 Imperial steering wheel complete with all the horn stuff? Anyone have any ideas how to locate those hard to find steering wheels?
A STRONG suggestion: Join the WPC Club and advertise in the monthly magazine - Very likely to get good results, if you can be patient enough to wait about seven months for the responses to finally come in. I don't know why it works that way, but it does...
In 1938 a clear plastic steering wheel was also a factory option. It was really a little translucent. The spokes were a set of three chrome wires in parallel for each of the three spokes. It also had a horn ring, unusual for that era. It was usually called a "Banjo" steering wheel because of the wire spokes. Officially it was a "Tennite" wheel. Tennite being the brand name of the plastic used. My '38 INYS had one of these. It may also have been an option in '37 and '39. Plastic of any kind was rare in those years. Some knobs were Bakelite but everything else was usually metal with gauge and speedometer lenses of glass. The round Chrysler seal, that has recently been revived, was metal and ceramic. No plastic, real quality then.
Question from Dietmar (1960):
Since I finally got my steering problem solved (modern electronic measurement was NOT helpful but traditional mechanics) my IMP goes perfectly straight but - the steering wheel is now NOT centered. To manage this I need the very special tool with those very particular bolts, which I can't find in Germany. The manual calls it tool C -3428. No picture found. Who can sell me one or buy and ship?
I haven't removed the steering wheel from an '60, but usually the wheel can be put back in one and only position. So you have to adjust it from the right and left outer links (tie rods). I have done my tool by my self: a flat bar with three holes on it plus three screws (inch threaded) and one nut and it has worked fine for me. It's not a problem to get inch threaded bolts here in Finland, the special bolt shops do sell those.
You can make your own puller in about half an hour provided you have a few simple tools at your disposal and a basic welding kit. All you need is a flat metal bar about 70mm in length, 40 mm wide and 3-4mm thick, a 75mm long, 24mm nut and bolt and two 2 inch 9/16" bolts. Drill a hole through the center of the bar large enough for the big bolt to pass through. Cut two slots on the bar on either side of the center hole to correspond with the bolt holes in the steering wheel and just wide enough for the two 9/16" bolts to pass through. Weld the big nut to one side of the bar and thread the bolt through it. You now have a puller. I have done this myself so I know it works.
Having done this myself, I know that the '61 and therefore probably the '60 can be adjusted by removing and refitting in a different position within limits. Those limits are defined by the position of the turn signal return lobes. However, there is a fair amount of scope within these parameters.
I don't think removing the steering wheel will help your off center problem. I believe there is a master spline on your steering shaft which will only permit the steering wheel to go on one way only. The steering wheel MUST be in the perfectly straight position before the alignment can be started. Alignment shops use a tool that holds the steering wheel perfectly straight before starting the alignment procedure.
The steering wheel can be removed without a puller if need be. This is a two man job, one if you've done it before. Remove steering wheel center cushion and horn wire. Remove large steering wheel center nut - two hammers are required. Have an assistant pull on the steering wheel (moderate steady pressure). Place one hammer solidly on steering shaft, with other hammer rap sharply back of hammer already on steering shaft. (Safety glasses are recommended.) Remember you're not trying to kill the hammer, just a sharp stroke (one will do nicely). It has always worked for me, and I never damaged the shaft threads.
I do not know all the things that have been done to your car to have the Steering Wheel not be centered. But, it may not be the steering wheel as the problem. It is possible that the front end is either out of alignment or the tie rod end sleeves need to be adjusted to center the wheel. First, start the car since you cannot pull the wheel. Count the exact amount of times it takes to turn from center to right and then all the way to the left. This is provided that no one before has removed the wheel and tried to replace it without using the proper slot provided on the shaft. The car must be on the ground. It is best if you could drive the car up to a spot in a straight line. Stop and shut it off. The wheel should be cocked at the same angle that you have driven it when it was in a straight line. Now, measure the tread from both tires at the same point in the tread from the front and rear of the front tires at the highest point without hitting the frame or anything under the car. This must be done in a horizontal plane level to the ground across both front tires. There will be a difference. It will either be toed out or in. The difference for example would be if you have a greater distance apart in the tread at the front of the tire, then it is toed out. Now, there is two nuts and bolts on the sleeves at the two outer tie rods. Loosen them both and at both sides of the car. This makes four you will be loosening. They are all 1/2 inch. These sleeves will have threads at both ends. One way brings the tie rods closer and the other way spreads the tie rods apart. So, for example, I said if your car is toed out, you will need to expand the distance between the tie rods. But first, where is the steering wheel off set at what angle. Right or left. Lets assume left. Now you would first need to back-off or unscrew the right sleeve, lets say, a quarter turn. Now, back the car up about 20 feet and come forward again and re-measure the two tire treads again in the front and rear to see how much you have closed and to see if the wheel is centered yet. You must keep doing this until you are happy with where you want it centered. If the car is in perfect alignment, then the front end is not centered to the wheel. You never remove the steering wheel and try to re-center it. It is slotted already and centered to the gear box. If the car was realigned before, then they did not center the steering wheel first. It must be the first thing in an alignment. Do not forget to retighten the sleeves when you are done.
Follow-up from PEN:
The car needs to be running at idle speed when the front end is aligned. Otherwise the steering wheel will never center correctly. I hope that his car was not aligned while off, and then someone tried to correct the off of center steering wheel by pulling it. That would be a disaster. I know of no special spline or tooth which will properly align the steering wheel to the steering shaft.
Question from Greg (1961):
Can anyone recommend a firm to restore or supply NOS steering wheel for my '61?
After looking almost three years for an NOS wheel (or a really good used one), I finally gave up and began looking into the cost as well as who actually could restore or recast a new one for me. My problem was my wheel was in very bad shape and it was also 'transluscent'. Simply filling the cracks wouldn't work due to the fact you could 'see' through mine (when it was new). I finally went with D&D Automobilia. Don who owns the business has been great to work with and has sent me samples of the plastic he has mixed to try and recreate my original wheel. He did not have a mold for a '65 wheel so he had to make one from scratch using my wheel. The cost? Around $1,200 (to completely recast a new one and replate the metal inside the wheel). Maybe you will be lucky enough to find another wheel in good shape and you won't have to go down this expensive road. Also, if yours is a solid wheel, you may be able to getby with filling the cracks and repainting it. D&D's number is (814) 530-5653..
It is possible to restore a steering wheel using epoxy resins and dyes. There is a fellow that I ran across that does something similar to 1940's catalin plastic radio cabinets, with chunks broken out. Apparently you can file, sand, and polish the epoxy once it cures. He makes molds out of silicone if he has to cast something.
From Tom:Check out www.qualityrestorations.com. they did a magnificent job on the steering wheel for my 1960 NYer. Not cheap, will take a few months to turn around if in fact he can do it for you.
Question from Jay (1962):
I was day-dreaming Imperial style just now and decided to dream aloud. Reading some saved IML posts regarding steering wheel restoration got me thinking about my own '66 Tilt-O-Scope wheel. It needs restoration as the it has many cracks of varying magnitude. A few are 1/4" wide. From what I gather, doing a steering wheel restoration sounds simple enough even for the do-it-yourselfer.
The one dilemma is that THE STEERING WHEEL IS CLEAR. I can't find anybody that restores CLEAR wheels. I want to eventually restore the interior using the original color scheme, so if I can't find a suitable replacement wheel or someone that restores clear wheels, I'm out of luck. The interior of this Crown is metallic gold with a dark green dash pad and headliner. The carpet is either tan or gold (or whatever Chrysler named it, I'm not sure.) The door handles are - you guessed it - clear and they match the steering wheel. I'm not worried about restoring the door handles as they have held up well (although a little "cloudy.")
Does anyone know ANYONE that restores CLEAR wheels?
When I decide to take on this quest to repair or replace the wheel, should I save my time and sanity by using a business that has a "parts locator" service? If so, what are some good ones? Has anybody had any experiences that I could learn from regarding parts locators?
I got a plastic welder for X-mas. It was purchased from JC Whitney.
From the manufacturer you can order any color or clear plastic in the different kinds.
The welder is just a sophisticated heat gun with a tip which you feed the plastic rod through.
I have done some clear welds with it BUT they do cloud a bit when finished. PLUS they are not perfectly smooth unless your hands are steadier then mine. You can sand and polish after finishing the weld.
THE TRICK is identifying the type of plastic your steering wheel is made of because you need this info for ordering the rod.
So far my welds have been confined to restoring the laundry basket and Tupperware and I am impressed with this device to far.
I have been thinking about this for some time. I was thinking maybe a guy could use that pouring plastic that is used on table tops and pictures. You would have to tape it off all around leaving a place to pour it in. If you checked with a hardware store or hobby shop to see if some one has the experience working with this stuff. I have been looking into making molds out of plaster to pour plastic parts for the door pillars. Again I have to wait till spring to get at the broken parts in my parts car to experiment. I have found some good books on the subject and also have a friend who lives about 50 miles away who does professional work in bronze and other metals, so I will ask him for advice. Good luck in your quest. Bob
Question from Rob (1964):
I assume a mechanic recognizes a worn drag link by tugging on the steering parts when a car is up on a lift and finding play. My question is ... Short of examining the drag link, in terms of performance, how do I, the driver, know that the drag link needs to be replaced? Does the steering just become looser or is there vibration in the steering column? What if any symptoms distinguish this problem from other steering issues or problems?
I had that problem with the 66 I had. When they put it on the lift, it was plain to see the problem. Just easily moving the wheels caused the link to wobble all over the place. When I got the old one back, you could see that the holes were worn large & elongated.
The "driver" would notice a gradual decline in steering control e.g. the car is less responsive to steering wheel movement, the car seems to "swim" done the road. Swimmers do not move through the water in a precise straight line, they shift slightly from side to side as they move forward. Same goes for worn tie rod ends, you loose precise control. A car that is only misaligned will tend to wander (or pull) to one side, but will be responsive to the steering wheel. You can align a car with worn tie rod ends, drive 20 feet, and have it out of alignment again. When you go to an alignment shop, the FIRST thing the tech should check is for worn parts, otherwise it's time and money wasted.
This drag-link thread has not had the standard, additional suggestion of checking the steering box for looseness. The Drag-link may very well be bad, too, but if you have not checked your steering box, please read on. There is a nut and screw at the top of the domed cap on the steering box in the engine compartment, attached to the DS frame rail near the exhaust manifold. Loosen the nut and standard-thread-tighten the bolt/screw that may have a flat blade or Allen key hole (or other) until it is snug, working the steering wheel to seat the mechanism during the process before final tightening of the lock-nut.
To test: Car engine off. Put hand onto wheel and turn it in a loose rocking motion without turning the car's wheels, introducing tension. Allow steering wheel to snap back to resting position. Play should be rubbery and connected-feeling throughout and with only a few inches of travel. No perceptible bumping to be felt in the wheel, all linkage in the system feels tight. Feel another power steering car in the same way for reference (not identical, but gives an idea).
Excessive play may mean the drag link or other components are loose or worn, but tightening the steering box is one place to look. If the steering wheel moves but the Pittman arm does not, the box is loose. The Pittman arm is a 4 inch cast (curved on mine) piece that connects the bottom of the steering box to the drag-link and moves the drag link left-right. It is visible from under the car. I had a buddy progressively rock the wheel harder while I looked at the Pittman arm. Once you do it and fix it, the 2nd time is much easier to do without help once you know what you are looking for. All 3 of the Imperials that I have gotten have benefited from this 5 minute steering box adjustment.
Follow-up 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.
Please check out our center link repair page for more information on how to repair your center (drag) link.
Question from Greg (1965):
We need advice about recasting, restoring or a source for NOS or very good used steering wheels.
Eastwood sells a resin that you smash in and let cure then sand down smooth, then paint the wheel. They may sell it as a kit. I saw just the resin available somewhere for half the price of the kit, and I have tools already, so will seek out the tube only.
I think the container was like a toothpaste tube, but memory is fuzzy.
Unless you have a clear Lucite wheel, this should work. I think that it's like $20+/-.
DIY beats paying somebody.
Quality Restorations, INc. 858-271-7374 Dennis Crooks Has done an F wheel for us beautifully. Highly recommended.
Question from Mark (1967/1968):
Does anyone know if the '68 came with two different types of steering wheels? I have seen a number of cars that had a steering wheel that looked more like the 67's - with a black vinyl center and a horn ring around the bottom half. The only '68 steering wheel I'm familiar with looks almost a Caddy's - it's very simple with a brushed aluminum looking shaft and has no separate horn ring. I was wondering if maybe cars built early in the production run were given different wheels.
One difference would be tilt/telescopic wheels vs. non-tilt/telescopic. The two different columns used different steering wheels.
Both '67s and '68s offered two different styles of steering wheel.
The standard wheel had a rather modern looking center hub with a smooth curved shape, as well as two crossbars at 9 and 3 o'clock and a chrome horn ring around the lower half of the wheel. You could sound the horn by spoke or by ring, a feature proudly noted in the 1967 brochure. The base wheel neither tilted nor telescoped.
The optional "Tilt-O-Scope" tilt/telescoping wheel had a knurled knob around the outside of the hub (you loosened it, pulled the wheel to your desired reach, which was assisted by a light spring behind the wheel, then tightened it down) and no horn ring. The horn buttons ran along the spokes, which also run from the center to the 9 and 3 o'clock positions.
I believe the same tilt/telescoping wheel was used in 1969 as well.
Both steering columns were manufactured by Saginaw, the GM steering column division. Cadillac got theirs from the same source, though it would be incorrect to say Cadillac manufactured even their own columns. 1967 was the first year the industry offered the collapsible steering column, so Imperial was tied for first along with a LOT of other marques. (Remember, 1967 was the first year for many safety features.)
Barely related side note: my 1972 Charger has the optional tilt-wheel, which was the most expensive steering wheel option on a Charger that year. Oddly, it's the only wheel that was not color-keyed to the interior (which in my case is tan).
Why? Because it's an Imperial wheel with a Dodge badge, and the only Imperial interior color that "matched" any of the B-body offerings was black. And while my Rim Blow horn feature now works perfectly, I do want to find a perfect wheel (mine has a small crack or two), so now I get to scour the junkyards for black-interior 1971-3 Imperials in addition to examples of my own cars... The thrill of the hunt!
Question from Paul (1967):
Can someone tell me how to make the steering more tight on my 1967 Imperial? Everything but the pitman arm and gear box is new.
The steering isn't supposed to be tight.. It should feel as if you're driving on air and you should be able to turn the steering wheel with one finger to make any kind of a turn. This steering isn't like driving a Ford Taurus or any other new car. I've had my 67 67,000 miles on it, 17 years and 44,000 miles later I had the front end rebuilt (Gear Box, Idler Arm, PS Pump and some bushings) this summer and it now drives like it did when I got it 17 years ago... I'm sure others can explain this in more technical terms but if everything's replaced its probably operating normally... Just extremely different feeling from today's cars.
I am assuming you do not mean effort, but rather a feeling that there is some "gear slop" in the system. I'll let someone else go in to the technicalities of "tightness" in front ends. But I will say that if you have hiked up or ratcheted down your torsion bars or your rear springs to a level outside normal spec, the steering will be squirrelly. Alignment specs cannot be properly followed unless ride height is within range. You can find ride height in the FSM.
I was helping my friend Scott with his 68 Charger and he explained to me that our old Mopars use the same coupling system as the newer Dodge trucks. there is the coupling female part that fits onto a spline on the steering box, and two square bushings, spring clips , a dowel pin and an orange seal connecting it to the steering column. There is some motion in this set up built in, but after so many years this set up must be replaced. It as just as likely that the play could be in the inner/out tie rods or the pitman arm, steering box or idler arm. My 70' 300 has some play in the steering, and although my control arm bushings and ball joints are new, and the center link and tie rods are tight, I attribute my slop to a bad pitman arm/steering box combo. I installed a stabilizer bar on my C body made by PST, but this would not fit anything with the Imperial name. rather, since Imperial used a stabilizer set up similar to GM and Ford, I'm sure urethane bushings could be matched up to tighten up the handling. This does not affect the steering of course, but it will help the overall handling.
I just went through this with my '67, having the steering gearbox replaced after 122,000 miles with a remanufactured unit, and I'm not happy with the result either. It seems today's re-builders often do not realize that firm steering is not the desired effect. Unfortunately, the only way to adjust this is to adjust the free play, and they are conversely related. That is, the correct amount of free play might result in too firm of a steering feel. I just had to replace the gearbox in my '72 Charger, sourced from a different supplier, and the result was spot-on... just the right feel, no excess play in the wheel. I'd see if you or your mechanic can find the hapy medium in your box, but if your steering wheel still offers too much play with the wheel too firm, it might be time to replace the gearbox. 67,000 miles is usually way too early to need this, but leaking seals or prolonged use with low fluid might have caused early wear. Then again, 33 years can wear out anything regardless of mileage. But the correct result should be minimal play in the wheel and one-finger lightness when turning, even when the vehicle is stationary. At driving speed, the light feel should still be fairly communicative. I've always been impressed with how "tossable" my '67 is on a winding road for such a large car (and one that is 33 years old and with that kind of mileage). Someday I'll get it back to that, even if I have to replace the gearbox again at my own expense.
Question from Paul (1967):
I have way too much play in the wheel. I just want to know how to get rid of some of the play.
I had to replace the coupling between the steering shaft and box on my '67 Imp. It's available from your Mopar Dealer. I believe Dodge pickups use the same coupling.
The steering gear adjustment screw (at least for my 66) is on the top of the steering gear, fwd of the fluid outlet hose/line. Look down at the unit and you'll see this adjustment screw looking up at you. The screw is held securely by a lock nut.
To adjust the screw, make note of where the screw is oriented, "/", "_", " \", "|". Loosen the lock nut and make sure the screw didn't move from where is was. When the lock nut is loose, turn the screw clockwise (tighten) 1/8th of a turn and retighten the lock nut. Test the steering for free-play. If it's still too loose, try another 1/8th of a turn.
BE CAREFUL, and not too critical of "looseness". Tightening the adjustment screw too much will cause premature failure of the steering unit. Just tighten it enough to get rid of some of the play in the wheel. A little play, 4-7 inches is "normal" as far as I know. 10 -15 is too much.
Question from Joran (1972):
I need some help in finding a rim blow steering wheel for my 1972 Imperial. Is that possible to find, or do I have to change the steering wheel?
After some looking, I've discovered a place to buy new rim blow horn switches. Here is the website:
Looks like the rim blow switches for our cars are $125 (ouch) but I'd say it beats trying to convert the car over to a different steering wheel.
From what I noticed in earlier times, all of the C-body steering wheels should all interchange, except possibly for the Tilt-A-Scope wheels, in the 1970 era vehicles and probably up to 1978 also (just my suspicion). In other words, a non-rim blow steering wheel should bolt on. I suspect that if there's anything different in the way the horn contact wire plugs in, if you get all of the related parts, they should swap out. Again, that should work for the non T-A-S columns. On the new steering wheel I bought from Chrysler in the late '70s (with the rim blow installed), there's a recess on the bottom of the wheel that would coincide with where the tilt/telescope "lock lever" is. It might be possible to grind that deal out too and then put the longer brushed stainless sleeve on the back of the non-telescope wheel (maybe). But I'll bet that if you find a middle '70s or so steering wheel for a tilt/telescope column, it'll probably be an easy! swap in place of the rim blow wheel.
With the correct paint, the steering wheel can be recolored too, plus the center pad redyed to match.
These are the basic things I recall when I was researching getting something else on my '70 Monaco with the factory rim blow.
Question from Michael (1981):
I am looking for a steering wheel for my '81. It is beige in color, but the one on the car now is cracked beyond repair. Any help?
Reply from Bob:
Most of these steering wheels will be cracked, some worse than others. Every once in a while I come across these in the junk yards, I'll keep an eye out for one. The 5th Ave. had an almost identical wheel. The only difference was a very small silver colored strip around the rear cover. Also, I have the "Cartier" centers for these if you are still looking.
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.
Please check out our steering box repair page for more information on how to repair your Imperial's steering box.
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