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Lower Steering Column Bearing Upgrade Woes

TOG

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Proceeded to replace the lower steering column bushing while performing a Borgeson 800 Series power steering box upgrade.

The first ball bearing upgrade kit from SCEOffroad, branded "Crown" P/N 4487696K, was defective; the outer bearing race OD was far too small Vs. the ID of the plastic bushing.

The bearing slops around inside the bushing and is so loose that the outer race of the bearing spins inside the bushing when the steering shaft is rotated.

I ordered another kit from SCEOffroad and one from Ames Performance Pontiac specialists, Ames P/N FS204C.

Both of these kits also exhibited the same defect and possibly appeared to have been manufactured by some company.

Ames tech support advised "to utilize JB Weld or an equivalent to recreate the proper seat for the bearing housing" (!) Right.

All are being returned for credit. Found another alternative from Wolff Engineering that, while expensive, looks to be promising and potentially high quality.

I will report back with the results.

Videos of the flawed kits are up on the Fire Am Registry youtube channel:


The Old Guy
1973 Fire Am 455 HO

lower steering column bearing upgrade.jpg
2nd def ebay bearing.jpg
 

TOG

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Update: Shipped the defective Ames Performance lower steering column bearing kit back for a refund.

Ames paid for the return shipping - Thank you, Ames!

Found another supplier for this bearing, Wolff Engineering.

They manufacture a VERY HIGH quality MADE IN USA upgrade that uses a cartridge bearing.

Their kit uses 4x set screws to positively locate the bearing on the steering shaft and totally eliminates all play between the bearing ID and the shaft that exhibits in the OEM setup and other kits.

The quality of the Wolff Engineering kit, the packaging and the included instructions is very high, about what you might expect when purchasing a fine Swiss watch. Very detailed instructions, both needed hex wrenches, and lock-tite are all included.

Very, very impressed with the Wolff Engineering product. Upon installation of the Wolff kit and a brand new Jeg's P/N 555-90891 lower steering shaft I found the upper joint in the brand new Jeg's shaft caused a nasty clunk due to excessive play in the joint, same as the year old and only ~1,000 miles shaft it was to replace.

So, back went the Jeg's shaft and ordered an Ames Performance shaft P/N FA478HEA.

The Ames shafts are re-manufactured OEM shafts and, hopefully, will not exhibit the same excessive play and clunk noise flaws as the Jeg's and the previous shaft.

Waiting on delivery now.

I will post a report and a video of the Wolff Engineering bearing kit up on the Fire Am Registry youtube page in a bit.

The Fire Am Registry youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXxzUbLroPS9uRZCU4nJViA

Wolff1.jpg
Wolff3.jpg
Wolff2.jpg
 

TOG

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Update Mon Dec 19, 2022: Ames has no idea when their steering shaft, presently on back-order, will be in.

I did some research online and could not find anything that does not look like the same low-quality repro shafts as the Summit and the eBay shafts.

It could be a long wait.
 

TOG

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Update: The Ames Performance intermediate steering shaft arrived some time ago and has been installed.

The Ames shaft is a rebuilt OEM shaft, and unlike the repro shaft, the Ames shaft exhibits zero play; very nice!

Because the OEM shafts do not telescope in and out, they are more difficult to install, requiring detachment of the steering column assy from the firewall to move it rearward 1-2" to get clearance to install the shaft between the steering box flex coupling and the lower end of the steering column shaft.

Also, a lower steering column bearing from Wolff Engineering has been installed.

This is a very nice, high-quality piece. It exhibits the workmanship and design excellence of a fine Swiss watch.

The kit even includes the 2x needed hex wrenches, Loctite, and emery paper for cleaning up the end of the column shaft.

The included instructions are superb, well detailed, and written by someone with English as their native language; again, very nice.

The bearing is fixed to the shaft with 4x set screws resulting in zero play between the bearing and the shaft, unlike the OEM bushing and the OEM-type bearing "upgrades" that have more play Vs. A 50-year-old bushing was in there.

The Wolff kit includes a lower-bearing retainer with set screws to replace the cheaply stamped steel OEM retainer and snap spring. Very, very nice solution and highly recommended.

Note there are two versions of the Wolff bearing kit, one for manual trans steering columns and a second for auto trans columns.

The retainer for the bearing for manual trans columns (originally designed for Jeep applications) is slightly longer Vs. the auto trans version which is slightly shorter to clear the shift tube in the auto trans columns.

Although our Fire Am has a Richmond Gear 5-speed trans, we used the auto-trans version of the bearing because the tilt column installed decades ago to make entry and exit from a racing seat with very high sides came from an auto-trans donor car.

There are no more clunking noises coming from the intermediate shaft joint and zero play in the steering system.

Unfortunately, due to winter-ish weather and road conditions in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, we cannot road-test the Fire Am to see if the Borgeson 800 steering box has improved the on-center feeling of the steering.

I will provide an update when we can.

There are a few videos on this project up on the Fire Am Registry youtube page now, and we will post another one soon on the Wolff Engineering bearing upgrade and one on speedometer-driven gear replacement to correct for speedo error introduced by the upgrade from the 15x8" OEM Snowflakes to the YearOne 17x9 Snowflakes.

Until next time,
The Old Guy
The Fire Am Registry youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXxzUbLroPS9uRZCU4nJViA

Wolff1.jpg
Wolff2.jpg
Wolff3.jpg
OEM steering column bearing.jpg
Ames shaft Wolff bearing installed.jpg
FA Borgeson 800 steering box.jpg
 
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