Wednesday, March 23, 2016

1976 Corvette Steering Column and the "Vega" Wheel
Part Seven

Since the new turn signal crossover/actuator arm arrived in today's mail, I decided to go ahead and start putting the steering column back together.

After bolting the lock housing cover, a new lock cylinder tumbler went in, followed by a key warning buzzer switch. The new turn signal switch and the wiring made it's way into the column and, once secured, I screwed in the turn signal crossover arm, making sure everything was generously greased.

Here are a few photos of the steering column rebuild/restoration, so far. And even though I just ordered a couple additional new pieces, I am getting closer and closer to being done with this project.

 The  turn signal crossover/actuator arm (part #7827038) fits many GM vehicles, including 1977-1982 Corvettes.

I decided to eliminate the high/low-beam feature in order to make my life easier. To do this, I simply wired the turn signal base shut. The two pictures below show how the crossover arm connects to the turn signal lever base.

Also, after cleaning the whole assembly, I greased the pre-load spring and channel to ensure smooth, trouble-free operation.

And this is how the turn signal lever base attaches to the lock housing cover. I removed it in order to clean it properly and also eliminate the high/low beam feature. It is held in place by a pin (red arrows), so I used a small punch to drive it out.

The first order of business, once the turn signal lever base was back in place, was to secure the lock housing cover to the column with the three screws (red arrows). I used blue Loctite to make sure they'll stay in place.

I then installed the ignition key switch tumbler making sure it operated smoothly and that it was locked in place. I also ensured that the lock bolt (yellow arrow) extended far enough in order to lock the steering wheel locking plate when the ignition tumbler is in the "off" position.

The ignition key warning buzzer followed (blue arrow). All you need to do is push this switch into the hole until it bottoms out. A pre-load spring holds it in place.

The turn signal switch was next. You need to feed the wires through the steering column covers and then position the assembly in place. It is secured by three screws (red arrows). You will need to rotate the switch in order to reach one of the screw holes.

I then installed and screwed in place the crossover arm (red arrow), testing the assembly to ensure everything operated properly. If you have a turn signal lever, you can install it in order to test your work. I do not have one yet, so I manually rotated the switch.

The turn signal lever snaps in place. Notice the notch and pin.

You can also install the hazard lights switch, which includes the release button, spring, on/off button and screw. These hazard buttons are the same on many GM models, so you do not need to search for a Corvette-specific part.

This photo shows the lock housing, ignition switch cylinder tumbler, turn signal and hazard lights switch in place.

A new upper-bearing spring, the turn signal cancelling cam/horn contact and steering wheel locking plate were next. For this operation you need a special tool to compress the spring. You can buy these online or from your local auto parts store.

Once the C-clip is secured in place, you can remove the lock plate compressor tool and test the lock bolt (red arrows).

You can then install the horn contact retainer, which is a press fit.

Steering shafts and hubs have factory alignment marks that help position the steering wheel. Mine were gone since previous owners hit the stub shaft for reasons unknown. This not only damaged the threads and the telescoping action, it also erased the alignment notch.

I was fortunate to find traces of the alignment mark on the hub, and I used a small chisel to imprint that one, but the telescope shaft mark was completely gone. But this is what I did in order to chisel a new one on the shaft.

I used the turn signal cancelling cam to determine the approximate center. I rotated the switch to the left and found the spot where the cancelling cam for that side would cancel the turning signal as the steering wheel rotates. I then repeated the same operation for the right side. I did this twice in order to make sure it was positioned correctly and the position of the steering wheel lock plate confirms my theory.

Once I determined that the steering shaft was centered, I chiseled a fresh mark at twelve o'clock (red arrow).

I am very pleased with the way my 1978 Corvette steering column rebuild is coming along, so I went ahead and ordered a new ignition switch and a new turn signal lever, which should arrive in approximately a week, at which point I should be ready to start planning the actual steering column swap.

And yes, the turn signal lever comes with a cruise control switch, since that feature was available in 1978-and-later models. My '76 does not have cruise control and I'm not sure that's something I want to spend money on. Having said that, I may keep the wiring, just in case.

Stay tuned for part Eight, and thanks for reading.