Web Exclusive: Industry Experts Answer Your Top Steering Questions

Sep 30, 2010

The October 2010 issue of Hotrod & Restoration features a steering components parts guide in which 11 companies share their latest products for pre-1979 vehicles.

Several of those companies also offered their solutions to commonly asked tech questions, which are shared in this web exclusive.

Edd Stevens, researcher and merchandiser for Classic Industries, said the most-commonly asked steering questions haven’t changed much since today’s classic cars were new.

“Having lived through the muscle car years, I am always tickled about the questions and comments about steering and handling, because these are the same questions and comments made by magazine writers of the day,” he said. “Back then, there were companies trying to solve the inadequacies of classic muscle cars. Fifty years later, here we are, still discussing them.”

Stevens isn’t the only person in the industry who has found this to be true.

“There really aren’t any new issues that have arisen recently,” said Marty Waterstraut, sales manager for ididit inc. “As to why or why not, whether it’s a 1932 Ford or 1972 Chevelle, the basic principals of steering remain the same.”

One of those common questions still asked by Classic Industries’ customers is, “What springs are correct for my car?”

“Unfortunately, you can’t always go with the charts issued by the factory solely because of the different combinations of engine, transmission, A/C, power steering, rack-and-pinion steering, etc.,” Stevens said. “Over the years, we’ve found that the best way to figure out the correct spring is to weigh the front end of the completed car. Our technical department has charts on spring rates based on front end weight.”

Another common question for Classic Industries is about header clearance, a problem that has many possible solutions, according to Stevens.

“If the problem is header clearance over power steering components, then a header designed to clear power steering is the best solution,” he said. “Another issue that can cause clearance problems is ensuring that the correct engine mounts are in place and that the frame is straight. We also strongly recommend novice customers go to a certified mechanic to have the work done. If the customer is a competent mechanic, we still recommend having their work inspected by a certified mechanic.”

At ididit, customers are often looking for product recommendations, which will depend on the type of vehicle and its measurements, according to Waterstraut.

The company also often gets calls about wiring issues.

“Specific wiring questions are probably the next most common,” Waterstraut said. “We include a diagram with each column but that doesn’t mean the customer reads it. Usually the call comes after the column has been installed and something isn’t working correctly, it might be turn signals, emergency flashers or horn.”

“Typically after talking with the customer and going through what each wire does, they figure out what they’ve dome wrong,” he continued. “Lastly, we get calls that the turn signals work but they don’t cancel properly. Again, it’s a matter of reading the instructions. It’s a simple adjustment of the cancelling cam and it can be done without removing the column.”

At Flaming River Industries , the most-commonly asked question concerns obtaining the correct steering column length.

“There are a few different ways that we can help the customer obtain the correct length steering column for their build,” said John Jennings of Flaming River. “The first way, if they have our catalog, we have a complete diagram on how to measure for the column directly. This same diagram is also listed on our website in the technical help Q&A section, or we have several qualified technicians on the phone everyday that can easily describe or walk the customer through measuring for the column. Better yet, if the customer’s car is at a show and we are there, we will gladly go to the car and measure it for them.”

The company does have the following formula for determining column length: Desired Column Length = 7 9/16-inch Shroud Length + Distance to Firewall + 3-inch Shaft Through Firewall

“This is more common street rods than anything else, trucks and muscle cars are pretty much a set size every time,” Jennings said. “With street rods, since every build has its own unique touches, two cars of the same style could easily end up with different lengths.”

>The questions Speedway Motors is commonly asked relate more to the chassis and suspension, and how those components relate to steering.

“One of the most-common questions for customers who have early street rods with I-beam or tubular front axles is whether to use a Panhard bar,” said Damon W. Lee with Speedway Motors. “A Panhard bar is usually beneficial on cars with cross-style steering and will help limit side-to-side movement and bumpsteer. Using a Panhard bar is particularly critical on cars with four-bar front ends.”

Speedway Motors’ muscle car customers have different concerns, according to Lee.

“For Speedway’s muscle car customers, there is a lot of interest in the many rack-and-pinion conversion kits now available,” he said. “Most customers ask about difficulty of installation and possible interference issues with headers. The rack-and-pinion conversions Speedway offers are usually bolt-in kits that are relatively straightforward to install, and our techs can help clarify any potential fitment problems.”