Steering Column mess

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Sep 2, 2003
Metro NY
I'm hoping to get eyes on this to verify that I'm thinking right on the following.

So the PO of my 40 converted to a (manual) Saginaw steering box set-up. In the process it looks like they welded a U joint to the shaft right after the firewall. I'm not sure what the state of the original firewall bearing was but it has now self-destructed.... when I pulled the column brass colored powder spilled out! Now, because the joint was welded on I will need to cut it off to be able to install a new bearing (and then U joint).

Sound right?

Any suggestions or input is welcome.

I believe found my answer by @lcwizard in another thread:
"Unfortunately you'll need to cut the weld holding the u-joint on to slip the bearing over." here.
Correct. The bushing was a VERY old idea. Pretty much from the mid ‘90s on people used a support bearing, referenced In many threads on this forum. I think they either refer to it as a pillow block bearing or a PTO support bearing. Oval out the four mounting holes until they match the cruiser flange. I just used to buy them from Downey, already machined. Saved having to reinvent the wheel.

Having said all that, there is usually a significant ‘bias’ in load that causes the bushing to wear. You should try to find an eliminate that before reassembly.
I am not sure about your steering column but I just disassembled one from the other end. I pulled the steer column and ignition assembly off. You may be able to slide it all off the other end without cutting your joint off.
@Tank5 is correct. I removed the steering wheel and I think a C clip and slid the column shaft out thru the fire wall end. Then installed a wheel bearing in the end of the column housing and slid the column shaft back in. I think I had to wire brush the column so it would fit the ID of the bearing.
Thanks all.... I got the shaft out of the tube.... but now I have more parts to replace (this is a good thing). I have some more questions.

I got a new bottom bearing from Cruiser Outfitters and I want to verify that it goes in here, the bottom of the tube:


I am going to need a new top bearing that sits in the cast aluminum ignition assembly and the 2 “C” clips that hold it in place


And this is the brass part that gave up it's life in the form of powder mentioned above. It is ovaled out.... do I need to replace it? What is its function?

PXL_20220218_021052774 (1).jpg

Thanks in advance.

Yes, bearing into the tube and tube bolts to firewall stamped cup, trapping the bearing so no retaining outside of that. I'm pretty sure we stock the upper bearing too!
Here's a good link on adapting a support bearing on the end of the column, along with bearing sources.
I went to a local independent mower repair shop and showed him a similar list. He reached under the counter and pulled one out.

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Next question: the original "rag Joint" with the rubber middle (when there was a solid shaft) vs using U joints (with a collapsible shaft)?
Pros, cons...
A rag joint should only be used where the pressure transfer is straight-thru: no lateral pressure.
Ok, I'm not going to offer advice on your bearing remedy, evidently there are still some choices available with Downey Off Road Mfg now out of the picture, but I will offer an opinion on what may have caused the oval wear pattern on the brass bushing (at least my hunch). When we conducted test we found that the steering gear box moves 3/8" during wheeling due to frame flex. If a steering conversion was done where there in no "slip yoke" placed into the system to allow the 3/8" of travel, then usually the back side of the steering wheel gets hammered/compressed (since it is the softest piece in the steering system), causing a gap between back side of steering wheel and the steering column top bushing. This then equates into a constant rattle/knocking all day long in bumpy terrain. But in this case the constant movement of gear box closer to steering wheel may have merely hammered the brass bushing in the end of the column (i.e. soft brass bushing took the brunt of the punishment before it reached the soft steering wheel). We always had a slip yoke/travel designed into the Downey lower universal joint components- - - and every thing I just published may be moot if this system in fact had a similar slip yoke.
No slip yoke. This truck came to me with a manual Saginaw box installed. There was always a clunking when hitting bumps - probably the shaft banging around in the brass bushing. In any case a power Sag box is going in with a collapsible shaft and a couple of U joints in the mix.
^^^^A collapsible column does not take the place of a slip yoke, slip yoke has to move easily/smoothly all the time, a collapsible column doesn't.
Picture is worth a thousand words. $2-3 bearing. No machining needed.

And for the other end…

This was one of the last in North America. I’ll save you some trouble… it’s an odd size that bearing suppliers don’t have.
Those unsealed Chinese wheelbarrow bearings will get sloppy in my experience. We've swapped many of them including on my own FJ40. The time/fab to replace was 100x the cost delta of using a sealed bearing with the same dimensions from a bearing house.

As for the 90363-18038, we a dozen in stock regulary @ Cruiser Outfitters, part# ST18038

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