Steering Linkage Assembly

Today I re-assembled and installed the steering linkage. This system consists of the steering box, idler box, center/cross-rod, and two tie rods that connect the boxes to the wheel hubs.

Before I began I drained the old oil out of the steering box. I will replace this with new 90-weight gear oil after I re-install everything. I removed the drain plug using a 1/2″ socket and allowed the oil to drain. I propped the box up to drain (the oil is fairly viscous) and went off to work on the rod ends.

For each of the tie rod and cross rod ends I bought new urethane dust boots. The original rubber boots from Nissan are pretty expensive ($13 apiece for the tie rod ends and $8 apiece for the centers); I found these boots from Energy Suspension (part #9.13105G) for $3.95 per pair from Summit Racing and used three pairs for the steering linkage.

I installed new grease zerks on the tie rod ends using a 5/16″ wrench, then I added the urethane boots.

I used a 3/4″ wrench to thread the original bolts back onto the center rod, then threaded the cross rod ends onto the centerpiece.

Here are the assembled linkage pieces.

I installed a new grease zerk into the idler box, then added back the castle nut on the bottom.

I tightened the nut down using an 1″ socket, then added a new 1/8″ 2″ cotter pin to prevent the nut from backing off.

Here is the cotter pin installed.

I replaced the drain plug in the steering box and added back the washer and nut to the steering shaft, which I had removed for cleaning and painting. I tightened the nut using a 1 1/8″ socket.

Here is the re-assembled steering box.

The steering box mounts onto a bracket on the driver’s side of the frame, just behind where the gravel shield goes. The idler box mounts in the same spot on the opposite (passenger) side of the frame. The rear end of the steering box yolk has to slide into a cavity in the frame (shown below, left). The driver’s side tie rod fishes through the frame and out to the wheel assembly. I found it best to lift the steering box up from below.

I had a really difficult time getting the steering box back on the frame. It is an extremely tight fit. At times I felt as though I were trying to assembly a complex jigsaw puzzle where all of the pieces were heavy and freshly-painted!

Here is the trick I discovered, the best I can describe it: perched in front of the frame facing it I held the steering box in my left hand, bringing it up into the frame from below, and reached around towards the steering U-joint on the opposite side of the box. I turned the U-joint, where the steering shaft from the steering wheel connects, all the way counterclockwise and then brought the box up and inserted the end of the yolk into its pocket in the frame. Then, when the box couldn’t come up any further, I turned the U-joint slowly clockwise while raising the box up and that tucked the yolk out of the way, and enabled me to lift the box the rest of the way up onto its mount and maneuver it into position. I added one of the new steering box mounting bolts in the top of the frame.

Then I added the other two new bolts, both through the side of the box. I tightened all of these bolts using a 9/16″ socket.

Here is the installed steering box. Whew!

The idler box went in much more easily. I also brought it up from below, but it was not nearly as a tight a fit and dropped right onto its bracket.

I added the bolt through the top of idler box into the frame. I tightened it using a 9/16″ socket, mounted on a swivel attachment, to get a good angle on the nut from below.

Then I added the two bolts that go through the side of the idler box.

The center linkage rod connected from the steering yolk to the idler yolk, with the shafts on the ends of the linkage facing downwards.

I pushed down on the rod end to expose its threaded shaft, compressing the dust boot. Then I twisted on a castle nut and tightened it using a 11/16″ socket. I used a 3/32″ 1 1/2″cotter pin on each end.

Next I installed the cross rods (left/driver’s side shown). The cross rod shafts point downward through the steering/idler yolks, and upward through the steering knuckle on the front suspension assembly. Since the steering knuckle bolted to the backer plate of the front wheels has a tapered hole and can only accept the shaft in one direction, it is important to mount the knuckles on the correct side (with the wider end of the hole down) when rebuilding the front suspension. I installed the castle nuts on each end of each tie rod.

Then I installed 3/32″ 1 1/2″cotter pins on each.

I attached the tie rod on the other side in the same manner. Also here is a shot of the newly-installed steering linkage from the top.

Steering, E-brake, and Frame Parts Painting

This evening I painted the components of the steering linkage and some other miscellaneous parts that where not powdercoated, but will be bolted onto the frame. This included the steering linkage (center and each side), the steering and idler boxes, the arms of the rear emergency brake linkage, the rear bumpstops, and the frame’s torque strut. Mostly these were parts that, for one reason or another, could not be powdercoated.

The first thing I had to do was repair one of the center steering rod’s ends. I had trouble removing one end from the idler box and ended up damaging the threads when I removed it. I was able to repair the threads, though, using a 7/16″-20 die.

First I lubricated the end of the threaded shaft with some leftover gear oil. Then I started the die onto the end of the shaft. It turned with a moderate amount of force at first. I followed the old rule of thumb: half a turn forward, then a half a turn back.

After getting it started the turns became more difficult. Eventually the shaft began to spin inside its pivot. I used a pair of vice grips to hold the shaft steady while I continued to work the die on the threads.

In no time the threads were repaired enough to thread on the original castle nut. I removed all of the grease zerks from the tie rod ends using a 5/16″ wrench.

Next I masked-off the surfaces of the parts that should not be painted, and gave all of the parts a quick final washing to remove any grease and dirt. I wet them down with the hose, sprayed them with Simple Green in a spray bottle, then rinsed them clean. Wearing gloves I moved them off to dry.

When the parts were dry, again wearing gloves I moved them over to the painting area.

I painted everything using Eastwood Company’s gloss Chassis Black paint. I sprayed on the first coat and then waited 20 minutes in accordance with the directions on the can. Then I did a second coat.

After allowing an hour for the first side to dry, I flipped everything over and repeated the process to paint the other side of each part.

With these parts restored I should have nearly everything ready to reassemble the structure of the frame next weekend.

Misc Parts Cleaning

This afternoon I cleaned up some miscellaneous parts that were laying around the garage. Some of these will be rebuilt, some painted, and some eventually sent off for powdercoating or plating. I used Simple Green and scouring pads.
Here are some body-frame clips and the bracket from the differential onto which the emergency brake mounts.

Here is the driveshaft and the two steering columns.

And here are the front hubs, wheel spindles, and calipers.

Steering Parts Cleaning

I cleaned-up the steering tie-rods and some other miscellaneous pieces that will need to be painted with the frame.

First I removed the rubber boots off the ends and cleaned off most of the grease. I’ll take care not to move the bearings on the ends around prior to adding more grease to prevent wear.

Then I scrubbed the pieces down with degreaser and scouring pads.

I also cleaned up the center-link and wiped down the steering box and idler box using degreaser. I cleaned some of the larger parts that didn’t fit in my parts washer, including the stock front sway bar, the gravel shield that mounts to the frame, and all of the brackets that the exhaust and front and rear bumpers mount to on the frame. These are all pieces that will be painted along with the frame.

Front Suspension Components Disassembly

Today I finished taking apart and inspecting the front suspension pieces. This is necessary to see what parts need to be replaced before I clean-up and paint the remaining parts.

Yesterday I stripped down the front of the frame. Here are a couple of pictures of it totally bare.

I used a pulley puller to remove the left steering rod from the idler box yoke. Tapping with the mallet wasn’t getting it done, but this did the trick.

First I pulled the rubber bumpstops off the metal brackets they were mounted on. I used a 1/2″ socket on the mounting nut located inside the bracket.

Then I took the lower A-arms apart. I began by removing the plate that the springs rest on. I used a 9/16″ socket and wrench to remove the bolts and nuts mounted to the inside of the bottom of the plates.

I didn’t have a socket the correct size to remove the lower spindles, so I left them attached to the arms. I next disassembled the spring plates, which have a central disk bolted onto them. I used a 7/16″ box-end wrench to loosen the bolts.

Then there was enough clearance to use a 7/16″ socket to remove the bolts entirely. The disks came off the plates with no problem.

Then I went to work on the upper A-arms. The upper spindles have a metal tab that helps prevent them from loosening. I bent this tab free using a screwdriver.

Then I removed the bolts that hold the spindles to the arms. I used a 1 1/8″ socket, first on a breaker bar and then on a socket wrench.

The spindle mounting bolts had grease zirks which allow for lubrication of the spindles.

The upper A-arms also have small rubber bumpstops that I removed by pushing them back through the mounting holes with a screwdriver.

Front End Disassembly

Today I disassembled the front end of the frame. This entailed removing the wheel assemblies, steering, and suspension components. It left the frame pretty much stripped. I want to give it one more good cleaning before painting.

Before I began I took plenty of pictures of the assembled front suspension for reference. Here are a couple from the left side:

And a couple of pictures of the right side:

And here is one picture from below:

First I broke loose the lug nuts on the front wheels using a 19 mm socket with the wheels resting on the ground and I then jacked-up the front end of the frame. I supported the frame using jackstands.

Then I removed the wheels. Here are a couple of shots of the suspension on the passenger’s side with the wheels out of the way.

My first move was to remove the gravel shield mounted at the front of the frame. It was mounted by two Philips-head bolts. One came out easily with a #2 screwdriver and the other one was rusted into place and broke off. Good start!

Then I removed the front anti-sway bar. The front tips of the bar attached to the frame via clips that were bolted into the frame by two flat-head bolts (one each side). I removed these and popped off the clips.

Then I unbolted the brackets that held the front of the bar to the frame. I used a 7/16″ socket on each of the two bolts on each bracket. With those bolts removed the brackets came free and the anti-sway bar sprung loose. The bar was wrapped in rubber bushings at its mounting points.

I haven’t decided whether I am going to use the stock anti-sway bar or acquire a thicker competition bar.

Next I went to work on the steering linkage. The steering system consists of the steering box on the driver’s side which is connected to the steering idler box on the passenger side by a cross rod. The steering and idler boxes each have mounted at their bottom a steering yoke bracket which snakes through the frame and connects to a rod (one on the right and one on the left) which connects into the wheel hub assemblies. Turning motion into the steering box move the cross rod left to right and that directs the front wheels, via the yoke and rods to either the left or right. I began by disconnecting the cross rod, which runs across the front of the frame, from the steering and idler box yokes. The pictures below illustrate that process on the steering box (driver’s) side.

This is the cross rod from the rear (picture taken prior to removing the gravel shield and sway bar).

The cross rod has a threaded, vertically-oriented bolt that mounts through a hole in the steering yoke. On the end of this bolt is a “castle” nut that is held in place by a cotter pin. I straightened the cotter pin with a screwdriver.

Then I pulled the cotter pin out using needle-nose pliers. I loosened the nut using an 11/16″ socket.

I finished removing the nut and the cross rod lifted off the yoke with a couple of taps from the mallet. On the opposite side those two pieces did not come apart nearly as easily.

The left-side rod, which connected into the rear of the yoke similarly to the way the cross rod connected to the front, terminated on the other end at the wheel hub. At the hub the connection was oriented upside-down relative to the yoke, with the threaded bolt pointing upward and the castle-nut on top. I removed the cotter pin and nut to free up the left rod from the hub.

Then I went to work removing the steering box. Here are a couple of shots of where it mounted to the frame.

The steering box was mounted to the frame by three bolts. I started with the one on the top, using a 9/16″ socket and a box wrench to hold the nut while I removed the bolt.

Then I removed the other two mounting bolts, also using a 9/16″ socket. Both bolts can be seen below on the left. Once I had the bolts undone I worked the box free from the frame and removed the left rod from its connection point on the rear of the yoke.

Next I proceeded to the idler-box side of the steering linkage, located on the passenger side of the car. I began by disconnecting the center rod from the front of the idler-box yoke.

Once the nut was off the center rod didn’t want to come free, so I moved on to removing the idler box with it still resting in place. The idler box was mounted opposite the steering box. It had a black cap covering the inner workings, which were full of grease.

I removed the mounting bolts from the top and side of the idler box using a 9/16″ socket on an extension.

With the steering linkage disassembled I then moved on to taking apart the front suspension on the passenger side. I began at the top, with the shocks and springs. The shock hardware consisted of two nuts on the end of the shock’s threaded shaft. The outside nut is meant to prevent the inside one from backing off the shock. If you remove the outer nut alone, when you go to remove the inner one it will just spin the shock and not want to come off. To get around this, the first thing I did was to align the two nuts by holding the inner one with a 9/16″ box wrench and turning the outer one with a deep 9/16″ socket.

Then, with the nuts aligned, I was able to drop the socket over both nuts and turn both simultaneously to loosen them. The two nuts provided enough friction against one another to prevent the shaft itself from turning.

Down at the bottom I removed the lower nuts from the shocks using the same technique.

Next I removed the right rod that connected the idler yoke to the wheel hub. Once again, I removed the cotter pin from the castle nut and loosened the castle nut using an 11/16″ socket.

With some taps from the mallet, the rod came free.

Next I removed the four bolts that connect the front of the lower A-arm to the lower ball joint. Those bolts, which also hold the bumpstops in place, I removed using a 1/2″ socket.

Then I was able to remove the bumpstop. The lower A-arm and ball joint stayed together because it was a tight fit.

I removed the bolts that connect the upper A-arm to the frame, through the upper spindle, using a 5/8″ socket.

After the upper bolts were removed I tapped the protruding top the shock absorber (the shaft) downwards into the A-arm. Then I pulled the upper A-arm up and outward and off the frame entirely. The result was that the suspension came “unhinged,” allowing the hub to rest on the ground, with the only remaining connection at the lower A-arm.

So next I removed the bolts that held the lower A-arms to the frame. For this I used a 9/16″ socket.

With those bolts removed I was able to pull the entire suspension/hub assembly free from the frame. I was also able to pull the shocks and springs off the assembly.

Here is the frame after I removed the passenger-side suspension and wheel hub. Note that the right steering rod is still in place because I couldn’t get it separated from the yoke right away.

Because I had already removed the bolts connecting the lower A-arm to the lower ball joint at the time I removed the bumpstop, removing the lower A-arm from the hub was simple a matter of sliding it back off the ball joint arms. I used a mallet for a bit of persuasion, but it came off without too much trouble.

Likewise the upper A-arm was mounted on the upper ball joint assembly. After bending the metal clip back, I loosened all four bolts that held it in place using an 11/16″ socket.

With those four bolts removed I pulled the upper A-arm off the upper ball joint piece.

I left the ball joint assemblies mounted on the hubs for the time being.

Enough for one day!

Steering Column

This afternoon I removed the steering column, which connects the steering wheel to the yoke and transfers the steering action from the steering wheel down to the mechanism that turns the wheels. The column is a long rod that protrudes through the firewall and therefore has to come out before the body can be removed from the frame.

When I began I noticed that the steering yoke was aligned a bit off at an angle which was preventing me from being able to access the bolt that tightens the yoke around the end of the column. I jacked up the car in the front and, with the wheels free of friction from the floor, was then able to turn the column by hand in order to oriented it so that the bolt was accessible.

The steering column is held to the yoke by the clamping force of a bolt. I removed first the nut and then the bolt itself, both using a 1/2″ box-end wrench. The area had too little clearance for me to get a socket in there, so it went slowly.

With the bolt removed the column still didn’t want to come free. I used some Liquid Wrench and gave it a few whacks with a rubber mallet to break it loose. To my surprise, with a good yank the steering column came free.

Dashboard (almost)

Today I had hoped to remove the dashboard, and I’d say I got around 90% of the way there. It was necessary to remove the windshield in order to access the bolts that hold down the dash, which are located up under the bottom edge of the windshield.

I began by removing the steering wheel assembly. It comes off in many layers, beginning with the cap that activates the horn. Also there are collars around the steering column that mount the wiper stalk and the ignition, which are easily removed.

I’ve just been tossing all the parts in the corner. Not really–I’ve carefully photographed each part removed, how it mounts on the car, and placed each part into labeled zip-top plastic baggies with a sheet of paper that details how many fasteners attach where. Then I collect the baggies into category-specific cardboard boxes. To attempt a restoration with less vigilence would be very risky.

After the steering wheel was out I began working on the dash. There is a panel underneath on the driver’s side that needs to be removed. There are about one million electrical connections, including six fuses to the fuse-box inside the glove box, that I carefully labeled by number, documented for purpose, and then disconnected. Additionally there are several mechanical connections to the dash gauages.

I was very close to getting the dash out (it is like pulling a tooth) tonight and it should be easy to finish-up tomorrow.