Matt's Old

Fiddling with Rambler's since 1995

Rambler American Restoration

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Power Steering Conversion

My `68 American is a low option car. One of the options I like on any car is power steering. Installing the power steering is a simple task on most AMC's since the basic steering setup only had a few changes from the mid sixties until 1987.

The first step in installing power steering is to find a suitable donor car. If your car was made before 1975 and has a straight 6 (199, 232, or 258), you'll need to find a pre `75 donor car. If you have a Pacer, you'll need to find a Pacer with power steering. Pacer's use rack and pinion and everything else uses a recirculating ball type. Make sure the donor is the same body type as your car. Jeep systems are probably different from car systems as well. Earlier cars have a single piece steering shaft that will need modified to accept the power steering from a later car. For my American, my choices are another American, a Hornet, or a Gremlin. The donor in my case was a `73 Hornet. If you are going for an original appearance, the pump reservoir changed in `72. The pump internals are the same so as long as the reservoir isn't damaged, parts are still easy to get.

What you need to remove from the car depends on the cost of the used parts and the core charges on any rebuilt parts you'll need. At the very minimum, you'll need the pump brackets, the pulleys, any clamps for the hoses, the steering coupler (also called a rag joint -- it's different between manual and power steering boxes) and the spacer behind the steering gear box (`74 and earlier only). You may also need a spacer between the fan and water pump pulley (I don't need it on my American). Leave the hoses. If the salvage yard isn't ripping you off, grab the pump and steering gear as well. The core charges are only about $50 so if the yard wants more than this, leave them behind.

After you get the parts, you'll need to clean everything up. A pump rebuild kit is about $10 and they only take an hour or two to rebuild (you don't even need any special tools!). If the reservoir is beat up, you may want to get a rebuilt pump anyway so you don't need to worry about leaks. You should also put new seals in the steering gear or order a rebuilt one. New hoses are a must as is a new pitman arm. Both are cheap (they cost me about $17 each). The old hoses can cause a problem if they are contaminated (my pump was filled with motor oil so the hoses would have absorbed this as well) or they can split and make a mess. Putting a used steering part in is just stupid. If it breaks, you'll crash. You should also replace the rubber in the steering coupler between the steering gear and the steering shaft (they're available in the Help products section as a GM part). I've never seen one break but they get old and hard and you can get vibrations from the steering transmitted to the wheel. Also make sure to get a new belt and some power steering fluid.

Once everything is ready to install, it's time to remove the manual gear and install the power one. Install the new pitman arm on the power steering gear (Make sure the box is at the center of its travel and the pitman arm is parallel to the steering input shaft). Make sure the manual box still in the car is also centered. Use some masking tape to make a mark on the steering column that shows which way is up so you don't accidentally get the steering wheel upside down (not that I've ever done that!). You'll need a service manual for your year car for the rest of this, but here are some generic steps to switching the gears:

  • Remove the rag-joint through bolts.
  • Disconnect the pitman arm from the center link. A tie-rod removal tool is the best but you can use a pickle fork (it looks like a giant tuning fork) if you don't have one.
  • Remove the bolts that hold the steering gear to the car. Pay attention to where they came from as they may be different lengths.
  • Check the car for any cracks or rust-outs where the box was mounted. Take care of any problems you find. Failure to do this will result in a car that is unsafe.
  • Put the rag joint on the power steering gear (the TSM will detail how to align it properly) and install the bolts loosely. Reconnect the rag joint to the steering shaft and follow any steps needed to align the steering shaft with the input shaft of the power steering box. Your service manual will list the steps needed. Once everything is lined up, tighten the bolts. Check your service manual for the torque specs.
  • Reconnect the pitman arm to the center link and torque the nut to specs. Make sure the wheels are pointed straight ahead and that the steering wheel is in the correct position. It may be off slightly due to a change in the alignment. Don't forget to grease the pitman arm.
  • Install the pump and its brackets and any pulleys you need along with a new belt.
  • Connect the hoses. Make sure to connect the pressure and return hoses correctly. Install any retaining brackets for the hoses.
  • Fill the power steering pump with fluid and start the car. With it running, add fluid until the reservoir is at the full cold mark. Check for leaks and correct any you find.
  • Jack the front of the car up so the front tires are off the ground (make sure to support it on jack stands). Turn the steering from lock to lock several times. The pump will make a bunch of noise and the steering will be jerky until the air is worked out of the system. Make sure and check the fluid level while you are doing this. Take the car for a short drive (10-15 minutes) and make sure everything is working properly. The fluid should now be to the full hot mark. Add fluid as needed.
  • You'll need to have the cars alignment adjusted since alignment specs for power and manual steering cars are generally different.

Last Updated 01/05/04 09:32:30 PM