Automotive Parts

by Mike

Things to Keep in Mind When Designing Your Steering System

Filed under Tech Tips

design your steering system


We receive a lot of the same questions and hear from customers who are experiencing the same problems when designing and installing their steering system. To help identify and answer some of these issues, we've compiled a list with the proper solutions regarding column installation, column electric and wiring issues, clocking and installing the canceling cam and horn functionality, and universal joint installation.


Steering Column Installation


  • Incorrect Column Angle - When the angle of the column going through the firewall or floorboard is not taken into consideration, it can affect the entire steering system. The biggest effect will be in your steering linkage (universal joints and intermediate shafts). With a column at an incorrect angle, it can cause binding due to extreme angles, which can turn a relatively simple two u-joint system into a three or four u-joint setup. Inside the vehicle, an incorrect column angle can affect driver comfort by having to constantly adjust the tilt position of the column. In extreme cases, the column can be out of position and alignment with the dash, causing the driver to have to "short arm" or fully extend their arms to drive. 


  • Incorrect Column Length - Ordering the correct length steering column can make or break the way a car feels. Having a column that is too long inside the car can affect driver comfort and make them feel cramped or crowded while driving. If it's too long and goes through the firewall too far, it can cause extreme angles and cause binding in the universal joint system. Along the same line, a column that is too short and does not extend far enough through the firewall will interfere with the ability to properly connect and engage the steering linkage.


Column Wiring


  • Connecting the Wire Harness - One of the most common errors happens when someone is replacing a stock OEM steering column. They will remove the factory original column without verifying the wire colors and what they relate to in their vehicle's electrical system. Customers sometimes incorrectly assume that their car is original and the previous owner did not modify the wiring or electrical system. Taking a couple of minutes to verify what color wire operates front and rear turn signals, brake lights, horn function, etc. will save you a lot of headaches when you install and wire in a Flaming River column. All of our columns come with a 4-1/4" GM wiring connector and a wiring diagram. We also sell a female wiring connector kit to adapt any existing wiring harness to the wiring plug on a Flaming River column.


  • Erratic Electrical Problems - An improperly grounded column can cause the horn and turn signals to work erratically or not at all—especially in fiberglass bodied vehicles.  Checking to make sure the column is grounded, or attaching a ground strap from the column to the vehicle chassis will often eliminate this issue.


  • LED Lighting - When using a LED style lighting for your turn signals and brake lights, a standard flasher can not be used. LED style lights do not pull enough to cause the flasher to open and close the circuit. A special LED flasher must be used for correct turn signal operation.


Clocking the Canceling Cam


  • Properly Clocking or Timing the Canceling Cam - The canceling cam has two functions: First, it acts as contact for the horn and second, cancels or turns off the turn signals as the steering wheel comes back to the straight-ahead position after a turn. When the canceling cam is not clocked or timed properly, the turn signals will not cancel (turn off), or they will cancel too quickly. To properly clock or time the canceling cam, look at the top of the column as if it were the face of a clock. On the canceling cam itself, there is a stem that sticks up approximately 1.5" - imagine this stem as the hour hand on a clock and place it approximately at the 10:30 position (between 10 and 11). This will ensure that the turn signals cancel every time.


Universal Joint Installation


  • Dimpling the Steering Shaft - The most common error made when installing a universal joint is not dimpling the steering shaft. The ends of the set screws provided with the universal joints have a cupped point and do not sit flush on a flat surface. If the shaft is not dimpled, the set screw may feel tight, but will eventually loosen itself with use and will result in play in your steering system. By dimpling the shaft, you increase the clamping force of the set screw, allowing it to "bite" into the surface and creating a tight fit between the universal joint and steering shaft.


  • Installing the Universal Joint - One of the most common errors made when installing a universal joint is putting too much shafting into the yoke. On any universal joint, you only want about 7/8" of shaft in each end of the yoke—this will place the shaft flush with the yoke itself. Too much of the shaft through the yoke can cause interference with the bearing cross in the center of the joint, which will make it feel like the joint is binding up. Note: Always use red thread locker on the set screws to ensure that they do not loosen from road vibration.

Tags: FAQs   steering column installation   column wiring   column electrical   clocking the canceling cam   horn function   universal joint installation  


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Automotive Parts

Things to Keep in Mind When Designing Your Steering System