Steering Wheel Replaced

I’ve had a replacement steering wheel for our Mustang in my garage “To Do” stash for quite a while now — probably a year or more, judging by previous posts — but when it’s summertime and 100+ degrees outside, spending hours in the garage just isn’t all that much fun. I mean, I love Gatorade, but when working in 105-degree heat, Gatorade will only take you so far.

However, when you catch an August Saturday where the high temp is in the 80s, and a nice cool rain is in the forecast, then that is definitely hit-the-garage, steering-wheel replacement weather!

’67 Mustang Steering-Wheel Replacement: What’s Needed?

  • New steering wheel (obviously)
  • Steering-wheel puller set
  • 15/16″ wrench or socket
  • PB Blaster (or other bolt-loosening chemical)
  • Small brush, toothbrush, etc. (for cleaning the column area behind steering wheel)
  • Shop Vac or similar (also for cleaning)
  • White lithium or other grease

Steering Wheel (~$180): I know there are a million aftermarket steering wheels out there, but I chose to go with a reproduction stock Mustang steering wheel. Heavy, hard black plastic for the win! (Our Mustang’s interior is pretty much stock reproduction, anyway, except for the stereo system and Humphugger console.)

Steering-Wheel Puller Set ($15): Most auto-parts places have steering-wheel puller kits available for rent, but I went ahead and purchased my own. At fifteen bucks, it isn’t breaking the bank, for sure. Plus, because our Mustang has a turn-signal cam problem, I know I’ll be going back into the steering column again in the future.

Removing the Old Steering Wheel

I have no reason to think that our Mustang’s old steering wheel wasn’t original to the car. It was cracking in numerous places, and chunks of plastic were missing from its rear ridge, where it met the steering column:

Yeah, it was definitely time for the wheel to go.

Step 1: Disconnect the negative battery cable. Always a necessity when you’re dealing with anything electrical in a car. In this case, with horn contacts and turn-signal wiring in the same area as the steering wheel, making sure there’s no opportunity for sparked/torched components is a fine idea.

Step 2: Remove the horn pad. Pressing the horn pad, while turning it counter-clockwise, means it’ll twist right off.

Step 3: Remove the chrome horn ring. Again, press down in the center of the ring while turning counter-clockwise. Nothing else to it.

Step 4: Remove the steering-bolt nut. A 15/16″ nut secures the steering wheel itself to the splined steering bolt, which then runs down the steering column. I’m not going to lie: This 15/16″ nut was teh suck.

After 30 minutes of pure struggle, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to get the nut loose with just my (admittedly crappy) arm strength. Even using a chunk of 2×4″ wood, braced against the Mustang’s floor to keep the old steering wheel from moving as I tried to turn the nut, didn’t help. Finally I applied a couple of shots of PB Blaster to the nut/bolt area, and let it soak for maybe 20 or 30 minutes. A few more minutes of socket work after that, and eventually the nut gave way. This was easily the hardest part of the afternoon.

Step 5: Remove the steering wheel. I know some folks say they were able to remove their Mustang steering wheels without use of a steering-wheel puller, but I wasn’t one of them. I tried tugging on it for a while, without the help of a puller, but it was futile. However, the puller made quick work of loosening the decades-old grip the wheel had on the splined steering bolt.

Once the steering wheel was off, I had a nice view of the Mustang’s turn-signal switch and cam assemblies:

That entire area was gunked with old grease, hair, and dirt, so I took the opportunity to clean it up (with a toothbrush and rag) and Shop-Vac it out thoroughly. Again, I know I’ll be back in this area later, as our Mustang’s turn signal doesn’t stay in the “up” position for right turns. A few trial flips of the turn signal showed me why this was the case: The plastic nubs on the top of the cam assembly are too worn to hold the signal in the “up” position any longer. I’ve read horror stories about replacing this $12 cam, though, so that’s a job for another day.

Installing the New Steering Wheel

Installing the new wheel was pretty simple: I just performed the above steps in reverse order.

It’s worth noting, though, that the steering wheel can be a bit tricky to “line up” during reinstall. There’s a free-floating, four-nubbed plastic ring which must line up with a notch on the back of the steering wheel; i.e., one of the ring’s nubs has a metal post which fits into the notch of the wheel. I’ve marked it with a yellow arrow here:

When lined up correctly, this ring rotates along with the steering wheel and cancels out the turn-signal cam when the turn is completed. I found it easiest to lift the ring out of its position inside the column (at the back of the bolt), reposition it on the back of the steering wheel so that its post fit into the steering wheel’s designated notch, and then slide the whole thing back down onto the steering bolt. Pretty narrow working space, but I had it all back in place in two or three tries.

Straightening the Wheel

After cleaning away years of gunk, I had noticed a straight notch etched into the top of the steering bolt. I had no idea what this designated; I could tell only that when the Mustang’s wheels were straight ahead (or very close to it), the notch itself certainly wasn’t positioned at twelve o’clock.

After some trial/error test drives, I suspect that that notch is there to help line up the steering wheel as it’s repositioned back on the bolt. The new steering wheel itself, being a reproduction of the original, has its own notch on its metal hub assy — a mark so faint I hadn’t really noticed it before. Both guide marks are denoted by blue arrows below:

During a couple of test drives, with those guide marks aligning to each other directionally, I found that the Mustang’s new steering wheel was actually as “straight,” when also driving straight, as I’ve ever seen it. (It had always been cocked a bit to the left of center when travelling straight before.)

Summary

Replacing the steering wheel in our Mustang was really pretty simple. With the exception of loosening the steering-bolt nut, no part of the job ever gave me much reason to sweat. I was glad to have the steering-wheel puller, for sure, though.

Now, when I decide to tackle the turn-signal cancel-cam problem, I won’t have to worry about being a “steering-wheel removal” newbie!

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