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Rebuilding the Ford Non-Integral Steering Box
This section pertains mostlt to the Saginaw-designed Non-Integral Reciprocating Ball Steering Box used by Ford from 1960-1980
In most cases, a steering box needs rebuilding because it has become so loose that it  is hard to keep the car going straight down the road without a lot of  constant correction. Causes of this looseness is due to excessive play in the bearings or gear wear surfaces or play in the bearing and gear mesh adjustments. This looseness is caused by two main problems; wear and corrosion. Wear is caused by high mileage, poor lubrication and improper adjustment. Corrosion is caused by water getting inside the box and pitting the critical surfaces.
The three most important parts in the steering box are the Input Shaft/Worm Gear, the Rack Block and the Sector Shaft. It is the condition of these three pieces that determine if a rebuild is possible. Each one has its own vunerable areas that must be examined to determine if the part is re-useable.
                        The Input Shaft is turned by the steering wheel. Before 1968 (except in big Fords and trucks) the Input Shaft was a long piece that went all the way up to the steering wheel. Starting in 1968, Ford went to a short Input Shaft design with a coupler connecting the another shaft that went to the steering wheel. This was due to the implementation of the collapsable-style steering column. Regardless of the Input Shaft length, the end that went inside the steering box was made as a Worm Gear. The recirculating balls ride in this twisted gear, moving the Rack Block up and down its length.
There are two areas on the Input Shaft that must be examined.
Input Shaft:
Input Shaft Worm - Brinelled
The grooved surface of the worm area on this Input Shaft is pitted due to abrasion by metal particles. This type of damage is usually found in the center of the worm area, the place where 99% of all driving is done. Most likely the hard-chrome plating has flaked off of some of the balls or one or more of the balls has broken apart and fragmented inside the Worm Gear/Rack Block area. This hard metal has been ground into the Worm Gear, pitting it as you see here. This Input Shaft cannot be used. The recirculating balls will be ground up by the rough surface and the problem will quickly escalate. This Input Shaft will have to be replaced.
Input Shaft Worm - Rust Pitted
The grooved surface of the worm area of this Input Shaft is pitted due to corrosion. Water has gotten inside the box, settled around the recirculating balls, and rusted the gear. As in the example above, this Input Shaft cannot be re-used. The rough surface will only destroy the recirculating balls and damage it further until it locks up.
Input Shaft Worm - Faceted
The grooved surface of this worm gear has a faceted look to it. There are small flat areas on the sides of the groove, right where the recirculating balls roll. This irregular wear pattern is usually found in the center of the worm gear. A small amount of this pattern is usually not harmful but will cause accelerated wear. A steering box used in a car that is not driven much will probably be alright. If the car will be driven daily, or have a lot of miles put on it, a shaft with this type of damage should be replaced.
Input Shaft Bearing Race - Pitted
This picture shows the end of the Input Shaft where the lower Input Shaft Bearing rides. There is a similar area at the other end of the Worm Gear. The surface has been pitted from corrosion. This is very common since this is the lower-most area inside the box and where water will eventually settle. Obviously, a bearing will not ride smoothly on this surface and a proper bearing-load adjustment cannot be made.
Fortunately, this kind of damage is usually repairable.
Input Shaft Bearing Race - Machined
Here is an Input Shaft where the bearing surface has been machined down to a nice, smooth surface again
Here is a picture showing both bearing surfaces freshly machined. The marking bluing is still evident.
It is usually neccesary to shim the upper Input Shaft Bearing to compensate for the metal removed during this process.
Input Shaft - Damaged Threads
Steering boxes with the long-style Input Shaft are threaded for a nut to retain the steering wheel. If your threads are so badly damaged that cleaning them with a die will not leave enough thread to properly torque down the steering wheel, we can machine down the shaft to a smaller diameter and provide a smaller retaining nut to match. No need to replace an otherwise re-useable Input Shaft just because the threads are damaged.
Input Shaft - Thread Repairs
Rebuilding a Ford Non-Integral steering box is seldom an easy thing to do. Before you consider or attempt a rebuild, there are some problem areas you should be aware of. This first part is not designed to scare you off from attempting your own rebuild (well, maybe just a little), but to show you what you may encounter along the way. We have done hundreds of steering box rebuilds and see these problems on a daily basis. These are the things not mentioned in any instruction sheet or shop manual.
Problems You May Encounter  ( And not really be aware of )
This style of steering box was used extensively by Ford on most of its car lines until phased out by modern rack-and-pinion steering.Often cursed and reviled, it is actually a simple and effective system that was state-of-the-art for many years, being used on everyday drivers and high performance cars alike. Although it could never match the precision of R&P systems, the only real problem with the reciprocation ball system is one of extreme mileage, neglect and misunderstanding. Few people know how to properly rebuild or even adjust a steering box, causing much misinformation to be spread about its supposed weaknesses and problems. But properly assembled and adjusted, a good rebuildable core can be made to operate as well as a new unit again.
Rebuilding the Steering Box
Can you rebuild your own steering box? It depends. It depends on the condition of your steering box core, how you remove it from the car, how good of a rebuild kit you are using, and how good the instructions are. Any one of these items can cause you trouble and most boxes have more than one of these problems during a rebuild. The biggest problem is - you don't know what condition your parts are really in until you remove the assembly from the car, tear it down and inspect it. By that time you are into it pretty deep and will have to decide whether to continue on your own or turn it over to a professional.
By definition, a rebuild means that there are some parts you will retain while reconditioning them to proper working order. There are several important parts inside the steering box that are not a part of a rebuild kit and these are the parts you hope to reuse. Unfortunately, these parts are often damaged due to rust, wear or improper removal/installation, and so have to be repaired or replaced to make for a successful rebuild. We will start with the parts that are universal to all steering boxes and those parts that are most often damaged.
Machined Shafts
Can I Rebuild My Own Steering Box - Page 2