Buying Used Parts & Cores
So, you want to try and pick up a good used steering box or power steering piece at a salvage yard or swap meet - what do you need to look for?
Below are some guidelines to increase your chances of finding a decent used part that you can rebuild or have rebuilt for your car. There is only so much you can do at a salvage yard, swap meet or online auction to check a part out, but hopefully, this guide can help you make a better and informed decision. I can't guarantee that the part you get will be perfect, but this guide can help you weed out the obvious and not-so-obvious problems that are common with these components.
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First of all, identify the part - Many people waste time and money by buying a part that they think fits their car, but isn't the right part after all. You need to have an accurate idea of what the part needs to look like, how it can be identified and what are its special charactoristics. Remember, not all year Mustang parts interchange and not a lot of parts from other Ford car models are the same as another.
A few basic guidelines:
• Use the charts on this website to decode ID tags often found on steering boxes and pumps. Use the pictures linked in each section to help visually
identify the parts you need.
• When looking at a part (especially on eBay), assume that the year and model application that the seller is giving you is wrong. About half of the parts I
see listed for sale are not what the seller says they are. This may not necessarily be the fault of the seller. A lot of these old cars have had all kinds of
parts swapped out and adapted to them, so the seller may honestly believe that the part he is selling is for a 1966 Mustang (because he took it off of
one), but that does not mean someone put a Maverick part on the Mustang long before he got it. Many sellers do not really know exactly what they
have, so it is up to you to determine if the part will fit your car.
• And a lot of sellers just plain lie to you. They may know that the part they are selling is a Granada part, even if they tell you it fits a 1966 Mustang.
They know it isn't correct, but they also know that they can get more money for a "Mustang" part than a Granada part. Buyer beware.
• A seller may explain that a part is correct because it was sold to him as correct by an auto parts store or a Mustang specialty shop. Do not assume
that the counter jockey at the shop he bought the part from knew what he was talking about, because they are often wrong, especially when the
counter guy is much younger than the car in question. Also, a lot of parts sold by national rebuilders are actually "replacement parts" that will fit and
work on the car, but may not be really correct for the car. You need to determine whether you want a operationally and visually correct part for your
car, or if a working replacement will do.
• Everybody knows that the first Mustangs were based on the 1964/1965 Falcon, but the Falcon steering boxes and most power steering components
are not the same as Mustang. A lot of parts from other Ford car models may physically bolt onto a Mustang, but that does not mean that they are
correct or safe to use on one.
The old reciprocating ball style steering box used on a lot of old Fords is commonly loose after decades of use and many thousands of miles. However, many can be rebuilt if three of the major components are still in reasonable shape, as described in detail here. It is fair to assume that any used steering box you get will need to be rebuilt, so the trick is to find one that is likely to be rebuildable.
There are two major factors problems that affect steering boxes and their chances of being rebuildable:
Wear: All the parts in the box will wear to a certain extent, but the most critical place is the teeth of the rack block and the sector shaft where they mesh together. The way the gears are designed, the mesh is tighter in the center than anywhere else. This is so that the box is tightest when the car is going in a straight line, which it is 99% of the time. If the center gear mesh is not tight, the car will wander going down the road and not track well - the most common complaint of a worn steering box. It is important that the wear on these gear teeth not be so great that the box will no longer have this tight center gear mesh when rebuilt.
To test this on a steering box, turn the input shaft from one lock to another, and note how many turns it makes. From this you can determine where the center of travel is. When turning the box lock-to-lock, see if the box gets slightly but noticably tighter in the center of travel. If you can, loosen the locknut on the sector shaft adjusting screw and turn the screw in a quarter turn, then turn the box through its travel while checking for the center tightness. Repeat this procedure a quarter turn at a time until you get results.
If at some point you get the tighter gear mesh at the center of travel, with no identical tightness at any other point, then the gear teeth are not too worn. If you tighten down the screw until it bottoms out, without getting a tight center gear mesh, then the teeth of the gears are worn and the rack block and/or the sector shaft will have to be replaced, which may be reason enough to pass on the box. If there is any tightness in the last half turn or so of the box, the parts are worn out and the shaft is dragging on the inside of the case.
Some rebuilders will rebuild a steering box even though it will not produce any tight center gear mesh. They simply tighten the whole gear set down so that it is tight all the way through the travel. This will work for a few hundred miles (maybe), but the box will be looser than ever in no time.
Rust: About half the boxes that come in for rebuild are ruined due to rust and corrosion, not from wear. Just a few drops of water inside a box will wash away grease and pit bearings and gear teeth beyond rebuilding. You want to try and determine if there is any water in the box that may have caused trouble.
If you can, remove the fill plug from the top of the box, turn the box upside down and shake. If any water comes out, there is probably damage inside, even if the water is clear. If the water is rusty, the damage has been done. The funny thing about water is it doesn't usually rust the non-critical areas of the box. Instead it gets in the critical high pressure areas and settles there. That is because the high pressure areas of gear teeth, ball bearings and needle bearings tend to wipe the grease off of their surfaces during operation, leaving a nice open and clear place for the water to settle.
When you turn the input shaft of the box, if it turns real rough, like there was sand in the bearings, thats because there is rust particles in the bearings and rust pits on bearing surfaces. If the box feels notchy when you turn it, it is already damaged from rust pitting or the bearings inside are coming apart.
Other things to check:
• If the input shaft will not turn at all, or it locks up at some point in its travel, the reciprocating ball have started to break up, the ball guides have
exploded or a tooth has been broken off the rack block.
• When you remove the fill plug to check for water inside, check the status of the grease. If it is clean and fresh, the seller has just filled it to make it
look good. If gear oil (90 weight) runs out of it, it has had the wrong type of lubricant put in it, probably in an effort to loosen up a rusty box. If the
grease inside is very thick and smells really bad, the box probably came out of a car with exhaust headers on it and the grease is cooked. This
could be a potential problem.
• Check the threads and splines on the input shaft and sector shaft. If any of these are damaged, there may be extra work needed on them to correct
the problem. Often these parts are removed from a car using a torch or a cutoff wheel and the parts can be damaged.
• The steering boxes with the long input shafts are bad about water getting into them where the shaft goes into the box. Check to see if this area has
been exposed to the weather. It is not uncommon for rain to go down the steering column tube and into the steering box on cars without
windshields and steering wheels.
• Falcon steering boxes came with four different length input shafts over its production run, none of which are the same as a Mustang, so a Falcon
box will not fit properly in a Mustang.
CONTROL VALVE & BALL STUD:
The Control Valve is the piece that all four power steering hoses go to. It is the hydraulic valve that regulates where the pressurized fluid goes and affects the steering of the car. The Ball Stud area is the part that connects to the steering box and actuates the control valve. On the 1965 Falcon and the 1965/1966 V8 Mustang, the ball stud section is integral with the end of the centerlink. On all other models, the ball stud is a separable from the centerlink. The control valve bolts to the end of the ball stud section and is internally connected to it. Usually, when refering to the control valve, we are talking about the control valve and ball stud assembly as one unit.
Use the information available here to see pictures and descriptions of various control valves to see what style is supposed to go on your car and which pieces may interchange. It is almost certain that any parts car or used linkage you look at has had the control valve changed out at some point and time. While the control valves used on 1960-1978 Fords all look the same on the outside, there are several internal differences that can affect whether the unit will work correctly on your car or not. Try to be sure that the parts are the correct ones you need to avoid any fitment or operating problems later on.
• Usually, the most critical parts of the control valve are the valve housing and the spool valve inside it. These parts are often ruined by internal rust
damage to the point of needing replacement. While you cannot tell if these parts are rusted without tearing the valve apart, try to determine whether
any water could have gotten inside the unit. If the hoses are still hooked and the system is still sealed, then there is less chance that water has gotten
inside. If the hoses are off the valve, look into the hose ports and see if there appears to be any rusty water in the valve or if the aluminum hose seats
are white and pitted from corrosion.
• Check the size of the pressure port hole or the fitting of the hose connected to the port. The 1960-1967 control valves used a valve housing with a
1/4" tube diameter port with a 7/16" fitting. The 1968-1978 units used a housing with a 5/16" tube diameter port with a 1/2" fitting. Check that the
valve housing has the correct size pressure port for your application.
• You will often see grooves worn into the body of the valve housing or the aluminum end cap. This is from a bolt on the tie rod adjuster hitting the
valve under certain combinations of turning and suspension travel. If the aluminum end cap and screws are broken or damaged, that is not a
problem since replacement pieces are available new. If the housing is grooved, it can still be used or the grooves filled in, as long as the grooves are
not so deep that they extend into the fluid passages inside the valve. This is rare, but check the grooves if they are deep.
• Very often the ball stud will be missing from its socket because it pulled out when someone used the wrong tool to remove it from the pitman arm.
This is usually not a problem, since the ball stud should be replaced during a rebuild anyway. This situation also damages the ball stud bushing and
sleeve, and may cause the parts to bind up. This also is usually not a problem since a good rebuilder can remove the parts and repair the bent sleeve
so that it can be reused.
• If you can remove the aluminum end cap, check under the cap for water and corrosion. There is not supposed to be any fluid under the cap, but
there may be if the seals leak. There may also be some grease left over from prior assembly, but any water or a rusted centering spring can indicate
that there is additional water damage further inside the valve.