top of page

1955 Ford Part 4: Front Cross Member, Steering Gear Rebuild, Control Arm Bushings

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

(Note: You are reading the progress from a project that began in August of 2014. This information was originally dated from November and December of 2014.)

Front Cross Member, Steering Gear Rebuild,

Control Arm Bushings

It has been some time since my last post, but I have good reason - believe me. There are things more important than our cars, that's for sure. However, the time I can spend in the shop is a good opportunity to meditate, relax, and unwind after dealing with so many people all day long and helping them with their problems. I have been known to load up a good southern gospel music CD or even one my favorite sermons from a preacher of yesteryear and have at it in the garage with all the work (er, fun).

Back to our blog

After the cross member was welded up by my friend Mike, I decided to smooth it up a bit and paint it with 3 coats of Rustoleum. I like the semi-gloss sheen on the frame and will use that for the sub-assemblies as well.

Next up was the steering gear box and the rebuild. I had all of the parts I needed. The worm gear on the shaft was a used unit I found, but it was very near pristine on the grooves and fit perfectly. The bearings were already in good shape so I cleaned and kept those. I ordered a new seal for the sector shaft that holds the pitman arm. I got it from “fleabay” for something like $4 shipped and the thing fit very, very well. It was a US brand name seal, but memory fails me at the moment to tell you which one.

When I got it all completed, I was scratching my head over an "extra" part that I did not recall. After a few minutes it dawned on me that the large washer was actually the keeper for the original rubber seal for the sector shaft. I had forgotten that the seal was actually two pieces, so that large washer was obviously not need because the new seal was now one piece. The shim pack was interesting to deal with. I looked at the original number and thickness of the shims that were installed originally and I tried to install new shims that were an exact match. After torqueing down the bolts I spun the steering shaft and thought it seemed loose. As a matter of fact it was so loose that it actually had a little but of runout (vertically). "Well that can't be right," I muttered. After I looked at it cross-eyed for a moment...

"Hey bonehead! The replacement worm gear - that's what making the difference here."

So I removed one of the original 3 shims and just checked to see what would happen if there were no shims.... TIGHT as it could be! No wonder there is a little frustration over getting the pre-load right. I guess it is a little tricky. I went through my pack of shims and just kept working on it until I found 3 that didn't have any play on the runout vertically but still kept it spinning "right"... now, what "right" actually is, I have no way of knowing. Someone had suggested using Ford's shop manual for the load, but that is with the leverage of the steering wheel. And... I don't have a torque wrench that goes to a very small inch/pounds. I guess I need a spring scale anyway. I greased the gears up pretty good and wrapped it all in plastic until it is installed. I have gear oil for it - 80w90.

While I was at it I decided to put together the drag link. It was already in good shape - it just needed to be cleaned up,

Things were going so well I decided to tempt fate and dismantle both upper control arms. I needed heat on one occasion but things went reasonably well. Again, some of the rubber was about ready to disintegrate so it was a no brainer to replace all of this stuff up front. I blasted them in the cabinet and then coated them with the solution you see pictured. It is an off the shelf product from Lowe's. It took some time to dry, but that could be because of the lower temperatures at this time of this year.

After that I fitted the rear bushings to both control arms. The rear bushing is the one with the "step" that will stop you from driving it all the way to the lip. I advise you to be careful if you ever replace your bushings... that step on the bushings I had did not look too pronounced. It looked more like a "line" drawn around the circumference of the bushing.

Since I don't have a press, I decided to drive the bushings home with some pipe that fit just over the rubber, but met the lip of the bushing head - on. 1 and 1/2 inch pipe is what I used. It worked very well as you can see and I simply placed the arm on the vise and hammered each bushing home. I did do some preliminary painting to a few parts, but that was just so when I painted after they were assembled I could already have paint in those hard to reach areas. Also, beating and banging with a hammer on anything painted is going to mar it up big time.

I used some anti-seize on the shafts and the threads, but I was able to reuse all of the hardware. You can probably see that one of the old lock washers were broken - that was replaced from my hardware stash. Also, of the 3 washers that pertain to each control arm, one of them is larger than the other two. The larger one goes on the inside of the control arm at the rear after you slide the washer on the shaft. The other two washers go on the outside of the control arm on either side of course. One note here... the control arm is "springy" - in other words you can't get the second bushing on by simply "tightening down" the busing on the shaft using the threaded stud because the arm will bend with it. Both bushings have to be either pressed on or hammered on like I did.

I plan to paint the control arms pretty soon, and I have started on the lower control arms with clean up. My sandblaster went out on me the other day because of the "el-cheapo" dead man valve so I am having to put those in the glassbead cabinet. The lower control arms are in a whole lot worse cosmetic shape than the upper control arms were. The passenger side arm is clean, blasted, and was just coated with the Prep Primer tonight.

For all of the success I have had, I did experience a "DUH!" moment last night when I was installing the bushings in the lower control arms. Note the photos... Maybe it was because it was Thanksgiving week and I was distracted with deer hunting, smoking a turkey, having folks in, baking all kinds of food with the wife, Christmas decorations, blah, blah, blah. I don't know. The 55 Ford shop manual is a tick misleading when you look at the diagram. It shows the lower control arm bushing coming in from the front side, but if you look at it closely in the manual you can see a faint, dashed line, showing insertion from the BACK! Yep, I didn't catch all of this until I had fully seated the first bushing!!! When you do these, remember that both bushings, front and rear, are installed from the INSIDE of the arm facing out.... the large cupped washer should compress up against the rubber that is on the lip side of the bushing.

How I ended up getting that bushing back out of there without damaging it, I do not know. Patience and Henry Ford's spirit I guess...

Here are a couple of photos of the CORRECT installation.

The other bushings and the other control arm all went well so we are about ready for paint. I did have to weld a nut onto the other control arm, but that was really a piece of cake. I will post photos later. I am about ready to clean up the spindles and start installing some of these items back on the frame. It will feel good to do that soon. Pilgrim's Progress!

bottom of page