1956 Power Steering -- Technical Question

Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
edited November 2018 in HUDSON
A Hudson friend owns a nice '56 Hornet with power steering. In recent years it has (shall we say) "loosened up", and the car wanders a bit. The fellow had his local mechanic check out the steering linkages and they seemed tight. So he removed the power cylinder and sent it to Lares Corp. for rebuilding. When it had been re-installed, the car still wandered, so he sent it back. After they'd checked it again and replaced a seal, the steering did tighten up a bit...but was still a bit loose.

There appears to be one last component that he hasn't checked, and that is the gearbox at the bottom of the steering shaft, with the pitman arm coming out the side. This appears to be very difficult to remove for servicing, so he's somewhat hesitant to do so.

My question is: from what I have said so far, is there a reasonable possibility that the problem may lie in this gearbox, or could there be yet another component that would need to be checked? If someone is familiar with these power steering systems, can they make any educated guesses about what's wrong?


  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    The steering box worm gear lash can be set on the car without removing the box. Ditto for the endplay, by removing a shim at a time at the front cover. THE PITMAN ARM COMES OUT OF THE BOTTOM ON THE 1955-56 Nash bodied Hornets & Wasps. The power steering on these cars is similar to the power steering on the '54 Hornets and Wasps. The power cylinder has a directional control valve on one end, and the rod on the other. The steering box itself is a conventional box. The Hash uses a cross-link steering linkage, not centerpoint, thus the pitman arm on the Hash points downwards, coming out of the bottom of the box as mounted on the unibody.
    NOW, THIS BOX IS MOUNTED ON THE NASH unibody. The metal there is Much thinner than the subframe of the STEPDOWN, and as such is prone to metal fatigue and cracking. WHEN THIS HAPPENS, THE BOX WILL MOVE AS THE METAL IT IS BOLTED TO FLEXES FROM THE TORQUE. TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE IS THE FACT THAT AREA IS RIGHT UNDER THE BATTERY TRAY. Acid leaking from the battery will corrode the very same metal the steering box bolts to. SAME RESULT: metal flexes and the box moves around. THE BOX CAN ACTUALLY BREAK FREE OF THE UNIBODY WITH CATASTROPHIC RESULTS.
  • Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
    Ken, thank you for all this information! I will pass it along to my friend. You've listed a number of things that he can check. Would you then agree that -- if rebuilding the power cylinder didn't cure the problem -- the steering box gear (or metal fatigue on the body where it is mounted) may indeed account for the continuing looseness in the steering? Or is there some other possible cause that my friend can look at?
  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    edited November 2018
    The power steering cylinder is just a hydraulic assist that acts on the linkage, thus any looseness in the linkage or steering box will not be addressed by rebuilding the hydraulic cylinder itself. As I said earlier, the steering box can be adjusted ON THE CAR, without being removed. If it is so badly worn that adjustment does not address the looseness issue, then it would need rebuilding or replacement. If the issue is found to be caused by metal fatigue and / or rust, then metal fabrication and welding will be needed, preferably by a competent person. Besides, just what does the owner define as excessive "looseness"? The steering on these 1952-57 Nashes were known to be somewhat wandery, and they were definitely not as precise feeling as a STEPDOWN. For someone used to driving a modern 21st century car with an assisted fast steering ratio and only 2.5 to 3 turns lock to lock, a 1956 Hash would feel absolutely loose by comparision. Has the owner even had an alignment done, caster, camber, and toe-in? Is he running old bias-ply tires? OH, AND A COUPLE OTHER VERY IMPORTANT THINGS: 1.) WHAT IS THE CONDITION OF THE RUBBER TRUNNION RING ON THE FRONT OF THE TORQUE TUBE?
    2.) WHAT IS THE CONDITION OF THE RUBBER BUSHINGS OF THE REAR PANHARD ROD (sometimes referred to as a rear sway bar or lateral stabilizer)?
    If either of these are bad, the entire rear axle becomes a "rear steering" axle due to the fact that rubber ring in the front of the torque tube , and the rubber Panhard rod bushing connecting the rear axle to the unibody are the only things holding the axle in place, since the rear springs are coil springs, and very soft ones at that.
  • Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
    Wow! Thanks for all these great suggestions, Ken! I'll add the latest ideas to your earlier ones, and give them to my fellow Hudsonite!
  • Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
    Ken, I just wanted to follow up on this thread.

    A big "thank you" from one of our local Hudsonites who has a beautiful '56 Hornet Hollywood.  We spoke over the weekend at a Hudson meet, and he was very appreciative.  He said he replaced the bushing -- and I think he meant the Trunnion Ring that you mentioned -- and that it improved the handling greatly! 

    When he obtained the new rubber ring and gave it to his mechanic, it produced much eye-rolling on the part of the mechanic, who told him that this certainly would NOT help his loose steering.  Once the mechanic removed the old rubber part, he found it was hard as a rock.  When he replaced it with a new one, he told my friend that he owed him an apology; he rubber ring was exactly what was needed.  My friend says there is still a wee bit of looseness in the steering but that the trunnion ring made an amazing improvement.  And he's no longer scared to drive the car.  In fact, he drove the car to the Hudson meet on Saturday, where he told me all of this!
  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    edited June 2019
    OK, excellent.  Now that he has replaced the front torque-tube TRUNNION RING, next he can replace the rear Panhard rod bushings to tighten things up a bit more.

  • Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
    Yes, you mentioned the rear Panhard bushing in your reply last November, I'll make sure he understands that this, too, should be replaced.
  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    He can buy them from American Parts Depot:
    phone: (937) 678-7249
    part # 990-9000A  NEED 4, $6 EACH


    All (exc American)

    Stabilizer Bar Grommet - 4 req (see above photo)

    990 9000A


  • Jon BJon B Posts: 7,165Administrator
    I'm baaaack!

    After acting on all of these good ideas (thanks especially to Ken Ufheil for his thoughts!), my friend still has a bit of play in his steering wheel (1956 Hornet with power steering).  Not as bad as before, but he reports that the steering wheel turns about 3" before the front wheels begin to turn at all.

    Here is what he's done:

    1. had the alignment checked and adjusted by a reputable shop.

    2. New rubber trunnion rings installed (and the old ones WERE hard!)

    3. Steering box rebuilt by Lares Corp.  The part of the body to which the steering box is bolted, is NOT rusted out.

    4. Power cylinder rebuilt by Lares Corp.

    5. Rear Panhard bushings checked.

    (He DOES have bias ply tires, if this makes a difference.)

    He took it to a truck alignment place and they got under the car and checked it out (the car was sitting on its tires at this point, the tires were not suspended in the air.  He and the shop personnel went over every bit of the car's steering system and found nothing loose.  The steering seemed to be tight.  But when he got the car back on the road, the steering still seemed to be slightly loose.  Not so bad that it was unsafe to drive, and my friend says that neither he nor his daughter have any trouble maneuvering it, but there is still some sloppiness there.

    Maybe he's gone about as fur as he can go, but can anyone suggest any other reasons why he might be getting this looseness?  I'd be grateful for thoughts....
  • bob wardbob ward Posts: 1,168Senior Contributor
    65 year old steering mechanisms even in as new condition are sloppier than the steering in modern cars. Today's steering designs are better - mainly rack and pinion, manufacturing tolerances are tighter.  
  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    Just because Lares "rebuilt" the steering box does not mean they set the gear lash and end-play correctly.........I had some issues with Lares' work before.  Your friend needs to find somebody like me who knows how to set the lash and end-play in the box correctly.

  • Ken U-TxKen U-Tx Posts: 4,022Senior Contributor
    These Hashes have an idler arm, and the bushing in that can wear. 3" play at steering wheel rim before any movement at the tire is excessive. should be less than 2".
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