Author Topic: Steering wheel restoration  (Read 1501 times)

8683jb

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Steering wheel restoration
« on: May 20, 2018, 05:56:20 PM »
Here’s what happens when you have more time than brains:
In rebuilding my half track, I want to use as many original parts as feasible. So rather than buy a reproduction, I thought I’d try to save the original steering wheel using one of the kits made for just such a fool idea.



After removing the nut, I soaked the hub/shaft joint with penetrant for a few days but I had doubts it would come off easily and when tightening the puller, as expected, the steering wheel blew up.



The puller exerts an upward force against the base of the wheel, which is only plastic. If the wheel doesn’t come off fairly easily, the plastic just collapses, or in my case, cracks apart until it reaches the steel hub. I didn’t know any other way to pull it and figured since the wheel was a cracked mess anyhow, I didn’t have a lot to lose so I continued pulling. Well the column shaft is not much thicker than exhaust pipe and is pretty easy to distort, even with the pilot provided with the puller. What I thought was still plastic compressing, turned out to be the top of the shaft getting slightly mushroomed. Talk about going backwards! Now I had an exploded steering wheel and a distorted shaft.

Since the wheel hub was now out in the open and I had all kinds of access to it, I decided to split the hub with a Dremel cut-off wheel to get it to release. That worked without a lot of trouble and the hub was then easy to just tap off.

Now I had to repair everything.

I veed out the cut I had made to split the hub and using a split copper pipe for backing, welded it shut.



Then I pieced the wheel back together using some leftover structural epoxy to bond the pieces as well as fill all the gaps and re-form the wheel.







Using a Dremel grinding tool with a small drum sander and various other shaping tools, I smoothed everything out to look like a steering wheel again.















My wheel is molded in green Tenite (I think it’s Tenite) and so I painted it the 34087 OD green. It’s a little lighter shade than the rest of the half track, but not too noticeable. I used Duplicolor adhesion-promoting clear primer, then shot the OD with a rattle can. After that I covered it with clear satin spar varnish. It’s not as wear-resistant as a two-part finish but it’ll be good enough. Heck – I hope I drive it enough to wear the paint off the steering wheel!





To fix the deformed column, I machined a mandrel to fit the I.D. of the shaft and then massaged it back into shape with a hammer and aluminum drift. I used a thread file and then a 7/8-20 thread-restoring die to chase the threads.




I used anti-seize on the tapered shaft so the next pigeon has a better chance of getting the wheel off intact, and then dribbled blue thread locker on the threads and cinched the wheel down.

I got one of warbirdrestorer’s NOS horn button kits to top it off. I don’t know if the Ross button is the “right” one for my half track, but not building a museum piece, I don’t care – I think it looks great. It'll be fine until I can come up with an Autocar button.



Well there it is. The color looks a lot lighter in the picture than it is in real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than it was. And the horn even toots!!




« Last Edit: May 22, 2018, 06:50:00 PM by 8683jb »
'42 Autocar M2A1

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steve1973

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2018, 07:02:13 PM »
WOW!! :o Great job on that restoration!!

Steve A.

Smadge

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2018, 07:10:06 PM »
I'm having the exact same problem right now!  Great job!  What brand of epoxy did you use?
Thanks,

Paul
1941 M2A1 Autocar (restoring)
MVPA# 36810E

8683jb

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2018, 07:17:19 PM »
Thanks again for the loan Steve.

Paul - I had a quart of 2-part stuff leftover called Sikadur 31. It's a structural epoxy our bridge crews used to use. I only used that because I already had it. I'm sure any 2-part epoxy would work fine. It just needs to be stiff enough to hold a shape until it hardens.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 08:32:51 AM by 8683jb »
'42 Autocar M2A1

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67tank

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2018, 09:20:30 AM »
Masterful

Well done. 
Pat
1941 M2A1 (under restoration)

yd328

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2018, 06:22:55 PM »
Fantastic job, that looks like a new steering wheel.

Gary

woodwalker

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Re: Steering wheel restoration
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2018, 06:40:30 PM »
Very nice!