Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Steering Wheel from Santa

Happy New Year!  The cool thing about New Years Day, in addition to starting anew, resolutions, and all that kind of thing is the day off work!  Now, living in the great North-Western US of A, I haven't seen much of the sun in quite awhile.  So imagine my surprise when I looked out the window and was greeted by a blue sky and sunshine and 50 degrees!  Nothing motivates me like sunshine so I threw on my best Sunday shoes, which for me means my worst pair of shoes for banging around in the dirt and mud, and ran down to the garage to do some... well, work.  Work I don't get paid for... hmmm... I may need to rethink this.

I took down my Christmas lights (to the dismay of the ladies of the house), broke down the dozen or so boxes from Christmas, cleaned my work bench off, and moved some stuff out to the shed.  Having met my quota of honey-dos for the time being, I pulled the cover off of Ol' Rusty, stood back, and took in the sight like I was seeing an old friend again for the first time in weeks.

Ol' Rusty didn't know it yet, but she had received a couple of Christmas gifts herself this year.  Santa brought her a shiny new steering wheel and a LeCarra hub to fit it.  The steering wheel was a Moto Lita Mark 3.  Well, not REALLY a Moto Lita, but a Moto Lita CLONE called a LeCarra Mark 3.  Well, not REALLY a LeCarra Mark 3 but rather a CLONE of the LeCarra Mark 3.  Well, it's STILL a nice-looking wheel but you can judge for yourself.  It was a fraction of the price of either the LeCarra or the Moto Lita.

I chose to go this route because 1) the wood rim would match the wood grain of the dash 2) The quality is purportedly very good compared to the Grant version, and 3) The 15" wheel is a full inch smaller than the factory wheel which gives me a bit more knee room.   Now that I have power steering, I can have a smaller wheel.

The wheel is basically this one from eBay, the hub is this one from Jegs, and the horn button is this one from Jegs.  There is another option to buy the whole kit-n-kaboodle from Cobranda though.

The first step is to remove the factory steering wheel.  This involves removing the two Phillips screws from the back to remove the horn pad.  Then the center nut can be removed, and the wheel pulled from the shaft.

The OEM wheel

Remove a screw like this on each side and pull off the center pad.

Center pad removed.  Remove the steering shaft nut and pop the wheel off.


The new hub first needed to be prepared for installation.  This particular hub has a dual copper ring for the horn contacts.  The first thing I noticed is that the copper is pretty much just raw circuit board material and as such, was pretty rough and the horn contacts like a smooth surface to travel across.  There's trim ring that is adjustable to allow the hub to fit very flush with the factory steering column housing.  The first thing I did was to remove the set screw and pull the trim ring off to give me access to the copper rings for a bit of maintenance.   The maintenance involved a polishing with 0000 steel wool followed by a liberal application of "bulb grease" and then the removal of excess from between the rings.  Bulb grease is a dielectric lubricant for just this kind of application.

This is the LeCarra hub and horn button that fits the clone steering wheel.

The center rings are pretty rough 

After polishing with steel wool and applying "bulb grease"

The hub could then be fitted to the steering shaft.  The base of the hub is slotted to accommodate the turn signal cancellation ring post so the hub is installed with the following in mind. 1) the post goes in the slot, and 2) the hub is positioned on the shaft in an orientation that allows the steering wheel hub screw holes to align while the wheel is centered.

The turn signal switch cancel post fitting into the slot of the hub

The wheel came with a trim ring that allows the horn button to sit flush but is not necessary.  I opted to use it for aesthetic reasons.  Also, the hub came with a full set of 1/2" screws while the steering wheel came with a set of 1" screws.  The longer screw is needed to accommodate the trim ring.  However, upon installation, there is about 1/8" of screw sticking out past the back of the hub which looks kind of cheesy to me.  I went ahead and used the screws in absence of a better alternative (the 1/2" screws are too short to mate the wheel and the ring together).  I will probably replace the screws with 3/4" later.  The hub was mated to the ring and wheel with the 9 1" screws so the wheel could then be attached to the steering shaft.

The new steering wheel.

Hardware that comes with the wheel

The steering wheel bolted to the hub.  The two wires are for the horn and go to each copper ring.

The screws are a bit long..

Steering wheel aligned and torqued to the steering shaft.

After installing the shaft nut and torquing it to the factory 20-30 ft. lbs, the trim ring was brought within about 1/16" of the column housing and the set screw was tightened.  With the steering wheel installed, it appeared that since this steering wheel has less "dish" than the factory wheel, the turn signal lever was very close to the wheel rim.  This probably isn't a problem for some folks but I knew that I would very likely keep smacking my monkey knuckles against it.  So, I removed the lever, put a bend in it, and tapped the threads to allow it to be tightened to the correct angle since bending the lever pretty much requires the lever to always need to be at a particular rotation when tightening it into the signal switch.

The hub trim ring adjusted to the column housing.

The signal lever is too close for comfort.


The final leg of my journey was the installation of the horn button.  The electrical tabs on the bottom of the LeCarra button need to be adjusted as they come from the factory.  They have to be bent up and rotated a bit to allow room for the wires to go down in the hub.  The wires on the hub are then plugged onto the tabs and the horn button assembly is simply snapped into the hub thus completing the job.

The horn assembly with the tabs adjusted.

Horn wires attached and horn locked into the hub.


Awww... all lonely and dejected.

The wheel is now ready for business but my family wanted to go for a walk so rather than test drive, I did that instead.  I'll let y'all know how it works out next time I take Ol' Rusty out.  The LeCarra logo in the center of the horn button can be removed and replaced with a Mustang logo which is what I intend to do.