As our cars have been modernized over the years, the steering column, which began merely as a way to steer the car, has since assumed more tasks throughout the vehicle. Today’s columns are chock full of wires and switches that control everything from airbags to changing channels on the radio. Even our vintage muscle cars have succumbed to the ever-encroaching crawl of technology. And, to be honest, that isn’t always a bad thing.
The steering column in muscle cars eventually began implementing various safety elements such as collapsible segments, controlling horns and turn signals, and even helping us select gears in certain models. Aftermarket steering column manufacturer ididit has taken that ongoing progression and added features such as tilt/telescoping columns, dimmer switches, and even modern, keyless start/stop technology.
Of course, all of these upgrades come with the additional wiring to make them all work properly. Thankfully, ididit supplies wiring diagrams and color instructions with their products and you don’t need to have an electrical-engineering degree to get it to work as designed — just follow the instructions. That said, there are a few areas where it is especially important to pay attention. Ididit has assembled a list of tech tips to help you make sure everything is working properly. Doing so will help ensure that your steering column not only looks great and keeps your car pointed in the right direction, but also controls all the electronic circuits as it was designed to do.
Keeping Your Steering Column Grounded
If you’ve ever battled with a parking light that was dimmer than the others, or a bulb that was lit when it shouldn’t be, you know how disturbing bad grounds can be. Since electricity will always flow to the path of least resistance, it will avoid a bad ground circuit (very high resistance), preferring to find ground in another, possibly unwanted area of the vehicle.
Think of all the electrical devices at work in our automobiles. Each one needs a proper ground; if that isn’t available, the current will find another path to the best ground possible. That is why it is so important to keep your steering column, as well as all other electrical devices, properly grounded. An improper ground could cause your horn or turn signals to not operate properly, or conversely, a properly grounded steering column could provide the unwanted ground for another circuit. Ensuring proper grounding is especially critical if you are mounting the steering column and other components in a non-metal-bodied car, such as a Corvette.
Fixing Horn Issues
The horn is controlled by a typical automotive relay to reduce the amperage requirement of the horn switch. Excessive amperage would eventually ruin the contacts within the switch. Instead of sending power through the horn switch and then to the relay, the horn circuit applies a ground to one of the relay terminals, which excites the low-amperage coil that controls the contacts within the relay.
When a ground is applied, the contacts within the relay close, carrying current to the horn. The horn circuit is a relatively simple system, but many choose not to implement this safety feature, thinking it is too complex, or decide to focus on other areas in a rush to get the car running. There are also other reasons why people decide to forego the safety of an operating horn, such as fixing any issues that may arise.
We have seen horns that would blast constantly due to a wire that wore through and grounded the circuit constantly. Also, worn contacts can prevent the horn button from ever providing proper ground. Another culprit could possibly be the steering wheel itself. Specific wheel adaptors can isolate the horn button contacts so the horn will never sound when needed. Follow the wiring diagram when installing your steering column and check that your ground wiring doesn’t have any open or isolated contacts or short circuits that might surprise you once you power the system.
Steering Column Neutral Safety Switch
Many automotive safety devices are very much like insurance — you don’t need it until you do. Then, it’s too late. As much as we may not want to admit it, the number of safety features that crept into those idolized muscle cars of the 1960s and early 1970s increased just about as quickly as those beloved horsepower numbers.
The neutral safety switch is designed to prevent the car from starting in a condition that could harm people or cause unintended damage. Basically, a car with a proper-working neutral safety switch will only be able to start with the transmission in Park or Neutral for automatic transmissions, or if the clutch is pushed in for manual vehicles. For column-shift vehicles, the neutral safety switch is located on the lower part of the steering column. On ididit steering columns, the purple wire goes from the ignition switch, through the neutral safety switch to the starter solenoid post. The backup lamps are also wired through the neutral safety switch, so make sure you wire the circuits appropriately.
Steering Column Connections
Many of the columns ididit offers have been designed as retrofit units for specific makes and models of vehicles. They are designed to fit seamlessly into the specified vehicle with little or no modifications whatsoever. Many of these steering columns feature new floor mounts, dash mounts, and any wiring connections common to that vehicle.
Ididit offers retrofit columns for many GM vehicles, including Tri-Five Chevys, F-bodies, Chevelles, Corvettes, Impalas, Novas, and many Chevy trucks. Those 1969-and-newer GM vehicles can even use the stock steering wheel with their ididit steering column without the need for an adaptor. Ididit also has retrofit columns for Ford and Mopar applications, as well.
There are so many reasons an enthusiast would want to upgrade the steering column in their ride. Thanks to the helpful and ingenious engineers at ididit, there are now even fewer reasons to not make the switch and utilize all the benefits of a modern column in any vehicle. Check out ididit’s website and see what improvements a new column will bring to your ride. If you’re trying to troubleshoot an issue with your current column, be sure to read ididit’s Tech Tips to get you headed in the right direction.