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1977 B200 Tilt Column
#783548 October 09th 2021 9:51 am
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amx Offline OP
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Is it possible to put a mid-80's van automatic tilt column in a '77 without too much problem?

Re: 1977 B200 Tilt Column
amx #783719 October 14th 2021 12:12 pm
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The wiring for the ignition switch would be very different, so you definitely would want to get the connectors and some length of wire from the main harness which connects to the tilt columns ignition switch so that you could splice in the tilt column switch into the non-tilt harness if the connectors don't match.

You'd need the schematic diagram for both columns and the main wiring harnesses. Those aren't a big issue; plenty of us could provide those. The question is, can you follow wiring diagrams and perform consistantly reliable wiring connections if it's necessary to modify the harness wiring?

You're supposed to use new Nylon grommets in the gear shift mechanism once the shift rod has been decoupled. The Help! section in most auto parts stores would have those.

There are plastic spacers and a ground clip where the steering columns mount to the dash. You'll need those. The ground clip needs to be installed on the left spacer in the new vehicle. You can't allow the steering column to hang by one plastic spacer or the spacer will be damaged... you have to support the steering column the entire time during removal. You may be able to use a bungee strap or have an assistant help with this.

Be forewarned that there are plastic shear joints or rivets in the steering columns, so you can't sharply jolt, hammer, drop, or lean on the steering column, shift lever, or gearshift tube during removal or installation, or you may irreversibly damage the column, unless you have special dealership tools to disassemble the column...

Where things might get sticky is whether your 77 had tilt column or not. Tilt columns use a telescoping sliding rotary 'steering pot coupler' to prevent the steering column being driven into your chest during an accident... keep in mind lap belts were the norm back then, so drivers tended to come into contact with the steering wheel during accidents. The non-tilt columns had a sort of energy-absorbing telescoping crumple zone made of perforated metal built into the steering column jacket to keep those columns from driving through your chest. That crumple zone looks like a series of elongated holes punched in the jacket.

You may be able to transfer the upper portion of the steering pot coupler, consisting of the bellows seal and inner sliding parts and springs, if the 77 had a tilt column. Or possibly you could transfer the entire steering pot coupler from the tilt to a non-tilt if you can get it off. The couplers were held in place by hardened steel dowel or roll pins, which are notorious for being miserable to remove...

The only parts available for the steering pot couplers are the interior sliding shoes, pins, and springs, and a flat, non-bellows seal, which come as part of a coupler rebuild kit. The bellows-style seal is long obsolete, and there are zero replacements for it; believe it or not, it's actually part of the lower-most intermediate shaft in the steering column... You'd have to completely disassemble the tilt steering column (a nightmare job...) to replace the bellows, even if you had one! So, if your tilt column has a bellows which is still intact, treat it with kid gloves; it's made of Unobtanium!

Needless to say, few people dive into that area with enthusiasm... But sometimes, for instance, a steering pot coupler develops excessive slop/lost motion, which results in wildly excessive steering wheel play. I had a faulty steering pot coupler in my old 79 Dodge van which got so bad that it required nearly 1-1/2" of steering wheel rotation to result in any tire rotation. In cases like that something has to be done.

Several site member Vanners have had notable success replacing the long-obsolete steering pot coupler with a heavy-duty universal joint sold specifically as a steering flex coupler. This defeats the as-built OEM safety feature, but results in far tighter steering. If you elect to go that route, Vanner Wrcsixeight wrote up a highly detailed post here of his experience with that replacement, and he updated it over time. It would be well worth your time to read up on it to inform your decisions.

BTW, the non-tilt steering columns were made in-house by Chrysler, while the tilt steering columns were made by Saginaw, who sold them to GM as well, so the tilt columns from many vintage passenger cars and early SUVs such as Ramchargers are essentially identical to those from our vans! I took a bunch of parts from a GM passenger car tilt steering column to tighten up my 81 Dodge tilt column. Knowing that option broadens our horizons for obtaining good quality replacements, since passenger cars were more likely to have suffered less abuse than heavy vans, and may have even been garage-kept.

Last edited by Ram4ever; October 18th 2021 3:17 am. Reason: more details

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Re: 1977 B200 Tilt Column
amx #783773 October 15th 2021 6:55 pm
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Wow, tons of great information and a lot to read over and consider before attempting the swap. Thanks!


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