Sector Gear Repair - 05/30/2019

Ever been at the grocery store and had your car refuse to start because the steering column "snaps" on you? That happened to me one Friday evening in mid April. The key would rotate around in the column but do nothing. This is likely a result of the sector gear breaking. Because I've been super busy and having all sorts of business at work, it's taken some time to fix it. I had this issue on my 1973 Grand Am about 13 years ago and fortunately the Saginaw tilt column was quite widely used from 1969 all the way up to 1992 in some cars. I even did this job in my 1989 Cadillac a while ago to tighten the tilt mechanism, so it's not too far removed from my memory either!

Breaking in to your own car is fun. It's easy on these cars too, which is kind of sad.

It's simple enough to drop the column and get the ignition switch out to drive the car home (if you have the correct tools...).

Ignition switch removed and the rod is wiggled, sure enough it's loose and doing whatever it wants regardless of the key position.

Open up the steering wheel to get the nut off.

Steering wheel puller used to get it off of the column.

Wheel it pulled off, time to remove the cover plate with those 3 screws.

Lock plate remover is used to pull the snap ring off and get inside the column. The type of job that takes hours and lots of creative cursing or 5 minutes with the right tool.

Turn signal switch is in decent shape.

Cruise control turn signal stalk is removed, the wire needs to be disconnected at the base of the column and snaked out. The turn signal switch will need the same work. It's finesse and whatnot...

Screwdriver in the slot to remove the key switch...

Shell is removed, sector gear is exposed. And look at that, a broken tooth.

Get the gear loose. The screw is incredibly stuck...

Tilt pins are removed with the right tool. Another 5 hour\impossible job without the $9.95 tool...

Lower 2 tilt screws are exposed after removing the tilt mechanism housing.

Upper 2 tilt screws exposed. 1/4" socket tightens them down. This wasn't required to fix the gear, but I'm already 3/4 of the way to get to it and it sure is nice to fix a loose tilt!

The upper housing bearings are in great shape and the grease is in good condition too.

The spring retaining screw is removed after liberal application of PB Blaster and a few love taps.

New sector gear comes in the kit. 5 tooth vs 6 tooth doesn't seem to make a difference in my experience!

Sector gear goes in!

The guide plate was forgotten to be installed...

Upper housing gets reinstalled back in and movement checked. Victory!

All the innards are back inside and the lock plate goes back on.

And the wheel goes back on and we're done!

It took longer to adjust the ignition switch correctly to get all 4 positions at all the right times than it did to fix the gear. Another job well done!

Return to 1973 Grand Safari

Last updated June 8th, 2019