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[C1] C1 steering safety - what to check for?

 
Old 07-09-2019, 12:49 PM
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Default C1 steering safety - what to check for?

A fellow member of my local car club was driving his 1960 to a car show.
Going around the cloverleaf to enter the freeway, something broke and he slammed into the guard rail.
He had some injuries as his chest hit the steering wheel hard..... Some front end damage... but overall, he was pretty damn lucky.
It could have been much.... much much worse.

I don't know him well... but I sent him and email asking for details of the failure... He promised to reply to me.. but it's been a few months and nothing yet.

The 'rumblings' in the club is that the 3rd arm broke - literally. Someone (not a corvette guy) said the cast iron should be replaced with steel unit....
I'm not sure I believe it.. as it's not a Corvette club - it's all makes.

I've been staring at my car (61) and it's clear that if the 3rd arm detached from the frame, that would create the same result.

I recall some threads discussing this years ago.. but I couldn't relocate them with a search.
I've rebuilt the steering box, but the rest of my front end is original.

What checks can be done to check the integrity of the steering?
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Old 07-09-2019, 01:41 PM
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I think it's highly unlikely the third arm actually broke or detached from the frame. It is much more probable that one of the ball studs was badly worn and finally failed. IMO the C-1 front steering is very safe (if not sophisticated) when properly maintained. If you are worried about the front end, get the car up on jack stands and check out the entire system one thing at a time and if all is tight, drive on. Remember (as Tom P. points out repeatedly) the front bushings are metal on metal and need to be greased periodically. Unless something was damaged on the road, my money is on lack of maintenance which led to play and eventual failure on your friends car.

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Old 07-09-2019, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Pilot Dan View Post
I think it's highly unlikely the third arm actually broke or detached from the frame. It is much more probable that one of the ball studs was badly worn and finally failed. IMO the C-1 front steering is very safe (if not sophisticated) when properly maintained. If you are worried about the front end, get the car up on jack stands and check out the entire system one thing at a time and if all is tight, drive on. Remember (as Tom P. points out repeatedly) the front bushings are metal on metal and need to be greased periodically. Unless something was damaged on the road, my money is on lack of maintenance which led to play and eventual failure on your friends car.
But then there are things like this, which a member was determined to buy the car and it took some time to talk him out of it...





Now, after seeing that I have seen people lifting the car by that center link with a floor jack; a real bad idea and if the worst should happen (a cracked casting) it ain't good... I caught my paint shop guys doing this and straightened them out real quick. Lucky for them there was no damage.


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Old 07-09-2019, 06:06 PM
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Every one of these cars has been lifted hundreds of times with a floor jack under the third arm in the past 57+ years.

Structurally, if you have the jack under the lowest part of the casting,and not under the nut, you aren't really stressing the third arm. Having the jack contact the nut, it NOT a good idea, which is why a blanket don't lift via the third arm, is good advice, as most people aren't that careful in jack placement and its hard not to have the floor jack contact the nut..

Doug

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Old 07-09-2019, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by AZDoug View Post
Every one of these cars has been lifted hundreds of times with a floor jack under the third arm in the past 57+ years.

Structurally, if you have the jack under the lowest part of the casting,and not under the nut, you aren't really stressing the third arm. Having the jack contact the nut, it NOT a good idea, which is why a blanket don't lift via the third arm, is good advice, as most people aren't that careful in jack placement and its hard not to have the floor jack contact the nut..

Doug
Man was lifted this way only once while I owned it - one time too many.. Why even take a chance ?
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:58 PM
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This side view illustrates the vector forces, which is straight up, without any cantilever stress if jack is properly placed. As I said, every grease monkey and home mechanic lifted the car hundreds of times that way before you bought it, any damage, has already been done. You can also visual the force if the nut was in position and lifted by that, instead, which IS bad.

But, the world won't come to an end because the car was jacked that way for decades.

However, a nice wood saddle to span the third arm and lift via the cross member on each side if it, would be a good idea.
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by AZDoug View Post
Every one of these cars has been lifted hundreds of times with a floor jack under the third arm in the past 57+ years.

Structurally, if you have the jack under the lowest part of the casting,and not under the nut, you aren't really stressing the third arm. Having the jack contact the nut, it NOT a good idea, which is why a blanket don't lift via the third arm, is good advice, as most people aren't that careful in jack placement and its hard not to have the floor jack contact the nut..

Doug
I have lifted it by the lowest casting point. Never had a problem so far... I am careful to lift it there and not lift from the nut. Also I am quick to put two jack stands underneath and chalk the tires.
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:23 PM
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I don't care if its alright 1,000 times out of 1,001; I don't do it....
The ST-12 shows the proper lift points...
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Old 07-10-2019, 12:04 AM
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SDVette, hope you will follow up your post and let us know what the ACTUAL failure that caused the accident turned out to be. I am going to stick by lack of maintenance as the root cause

As bad as those photo's in Frank"s post look, they only indicate a rusted out radiator core support (thin stamped steel) from what I can see. The front frame cross member (quite beefy and robust) is what gives support to the third arm and steering. With that said , it does look heavily pitted and would make me suspicious of the condition of the rest of that frame.
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Old 07-11-2019, 12:54 PM
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Just to be clear, there is no "cast iron" in these parts. The third arm is forged steel and the bracket is cast steel.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by K2 View Post
Just to be clear, there is no "cast iron" in these parts. The third arm is forged steel and the bracket is cast steel.
That's good to know.

I have sent the guy another followup email asking for details... I'll be sure to update the thread if/when we ever responds... or if I see him at an event.
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Old 07-11-2019, 01:55 PM
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As some above have said, it is NOT, repeat, NOT good to use a floor jack (or any kind of jack, such as a bottle jack, scissors jack, etc) under the center steering arm bracket. Are there instances of the bracket breaking where the nut/flange is? YES!!! you're talking to the owner of one that broke!!! NEVER LIFT THE FRONT OF A 53-62 CORVETTE BY THE CENTER STEERING ARM BRACKET!!!
Also, in over 55yrs of messing with these old Vettes and (49-54) Chevys, I have known of a (very) few broken brackets by other owners, such as mentioned by Fred (SDVette). ONCE IT BREAKS, THERE IS ZERO STEERING CONTROL!!!!

Now, to address what MAY have broken.
The center steering arm BRACKET could have broke (unlikely the center arm broke).
The 4 bolts attaching the bracket to the bottom of the cross member could have broke or came out.
The ball/socket of the center steering arm could have separated from the drag link.
The ball/socket of the drag link/pitman arm could have separated.
The drag link could have broken.
The nut attaching the pitman arm to the pitman shaft could have come off, allowing the pitman arm to come off the shaft (VERY unlikely, but could happen).
One of the tie rod ball joints could have popped out (FAILURE to keep greased).
ANY of the above would result in total loss of steering control.
SOOOOOOOOOO, what do you do? Go all the way back to basics and keep these front suspensions greased and regularly inspected!
The front suspension and steering is very primitive on these old Vettes (descendant from 49 pass car design). Although primitive, if maintained properly and greased regularly, they are quite simple, and function quite well. They DO NOT like wide wheels and giant tread width. I feel that a maximum wheel width be kept at 6in (ie, 15x6 wheel max) with a 75 series radial tire. A proper alignment and proper adjustment of the steering box will make steering when stopped or at slow speeds, tolerable.
I have 225/75R15 on 15x6 steel wheels on the front of the 56 --------------- PLUS ---------- a fast steering adapter (ala 57-62 HD susp). Once moving 4-5mph, steering is fine for this 76yr old man @ 225lbs.

Oh ya, as an additional comment. I have a complete Corvette steering setup (center steering, tie rods, L&R steering arms) on my 51 Chevy. The Corvette steering bracket has an extension on the front end for attaching 2 bolts at the bottom of the Corvette radiator support (which is the main support for the weight of the front end of a 53-62 Corvette). Once upon a time, I placed a jack under this extension at the front of the bracket on the 51----------------IT BROKE OFF (above pictures)!!!!!!!!!

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Old 07-12-2019, 08:11 AM
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Thanks Tom - the whole jacking issue seems to come up once in a while and, yes, a bunch of folks have done it and gotten away with it, but, no, there are other safer ways to raise the front that don't involve rolling the dice on damaging something...

Its a no-brainer to me..
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Old 07-13-2019, 02:34 PM
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I got a response from the guy today. I didn't know it, but he had an aftermarket front end in the car! "Jim Meyer front suspension and electric power steering", which is a power rack and pinion setup.
No idea who did the install... but I would sure be talking to that guy if it were me...

So all bets are off with this incident... He says Hagarty declared it a total loss and paid him out...

I appreciate the good info provided in this thread.. While it's good to know what "can go wrong", I was hoping for specific checks that can be done to check BEFORE something breaks.
I guess regular maintenance (lube) and frequent inspection (visual and play) is the best we can do.

Fred
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Old 07-13-2019, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by SDVette View Post
I got a response from the guy today. I didn't know it, but he had an aftermarket front end in the car! "Jim Meyer front suspension and electric power steering", which is a power rack and pinion setup.
No idea who did the install... but I would sure be talking to that guy if it were me...

So all bets are off with this incident... He says Hagarty declared it a total loss and paid him out...

I appreciate the good info provided in this thread.. While it's good to know what "can go wrong", I was hoping for specific checks that can be done to check BEFORE something breaks.
I guess regular maintenance (lube) and frequent inspection (visual and play) is the best we can do.

Fred
Another case of an 'upgrade' causing a 'downgrade' in safety and reliability. Modifications should always be done by qualified people who know how to inspect and install aftermarket parts properly. I can't count how many 'upgrades' I've seen fail over the years, due to poor installation techniques or poor engineering of the 'upgraded' components. Be careful out there, guys.
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Old 07-13-2019, 03:05 PM
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Originally Posted by SDVette View Post
I got a response from the guy today. I didn't know it, but he had an aftermarket front end in the car! "Jim Meyer front suspension and electric power steering", which is a power rack and pinion setup.
No idea who did the install... but I would sure be talking to that guy if it were me...

So all bets are off with this incident... He says Hagarty declared it a total loss and paid him out...

I appreciate the good info provided in this thread.. While it's good to know what "can go wrong", I was hoping for specific checks that can be done to check BEFORE something breaks.
I guess regular maintenance (lube) and frequent inspection (visual and play) is the best we can do.

Fred
Yikes!
I have a Jim Meyer front and rear suspension in the car I bought and someone else welded it in. I'll make sure to go over everything once I take the body off again which was bolted back on temporarily.on for transport
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Old 07-13-2019, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by SDVette View Post
I got a response from the guy today. I didn't know it, but he had an aftermarket front end in the car! "Jim Meyer front suspension and electric power steering", which is a power rack and pinion setup.
No idea who did the install... but I would sure be talking to that guy if it were me...

So all bets are off with this incident... He says Hagarty declared it a total loss and paid him out...

I appreciate the good info provided in this thread.. While it's good to know what "can go wrong", I was hoping for specific checks that can be done to check BEFORE something breaks.
I guess regular maintenance (lube) and frequent inspection (visual and play) is the best we can do.

Fred
So what was the failure point? A Jim Myers front end won't fail like that unless a bonehead welded it badly. For an original car like yours, as I suggested in post #2 check EACH item individually per the ST-12, and don't let unrelated fear overwhelm you. If you find any worn parts or play, fix them and drive on.
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Old 07-14-2019, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Pilot Dan View Post
So what was the failure point? A Jim Myers front end won't fail like that unless a bonehead welded it badly. For an original car like yours, as I suggested in post #2 check EACH item individually per the ST-12, and don't let unrelated fear overwhelm you. If you find any worn parts or play, fix them and drive on.
He says he still doesn't know the cause of the failure.
As I said above, I don't know him very well, so I'm not going to push him.

Let's not confuse "unrelated fear" with safety diligence on a 60 year old car.
Big difference between 'fear' and understanding how to minimize risks!
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