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          There are few things more frustrating than fighting with your steering set up! If you have a pre-War Stovebolt, you may be wondering how you'd EVER get that thing adjusted! Help is at hand! Here's Charlie to walk you through some ...

Drag Link, Pitman and Steering Arm Upgrades for a 1935 Chevy 1/2-Ton
By Charlie Rathke
1935 Chevy High Cab 1/2-ton
  January 2009
<< click image for larger view >>
  View looking frontwards showing the Pitman arm and draglink unit on a 1935 Chevy 1/2-ton truck.

After reading Jim Wilson's article on Drag Link Upgrades, I decided to try the same procedure on my 1935 Chevy High Cab 1/2-ton pickup. I completed the project and thought that someone else would be interested in an upgrade for these early models.

I purchased my 1935 Chevy about three years ago. It came in boxes and pieces. All apart and mostly rusted. So you might say that I have been doing an "off the frame restoration." In truth, I always thought I was just trying to figure out how to put it back together! This is my first project and so it has been kind of slow.  Maybe it's because I have tried to upgrade whatever I could as I went along.

The Bill of Sale said it was a 1935 but after long investigation, I have found that it is really a 1936. I don't believe that it's a problem regarding this article because there wasn't much change for the 1936 except for the addition of hydraulic breaks.

As I reviewed the drag link and its tie rod ends, I thought that there must be some way to make it better. One night as I was looking through the Stovebolt Technical Tips section, I noticed  Jim Wilson’s Drag Link, Pitman and Steering Arm upgrades. When I read his article, I thought, "This is a great idea" and Jim was kind enough to provide the necessary NAPA purchase part numbers.

So I went to the NAPA store and although they did not have the units in stock, I was able to see the parts in a catalog. They looked correct -- a short left- hand thread tie rod, a long right-hand thread unit and a short sleeve to tie them together.

The thing that I did not notice was that the 1949 Chevy drag link is a lot shorter then the 1935 unit -- by about 5-6 inches! This meant that the numbers Jim provided were of no use for my project.

I was back to square one. I really wanted to do this, so I kept on digging. I looked through every catalog I owned and found not a clue ... until ... I opened my Filling Station catalog. There, in the tie rod section, I discovered a tie rod for a 1960-62 1/2-ton Chevy pickup that looked about nine inches long but only a right-hand was available in that length. 

As far as I knew, all the left-hand thread units were short -- about 3-4 inches.

By the way, the center to center distance for a 1935 drag link is approximately 20 inches.

My next stop was the Auto Zone Parts stores where I asked the parts guy to look up the 1960 Chevy tie rods. Yes, one was approximately nine inches long and the other about four inches -- but these parts were not available.

Another enlightenment was that the shaft size was 5/8 -18. This is important information for two reasons. First, the shaft size needs to be equal or larger than the one you're replacing. Two, you need to know so that you get the right sleeve.

The first one I got was 16 mm ... but I am getting ahead of myself.

<<< click the image for a larger view >>>
  View looking rearward showing the two tie-rod ends and the center sleeve. The thread engagement in the draglink adjusting sleeve should be at least 1.5" to 2."

Well, now all I needed was a 10-inch sleeve. We could not find one. You need to understand that this is not the parts guy's fault. In the real world, you provide the part number and he will get the part for you. 

By this time, I was frustrated and ready to dump the whole project. But I had one last place that might be able to help. So I stopped at the local antique auto parts store, Then and Now in Weymouth, Massachusetts. (Editor's note: You have a local antique auto parts store??? You da MAN!!! )

I brought  in the drag link, showed him the information that I had gathered and the part numbers of the 1960 Chevy tie rods. He had these units in stock but one was long and one short. After awhile, he suggested that we use two long tie rods. I did not realize that the left-hand threaded unit came in a long shaft. Well, I don’t know what type of vehicle it is used on but it was 5/8-18 and 9 inches long. As I said before, parts guys want numbers not descriptions but somehow he found this one.

I still needed a sleeve and he had no idea. He finally came up with a 10-inch sleeve and I took it. When I got home, I tried it and it was super tight and I knew that I would not be able to screw it in far enough to make it work.

When all else fails ...

The next morning after I was rested and fully recovered, I went to see a good friend who happens to own a small auto parts store. He may not know the part but he always has suggestions.

I showed him the tie rod parts that I had purchased and said that I really needed a 6-6.5 inch sleeve.

Looking at the boxes that my parts were in, all he said was "Why don’t you call Moog and ask them?"

Whoa! Who the heck is Moog? Never heard of them but then I am not in the parts business. Evidently Moog (the manufacture) and TRW are two large suppliers in this area, maybe even the whole country -- I don’t know. In any case, I called the company and got the technical department. I told them what  sleeve I had and what I needed.

First off the tech says, "The sleeve you have will not work with your 5/8-18 shaft because it's 16 mm. There is a 6.5 inch sleeve, part # ES374S."

"This is great! Thanks a lot. I will order one!"

Now with part number in hand, my friend goes on line to order and, you guessed it ... obsolete part.

Needing to return the 16-mm sleeve, I went back to Then and Now and told the parts guy about the 16 mm sleeve and the other number that was obsolete.

"What's the number?" he says. "I probably have it in stock." And he did.

Give the guy a number and you will probably get the part

Monday morning quarterbacking --- if I had only known? Why didn’t someone mention it  before? If I were starting this project over, I would have called Moog or some supplier, got the  technical department and told them what I wanted to do. Who knows what answers I might have gotten? What part numbers I could have given the guys behind the desk. It's for sure that there are not many people who will go out of their way to help. You just have to look hard and keep asking questions.

On to the task at hand

In order to complete this project, you need to determine the correct size of your drag link. In my case, it was 5/8-18 shaft size. Next, try to find the part number for your particular tie rods. My numbers for a 1935 1/2-ton Chevy pickup:

  • Right hand thread -- 9 inches long -- Moog number ES631S
  • Left hand thread --  9 inches long --  Moog number ES681E
  • Sleeve -- 6.5 inches long -- Moog Number ES374S

These part numbers are from early 1960’s trucks. You may not be able to find them unless you can cross reference to later models or purchase from an antique auto parts store such as the one I mentioned (Then and Now).

  Here are some more thumbnail views.
<<< click the image for a larger view >>>

Take a good look at the pictures on this page. After you have all the parts, you will have to remove the ball from the Pitman and Steering Arms. Remove the Pitman Arm from the steering box. You will need a gear puller. Then remove the steering arm from the front wheel. This may take a little time if it has never been off the truck in 70 years.

The name of the game is patience

If you have a torch, heat the bolts and surrounding  area to 200-300 degrees. Cover with penetrating oil and let it stand over night. If you have wooden wedges like shingles, force them between the wheel and steering arm. If it does not break loose, repeat the procedure. Be patient ! Do not try to remove the balls without removing the assemblies from the vehicle.

To remove the ball, turn the assembly over and view the back side of the ball. You should see a punch mark in the center of the shaft. Use a drill press vice, secure the part and make sure that the drill bit is perpendicular to the piece. Using different size drills, drill the hole to 1/2 inch diameter and 3/4 inch depth.

The bottom side of the arm hole has a slight chamfer and the ball shaft is peened over into the chamfer. Using a hand file, remove most of the chamfer and then punch out with a hammer and punch or 1-ton hand arbor.

Repeat for the other unit.

After you have removed the balls, you will notice that the holes are tapered, not as much as a standard automotive taper (Tech Editor Note: the new / modern taper is steeper than the original). Mine were around 0.080. A common automotive tie-rod end taper is 1.5" of taper per foot. There is also a 2" taper per foot -- possibly others as well. 

At this point, I decided to find a machine shop in the area to do the reaming. After calling around, I found a small shop that employed a couple of gents who knew their stuff.  I brought all the parts in and they fitted everything just right. Total cost was $50.

If you decide you want to tackle this part yourself, be sure you have the proper ends that match the taper of the reamer you will use, or the taper of the existing holes in some applications.  Automotive taper reamers can be bought from Travers.  They have three overlapping sizes with 1.5" taper per foot, and one size with 2" taper per foot. They've been found on sale for not quite half price, so it's worth asking if they have a better price. You may also find suitable reamers from other sources at better prices, so look around.

These are the Travers tool part numbers you may be interested in:

  • 04-092-230
  • 04-092-231
  • 04-092-232
  • 04-092-233

At this point, I just assembled all the parts and everything fit together tight, right and adjustable. This is not a difficult job and as Jim Wilson said, “This upgrade will make your steering safer and easier to adjust.”

What you see is these pictures is what is done so far. The body, engine and everything else is on the floor in my shop and ready to go --_ except me! Maybe by this summer I will have enough together to send a picture for a Gallery submission. I have also installed a PCV system on this 216 engine to prevent carbon buildup in the crankcase. If this works, I might have another article that you may be interested in.

Bring on those Tech Tips! You did a great job with this one Charlie. We'll wait patiently for the Gallery submission. No sense taking a picture of a bunch of stuff on the floor. ~ Editor


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