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You are here: Home Tech Articles & Tutorials Steering / Suspension / Brakes How to Install Power Steering in Your 2WD
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How to Install Power Steering
in a '65-'72 2WD Twin I-beam Pickup

     When Ford started using the Twin I-Beam front suspension in 1965 on all F-100s and F-250s, they also offered a power steering option. Unfortunately, most buyers then didn't opt for this 'luxury'. Today, it's the burning question that every owner of a '67-'72 pickup wants to know: "How do I install power steering into my old truck?" It seems to be one of the most frequently-asked questions in the '67-'72 Ford pickup forums. Well, wonder no more...follow along as we investigate what you'll have to do to upgrade from 'Armstrong' steering to power steering using readily-available factory parts from your local salvage yard. The information contained here also pertains to '65-'66 Ford long as it has the Twin I-beam suspension.

     NOTE: Since four-wheel-drive steering boxes are located in front of the axle and two-wheel drive boxes behind, the mechanical parts needed to convert to power steering are different; therefore, the details in this article are meant for conversion on two-wheel-drive pickups only.

     For the remainder of this article, 'PS' refers to 'power steering'.

     Basically, here's all you need to do: find yourself a donor truck in the local U-Pull-It yard which is equipped with PS and swipe the following parts:

  • '67-'79 steering box

  • '67-'72 steering column ('73-'79 columns can be used with modifications...see below)

  • PS pump and bracket appropriate for your engine

  • PS column firewall mounting bracket and rubber boot

  • left-side engine perch (depending on application...see below)

  • steering linkage (everything between the steering box and the wheel spindle steering arm)

     ...and then just bolt them on and go. However, there are a few things you need to be made aware of, so let's expand on the above listing and discuss why you'll need certain items and some possible complications you might encounter.

Steering box: First of all, Ford pickups were produced with two style of PS boxes: the Saginaw (commonly known as the Ford box, and what you're mostly likely to find in the salvage lot) and the Bendix.

  • The Bendix box has almost the same dimensions as the manual steering box, so it is a direct replacement. Usually, no alterations of the steering column or frame are necessary with this box, though in some cases, the slightly-longer steering column shaft will push the steering wheel out a tad, creating a gap between the end of the column and the steering wheel. If this happens, you might be able to adjust the column mounting to take up the slack...but in some cases there will be insufficient adjustment available.
         It was the only PS box used in '65 and '66, whether for auto or manual shifter columns, and was also used in the '67-'68 trucks and '69 trucks up to serial #D96,000, mainly for automatics and 'three-on-the-tree' shifters. (F350s trucks could not get power steering until 1969 after serial #D96,000, so they were all equipped with the Ford/Saginaw steering box.) However, it's not going to be an easy task locating one in a salvage yard. They are available aftermarket, if you have the money to spend, but they aren't cheap. The Bendix box is not as hardy as the Saginaw, tends to leak and generates more heat, requiring a good cooler for longer service, which is why Ford replaced these with the Saginaw unit. A small transmission cooler mounted in front of the radiator has been suggested as the best course to control heat build-up. If you decide to use the Bendix box and are able to find one, all you need to convert your truck to power steering is the steering box, pump, brackets and belts. Be aware that if you use the Bendix box in your FE (360/390) truck, there will be some header clearance issues (that is, they'll be very tight!) Therefore, if you're wanting to add headers sometime in the future, it would be best to go with the Saginaw box.

  • The Saginaw box began to be phased in by Ford in '68 to replace the Bendix box and was used almost exclusively by 1969. It is more readily available and stronger...but it's also about 2 inches longer than the manual or Bendix PS boxes...which means if you attempt to bolt a manual steering column up to a Saginaw box, it will end up extending into the cab an additional 2 inches. It would work, but it would look funny, it would require some modifications to the column mounting point at the dash...and it would be downright dangerous (in my opinion), being that much closer to your body. In case of an accident, you want to be as far away from the steering wheel as possible. Remember, these trucks were not equipped with airbags! While it's possible to make it work, it's HIGHLY recommended that you do not try this.

Here is a (greasy) side-by-side comparison of the two different style of power steering boxes used by Ford. The difference is installed height is obvious.

The Bendix box and
the Ford/Saginaw box


The Bendix box. Note the large "B" script along the side, making identifying easy.

Steering column:  If you decide to 'upgrade' to the Saginaw box, then this info pertains you to. Since the Saginaw box is about two inches longer than a manual-steering (or Bendix) box, your existing column will not work as is. Obviously, the easiest course of action would be to simply find a donor truck of approximately the same year as your own and swap the steering column and box from it. If you don't have access to an original PS column (or you simply want to keep your existing column), you can shorten the column's main shaft two inches to compensate for the additional length of the steering box, and section the main column housing and shift tube, and bend the shifter linkage arm (at the base of the column). While this isn't a particularly difficult procedure, it does require disassembly of the steering column, as well as some cutting and welding. For more detailed information on how to do this, see "How to Shorten Your Manual-Steering Column".

You can also use a readily-available PS column from a '73-'79 pickup. The physical dimensions are the same as the '69-'72 PS versions...just keep in mind that the wiring connection for the horn, turn signals, etc. will be different, and will require some minor rewiring to get hooked up. Most of the wires are the same color, allowing an almost quick and painless swap. Turn signal switches from various years can be interchanged by substituting the pin positions in the harness connector.

     If you decide to go this route, you could even add a tilt-column, although tilt-columns for manual-shift applications are very hard to find initially and parts aren't as readily available. Factory tilt columns were available only in '78 and '79 and appear fairly regularly on E-bay for $100-$300.

Left: '68 4-spd. manual column, can be used with Bendix PS box or the main shaft will have to be shortened to use Saginaw/Ford PS box. However, the column housing is already at the desired length, so you could easily swap the shorter PS shaft into this column with no other modifications necessary.
Right: '70 auto column with Saginaw/Ford PS box.

(Click to enlarge)

If swapping steering shafts, keep in mind that the '71-'72 shafts are slightly longer on the cab end which won't allow mounting a '67-'70 steering wheel unless you grind off the excess material.

If you go with the Bendix box, you might get lucky and be able to re-use your existing column....but don't bet on it. It's a very common misconception that Bendix steering boxes use standard columns...but this is not true. If you look it up in the parts books you'll see there are three lengths of column shafts

  • Manual steering has a center shaft that is 35-5/8" ('67-'70) or 36-1/8" ('71-'72)
  • Bendix is 34-15/16"
  • Saginaw is 32-7/8" ('67-'70) or 33-3/8 ('71-'72)

(Note: the extra length of the '71-'72 is really at the top above the threads, not in the length inside the tube. See photo at left.)

At left is a picture of a '68 3-speed manual-steering column, a '72 3-speed power-steering column and a '73-'77 3-speed power-steering column ('78-'79 are different and have the big upper housings). The difference from power to manual is obvious because of the length, the differences between '72 and '73 are subtle but the most obvious are the '72 does not have an emergency flasher switch on the column and the firewall seal is a metal plate with a piece of rubber stapled to it while the later one is more like a plate with rubber molded to it.

On the left is a power-steering 3-speed column, on the right is a manual-steering 3-speed column. Note the difference in the shifting arms and the location they exit the column. The PS unit has the arms exiting closer to the end of the tube. Simply trying to slide a manual-steering column up farther into the cab to compensate for the difference in length will cause it to bind on the firewall-mounting bracket.

     Another thing to keep in mind is the column wiring for the '67-'69 trucks differed from the '70-'72 columns at the connector. All '67-'72 columns have 8 wires going to them. However, the '67-'69 columns have two connectors (one connector has 6 wires and the other has 2) whereas the later columns incorporated all 8 wires into one connector...but the wires themselves are the same. If you use a '70-'72 column on a '67-'69 (or vice versa), you could easily splice in the correct harness connectors, if you can get a couple inches of the wiring on the end from your donor truck's main wiring harness. The best idea would be to simply move the pin connectors from one style of harness connector over to the other style, depending on the year of your truck, so that it'll plug right in.

This newer-style mid-'80s PS pump for the Ford 300 I6 would be a direct bolt-on for the earlier 240s. Make sure you get the mounting bracket and pulleys.
(Click to enlarge)

Power steering pump: Since PS was available with every engine option, finding a pump with the necessary brackets shouldn't be a problem. Just get a pump and bracket from any '67-'79 engine similar to yours, along with the hoses. (New hoses are recommended but not required, providing the old lines are in good shape.) You can even use Ford pumps up through the mid-'80s as long as you have the correct bracket and pulley. However, you will have to get the new-style hose.
     The FE-engine pump brackets can be used from any FE engine, car or truck. Be sure to get matching harmonic balancer and pulley, as there are two different styles: a 3-hole and a 4-hole. Either will work, just make sure they're a matched set. With an A/C-equipped truck you'll need a 3-groove bottom pulley...engines without A/C need a 2-groove pulley. Also, the early FE pump brackets are a 3-piece set, while the later versions are a 2-piece. As long as you get a matched set, either will work fine, but they do not interchange with each other.

Left-side engine perch (FE & Saginaw box only): If you have an FE engine (352/360/390/428) and opt for the Saginaw PS box, be aware the driver's-side engine mount is shaped a little differently on a PS-equipped truck vs. a non-PS truck. For a true bolt-in, you'll need to get the perch from a PS-equipped FE pickup. (The '70-'72 FE-equipped pickups already have the correct piece in place, regardless of manual or power steering or engine size.) The required perch slants forward a little (toward the radiator) to make room for the Saginaw box. If you look at your frame, you will see a hole just forward of the existing perch. This is one of the holes your new perch will bolt to. The other is covered by the existing perch, but it is up under there, so if you're handy with a grinder, you can easily modify your existing perch for clearance. (You can readily tell when you bolt the box to the frame if there is any interference.)

NOTE: Since the Saginaw box was used exclusively by mid-'69 when the 302ci engine option became available, the left 302 perch is already angled correctly to clear the box. Therefore, there is no difference between MS and PS perches used on small-blocks...they're all the same.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of the two different styles of FE engine stands. The version on the left is from a manual-steering truck, the right one is from a PS truck. You can see the top section of the PS stand is canted a bit more to the right (towards the front of the vehicle) to clear the Saginaw-style PS pump. If you're using a Bendix box, you can use your existing perch.

Shown here is the manual steering engine stand next to the Saginaw PS box. You can see there's not enough clearance between the box and the frame rail to use. You could either notch this for clearance or find the correct PS stand which is offset towards the front of the truck for clearance.

Here is the FE engine stand for PS-equipped trucks using a Saginaw box. The upper connection uses a different set of holes, while the bottom remains in the same place.

LEFT: One of my parts trucks had the notched engine perch done by a previous owner. The Saginaw box cleared this by about 1/8" all the way around, so this would seem to be about the amount of material  you'd need to remove from a stock manual steering or Bendix PS FE (360/390) perch.
RIGHT: Here you can see the correct offset bracket installed.

Other notes:

This is the column-to-firewall bracket needed when switching to a Saginaw box.
(Click to enlarge)

  • 2WD trucks with FE motors have an oil filter housing which holds the filter horizontally. A car engine will have a filter housing which mounts the filter in a vertical position. If  you've got a car engine in your truck, you'll have to use a truck-type filter mount to enable you to tighten the power steering pump and avoid hitting the front crossmember. (4WD trucks use the vertical adapter because the front crossmember is in a different location, plus a horizontal adapter would hit the steering shaft.)

  • The PS column firewall mounting bracket used on Saginaw-equipped systems IS different as compared to the manual steering (or Bendix PS) bracket. The correct piece should even say 'POWER STEERING' right on the part. It will hold the column up about an inch higher in this spot vs. the manual-steering bracket, due to the difference in angle necessary to compensate for the additional length of the Saginaw box. Be sure you have the right one to avoid having to make a lot of modifications to get a manual steering column bracket to fit. The picture to the right shows the bracket, though this particular one is of a Bendix-box setup, which is the same as the manual steering bracket, so in this case the bracket wouldn't need to be obtained from a donor vehicle since it's identical to the PS version. The picture is for visual reference only. The different brackets are pictured below:

Left: Manual steering & Bendix box PS
Right: Saginaw box power steering

Manual steering & Bendix box PS
Foreground: Saginaw box power steering

Power steering bracket is marked as such

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