If it has been a while since you have worked on this col- umn, you might need a small
refresher. If you are new to the
trade, this is a column that may be
old in style, but I assure you, you
will encounter them, and if you
have never serviced one before,
you probably won’t figure it out.
The Saginaw column is easily distinguished by its round
design, even though it may have
several types of steering wheels
above it, (see photo 1). The column appears on other vehicles
than the GM we will discuss
here, including the Jeep and
Chrysler vehicles of old.
The column was used by GM
from 1969 to around the middle
of 1986. Characteristic of this lock
was the wing design see in photo
2. In 1979 GM made a small modification of this lock to provide for
a bolt to pass through the body of
the lock, but the only real difference it made in taking them apart
was that you had to remove a bolt
from under the buzzer actuator
instead of pressing on the spring-loaded release. I will talk more
about this later in the article.
Step one of the process is
to remove the horn pad. Some
vehicles had a pad that covered
the center portion of the steering
column and required removing
at least two screws to get it loose.
These screws were a Phillips
screw in the beginning, but were
changed to a torx screw in the
later years of its use. Check to
make sure you use the correct
tool to remove the pad to prevent
One of the big frustrations I
find when working on the vehicles with the large pad is when
the holes for removing the pad
screws were lined up with the
steering column, not giving me
enough room to get a screwdriver
into position to take the screw out.
My answer to that dilemma was to
have a short screwdriver for the
Phillips type and a torx that fit on
the end of a ¼ inch drive extension for the later models.
In addition to the before mentioned frustration is the fact that
this type of pad usually had wires
attached to the pad that had to be
removed to get the pad out of the
way. Some vehicles had one wire
and some had two wires, but they
usually entered a white plastic
holder with a spring beneath the
wire. You turn the body of the wire
counter-clockwise and you will feel
the spring. Lift the wire from the
holder and removed the spring.
Place the spring in a safe place
because you will need it to put
everything back together later.
The vehicle I worked with
here happened to be a Chevy
pickup with a small square horn
pad held in place with spring
retainers. This pad is easily
removed from the steering wheel
by placing a blade screwdriver
under the pad and popping it up.
Under the pad you will find the
horn mechanism, held in place
by three screws, (see photo 3).
Around the center post of the
column you may find a small snap
ring. Remove it with a reverse
action snap ring pliers, (see photo
4). I use two methods to get the
steering wheel off the post. My
favorite is to place both legs under
the steering wheel and lift up with
as much force as I can muster. I
rotate the pressure from left to
right to work the steering wheel
loose. This doesn’t always work,
Making Keys for the
Saginaw Steering Column
1. The Saginaw column.
2. The wing design lock.