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> Ford Mustang Locking Steering Columns - Understanding Locking Steering Columns
post Dec 16 2010, 06:30 PM
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In 1970, Ford Began Fitting Mustangs With Locking Steering Columns To Improve Vehicle Security
From the December, 2010 issue of Mustang Monthly
By Jim Smart
Photography by Jim Smart

Nearly a century ago, automobile security began with door and ignition locks. As the bad guys became more creative, automakers, along with Washington and insurance companies, had to become even smarter, with the federal government mandating anti-theft locking steering columns for the '70 model year. General Motors got the jump, installing locking steering columns in '69 along with a key reminder buzzer.

With Ford locking steering columns, the ignition lock cylinder is located at the top of the column, just below the steering wheel, while the actual ignition switch is located below the collar on the column tube, activated by a simple linkage. The steering wheel locking mechanism is located in the collar just below the steering wheel. A long tube within the steering column with a lever at the steering gear is what keeps the transmission selector in Park (automatic transmissions) or Reverse (manual transmissions) when the ignition is turned off and locked. It's harder to steal a car in Park or Reverse.

In their most basic form, there's not much to locking steering columns. Ford started employing collapsible steering columns in 1968, which makes '68-'69 columns identical in appearance and function. Beginning in '70, locking anti-theft steering columns became a federal mandate, which was spearheaded by the insurance companies.

Although Ford locking steering columns went through minor revisions during the 1970s, their basic function changed little, many in the area of safety. The design of collapsible steering columns changed in the years following 1970 as more was learned about crashes and their effects on occupants. As we examine '70-'78 Ford locking steering columns, we learn that '70 was a stand-alone column for one year only. Model years '71-'72 had the same column, with minor changes at the end of '72 that continued through '73. For '74-'78, there were two types of locking steering columns-one more like '73 for '74-'75 and another in '76-'78 with the windshield wiper switch located in the turn signal lever.

For this article, we're going to focus the function of fixed (non-tilt) '70-'78 Mustang steering columns. In a later issue, we'll show how to rebuild a '70-'78 locking steering column-both fixed and tilt.

As mentioned earlier, '70 is a stand-alone locking steering column. Although '71-'78 columns are virtually the same at the collar, Ford located the ignition switch farther down the column to move it under the dashboard and out of harm's way, making access more difficult for thieves. For '70, the linear-actuated ignition switch is tied directly to the ignition lock actuator just below the collar. The transmission lock operates via a tube within a tube to the moving collar just below the fixed collar. The tube and collar, which are hidden by a plastic sleeve, move to the locked position when automatics are placed in Park or manual transmissions are placed in Reverse. The actuator pin mechanism moves into the rotating collar, locking the transmission in Reverse or Park.

Although a locking steering column appears very complex, it is actually quite simple. When you turn the key, you're working a mechanism that turns rotary motion into a linear (back and forth) motion. The ignition lock cylinder turns a drive gear meshed into a rack gear known as the actuator. The gear rack is connected to a rod tied to the ignition switch located just below the collar for '70.

Although we're not going into detail about tilt columns in this article, this is a '70 locking tilt column. What makes the locking feature different on a tilt is the upper actuator, which is shorter on a tilt column. Otherwise, the locking mechanism works the same way.

This is a '70 steering column collar, which is identical to '71-'73. The upper actuator includes a spring-loaded tool-steel pin that locks the steering wheel when the ignition switch is in the off position. It is spring-loaded so you can turn off the ignition even if the steering wheel pin alignment hole isn't lined up with the pin. Move the steering wheel and hear the "click," which indicates alignment of pin and hole to lock the steering wheel.

For '70, the linear-actuated ignition switch is located just below the collar. When you turn the key to start, the rod is fully depressed into the ignition switch. Don't assume that all '70-'78 ignition switches are the same. They are not. Check the Ford Master Parts catalog for the correct switch for your application.

Here's the safety part of the '70 collapsible steering column. In a collision, these aluminum attachment points shear or break as the column collapses, thereby minimizing driver injury.

This is the collapsible section of the steering column tube. For '70, it looks like this with a molded on plastic wrap. In the years to follow, it would become a taped on cylindrical plastic wrap.

This lever at the bottom of the column locks an automatic transmission in Park or a manual transmission in Reverse whenever the ignition is turned off. The lever moves an inner tube tied to the rotary part of the steering column collar. When you place the automatic shift selector in Park or a manual transmission in Reverse, you are moving this lever, which turns the tube and collar to line up a slot with the upper actuator. Once the slot and actuator are lined up, the transmission is locked. It cannot be locked in any other gear but Park (automatic) or Reverse (manual).

Here's a '71 fixed steering column. Aside from the firewall flange and ignition switch location, the column is virtually identical to '70. In fact, from '70-'78, collars are all the same except for minor cosmetic differences.

This is the locking collar mechanism for '71-'72 - identical to '70 except for the turn signal switch. This ignition switch is in the off position with lock pin extended.

This is the bottom of the '71-'72 fixed column, which shows a Torino/Fairlane-style firewall flange instead of the smaller '69-'70 Mustang/Cougar-style.

Here's the '73 fixed column, which is a stand-alone. Aside from differences in ignition switch and turn signal switches, this column is identical from '71-'72.

The '74-'78 Mustang II steering column has the same collar as '70-'73. Where it differs is the collapsible tube in terms of design and length because it's actually the Pinto's short column with a universal joint instead of a rag joint. At the steering wheel end, it looks and works the same as '70-'73. Beginning in '76, the Mustang II's turn signal stalk got a windshield wiper switch.

This is the late '72 into '73 collar and turn signal switch. Again, check the Ford Master Parts Catalog for the correct turn signal switch for your Mustang.

Here's the late-'72 into '73 steering column and ignition switch. It's challenging to see much of a difference from '71-'72.

This is the lock actuator, D4AZ-3E723-A, for a fixed '70-'78 steering column. There's little to wear out here, which means these actuators almost never need to be replaced. The tool steel pin is spring-loaded to ride the steering wheel until it clicks into place, locking the steering wheel.

Here's the D1AZ-3E723-C lock actuator for a '70-'73 tilt steering column, which is shorter to clear the tilt mechanism.

Removing The Ignition Lock Cylinder
Removing the ignition lock cylinder is the same from '70-'78. Like '65-'69 Mustangs, you need the key for ignition lock cylinder removal. Turn the ignition key to "on" and insert a paper clip into the hole as shown. The lock cylinder should come right out. Just grab it by the ears and give it a yank. This gives you access to the locking mechanism. You can turn the lock mechanism with a common screwdriver.

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