Willys Jeep: One Tough S.O.B. (Steering On Badger)

In Jeep by J Michel Metz1 Comment

Today was the first day in a long time that I’ve 1) been home and 2) the weather has been nice enough to actually get some work done on Honey Badger. Over the New Year break I had managed to get some new parts and tools to help get some work done on the civilian Jeep and I’ve been itching to make some progress.

Key phrase: “some.”

It seems like ages ago now that I was starting to take the Jeep apart. The Steering Wheel/Column/Box assembly was one of those things that was going to be a major PITA.

Oh, so naive. So, so naive...

Oh, so naive. So, so naive…

In theory, it’s possible to remove the steering wheel and lift the body tub by removing about 8 bolts from the frame. You just remove the steering wheel, the gearshift knobs, the bolts, and lift the tub back and away from the chassis.

In theory.

In reality, when I started looking at a couple of things, I realized that Badger was going to have some pretty big problems to fix. It seems quaint now, thinking about how I just needed to remove “one or two” things to get to what I had hoped to be simple fixes at the time.

First, there were the bolts that held the chassis to the frame…

See any bolt there? Nope. Neither do I.

See any bolt there? Nope. Neither do I.

Then there was the “hidden” bolt that I couldn’t get to from underneath, and had to find it from inside the tub:

Uh, don't see where it is.

Uh, don’t see where it is.

Looking closer, I realized that there was very little “there” there:

I don't think this can chemically be called "metal" at this point.

I don’t think this can chemically be called “metal” at this point.

Realizing that I was going to have to replace that part of the tub anyway, I went ahead and figured out where the bolt was trapped under the body and cut out a piece to disconnect it.


Found you.

That doesn’t mean getting it out was going to be easy, either.

Not easy grabbing onto that sucker.

Not easy grabbing onto that sucker.

So, once the bolts were (ahem) removed, all I needed to do was remove the steering wheel in order to separate the tub from the chassis.

Right? Think again. The steering wheel was stuck, big-time:

A "little" stuck.

A “little” stuck.

No amount of WD-40, heat, time, or cursing got the steering wheel off the column, however, which meant that I was going to have to disassemble the worm gear from the steering box.

That meant removing the front fender to get access to the steering box. Fortunately, Jeep fenders are intended to be bolted onto the frame. Unfortunately, someone had welded the fenders to Badger’s frame, and had to be cut off.

Yeah, that's going to need replacing too.

Yeah, that’s going to need replacing too.

Of course, that meant that there was going to have to be some additional cleanup work done to the frame:

Learning how to use the cutting tool very quickly.

Learning how to use the cutting tool very quickly.

As it turns out, it was a good thing that the fender had been welded to the frame (I suppose), because the only thing holding it to the tub was an intense amount of Bondo.

Not reusable either.

Not reusable either.

Well, at least the steering box was accessible. But did you really want to access this!?

This is why you don't put grease in the steering box.

This is why you don’t put grease in the steering box.

I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

Worm gears and grease

Worm gears and grease

Finally loose, I was able to lift the steering column out through the tub and separate it from Jeep, along with  a few other parts.

Steering column and friends

Steering column and friends

Amazingly, despite all the other calamities that were surrounding the steering column, the wheel itself was in very good shape.

It's not common to see an original wheel in this good condition

It’s not common to see an original wheel in this good condition

I just needed to get it separated from the column. Obviously, being the only thing that seemed worth salvaging, and being rare to have one that was in good condition, I really wanted to save it. I’m not sure that I can save the rest of the column, although perhaps the worm shaft can be saved, because of a split in the metal column at the bottom that I don’t think is supposed to be there (but don’t know for sure).

This makes me noivus

This makes me noivus

I tried going to Harbor Freight and buying a steering wheel puller, but evidently it wasn’t made to take on cars as old as Badger.

Fast forward to this past New Year, and I bought a puller specifically made for Willys Jeeps of my era. I was a bit taken aback by the cost ($85) but when I got it I was thrilled to find out that it was very sturdy.

Heavy Duty steering wheel puller

Heavy Duty steering wheel puller

The puller set weighs over 3 lbs (even though it might not look nearly that heavy in the photo). The metal parts are welded together and I have to say, I was impressed.

So, reading the instructions carefully, I assembled the equipment around the head of the steering wheel, made sure that the bolts were even, and prepared myself to get the steering wheel to ‘pop’ off.


Before attempting to remove the wheel…


Well, gentle reader, you can pretty much guess what happened next.

Badger 1, J 0.

This is one tough steering wheel. After working through with lots more WD-40 I slowly and carefully worked through the pulling bolt.

The steering wheel laughed in my general direction

The steering wheel laughed in my general direction

After removing the puller, I looked at the wheel to see if it budged at all.



And so, the last hope that I had for keeping the original steering wheel for Badger just got twisted and warped out of reality, just like the puller itself.

There's a metaphor here, I know it.

There’s a metaphor here, I know it.

Finding Solace in Brake Lines

It’s a bit discouraging, to be sure. I decided that I would go to work on some of the brakelines instead, since I had also received some T-junctions as part of my holiday Jeep loot.

Small victories

Small victories

I needed to get a T-junction to connect the rear brake lines, and I think it looks pretty nice, myself.

The leg bone connects to the, knee bone...

The leg bone connects to the, knee bone…

I’m not 100% sure, though, if I have the support rings in the right place, though. I mean, I believe that there’s only one place it can go for the rear passenger side:

Rear passenger side brake line

Rear passenger side brake line

But I can’t help but wonder if the driver’s side is too close to the differential, or if it should be symmetrical to the passenger side. Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated.

Too close?

Too close?

Here’s the thing: it fits, and there is some give in the rotation of the line (before the ring was placed, especially), but I’m concerned about what might happen as the Jeep’s suspension moves through it’s natural range of motion. Again, I’m open to advice here.

In any case, I was going to finish the front brake lines as well, when I realized that I couldn’t find the brake flex hoses for the front. I tore apart every place I could think of, but I have a sneaking suspicion they either got placed with Porkchop (who is getting his own brakes looked at by a mechanic at this point in time), or accidentally thrown out. This is particularly annoying as they were replacement hoses for a first set that went missing.

Oh well. Plodding onward.



  1. Pingback: Willys Jeep: Badger Engine and Steering Improvements (Pictorial) | J Metz's Blog

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