Lock... or Crock?

Today, when I got home after work, it was time for that other perennial problem; that of the bust steering lock, to have my attention turned upon it. So, first of all it was the familiar process of unbolting and removing the steering wheel, steering column housing and steering column controls. I’ve done this so many times now that, I reckon I could probably apply to be the bloke in the pit crew who changes the windscreen wiper & indicator switches, when the next Formula One season starts.

Off with the steering wheel and switches - again!
Off with the steering wheel and switches - again!

With the steering column ‘ancilliaries’ [good word, eh?] removed, here for the first time, I present dramatic pictures, showing the full extent of the ‘hanging by a thread’ status of the existing steering lock.

Jubilee clip, holding the top together...
Jubilee clip, holding the top together...
...and the whole thing split in two right down the casing
...and the whole thing split in two right down the casing

I undid the hex bolt, holding the old steering lock in place and breathed softly on it - at which point it fell away from the steering wheel in two halves.

Here, readers can play 'spot the difference'.  Old steering lock on the left.  New steering lock on the right
Here, readers can play 'spot the difference'. Old steering lock on the left. New steering lock on the right

The next task was to remove the ignition barrel from the old steering lock and fit it into the new one. The ignition barrel locks into place with a spring loaded clip when you push it into the steering lock housing and has to be drilled out to be removed. According to the workshop manual, if I just drill a 3mm diameter hole so many mm down from the top and so many mm across from the edge of the steering lock housing, I’ll be able to stick a suitable pin [or suchlike] through the hole and press in the spring clip. Thus releasing the ignition barrel from the evil clutches of the steering lock.

D’you believe that one? - no. Me neither. But we might as well give it a go!

Treasure map [in the form of the workshop manual diagram] in the background.  And X marks the spot [I hope!]
Treasure map [in the form of the workshop manual diagram] in the background. And X marks the spot [I hope!]

The first exploratory hole drilled down a few mm without looking like it was about to reveal anything apart from my inability to find the place where I should have been drilling. Owing to the difficulty of drilling on a curved surface, I’d gone slightly off-target, so I decided to sink another shaft slightly more ‘on-centre’. This was more promising as the second hole broke through into a hollow section of the lock casing.

Initial drill hole.  Not quite in the centre of the X - and not going anywhere useful
Initial drill hole. Not quite in the centre of the X - and not going anywhere useful
Second drill hole.  That's more like it.  Secret passage revealed beneath!
Second drill hole. That's more like it. Secret passage revealed beneath!

I was now able to get a thin nail and sick it through the hole and see if I could feel anything to press. But, since I wasnae quite sure what I was feeling for, or how much of a press it wanted, it was a bit of a ‘wild spring chase’. In any event the ignition barrel stubbornly refused to pull out, no matter how much blind probing and pressing I did in my drill hole.

It was time to bring up the big guns! I got a mini cutting wheel from my pretend Dremel*, stuck it in my drill and cut a couple of grooves so I could peel back a bit more of the metal around the drill hole.

[* I actually call it ‘The Woolworth’s-Bloody-Workshop’ as those were the first disbelieving words out of my mouth when I opened the box and saw what brand it actually was. I bought it off eBay about a year ago from a guy with 100% feedback who described it as a ‘Dremel’ and cunningly arranged the photos so no identifying label was visible - Bastard! He then got chucked off eBay for ripping a load of other folk off, so I never got my money back and was stuck with a ‘Woolworth’s-Bloody-Workshop’ instead of a Dremel. It’s not bad actually. Does the job, but annoying in that it has two different chuck sizes for the available tools, so you’re constantly having to change chucks when moving from one tool to the other]

Mini cutting disc attached to my drill
Mini cutting disc attached to my drill
That's more like it.  Now the dugg can see the rabbit!
That's more like it. Now the dugg can see the rabbit!

After cutting a bigger hole with the disc, I could at last see the spring I was meant to be pressing down to release the ignition barrel. I could also get the blade of a screwdriver in so I could get a bit more weight on the spring. Didnae make any difference tho’. The ignition barrel still remained stubbornly stuck inside the steering lock housing.

It was time for more drastic measures; the mini cutting disc wasnae very efficient attached to my drill as the drill just disnae spin fast enough, so I grabbed my steering lock and legged it up to the flat and access to leccy, so I could stick the cutting disc in the ‘Woolworth’s-Bloody-Workshop’ itself [henceforth ‘WBW’] and use it in that at a decent RPM. The WBW made short work of the casing, but I had to cut out about halfway round it, before the ignition barrel came free. When it did, I saw why it had been so stubborn - it had been glued into place!

WBW makes short work of the casing
WBW makes short work of the casing
Ignition barrel, coated with the remains of the glue, which had been holding it in place
Ignition barrel, coated with the remains of the glue, which had been holding it in place

I cleaned up the ignition barrel with another WBW attachment - a mini wire brush and then fitted it into the new steering lock. After making sure first that it was going to fit, I gave it a few drops of superglue round the top of the casing before fitting it - just for added security and to ensure that the next person having to remove the barrel would have as much fun trying to do so as I had just had!

Barrel cleaned up with a mini wire brush on the WBW
Barrel cleaned up with a mini wire brush on the WBW
Barrel fitted into new steering lock
Barrel fitted into new steering lock

At this point I was on a roll. Surely the hardest part of the job was behind me and it would be plain sailing from now on?

Oh no. I wasnae to get off so lightly. I headed back down to the van and started fitting the steering lock over Herman’s steering column. It was proving a bit of a tight fit, due to the fact that the top of the steering column had been slightly dented by whatever scrote smashed the original steering lock. After sliding the steering lock about halfway into position, it got to the stage where it didnae want to go any further and I didnae want to force it, so I decided to pull it off again and rub a wee bit of grease on the steering column to help the lock slide into place easier.

Disaster! - as I pulled the steering lock off the column again, the clamp bit on the bottom just split and fell off in my hand. I couldnae fucking believe it! I’d ridden all that way to Trafford Park and back to pick up the new steering lock and the fucking thing had fallen apart before I’d even got it on the van. That’s what you get for buying cheapo parts. They probably have the things made in China from recycled tinfoil and sawdust.

It was too late now to go back to GSF again and ask for a replacement and anyway - even if I did get a replacement or a refund, I’d still have to go through that whole fucking palaver of drilling out the ignition barrel again and fitting it into yet another steering lock! Furthermore, what’s to say the replacement part wouldnae turn out to be just as big a pile of shite as the one I’d just bought? I decided just to bolt it into place for the meantime and then ponder upon what to do next, over a bottle of Guinness Export.

One thing’s for sure tho’ - it’s the last time I buy anything from GSF. If that’s any indication of the quality of metal they use for their parts, I dread to think what might happen if you scored something safety-critical like a brake cylinder or steering linkage from them.

Best quality tinfoil - only from GSF!
Best quality tinfoil - only from GSF!
New steering lock in place.  Disnae look too bad from this side...
New steering lock in place. Disnae look too bad from this side...
...but that ain't good, at all!
...but that ain't good, at all!

Once bolted in place, the steering lock actually held in position fairly well, although you could still feel a bit of wiggle in it and I had no faith whatsoever that it would stand up to the rigours of carrying out its day-to-day ‘locking of the steering wheel’ duties - never mind resisting the unwanted attentions of your friendly neighborhood car thief.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode to find out how I attempt to recover from this latest kick in the knackers!

Meta TAGS: steering lock
ORIGINAL PUBLICATION DATE: 18 Mar 2009
AUTHOR: stíobhart matulevicz