C3 Corvette Tilt-Telescopic Steering Column Repair

1982 Corvette restoration by Mark Trotta

After a nice August morning cruise, I stopped by a friend's house for a visit. Upon leaving, I got in my 1982 Corvette, put the key in the ignition, and turned it forward. Nothing. I turned the key back and tried it again. Nothing, not even the usual resistance that should spring the key back.

My first thought was the key cylinder had broken. After all, the car was 30 years old. Little did I know I was in for a crash course in Corvette tilt-telescope steering column repair.

After I removed the steering wheel, I soon realized this was going to be a long repair. I unbolted the drivers seat from underneath the car and removed it. This gave more working room.

Steering Column Disassembly

Inside the steering column, there is a small plastic gear that is turned by the lock cylinder. That gear engages the ignition switch actuator rack. The rack then engages a rod that extends down under the dash to the ignition switch.

Hours were spent taking stuff out of the tilt-telescopic steering column before I saw the small, geared die-cast rack. Mine had broken into three pieces inside the steering column.

C3 Corvette Ignition Switch Actuator Rack

This ignition switch actuator rack is offered by most aftermarket Corvette suppliers, and fits 1969 to 1996 models.

C3 Corvette tilt-telescopic steering column repair

The turn signal switch, ignition key warning buzzer switch, lock cylinder, ignition switch housing, and the column support bracket had to be removed.

C3 Corvette tilt-telescopic steering column repair

There's two housing pivot pins (left and right) that require an inexpensive specialty tool. I bought mine from Ecklers (#53386) It works for all 1969-1982 Corvette models. The photo below shows the tool needed to remove the pins.

C3 Corvette steering column pin removal tool

C3 Corvette tilt-telescopic steering column repair

C3 Corvette tilt-telescopic steering column repair

Steering Column Reassembly

Once the ignition switch is back in, the turn signal switch can be reinstalled (I intentionally left out the ignition key warning buzzer).

After attaching the turn signal switch housing to the bearing housing with three screws, attach the spring clip to the key warning buzzer and insert the assembly into the turn signal housing.

It's a good idea to replace the old turn signal switch while it's accessible. I was able to pull the switch through the lower column by taping up the wires. The wires can then be "fished" down through the column. The switch is held down with three screws.

C3 Corvette turn signal switch installation

Seems like all GM column-mounted dimmer switches have either three or four electrical contact blades. Corvettes used three blades. (The fourth blade was for flash-to-pass). The C3 wiring harness will connect to either one.

Removing the parts, replacing the actuator rack, and re-installing the parts is about a 30-step procedure. I took my time and did this project in five sessions, about 10 to 12 hours in all.

C3 Corvette tilt-telescopic steering column repair

Back on the road!

1982 Corvette

back to 1982 Corvette Restoration

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Classic Car Repair, C3 Corvette Steering Column - article by Mark Trotta