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Saturn Electric Power Steering In A Datsun 280Z


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  • 2 months later...

Great write-up, socorob...thx very much.


To answer your question regarding 240 racks; yes, they will fit later years, but you'll need different bushings.  The 240 steering rack bushings are narrower than the 280's.  I'm assuming you want the earlier rack for the different steering ratio?

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Yes,  I have the shorter steering knuckles, and the smaller Datsun competition wheel, so thats helped a lot. I don't know if also going to a 240 rack (not like they're even available in good shape) may be too much.

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@socorob, I'm using the same electronic controller as you, the one from Bruno in Italy, I have about 800 miles on the car since I installed it and it just died on me, it was out of warranty so had to buy another. The symptons are, full on pwr/steering or no pwr/steering at all, sometimes it is on and sometimes not, the dimmer switch has no effect but I tested the switch itself and it is working fine. Just a heads up, full pwr/steering came on while I was on the highway, scared the crap out of me, I thought the steering shaft had let go.

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Mine did that, it would go on and off.  Email Bruno, he will give you some suggestions for testing. My problem ended up being the connector in my fuse block that I powered the bruno box with. The connector wasn't snapped into the fuse block very well apparently, so it was sliding out the bottom of the fuse block. The tension and other wires wouldn't let it come out all the way, so it mainly was making contact and working fine. Every once in a while it would go off. Of course I started at the other end with my meter taking harnesses apart to try to find where the break was. If I would have started at the fuse, I would have found it in 10 seconds. Just had to take the fuse box off and snap the connector all the way back in from underneath, and has worked perfectly since. My problem was nothing to do with his controller. I bet if you open his box, there probably is only a few dollars worth of components in there that you could resolder to try. Maybe the Potentiometer went bad, did you test that? If you open the box, please post some pictures of it here.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm following in socorob's foot steps. 


I think it would be appropriate to add things here. If you want me to make my own thread I'm happy to do so, but I think adding onto this may be useful.


So some things I've found:


That joint from woodward steering isn't really sold anywhere else. You have to order it through them, and they do not have an online store so you have to call them or e-mail them to order.

Joint was $86.25. about $70 for the part and apparently the remaining was shipping. Not bad for the exact piece you need.


The R18Z bearing is a 1-1/8 inch ID, 2-1/8 inch OD bearing.

The R18 is the designation for the bearing dimensions the Z stands for single shield, 2Z or ZZ stands for double shield. They have a variant with I think R as in R18R which has a rubber seal instead of the metal shield.  If you were being super correct about it you would probably order an R18 open, weld as needed, and then fill the bearings with grease and close it off with boots on both ends.


Socorob also put in a butt load of work finding that exhaust pipe and part number. Strangely enough the 2-1/8th inch OD for the bearing makes finding a tube with an ID of a similar size very difficult to find. My local supplier has it in stock, but wants $20+ per foot. You can buy a thick wall tube of smaller diameter and use the correct bit to ream it out to 2/18 at the depth of the bearing and find a cap for a perfect fit, but most likely not worth the effort. 


You can order the 3/4 DD shaft in 18 inch length on amazon which seems almost perfect.


The bruno controller can be purchased on ebay for $45 + 10$ shipping. I would suggest picking this up potentially soon if you have any thoughts. He seems to be populating/building a website and the prices are quite a bit higher at $85 for the basic controller. He also seems to be adjusting prices as some prices changed over the weekend. The website is epowersteering.com if I'm not mistaken.


He also offers 3 options for just the controller:

One is the basic kit with the separate potentiometer.

Two is the advance kit which has a built in potentiometer.

Three is the pro kit which has no potentiometer. This one apparently reads input and adjusts the assistance.

In an e-mail conversation he suggested sticking with the basic kit for spirited driving. Most likely a savings over the advanced kit and the pro kit has a delay before reacting which may throw someone who is doing a quick correction off as the effort varies in say a fast chicane.


Hoping to order the last of the parts and grab some columns tomorrow. I have a stock column that I'll be making a jig off of and using thanks to zetsaz



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Will do, I think I already made a mistake with the 18" DD rod might not be enough room for the groove on the shaft as it already has one back there. Hopefully I can flip it.


So my experience with the saturn column so far...


I went to the pick and pull which had 3 Vue's on the yard. When searching make sure to search the Vue Hybrid/Greenline as they don't come up as interchange with just the simple Vue.


Of the 3, none had their columns. These are fairly hot ticket items if you look on ebay, they are almost all selling over $100, and they usually don't include the output shaft, which if you source will find it is about $70 per joint or over $140 just for the 2 joints. I found a local wrecking yard that had several that were listed at $65, so that may be an option. The key is some people know these are in demand, the thing is the yards are still pricing them at the cost of a steering column compared to a power steering rack so they can be had for ~$50 so there is a good margin for the junk yard divers. If you can just get the column PnP charges ~$45 if you can't pull the steering wheel off you are going to be looking at $65, if you can't get the air bag out you are going to be looking at $80. 


I found that they had just stocked a new Vue on the yard on memorial day, so I ran in today in the morning to pull it. 


To remove the column:

Remove the 2x 3/32 screws on the lower left and lower right of the dash cover. That should let you pull the lower grey dash panel.

To access the 2 bolts to drop the tilt column you will need to remove the black bottom steering column cover to get the right bolt of of the two.

The cover is held by 3x 1/16 screws. You may want to get 1/4 socket sizes with an extension as one is fairly recessed.

With the cover off you can either drop the motor or drop the column. 

Before that first trace the wires from the motor as they will get in the way. The main power wire can be traced to the battery. It has an inline fuse, you can pull the wire and snake it all the way through with some tugging. The ground wire is not easily visible but is grounded I believe to the support clamp, I just cut this wire. Trace the input harness, it goes up and to the left before it encounters a thick bundle. You can either spend the time to undo the harness or cut a pigtail where they meet.

With the wires out of the way you can access the tilt column bolts or the single long column support bolt. They are all 1/2 inch.

The single long column bolt I think is hard to access with the motor in the way so pull the tilt column first. One bolt either side of the column. I suggest getting your socket onto the bolts and then attaching a longer extension. The bolts are really tight and it was slightly difficult to manage getting a socket on.

Once the tilt column is released the motor will be able to swing on the support bolt which goes across from driver to passenger. With the motor swung down you have more access to the support bolt. Get it started and REMOVE the ratchet, the bolt is 5 inches or longer and will not back out before the ratchet runs into the dash. Loosen the bolt by hand. If you can support the motor once it is loose you should be able to pull the bolt out. I didn't know what it looked like so I backed it out incredibly slowly.

With that done the column should be loose except for some electrical connectors, a few on the steering column for the column switches and one big one to the ignition switch.

With the column completely loose you can undo the 1/2 bolt for the steering joint. Back it all the way out and give the column a nice tug and it should release. Make sure to put the bolt back in so you don't have to source another bolt.


For the steering shaft you already have one side free, you can access the other side by rotating the shaft until the bolt lines up with the wheel well. With a long extension I was able to line it up so I could access the bolt from the front driver wheel well. With that 1/2 inch bolt removed go inside and give the shaft a nice tug and it will come out, once again make sure to replace the bolt. 


Put both of these shafts together so they don't try and ding you for having two shafts. The steering wheel will take more looking into, but it looks like it may be held on by 2 torx or star bit heads on the back of the wheel. Will report back with how it comes off. 


To save yourself some money, pulling the steering wheel is not the most difficult thing and could be attempted before removing the column. 


If the key is in the ignition you are in luck you can attempt this pretty early on. If it is not you will have to remove the two screws holding the combination switches which is metric which will then allow you to remove the ignition switch and the lock I believe.


Turn the steering wheel so you can access two of the triangular slots at a time roughly point the steering wheel at 10 o clock to get access to the left two, turn it to 2 o clock to access the right two.


The air bag is held in by 4 posts with a cutout


The cutouts in the post are secured by a spring wire


In the back cover of the steering wheel there are 4 triangular shaped grooves


These 4 grooves allow access to the spring wire.


Getting a fair sized flat head screw driver at least 4 inches long and with a fairly large head about 1/4 of an inch or larger you can slide into the groove running along the edge closer to the shaft and turn the screw driver towards the longer side of the triangle, this pulls the wire out of the way of the post, supplying some pressure will allow you to slip the post past the cutout. 


Repeat for all 4 posts and you can remove the air bag.


The air bag has two connectors, 1 yellow and 1 red. If you are in a JY the battery should be disconnected and as far as I know there is no risk in removing these if that is the case. The yellow tab has a locking tab removing that allows you to free that clip. Red one can be just pulled and that should fall off as well.


A 13/16 nut holds the steering wheel on you can loosen this and attempt to do the hammer method making sure to leave the nut on and hammer the wheel at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock and hit it hard enough it should release the friction from the splines and allow you to tug it off the nut is on there so you don't hit yourself in the face.


If that fails you can undo the 2 torx T20 screws between the 4 slots in the back of the wheel to loosen the rear cover, with the combination switches removed this will let you slide the assembly down and leave you with the metal base. This will give you room to get a traditional pulley puller if you don't want to use the proprietary steering wheel puller from GM.




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The woodward joint has two grub screws with what almost appear to be drilling ends on them, you may be able to get away without notching them, but it would be a much better sense of security to do so as socorob suggests and probably some loc-tite of the blue variety would not go amiss.


The 3/4"DD rod actually comes with a slot on one end for the bolt end that goes on the saturn steering shaft side so you can buy the 18" one and trim it down to the correct measurement before notching the joint for the grub screws on the other end.

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I left the ground connection on and reused it, and also fished the power wire with the inline fuse all the way to the battery, and reused all that too. That let me use the proper fuse. It's fairly easy to pull the Saturn columns. On 1 of the 2 cars I pulled them from I lucked out as someone had pulled the engine already, so everything was in the open. The pullapart in Baton Rouge only charged me $45 each with the steering wheel, airbag, everything still attached. Down here I don't thin many people were using these, at least at the time. I've seen several and never saw one missing the column.

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I couldn't quite make out what the ground was grounding to, I imagine a ring terminal to the support bracket? I also didn't realize how the power cable was routed so I cut that, but I grabbed both ends so I'll put them together and try to use the stock line for power which saves me some trouble. 


Part of me thinks they may have charged me for the switches as the register said $65 for column with air bag, and the total was $80+ I'll have to look at the receipt. It isn't a screaming bargain, but still cheaper than piecing the parts together on ebay. The wreckers haven't gotten back to me so no news on that front.


Currently stuck on freeing the punched section of the collapsible portion and waiting on bearings to arrive.

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  • 1 year later...

Hopefully you don't mind me adding my experience today. Didn't use anything except the saturn vue column and a 77 280z column. I figured a few more pictures of different setups in the thread is always helpful.










I cut down the saturn telescoping joint so it would fully collapse and removed the thicker bottom portion of the female portion as well as turning it down about 1mm so it could pass through the datsun bearing at the firewall. Making it collapse fully let me just expand it to whatever length I needed without worrying about measuring the section behind the power steering motor.






Then I could weld the original u-joint to the saturn telescoping joint, and pass the whole thing through the original firewall mount after grinding down the welds.






Because the power steering motor was free in the rear, it wasn't as solid as I would like. Particularly the steering wheel could have tilted up because it was only held in with the two mounting screws under the dash. So I added an extra brace that seemed to stiffen it up nicely. Washers are a little sloppy I know, but it works and lets me adjust tension.




All back together, doesn't stick out too much. I did remove the control box and bolted it to a thick aluminum plate as a heatsink under the dash.




Seems to work just fine, haven't had a chance to drive it, I'll update tomorrow.


Edited by Fridge Gnome
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I do love it. That was a fantastic and fairly easy and cheap mod. It definitely has slightly different left and right bias, but its not very noticeable for me. I'll fix it next time I'm under the dash. Makes parking a breeze and doesn't seem to be twitchy on interstates either.

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On 5/30/2018 at 10:37 PM, seattlejester said:

The woodward joint has two grub screws with what almost appear to be drilling ends on them, you may be able to get away without notching them, but it would be a much better sense of security to do so as socorob suggests and probably some loc-tite of the blue variety would not go amiss.

Just as an FYI, Woodward shafts have a groove on the splines this grub screw locks into.  Their u-joint design has enough clearance so that if you have two of their joints you can remove the shaft without having to remove the joint.  You can see on the following post. 


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