Power Steering: Not As You Know It!

Isaiah Estrada

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Call me crazy, but I guess sometimes it’s nice to embrace modern convenience and perhaps even more practical technology than the aging technology of yesteryear.

I guess what I’m saying is, a guy put an idea into my head that actually makes sense and sounds pretty cool if done properly. Someone who stopped by where my 68 is said “I’d ditch that power steering setup and go with the electric steering from a Prius.” I thought he was BS’ing me, but come to find out this is actually a pretty popular swap among guys restoring their own classics?

In order to make the swap work, you definitely need some fab skill - but it seems to be worth it. Now me, personally I’m too far into this to go a different direction. Had I heard of this swap earlier I may have pursued it and actually tried to make it happen for the car! Though it may not be too late, as it’s still possible.

The benefit of this setup is eliminating the HP that tradition PS pumps use up on our engines. Though any gain is minimal, it’s still nice to also eliminate the possibility of a failing PS pump also… No more leaks! Plus, there are millions of these cars out there. Looking more into it, there’s even a great article on motor trend highlighting the install of this very swap onto a classic car.

You’d basically need the column, power steering motor, and ECU from a donor Prius. I forgot to add that this comes from a 2nd gen (04-09) car. Usually the whole setup can be had for about $250. Not too shabby if you ask me.

The only thing stopping me from actually doing this (since my car is DEFINITELY not all original) is the fact that I’d need a manual steering box. I guess there’s a way to bypass your normal PS box but I don’t like the idea of it at all. Unless by some chance I’m able to score a correct C Body manual steering unit, I’m sticking to the original setup designed by Ma Mopar. But that still doesn’t mean some other Mopar I’ll get my filthy mitts on won’t fall victim to this swap…

https://www.motortrend.com/how-to/150-electric-power-steering-junkyard-prius-delivers/


In my head too, it’s also just a cleaner look for your engine, no big ugly power steering pump in the way! Obviously, if I was doing some kind of points restoration - it would not be considered. However, I want my 68 to just be a fun family car and cruiser - something even my wife can feel comfortable driving. It’s why I’ve went ahead and upgraded to the 72 Disc Brakes and am basically doing any other safety upgrade I can. Sure, the long wait sucks and I’m dying to drive this thing but I guess it will also be so worth it to have a nice functional and practical car even!
 
The only thing stopping me from actually doing this (since my car is DEFINITELY not all original) is the fact that I’d need a manual steering box
The issue with the stock manual steering is it has a really large ratio, 24:1 versus the 15.7:1 power steering ratio. There are 20:1 and 16:1 manual steering boxes available, but I don't believe they are readily available with the larger sector shaft you'll need.

To give you an example, the PS box has about 3.5 turns "lock to lock" and the 24:1 manual steering is about 5 turns.

The slower ratio is going to make the steering really sluggish and I really doubt if you are going to like driving it.

The stock manual steering is pretty reliable as it sits and it's not that hard (usually) to eliminate any leaks. Some guys will use a Saginaw pump, which may be a little better and has easier to adjust brackets. It's all time and money though.
 
As it has evolved, the Prius system is NOT the only electric power steering system around. It might have been the first one that many used/adapted to their cars, but the another company or two has devised and sells power steering kits for the street rod-type vehicles. Google "electric power steering" to find them.

In these kits, the original steering column is removed and sectioned to remove a few inches of the internal steering shaft (and related surrounding items) so the motor assy can go in that space. Reassemble the column and install.

This type of kit is very adaptive and has many applications, while maintaining the stock look of things. No different steering wheels, etc.

The electric power assist works from a reversible motor attached to the steering column by a rubber belt. As the steering wheel is turned, the motor assists the turning. I'm not sure how turning is detected, to initiate and power the assistance, especially on an older vehicle with no steering wheel position sensor, but obviously they have that worked out.

The main thing about this type of system is space behind the instrument cluster and in front of the cowl. Which could make it more adaptable to a 1950s and earlier vehicle rather than a middle 1960s and later vehicle, I suspect. That's as far I my own research has gotten.

On the OEM level, the Prius is NOT the only vehicle with that system. GM pickups have had it for close to 10 years now. In the first year, sometimes it seemed like I could feel a very slight lag between when the wheel was turned and the assist started. Usually on sweeping curves where little wheel turning was needed. Sometimes I could feel it (after keying on this situation) and other times not. If the wheel was turned for normal turns and curves, I could not detect any such lag. Later models had that little quirk tuned-out. Basically, if ANY vehicle has "parallel parking assist functions", it has electric power steering. I later learned that Dodge pickups have had it for many years, too. One of those things not discovered unless one looks! Of course, all EVs will have it.

I have not read of any electrical generation upgrades needed for these systems, either from adapters or the companies selling the systems. Obviously, I suspect that something more than the older 42amp alternators might be needed?

@Big_John makes a VERY valid point on the gear ratios! One of the things which makes driving a Chrysler product from the 1960s is the quicker steering, which also lets the torsion bar front suspension (and its flatter cornering of the times) feel so good. If somebody could find an appropriate manual gearbox with 2.5-3.0 turns side-to-side to go with the EPS system, for an affordable price, then the "chicken dinner winner" could appear.

UNTIL that happens, we have the tried and true hydraulic system we've had for decades, unless individuals can get creative and move past the Prius system to something else "in the salvage yards" from another OEM, even a Mopar Family Member.

In one respect, I would have suspected that Borgeson might have an offering in this arena by now. Perhaps in the nearer future?

Just some thoughts,
CBODY67
 
Ummm.... You have PS.
You scrape knuckles, fabricate, modify, curse and swear.
And you end up with PS.
I don't understand.
 
I'd leave it as it sits, I love one finger steering. No need for foreign crap to take the place of an already proven system.
 
Call me crazy, but I guess sometimes it’s nice to embrace modern convenience and perhaps even more practical technology than the aging technology of yesteryear.

I guess what I’m saying is, a guy put an idea into my head that actually makes sense and sounds pretty cool if done properly. Someone who stopped by where my 68 is said “I’d ditch that power steering setup and go with the electric steering from a Prius.” I thought he was BS’ing me, but come to find out this is actually a pretty popular swap among guys restoring their own classics?

In order to make the swap work, you definitely need some fab skill - but it seems to be worth it. Now me, personally I’m too far into this to go a different direction. Had I heard of this swap earlier I may have pursued it and actually tried to make it happen for the car! Though it may not be too late, as it’s still possible.

The benefit of this setup is eliminating the HP that tradition PS pumps use up on our engines. Though any gain is minimal, it’s still nice to also eliminate the possibility of a failing PS pump also… No more leaks! Plus, there are millions of these cars out there. Looking more into it, there’s even a great article on motor trend highlighting the install of this very swap onto a classic car.

You’d basically need the column, power steering motor, and ECU from a donor Prius. I forgot to add that this comes from a 2nd gen (04-09) car. Usually the whole setup can be had for about $250. Not too shabby if you ask me.

The only thing stopping me from actually doing this (since my car is DEFINITELY not all original) is the fact that I’d need a manual steering box. I guess there’s a way to bypass your normal PS box but I don’t like the idea of it at all. Unless by some chance I’m able to score a correct C Body manual steering unit, I’m sticking to the original setup designed by Ma Mopar. But that still doesn’t mean some other Mopar I’ll get my filthy mitts on won’t fall victim to this swap…

https://www.motortrend.com/how-to/150-electric-power-steering-junkyard-prius-delivers/


In my head too, it’s also just a cleaner look for your engine, no big ugly power steering pump in the way! Obviously, if I was doing some kind of points restoration - it would not be considered. However, I want my 68 to just be a fun family car and cruiser - something even my wife can feel comfortable driving. It’s why I’ve went ahead and upgraded to the 72 Disc Brakes and am basically doing any other safety upgrade I can. Sure, the long wait sucks and I’m dying to drive this thing but I guess it will also be so worth it to have a nice functional and practical car even!

There are plenty electric power steering pumps on the market actually. I've meditated on using one myself, just as I like electric water pumps, fans, and oil pumps. By all means, using electric accessories certainly frees up power to deliver to the drivetrain, at the price of depending more on electrical power. This is why I don't much like the idea. Electrical systems CAN fail, and that can shut you down if the electric source fails.

Still, given time and resources, I might electrify my accessories, or even the drivetrain itself at some point, when such eventually gets mandated. I've looked at THAT option recently, and think about $5k with electrical knowhow will suffice. I just need to print that 5 Large I reckon..... :)
 
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