Bench testing a tilt away motor

Does any one have any insight on properly bench testing a tilt away motor.

The kill switch is easy to test by checking continuity. The vacuum portion can be tested just by putting your mouth to it and holding the rod to see how well it pulls. Often all that it needs is to unscrew the lid, clean and lubricated with white lithium grease.

Well… I went through the tilt components, relay tests ok although I will probably replace with the repro, vaccuum solenoid releases when power is applied, the vaccuum motor doesn’t seem to pull very hard (I am going to take Dons advice and grease the inside hopefully that will swell the seal enough to take and hold vaccuum), and the safety switch tests ok. I was able to pull on the cable and sure enough it tilted away, has any one experienced binding of the cable or a cable in need of lubrication??? The reason I ask is that when I pull the wheel back to the driving position I have to either adjust the tilt position, or pull down several times to get it to lock. The same goes for releasing the tilt, it feels like it is binding. Common problem or no???

Ok, update; First off thanks Don for the vaccuum motor advice…it has pleanty of pull and holds vaccuum…Second after further investigation it looks like there is a bolt sheared off on the pivot portion of the column, is there any way to observe the locking cable action without removing the pivoting portion of the column? Third there appears to be allen screws with washers that bolt into the fixed portion of the upper column…is this correct. Should the pivoting portion of the column pivot without interference no matter what position the tilt is in. I can see the prawl spring flex as I pull on it but it does not always disengage. The tilt column is cool, but I am not sure if this is someting that I can count on as reliable. Any thoughts or experiences would be helpful to determine which direction I want to continue with. As a side note is that cable even available if I find that it is bound?


Let’s see if I can address your issues and concerns one at a time… ping me if I miss any…

Relay: Pretty robust piece. Worst that can happen is that something breaks internally and fails. If you are good with a wiring diagram, this part is pretty simple to troubleshoot. Least that can happen is the contacts could develop a crud buildup and fail to conduct current even though it “clicks” when activated. Sort of like the turn signals when the various connections get funky. These can be taken apart and inspected if necessary…use care…prying against the bakelite plastic…

Vacuum Motor: These are usually a pretty hardy piece, although the little micro-switch for the ignition interlock is less so… If you pop it apart like Don suggested, you can de-crud the case, and carefully wipe off the seal and inspect for damage where vacuum could be leaking. If you carefully bend the rubber outwards from the center, and then grease it back up with fresh grease, you may find that it works nicely! I like using a silicon grease or a synthetic grease not intended for wheel bearings, ie speedo cable grease of sorts. Just stay away from anything that is petroleum based that could attack the rubber seal!!!

When you are having problems with a tilt-away not activating or activating slowly, this could be caused by low vacuum levels…which could be caused by a leak anywhere in the vacuum system from the little reservoir under the battery tray, to the 1-way valve (sometimes in the vacuum can!), or a bad fitting connection/cracked hose. Vacuum gauge on the input to the vacuum motor will tell you if you have a leak…it should stay steady state for a long time… Usually you can get 2-4 activations of a column on one “charge”…IF the cable or other bits are not binding!!!

Binding stuff: While the cable can bind, this typically only happens in tilts that have seen a LOT of activations. Not too often have I found a bad cable binding…but I have seen them just starting to wear through the outer housing…necessitating replacement/repair of the housing. What is MOST likely to be occurring is that the grease on the tilt-away pawl is old and dried out. One way to tell, is to set your car out in the sun, with the sun hitting the steering column for as long as possible…thereby heating up all the bits inside the column…if it all of a sudden starts working “just fine”…you probably found your problem. However, the old grease could still be an issue, even with heat applied.

What you DO NOT want to do…is pull excessively on the cable with a pair of pliers etc, in an attempt to activate the tilt. You should be able to activate the tilt-away by simply pulling with your thumb and forefinger. Worst case, a tad amount of pressure on the steering wheel at about the 7-8 o-clock position may take the pressure off of the pawl and then you can pull the cable more easily…to release the wheel. I usually would just pull a tad on the wheel when I got out of the car…and then ease the wheel over to rest, rather than letting it slam up. This usually only happens when you have a smaller than stock steering wheel on it…but I still did it just to cut down on wear.

Other parts that you mentioned:
Yes, there are three Allen headed bolts that hold the top portion of the column to the tube assy. They should not be loose.

As for seeing the actual pawl for the tilt away (you mentioned seeing the spring), no. You cannot see it while assembled.

Sheared off bolt on the pivoting part??? I cannot think of what you are looking at. There are 4 “pins” that the top assy pivot on. Two for the tilt-away, and two for the up and down tilt… (There are no bolts in there…) The upper assy should pivot freely all the time. However, there are two pivot pins that hold the upper casting in the proper up/down positions that tend to walk out of position over time…and if severe enough, could rub and cause binding. Excessive cases of this lead to busted castings, and your tilt “slipping” or not holding position. When I rebuild columns, I now offer special pivot pins with clips to retain them and help prevent them from working out of position.

When do you know your tilt should be serviced??? When any of the above mentioned things happen. If your tilt has never been taken apart…

  1. Old grease…needs to be cleaned off of everything and fresh grease applied to all of the pivot points.
  2. Position pivot pins…need to be checked for proper position. You can take off the top collar of the tilt easy enough…and inspect. One at 12 o-clock and one at 6 o-clock. If they are slipped out of position and the pawl is crooked…time to deal with it.
  3. If your steering shaft/wheel has noticeable play in it (and it is not the steering gear box), then it is time…
  4. Your cable pulls hard all the time…see #1. Prime suspect…
  5. Your steering wheel is easy to move out of position from where it should normally be…this could be related to #2 or busted casting parts.

Other than people pulling on the cables with pliers and vice grips and breaking the cables, the next worst thing, perhaps the worst…is to remove your steering wheel without using a wheel puller!!! ALWAYS use a wheel puller on a tilt steering column. Pullers are cheap to purchase… tilt columns are EXPENSIVE to repair…

I know that tilt cars did come with no power steering, but I can recommend that you NOT remove your P/S and install wide tires on the car, or you will be replacing expensive tilt parts eventually. If you do a lot of parallel parking, you are doomed… or at least your column is! If your palace has a large driveway that facilitates backing out of the garage and not needing to turn the wheel much once you are rolling…lucky you! Make me jealous! :slight_smile: You should have less issues that way…but we can’t all be so lucky!

I’ve laid down a lot to work thru…but hopefully it will help you. To me…your problem sounds like a case of old dry grease… I’ve rebuilt a LOT of low mileage columns that don’t work, simply because of the old sticky binding grease. With no broken parts, it is all a matter of labor. Once you bust the cable or a casting, you start increasing the cost by 50-75% per thing…


Great write-up, Steve! Good to see you over here.

Thanks Steve.
You laid out alot of information and your reply should be included in the tilt away trouble shooting guide. The sheared bolt that I was referring to is located on the collar/casing that pivots not inside the column. Does anybody know how to best remove that pivoting collar assuming I can remove the sheared bolt. Any thought on what type of grease I should use on those moving parts.

We have a high quality bolt you can thread into that fitting to help pull it out with a puller or even a claw hammer, mention it on your next order and it is free as I bought 100 of them for just such a purpose. I would use white lithium grease but it needs to be the thicker version that will not dissipate in heat. Steve (fastmerc) is the worlds foremost leading authority (no exaggeration) on these columns and you can send your column to him for repair and rebuild, I always have one or two columns in his care and is is the ONLY person I will trust with them. As for adding his wisdom to the manual, that is a very good idea. I will take some of his other related posts and link the manual to this thread.

So all of those fittings are pressed in? That saves me some trouble as I misunderstood the assembly manual. I thought that they were threaded in.

"Here is a couple of related tidbits I copied from other threads that might be helpful as folks visit this thread…

Cougars, Mustangs, and T-Birds were the ONLY cars to receive the tilt away feature. Not until 1970 did the tilt only thing start.

Let me also say this: DO NOT USE A SCREWDRIVER TO PRY ON THE CABLE!!! …Hmmmm, I get $150 to repair a broken cable assembly…ok, go ahead and pry…I need the work…!

If you push down gently on the lower left corner of the wheel, say 7-8 o-clock and then WITH YOUR FINGERS pull on the cable clevis, the tilt away should activate. If you cannot activate this with your fingers, the grease is dried up on the various sliding and fixed pieces and your column needs to be serviced. Failure to do so will eventually result in the failure of either the cable or the function of the tilt-away feature, which in itself is not something to prevent you from using the car…but the activating pawl could get stuck half way released and could manifest itself by a “loose” steering column upper section. (It wouldn’t be locked down tight.)

Also, ALWAYS USE A STEERING WHEEL PULLER ON TILT STEERING COLUMNS! I make lots of money when people use hammers and other instruments of percussive engineering on a tilt column! It’s really good for the pivot balls to be wanging away on the center shafts with a 16oz ball pein hammer!

Power steering is a must for use with a tilt column. The castings will not survive long with manual steering. That’s how I got into the biz of rebuilding them…my 68 came with manual steering…and a busted 67 column in it…

These columns are fairly delicate as steering columns go, and care should be exercised when dealing with them! Any questions? Ask please! Steve (fastmerc)"

Both my 67 XR7 and 69 have the tilt-away wheel. Neither of them works today. I’m curious if the 'weight ’ of an aftermarket wheel may have something to do with it? Do any of you have an aftermarket wheel with tilt that works like it’s supposed to?

"Most likely, your tilts are suffering from one of several issues…

  1. No vacuum. Resevoir is located next to or under battery tray and they rot out… OR the one way check valve is bad in the case of the 69.

  2. Electrical issues- no power to the door jamb switch, or a blown 7.5A fuse inline to the main relay.

  3. Grease has solidified preventing cable or actuator rod from moving. If this is the case, DO NOT pull excessively on the cable, you will break it. To rebuild a cable is around $150 depending on damage. In the case of the 67, the actuator rod is unique to 67 Cougar/Mustang columns and is not available… You should be able to push on the rod where it comes out of the lower column area and activate it. If it feels stuck, don’t force it…

  4. Some well intending prior owner/mechanic rewired everything…and never got it working again.

If it turns out to be the latter case #3, the best bet is to pull the columns out and send them to me for servicing. They need to get knocked down, degreased, checked for damage, and then reassembled with new grease!

You can probably do this yourself, but you will need to engineer a “puller” tool for the 4 pivot pins. I’ll tell you right now that they are a BUGGER to get out, even with the proper tool…

I had a stock tilt spring in my 67 Wagon, and it moved that great big heavy wheel just fine! When I put on an aftermarket wood wheel, it would SLAM that thing up! You had to “catch” it with your hand to prevent things from busting…! fastmerc"

Does anyone have a figure as to how much vacuum is needed to trigger the tilt wheel motor? I’ve checked every line in the system- no leaks, checked the canister- it’s good, installed a second check valve just in case the one on the canister is bad.

With a vacuum gauge hooked to the line that normally would go to the vacuum motor, I get about 15 momentarily when I release the door switch and it quickly drops to zero. The cable seems really hard to pull, but if I do pull it with a pliars, the wheel does release.

If I hook a line to the vacuum motor and suck on it real hard (no jokes, please) it will pop the wheel and doesn’t seem to be leaking. It just seems that it takes a lot of vacuum to pull the cable. Are the cables supposed to be that hard to pull?

"Try this! I rebuild these tilt columns, and the biggest problem with these things is that the grease hardens and gets really sticky instead of greasy… Best way to fix this is to completely dissassemble and re-grease with a modern lube that will not harden like the old dino-stuff. However, before you consider doing it your self, I’ll tell you that you will need special custom tools…to make the job much easier.

If you are only seeing vacume momentarily, you have a leak somewhere. Find it. You should have enuf vacume to release a tilt wheel 4-6 times if all is well. Just connect your guage directly to the output of the vacume solenoid that feeds the release motor, and work back from there. (You’ll need to take apart the components on the under-dash bracket, but it’s easy.) It actually could be the motor that is leaking internally too. A little silicon grease could go a long way here, on the rubber seal inside the vacume motor.

I believe that you can find new cans that are darn good repop’s of the 68/67 cans, sold by Classic Auto Air out of Florida, on ebay now, if your one way valve is bad on the can…

I sell the special 67 bracket that mounts the can on the battery tray leg, something you don’t need on the 68.

Whatever you do, DO NOT break your cable by pulling on it with a pliers… These are very difficult to repair. I charge $150 to repair a busted cable and only $160 to refurb a column with no busted parts Good luck! Steve (fastmerc)"


I now see from your photo what you are concerned about. Those “sheared bolts” are actually the pivot pins as Don mentioned. They require a special tool to pull them out, and sometimes can be a real PITA to get moving! I can also see that your column is in pretty good health otherwise. The two pins that the position pawls pivot on (at the 12 and 6 o-clock positions) appear to be still in place. These tend to move out of position and then all hell breaks loose…and things get expensive the longer it is ignored. Anyone with a tilt would be well served by simply removing their wheel and that top sleeve, as Matt has done in this photo above, just to check those to pins. If they are shifting one way or the other too much, simply center then with a small punch. If they have already shifted out of position, perhaps you will be able to press on the pawl and then tap them back in place. Not a permanent fix…but it will preserve the column’s condition longer until you can afford to have the rest serviced. I now install a special set of pivot pins that have clips on each end to prevent shifting, when I go through these columns. Cheap insurance against destroying expensive and rare parts!!!


As a side note there are two types of pivot pin removal tools that are touted to remove these pins…they say that they remove pins from 69’ and up but they do not. The thread configuration is wrong (#8/32). I actually re threaded the tool that I purchased and that results in a sheared pin. I could not find a #6/32 hardended bolt to make my own puller. And if you try to drill the pins…GOOD LUCK that pin is the same technology that landed us on the moon. I went through numerous bits just to get through the collar of the pin and it did’t happen.
Happy Cougar Thoughts

Matt, go to ace hardware and buy an allen head in #6-32. It is hard enough to keep its threads. I make my own puller out of one of these screws a short length ot tubing of larger diameter than the part being pulled and a nut and washer to ride on top of the tubing. Works every time.


You must have better luck or better hardware than I had. My first attempt was as your configuration (if I understand it right you hold the allen screw and thread the nut down against the pipe to pull the pin). The small #6 square nut ended up stripping out and spinning on the screw threads and did not budge the pin. So I took another approach and used a couple pipe reducers to make the pulling force.

I placed a 1/4 to 3/8 NPT reducer 1/4 side thead over the pin being pulled (which is slightly larger than the pin). Than I threaded a 3/8 to 1/2 reducer with half the theads cut off the onto the 3/8 end of the first reducer as far as it would go. This gave some more substantial interlocking thread and the ability to use two wrenchs to thread the reducers apart and push against some washers that were tighten down against the reducers with a #6 allen screw.

The system work good and did have more force, too much. Now I need to search the forum on how to remove a broken off flush piece of #6 allen screw from threaded pin hole.

I am currently working on this. You did not leave anything else out of the Works every time process, like heating with a torch or soaking in penetrating oil for a couple months did you?

Al I think I must be getting better hardware. Honestly, I have never had a failure doing this. A little PB Blaster might help too, but I have not been using it. It sounds like you have the column from hell.

You may be done following my recommendations, and I would sure understand that, but here is what I do with little broken screws. It is very tricky, but put a nut over the end of the broken piece of the Allen screw, insert the wire from your welder through the center of the nut to touch the broken part of the screw. Pop the trigger really fast. With a little luck it will weld the nut to the end of the screw. Back it out slowly.


I am not giving up on any suggestions.
Thanks for the idea on the bolt removal, and I have not tried that method on such a tiny nut/screw.

The key is that you have to have the right size nut and then turn the welder down as far as it will go and just “pop” it.

The other thing I have done with some success is to cut a groove straight through the broken screw and the material around it with a Dremel tool running a little cut off disc. Use a straight bladed screw driver in the slot. I spend lots of time digging myself out of holes…

We just put together a quick little video showing the easiest way to remove the pivot pin. Of course you need a special tool, and in this case it’s a Riv-Nut tool (similar to a pop rivet tool). There are actual pivot pin puller tools from back in the day out there, but not easy to find. Watch on YouTube

Great video guy’s, These videos are valuable and much appreciated!


Some of these pins are barely a press fit and other times they are a PPPRRREEEESSSSS FFFFIIIITTTT!!! You will have varied luck with simple washer arrangement and will need to get more aggressive in the tool development dept!

Many times, colorful language, and a hammer helps…when all else fails!