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HomeTips & GuidesSteering Column Wiring Harness: Replacement Process and Handling Column Wiring Harnesses

Steering Column Wiring Harness: Replacement Process and Handling Column Wiring Harnesses

Steering columns usually outlive the vehicle because their rate of wear is low. But if the part gets damaged, replacing it means dealing with the steering column wiring harness

Let’s look at the steering column replacement process and how to reconnect the color-coded wires in the harness plug.

Table of Contents

What Is a Steering Column?

A steering column is a rod that links the steering wheel to the steering rack

The steering wheel connects to a shaft inside the steering column, which runs down to the steering rack or box.

This lower section of the column has an intermediate shaft that functions as a universal joint to help it turn in corresponding movements to the steering wheel.

A steering column attached to an intermediate shaft

A steering column attached to an intermediate shaft

In addition to turning the front wheels, steering columns house the following functions.

  • Turn signal switches
  • Headlight switches (in some vehicles)
  • Ignition or lock cylinder
  • Windshield wiper switch
  • Steering wheel tilting for comfortable driving

Most modern vehicles also include airbags and collapsible columns for safety. The collapsible feature minimizes impact if the car has a front-end collision. 

Once collapsed, you should replace the column to maintain this safety feature.

What Does the Steering Column Wiring Harness Do?

Steering columns are purely mechanical devices, so their wiring harnesses are there to power all switches around the column.

Think of all the electrical systems around your vehicle’s steering wheel. They include car horn, headlight, turn signal, ignition, windshield (front and rear) wiper, and steering wheel control switches.

A steering column wiring harness

A steering column wiring harness

Steering column wiring harnesses provide power to these switches and can have varied gauge sizes to meet the power rating requirements.

What Are the Signs of a Failing or Bad Steering Column?

Since they are not in plain sight, the only way to detect failures in steering columns is by monitoring for any of the following symptoms.

Rough Steering Wheel

Steering wheels should turn the wheels smoothly. So roughness or restrictions usually mean something is wrong in the column.

For instance, the column’s universal joint might be faulty if the steering wheel binds or feels heavier when you reach a certain angle. 

In some cases, the wheel might feel looser than usual.

And if you hear a pop sound when turning at low speeds, the column might have dirt or debris in its housing. 

Steering columns have multiple moving parts, and dirt can cause blockages, especially in the gears.

A steering column with an electric power steering

A steering column with an electric power steering

But other factors, such as low tire pressure and a faulty power steering system, can cause the issue. 

The only way to find out is by hiring a certified mechanic to check your vehicle and accurately diagnose the problem.

Malfunctioning Tilt Steering Wheel

The tilt feature allows you to adjust the steering wheel up or down for comfortable driving. It locks in place after adjustment to hold the wheel in a fixed position.

 The tilt mechanism is faulty if it fails to hold the wheel in place. Driving with this malfunction is dangerous, so get the issue rectified immediately.

Non-Centered Steering Wheel

Whenever you turn the vehicle, the steering wheel should return to its original position after the bend. 

The column might have a broken gear inside the unit if it doesn’t return. Or the power steering system might have a blockage. 

The third cause might be a faulty lock plate.

A dismantled steering wheel

A dismantled steering wheel

Noises When Turning

In addition to being rough or difficult to turn, failing steering columns can produce clicking, clunking, squeaking, or grinding noises due to rusting bearings.

These components don’t need greasing because the steering column housing locks and seals them internally. 

But they can dry up over time, allowing moisture to get to the ball bearings. This water corrodes the metal, preventing smooth ball-bearing movement.

How Much Does It Cost To Replace a Steering Column?

This cost depends on several variables, such as the vehicle type and labor charges.

 Buying the spare part will be cheaper if your vehicle has a simple steering column design. 

But it will be costlier if it has a complex setup, such as with radio and cruise control wire harnesses.

This complexity has a similar effect on the labor for installation. It is more expensive to fix complex steering columns.

The cost of purchasing the part is usually lower than what the mechanic will charge you for labor. 

Usually, the column costs about $100-$300, while the labor costs can reach $600.

A vehicle’s steering column

A vehicle’s steering column

Older vehicles have simpler steering mechanisms, making them cheaper to fix. 

For instance, an old Dodge Caravan’s steering column will cost about $700 for parts and labor. 

But a Ford F-150 needs over $1,000. Most Honda and Toyota model vehicles will cost you about $800-$900.

You can save a lot of money if you know your way around vehicles because you can eliminate the labor for removal/installation. So here’s how to handle the replacement.

How To Install a Steering Column

Handle this installation process delicately to avoid breaking pricey components.

Step 1: Disconnect the Negative Battery Cable

Unscrew the negative battery lug from the terminal post, then let the vehicle rest for about 20-30 minutes. 

This step helps disconnect the airbag and deactivate it. So be patient to avoid blowing the airbag. 

And if your stereo has a theft-lock system, contact your dealer to unlock it to prevent further damage.

Steering column repair (airbag disconnection)

Steering column repair (airbag disconnection)

Step 2: Remove the Covers

Lift the plastic trim from the column, then unscrew the hush panels under the dash.

 Also, remove the knee bolster under the column by unclipping it.

 After that, unscrew/unbolt and remove the steel backing under the bolster.

Step 3: Unlock the Ignition

Ensure the front wheels point straight ahead. You can use the seatbelt to loop around the steering wheel to keep the wheels aligned. 

And unlock the ignition to leave the column-free.

Step 4: Remove the Pinch Bolt

Pinch bolts hold steering columns to the gear. Depending on the vehicle, this component might be inside or outside the cabin. 

Therefore, you might have to move the steering wheel or drop the engine cradle to access the bolt.

Most front-wheel vehicles with a rack-and-pinion steering system require a 4-inch engine cradle drop to access the pinch bolt.

A dismantled dashboard with the steering column visible

A dismantled dashboard with the steering column visible

And if you have to peel back a rubber boot, note the steering wheel position and how far you turn it. 

After undoing the pinch bolt, remember to return the wheel to its original place on the column.

Turning the wheel too far or losing the center can damage the wire harness or other expensive parts.

Step 5: Disconnect the Wires

Disconnect and remove any steering column wire harnesses and connectors. Columns with paddle shifters have cables running to the transmission. 

Unlock this cable and any nuts connecting the column to the dashboard.

Step 6: Replace the Steering Column

Remove the old column carefully, then install the new one.

 Line it carefully where the old one was (in the steering coupler), then fasten it to the dash using the nuts you removed earlier. 

Fasten the pinch bolt, then fit the boot over the coupler. And ensure the steering wheel points straight ahead.

Step 7: Reconnect the Wires

Refit the paddle shifter cable and all wire harnesses for switches on the steering column. After that, mount the steel backing, knee bolster, hush panels, and plastic trim.

Steering wheel switches

Steering wheel switches

Step 8: Reconnect the Battery

Reconnect the negative battery cable to the battery terminal, then test the steering wheel before going out to drive in traffic.

A Wiring Guide for the Steering Column Wiring Harness

The steering column wiring harness is a complex set of cables, so we’ll look at how to connect them using their color coding.

  • White wire: A brake light feed that enables the turn signal and cornering lights to work when braking. Connect it to the harness plug’s terminal P.
  • Yellow wire: Powers the left rear turn signal and brake lights. Link it to terminal M.
  • Green wire: Connect it to terminal N to enable the rear right turn signal and brake lights to work.
  • Purple wire: Powers the turn signal switch from the fuse panel. It links to terminal L on the harness plug.
  • Dark blue wire: Sends power to the front right turn signal and auto indicator lights. Connect it to terminal J.
  • Light blue wire: Connects to terminal H to power the front left turn signal and auto indicator lights.
  • Brown wire: Powers the four-way flashers. It links to terminal K.
  • Black wire: Grounds the horn via terminal G.

Summary

Although rare, steering columns can fail, and you might need a complete replacement in some instances. 

The steps above should help you replace the column and its wiring harness with high accuracy. 

That’s it for now. Contact us if you encounter challenges during this process. We’ll be happy to help.

Hi I am Christa, sales manager of Cloom.

I have extensive expertise and experience in wiring harnesses and I believe I can help you.

And we have a very professional technical team who can clearly understand the customer’s needs and give professional suggestions and solutions after receiving the drawings.

If you also have wiring harness needs, please send me the drawing so that we can give you our quote and start our business.

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