Steering Wheel Removal


Dan Marsh's pullerRemoval of a Jeep steering wheel from its column is famous as one of the most difficult jobs you'll encounter. But it may need to be done, for example in order to remove the body from the frame. As in the case of wheel hub removal, the easiest way to remove a steering wheel is probably to use the right tool for the job.

This steering wheel puller was fabricated by Dan Marsh in Oregon. Its 3-point design and 2-part bottom block should provide very safe and even pressure. Dan also sent a photo of all the pieces required (130K JPEG).

Lars Svensson's puller Lars Svensson Willys Service in Sweden made the beauty seen here in 2010. Lars says, "To pull off a steering wheel is almost always a problem (if you want to do it without damage to the steering wheel.) Finally I borrowed a friend's workshop and made a tool that works very good."

See also a photo of it in action (100K JPEG).

Bearing puller installedThe photo at right shows a bearing puller modified by Tom Edwards, which works on the same principle.

Jyotin wrote this summary of how to use a bearing puller to pull a steering wheel:

  1. First, remove the nut holding the steering wheel on. Spray a good coat ofpenetrating oil on the spline/steering wheel joint. Keep doing it for a fewdays.
  2. Buy a "bearing separator" (for example, part number 03979-3AFA, $20 from Harbor freight tools, 800-423-2567). Get a large one.
  3. Attach the bearing separator around the steering column just behind thesteering wheel. Tighten it down as far as possible around the steeringcolumn while still keeping it loose enough to turn on the column. You will be putting your bearing puller jaws (two jaws) on the bearing separator, not the steering wheel itself.
  4. Put the nut back on the steering column, but leave a 1/8" gapbetween the steering wheel and the nut. This will protect the threads on thesteering tube.
  5. You need to protect the steering tube further by putting something inthe steering tube hole (where the horn button was)that will lie on top ofthe nut. You could use a bolt -- I used an intake valve that I had lyingaround. Now, you've protected the steering wheel by using the bearing separator topull on, you've protected the splines and steering tube from being deformedwhen you use the puller, and you have soaked the joint with penetratingfluid for a couple of days.
  6. You're ready to use the puller jaws on the bearing separator, and thecenter of the puller on the bolt or intake valve in the steering tube. Startcranking the puller.
  7. If you put a fair amount of tension on the puller andthe wheel doesn't pop off, stop and lightly tap the rear of the bearingseparator with a hammer. The wheel should pop up to fill the 1/8" gap. At that point take everything off of the wheel and just pull the wheel with your hands. I've done two Jeeps this way with no collateral damage and 100% salvation ofthe parts. Prior to figuring out this process, I always destroyed the wheeland steering tube. Cost to replace tube tube and wheel -- $200+.

Bearing puller partsTom Edwards: "I do the same thing -- this is the very best way to remove steering wheels. I ground out the center a little more on my bearing puller jaws for a better fit.

"I recommend removing the horn button switch first, but I have made a cap nut to fit around the switch part (35K JPEG). I bought a GM spindle nut of 13/16 20 and welded a cap made from an old drag link part on top of the nut for the puller to fit against (this also creates a 1/8" gap underneath the nut when you tighten it down). Before this I messed up shafts and wheels."

Bearing puller parts In 2012, Bradford Willys LLC started marketing a heavy-duty wheel puller, which is now sold by Kaiser-Willys as well as direct.

See Bradford Willys Steering Wheel Puller Torture Tested on CJ3B.info.


Bob Harris faced the problem with both a '53 and a '63 CJ-3B: "I made a slide hammer but it was not up to the task. I then modified it so as to utilize a hydraulic jack, which did the job. I was not ill advised -- it takes an extreme amount of pressure to remove the steering wheel. I made a hub puller to remove the rear axles the same way."

Byron used a jack in a different way: "I placed a floor jack on the floor board of the drivers side under the steering wheel. I had to place two 4x4's under it in order to get it to the correct height. I then pumped it up just enough to put tension under the bottom lower end of the wheel. I unscrewed the wheel nut (not all the way) and gave the upper portion of the teering wheel two or three good tugs. I heard and felt a pop and that was it. Very simple, and the key was the tension on the lower end of the steering wheel which prevents the wheel from sagging while pulling."

Brett Briesemeister prefers the low-tech approach: "Gear pullers can damage the top of the shaft if too much pressure is applied. I spoke with Wally, from Wally's Sales and Sevice, Kenosha WI, who has been repairing, restoring and selling jeeps since WWII. The steering shaft should be soaked with penetrating fluid and the wheel removed by climbing into the jeep and rocking the wheel off with your forearms and knees. I tried this with success, after wrecking my shaft with a puller."

John Hubbard adds an important safety note: "Keep the shaft bolt on (but backed off to protect the threads) as you are applying full force to get the wheel off, so that you don't eat the wheel for lunch and incur huge dental bills."

Jeff Spencer cautioned: "Whatever you do, do not be tempted in giving the wheel a tap from underside -- you will be devastated in the result and the repairs needed after."

Clint Spaar mentioned: "The Eastwood Company sells steering wheel repair kits to repair the bakelite. They have free catalogs."

Edward Giandomenico described his solution: "I took some rope and made loops between the spokes on the steering wheel. Each loop went between two spokes on the wheel so I wasn't really pulling on the spokes but on the center part of the wheel. then I hooked a block and tackle up to a beam in my garage. I pulled the loops until they were tight using the block and tackle. Then with the steering wheel nut backed off 1/8 inch, enough to protect the threads on the shaft, but not all the way off, I pounded with a big hammer a couple of times on the end of the shaft and the steering wheel popped right off. Next I used the same block and tackle and hooked it up to my body tub. I lifted the body tub off the frame and over the steering column. I did it all myself and it went very smoothly."

Thanks to all the contributors. -- Derek Redmond

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Last updated 17 February 2012 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
All content not credited and previously copyright, is copyright Derek Redmond