There are so many problems with the drivetrain and chassis of these old muscle cars, where does one even begin? I had heard about swapping in a faster box from a friend who did it on his 66 GTO 20 years ago so I thought I’d start with this. Pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar it’s probably the best change you can make to your old Camaro. And when you are done it’s virtually impossible to tell that the steering box has been changed. I’m of course talking about taking a late 80’s IROC Camaro steering box and swapping it into your first gen Camaro.
The IROC steering box is a direct swap in, with two changes that must be addressed. 1) The input shaft diameter is different but a compatible new GM steering coupler is available, and lets face it, this thing probably needs to be changed anyway. 2) The fittings for the high-pressure and return lines in the next box are metric instead of standard (Why the switch to Metric for GM? Maybe it’s because only 3 countries in the world do NOT use the metric system: Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States of America!...good company indeed, but I digress). More on these fixes below…
If you don’t have a junkyard nearby or won’t go to the junkyard this post is probably not for you. Leave this site and go to another and pay $500 for a new box. However, if you want to save some cash AND have an OE quality steering box, read on…
This swap was performed on a 68 Camaro Coupe with the following specs; your car may be different.
Parts you will need / Services you will need performed:
The best way to make sure you have the right box is to go to the junkyard and find a car that says IROC-Z on the lower portion of the door (Trans Am Firebirds from the same years will also work). On these cars you should find the 12.7:1 “XH code” steering box. You can confirm it’s the right box by looking for the original GM “XH” ID code. The ID code is ink stamped on the aluminum cap (sometimes called the end plug) at the end of the steering box. You will most likely need to clean the end of the cap to verify the code, you can use trans fluid or oil to blot the cap, just clean it enough to read the code. Do not press hard or wipe the end cap, you may wipe off the code and then you won’t know for sure if you have the right box. Code is very faint and looks like this (this particular box is YA):
YEAR CODE APPLICATION RATIO EFFORT T-BAR TRAVEL
1985 XH Level IV 12.7:1 28-34 0.210 Dia 32deg
1986 XH V8 FE2 12.7:1 28-34 0.210 Dia 32deg
1987-93 XH FE2 Level IV 12.7:1 28-34 0.210 Dia 32deg
YEAR CODE APPLICATION RATIO EFFORT T-BAR TRAVEL
1968 ?? All? 17.5:1 15-21 0.175 Dia 31deg
I would not order a reman box from cardone, or any other local shop as others suggest…you may not get the fast box, do we really think the guys that rebuild these boxes care if the insides are fast or slow, do they car if the box has the right internals for the car it come on? They don’t, they slam em together and sell em back as reman units. 99% of the people that own these old cars don’t care about the steering and can’t tell the difference anyway. That’s why I highly recommend getting one from the junkyard so you know exactly what you are getting.
To get the stuff you need remove the high-pressure hose from the back of the power steering pump (It’s the one with the big fitting). Then remove the fitting by unscrewing it. If you stick your finder in the hole you will feel the valve but it’s hard to get out. There are 3 ways to remove: 1) use a skinny magnet and pull it out, 2) push it in all the way (compressing the spring) and release quickly and hope that it flies out, 3) remove the pump from the car and tilt it over so it falls out. Obviously the magnet is the easiest more reliable way to go. Here are the parts you need to remove: (See Figure #3).
This valve assembly will directly bolt in to your original first gen Camaro power steering pump! (Nice to know GM used the same steering technology for well over 20 years, way to go GM!!…no wonder they’ve lost so much market share in that time, hey, our stupid customers won’t notice the 20 year old technology in our cars so let’s not bother changing it… but that’s another story, anyway…)
Good news is making your own hose is easy, I went to AN plumbing which is a local shop near my house in Los Angeles. Check out the how to video on their site: http://www.anplumbing.com. Click on “Tech Videos”. If the site has changed you may have to look around. How-to video is also on YouTube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LovY7kedyE. As you can see from the video making your own hose is pretty easy.
Starting with the 1980 model year, the inlet and outlet ports on the gear were converted from old school 45 degree flare fittings of 5/8-18 UNF and 11/16-18 UNS female ports to new-style o-ring connections with 16x1.5mm and 18x1.5mm female threaded ports. Remember, the top fitting near the steering wheel is the return line, and the fitting near the front of the car is the high-line.
Call ANPlumbing.com tech line and tell them exactly what you are doing, they should be able to help, I think you can order what you need to make a hose directly from them. You will need:
1. 16x1.5mm fitting to attach to the steering box.
2. The fitting that attaches on the back of the power steering pump.
3. Power Steering Hose: Im not sure which one I used, sorry, my dad actually went to the store for me so I don’t know, thanks dad! : ) Ask the guys what to use for Power Steering. Im sure they will know (Use your old hose as a gauge for the length)
Of course you could also just use the pressure line adapter from Lees Engineering (http://lee-powersteering.com).
There are two different inserts (#40620: Pressure, #40630: Return) and he sells them at a great price. Lee Manufacturing, http://lee-powersteering.com (818) 768-0371
Fluid (GM). Ex GM engineer Jim Shea who posted some great stuff on a Chevelle website (link below, thanks Jim for all the great info) strongly suggested to use GM fluid, the system is designed to work with that fluid. I tend to listen to GM engineers with decades of experience so I paid a few bucks more and got the GM fluid. Part: GM 1050017 (old#) or GM 89020661 (new#).
What a great swap, and it looks factory too so even guys with original cars can make this swap and few will notice.
The steering is noticeably heavier and is now 2.5 turns lock-to-lock instead of 3.5, a great improvement! In fact, when I first did the swap it felt strange but of course now I love it.
Some people said turn signal cancelation would be a problem since the steering wheel does not turn as many turns now when turning…huh. Anyway, I have not any problems so I would not worry about this.
For reference, my information came from others, I merely tried to pull it all together in an easy to read and understand format, hopefully it helps. Serious props to these guys who gathered this data.
Please keep in mind that these sites may be referring to other models and years, so be careful. This applies specifically to a 68 Camaro with factory power steering.
Estimated the costs for the steering:
Steering Box, IROC-Z, “XH Code” $50 (Junkyard)
Streering Coupler, new $80 (GM)
Custom high-pressure steering line $100 (ANPlumming.com)
Adapter fitting for low pressure return line $6 (Lees Engineering)
GM Power Steering Fluid $20 (Amazon.com)
TOTAL $250 ish