When the Mustang first hit dealer showrooms, factory tires were skinny bias-ply rubber, and power steering was more of a luxury than a necessity. Over the years, as our Mustangs were given wider rubber for better handling and braking, that manual steering was really felt when it came time for low-speed maneuvers like parking. The original option to upgrade to power steering was to put together an original Bendix-style non-integral power steering system from a combination of new and used/rebuilt parts. The problem with the Bendix system is right there in its name—non-integral. It is essentially a power-assist that “pushes” the stock manual steering linkage left or right, which means a lot of moving parts, extra hoses, and wear/leak points.
A better solution is an integral power steering solution, meaning the steering effort is reduced by utilizing a power-assisted steering box or rack-and-pinion unit. While rack-and-pinion is what all modern cars use, including 1974-to-current Mustangs, it is not always an easy upgrade and can interfere with certain exhaust systems, clutch linkages, and even oil pans. Adding a power-assisted steering box, popular in the 1970s on midsize and fullsize Fords, wasn’t even an option until Borgeson came along and began offering a retrofit steering box about 10 years ago. The original concept included a remanufactured steering box that was adapted to fit the Mustang via a welded-on mounting plate. Like any company, Borgeson is always looking to improve on its product line, and today the Borgeson power steering conversion utilizes its own specific one-piece casting design that uses all-new internal parts with a sporty 14:1 ratio. One reason this new casting was made, which admittedly looks cleaner, was to support Mustang enthusiasts from Australia and New Zealand, as their laws do not allow for welded steering boxes or components.
The Borgeson power steering box solution is a bolt-in option that makes steering effort easy. On Mustangs from 1965 to mid-1967 with “long-shaft” steering boxes, there is some steering shaft/column trimming/cutting required; however, for Mustangs from late-1967 and up with factory “short-shaft” boxes and collapsible steering columns, there is usually no cutting required. Simply adapt the box to the factory steering column with the Borgeson steering coupler, mount the power steering pump, and connect the power steering hoses, and you’re pretty much ready to go. If your Mustang has factory power steering that has seen better days, Borgeson has the parts to retrofit in place of the OE Bendix system using its centerlink adapter and hoses specific to the Ford power steering pump. How easy is that? Pretty easy if you ask us, which is why we’re updating this ’68 hardtop from the leaky and worn-out Bendix system and steering box to Borgeson’s latest power steering box retrofit. Check it out!
For undercar access all you really need is to get the driver-side front up in the air enough to remove the left front tire. Use sturdy jackstands and be sure to block the opposite rear tire. On this ’68 Mustang, the control valve had been rebuilt about five years ago and surprisingly has stayed dry; however, due to the header, the owner kept “eating” power steering hoses and the original steering box had tons of play in it.
Digging right in, the first piece of the old power steering system to get the heave-ho is the power ram cylinder. The drop bracket you see here is not factory, but it’s often used on long-tube header installs for clearance. Remove the three bolts and pull the ram free from the framerail. Now is a good time to remove all of the power steering hoses from the control valve to the pump and to the ram itself as well.
Next, we removed the retaining nut for the control valve to the pitman arm on the steering box. Depending upon the condition of your steering parts, you can use a pickle fork to separate the control valve stud from the pitman arm, or simply hammer it out if your parts are trash.
The same goes for the power ram stud in the centerlink. Once the nut is removed we simply gave the stud a few good hits with a hammer to free it, since these parts are going straight to the metal scrap pile.
At the factory steering box you’ll have to separate the rag joint from the steering column (those doing this conversion on long-shaft boxes will need to remove the steering column tube first and remove the box with the shaft as one unit). Rotate the steering wheel as needed to access the bolts/nuts and remove them to separate the steering box from the column.
Lastly, remove the three bolts retaining the original steering box to the left front framerail. To fully extricate the steering box you may have to remove your exhaust. Stock manifolds are generally not an issue, but if you have aftermarket headers, be prepared to unbolt them or even completely remove them for access. We also removed the driver-side engine mount through-bolt and jacked up the engine an inch for a little more access as well.
Some will tell you it is easier to pull the pitman arm free of the steering box with it still in the car. We feel it is no easier or more difficult if you are using the proper pitman arm puller tool (we borrowed one from our local auto parts loan-a-tool program). However, if you do not have air tools, it is definitely easier to remove the pitman arm retaining nut with the box still mounted to the framerail for leverage.
For the ’68 Mustang power steering conversion the control valve is removed from the centerlink and Borgeson provides a steering adapter. Simply loosen the clamp on the control valve and unscrew it from the end of the centerlink.
The steering adapter is shown here with the control valve we removed from the car. It is installed in place of the old hydraulic components and will connect the pitman arm back to the centerlink.
This is everything we removed. Note the return line from the control valve to the power steering pump. This line has been modified and thermal sleeve was installed over it since it lived so close to the headers. This car has actually melted two previous power steering hoses, one time inciting a small undercar fire! The Borgeson hoses will go “up and over” and will have plenty of distance from the header.
We begin the Borgeson power steering upgrade with the installation of the centerlink adapter. It simply threads on in place of the old hydraulic unit. We did count the turns when removing the old unit and installed the adapter the same number of turns.
The Borgeson one-piece cast power steering box is a tad thicker and an inch or so longer at the connection joint to the steering column. In some applications you can get away with simply compressing the column shaft, but to play it safe we completely removed the column (four bolts and the firewall clamp, about five minutes of work) and dropped the long-tube header completely out of the engine bay as well. This allowed plenty of room to fit the box into place and install the new mounting bolts included with the box.
With the new box secured to the framerail the included replacement rag joint is installed. The joint needs to be fully seated on the shaft, and then it is secured by tightening the set screw into the steering box splines and securing with the external locknut.
With our column fully collapsed, we test-fit it back under the dash and came to the realization we were about an inch too long. (The instructions did state some applications require trimming the end of the column tube for enough room). Out came the hacksaw and we trimmed an inch off of the tube and then reinstalled the lower column shaft.
Back under the dash, the mounting bracket lined up perfectly with the dash studs, and we were able to secure the column to the new rag joint with the included hardware from the kit.
Before installing the pitman arm, we turned the steering wheel from lock-to-lock several times to determine the center of the steering radius and marked it on the wheel with some painter’s tape. Since early Mustangs do not use a “blind spline” on the steering wheel to column shaft, we’re more concerned with centering the whole steering system and simply unbolting the wheel and centering that later after the car has been taken for an alignment.
With our center marked on our steering radius and our front wheels straight, the pitman arm is first mounted to the new Borgeson box and then secured to the centerlink adapter. Once everything is tight and the cotter pin is installed on the adapter, the adapter’s clamp can be tightened to lock its position in place.
Moving into the homestretch of the conversion, we get to the fluid lines. Borgeson provides pre-crimped lines that will work either with the stock Ford pump or the Borgeson-provided pump if you option that. We’re retaining the stock pump in our swap. First to install is the return line. This is the fitting closer to the rag joint and is best to install first.
The pressure hose is installed in the one remaining port on the steering box and then is routed to the power steering pump. Rotate/clock the hose to keep it away from heat sources and anything that might chafe on it.
While discussing our steering project with Borgeson’s Jeff Grantmeyer, he suggested we add the company’s new Heavy Duty Power Steering Cooler Kit to the conversion, as the Ford pump tends to run the fluid a little hotter than the pump Borgeson supplies as an option. Not one to ignore a solid idea, we added one of these to our order. The kit includes the cooler, mounting hardware, 6 feet of cooler hose, and clamps.
Begin the cooler installation by inserting the brass hose barb coupler into the return line coming from the steering box.
Mount the cooler to the radiator or A/C condenser with the included quick ties, and then use the included hose to make the cooler connections to the hose barb installed in the return line and to the return line fitting on the power steering pump housing. Flow direction is not a concern, as the cooler will work with fluid passing from either direction. Secure all hoses to prevent rubbing/vibrations.
Double-check all fasteners are tight and your hoses are secured and tight as well, then it is time to fill the power steering pump and bleed the system. Start with the front tires off of the ground and slowly turn the steering wheel back and forth, keeping an eye on the fluid level. Top it off as needed. When the level doesn’t drop any farther, start the engine, check for leaks, and cycle the steering to full lock both ways a few more times, topping the fluid off as needed. Road-test your new power steering, and don’t forget to get your Mustang aligned!
Photography by Mark Houlahan