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Possible cause of off center steering wheel?

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Old 02-13-2018, 01:49 PM   #1  
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Possible cause of off center steering wheel?

So, my wheel tilts off to the right a fair amount. It has plenty of play in it before the truck actually starts to veer off in the direction you turn.

it's not a crazy amount but compared to a new vehicle it is of course.
I can tilt the wheel almost back to center before the truck moves left. So where should I start in getting the steering wheel to sit straight?

thanks all
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Old 02-13-2018, 01:57 PM   #2  
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Point tires straight ahead, pull steering wheel and put back straight. I'd assume the play in the steering is due to worn components/poor design of push/pull steering.
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Old 02-13-2018, 02:46 PM   #3  
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you need to start by telling us what rig you are talking about, there are two in your signature. then you need to check your front end for loose parts and the steering (box or rack?) for play. there is no sense centering your steering wheel if you are then going to replace a bunch of joints. then you get an alignment and presto, straight steering wheel. Some steering wheels have a keyed spline and will only go on one way, the proper way to center your wheel is to adjust each front wheel toe adjusters equal amounts in opposite directions (toe one in and one out).
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:23 PM   #4  
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It's my 82.
it's off center tilted right like 35-40deg. If you turn more right it turns pretty fast but when you slowly start to center it it gets nearly to center then starts to go left.
it goes straight down the road without holding the wheel albeit with the wheel cocked right.
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:32 PM   #5  
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If your wheels are straight and your alignment is good (sounds like yours might need some adjusting) and your truck drives straight but the steering wheel is still crooked then you need to detach the pitman arm from the steering gear, turn the steering wheel straight and bolt the pitman arm back on.
On my '81 taking the wheel off the steering column and rotating it does not work as the wheel has pins that align to the horn mechanism and steering shaft. Rotating the wheel without the shaft mis-aligns the pins and it won't bolt down properly.
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Old 02-13-2018, 07:55 PM   #6  
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ask any alignment shop, they will tell you that the proper way is to adjust the tie rod adjusters, they just do it with a machine attached so they are sure to maintain the total toe. most alignment techs will test drive your vehicle after they are done and if the steering wheel is off they will make a quick adjustment without the machine, a little toe in on one side and a little toe out on the other (same number of turns). I used to be an alignment tech for 10 years
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Old 02-13-2018, 10:14 PM   #7  
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There is a "free play" adjustment on these. I doubt this is that simple, it would have a dead spot in both directions not just to the left. You have a parts or alignment issue. You need to get up I there while someone turns the steering wheel and find the sloppy joint or joints. If you can not find anything you need a component alignment guy to do the alignment. Insist on middle of the adjustment range not just "in spec", they will tell you what part is giving the trouble.
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Old 02-14-2018, 12:23 AM   #8  
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hang on, if there is play in the wheel, we shouldnt be changing pitman arm line ups or adjusting tie rods, the worn part needs to be replaced or tightened.
The description of it going one way then snaping back....
Quote:
"If you turn more right it turns pretty fast but when you slowly start to center it it gets nearly to center then starts to go left'"
THE 4WD model uses a drag link and one big tie rod doesnt it?
If so, it sounds to me like the ball joints on the tie rod would be the first to go and id look there. The fixed ball joints between drag link knuckle arm and pitman arm are all held tight by adjustable clamps which could simply be coming loose, but the springs inside them usually make it feel spongy if thats the case.
Id suspect tie rod ball joints first.
u can check them on your own one at a time by jacking up a wheel and pushing the wheel left and right and watch the tie rod end ball joint carefully for movement,
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Old 02-14-2018, 04:47 AM   #9  
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So do you think it's the joint I circled?
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Old 02-14-2018, 06:49 AM   #10  
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thanks for reminding me Thommo, I forgot the solid axle trucks either have an adjustable drag link that will only effect the centering of your steering wheel or they have a solid bar which means that you have to pull the steering wheel to center it. I stand corrected on that point, but you still need to check for loose parts and proper alignment.
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Old 02-14-2018, 10:15 PM   #11  
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yeh thats where id start, but dont get me wrong, ere are a number of wearout points in order of my personal experienced of occurance likelihood:
1. the flexible U joint on teh steering column,
2. The clamping drag link conectors inside the drag link ( may just need to be tightened, as the springs wear out)
3. The ball joints that connect the drag link to the pitman arm and/or the LHS steering knuckle, that is; the tapered ball joint that bolts through the pitman arm, that tapered bit can wear out and slop around in pitman arm or knuckle.
4. left or right Steering knuckle to tie rod bal joint (the one you circled
5. kingpins and/or kingpin bearings.
6. gears in teh steering box itself.
7. wheel bearings. (would have to be pretty bad to effect steering haha)
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Old 02-15-2018, 03:03 AM   #12  
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Thommo provided a great list. All that stuff needs to be checked out to ensure it's OK.

My '83 also had a lot of play in the steering wheel when I bought it. My local suspension shop replaced the front wheel bearings and rebuilt the drag link. That fixed about 90% of the play. They fixed a bunch of other stuff too, but unrelated to the play in the wheel.
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Old 02-15-2018, 03:53 AM   #13  
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that remaining 10% is probably just due to the stupid design haha. how anyone thought it was a good idea to put springs in this system is beyond me.
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Old 02-15-2018, 05:31 AM   #14  
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Thommo, in what order from easiest to try first, would you attempt in fixing it or getting it on the right track?
thanks!
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Old 02-15-2018, 05:42 AM   #15  
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Easiest would be to tighten the springs in the drag link.
but before doing anything get under there with someone turning the wheel back n forth and see if u can see which parts seem to have the most play.
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Old 02-15-2018, 09:03 AM   #16  
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the easiest fix it where you find the most play like Thommo said. otherwise you could put in a lot more time and money than you need to. get rid of the play and if that means replacing tie rod ends get an alignment. if you just fix slop in the steering shaft, drag link or steering box you can center the wheel without effecting the alignment with a steering wheel puller (remove and reinstall as close to straight as you can get).
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Old 02-23-2018, 04:07 PM   #17  
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Owning one of these for....ah...35 years, yah that's sounds about right, the steering is pretty bullet proof, IF it was maintained. Believe me I got mine when I was about twenty so it goes without saying it was pounded till my back couldn't take it anymore. The only greasable parts are that drag link. If it wasn't greased regularly (ah that's every 2500miles/4000kms or so) it'll be worn...worn out and is likely the cause of this. The spring(s) in it can break and the sockets can wear out. Don't quote me but I seem to recall the sockets are either brass or nylon/Teflon. All the parts are replicable if/when you can find them. Without looking at "The Book" I think you can tighten them up a bit. The ends take a big as# slot screw driver and there are some pre-load specs in the book. Tighten something that's worn out doesn't fix the problem so if your able and sure of it, disassemble it, inspect, replace as needed. Tie rod ends on these pretty well lasts the life of the truck, unless you're doing something extreme, or the boot rips, it doesn't look like your truck falls into that category.

Another thing that causes this, which may be some of your problem, but not all, is either suspension lift or sag. The explanation is difficult to put into words, but simply put the front axle doesn't go straight up and down (90 degrees to the ground). Picturing an extreme lift on these trucks the front axle moves away from the truck frame but the drag link remains a fixed length, thus pulling the pitman arm backwards and thus turning the steering wheel off centre. That's why stuff like extended drag links and offset drag links were popular on these trucks when guys would lift them 10" and run 40" Dick Cepek Fun Country's. Your suspension looks at bit saggy but not enough to do the amount and issue your having.

So back to those drag link springs. My feeling on them were that they 'absorbed' the 'normal' up and down movement of the front axle driving on decent roads so that the steering wheel didn't rock back and forth. But maybe not!

Thommos list is a great start. Some seem unlikely but with the condition you state leave no stone un-turned. You either have one part with a lot of wear or a lot of parts with a bit of wear.

I just glanced at the picture you put up and the little voice in my head said check the torque rod bushings too.

Last edited by [email protected]; 02-23-2018 at 04:17 PM.
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Old 02-23-2018, 05:02 PM   #18  
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Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Owning one of these for....ah...35 years, yah that's sounds about right, the steering is pretty bullet proof, IF it was maintained. Believe me I got mine when I was about twenty so it goes without saying it was pounded till my back couldn't take it anymore. The only greasable parts are that drag link. If it wasn't greased regularly (ah that's every 2500miles/4000kms or so) it'll be worn...worn out and is likely the cause of this. The spring(s) in it can break and the sockets can wear out. Don't quote me but I seem to recall the sockets are either brass or nylon/Teflon. All the parts are replicable if/when you can find them. Without looking at "The Book" I think you can tighten them up a bit. The ends take a big as# slot screw driver and there are some pre-load specs in the book. Tighten something that's worn out doesn't fix the problem so if your able and sure of it, disassemble it, inspect, replace as needed. Tie rod ends on these pretty well lasts the life of the truck, unless you're doing something extreme, or the boot rips, it doesn't look like your truck falls into that category.

Another thing that causes this, which may be some of your problem, but not all, is either suspension lift or sag. The explanation is difficult to put into words, but simply put the front axle doesn't go straight up and down (90 degrees to the ground). Picturing an extreme lift on these trucks the front axle moves away from the truck frame but the drag link remains a fixed length, thus pulling the pitman arm backwards and thus turning the steering wheel off centre. That's why stuff like extended drag links and offset drag links were popular on these trucks when guys would lift them 10" and run 40" Dick Cepek Fun Country's. Your suspension looks at bit saggy but not enough to do the amount and issue your having.

So back to those drag link springs. My feeling on them were that they 'absorbed' the 'normal' up and down movement of the front axle driving on decent roads so that the steering wheel didn't rock back and forth. But maybe not!

Thommos list is a great start. Some seem unlikely but with the condition you state leave no stone un-turned. You either have one part with a lot of wear or a lot of parts with a bit of wear.

I just glanced at the picture you put up and the little voice in my head said check the torque rod bushings too.
thank you very much for the reply.

so if I hack the front up and have someone steer back and forth with the wheels off the ground will I see the culprit? Or would not jacking be best to put more strain on it?
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Old 02-23-2018, 05:07 PM   #19  
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just have someone wiggle the steering back and forth while you check all the way from the steering column down to the wheels themselves. it will be easy to find slop in the steering components that way, wheel bearings and king pins will require that you jack it up to really tell.
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Old 02-23-2018, 05:29 PM   #20  
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just have someone wiggle the steering back and forth while you check all the way from the steering column down to the wheels themselves. it will be easy to find slop in the steering components that way, wheel bearings and king pins will require that you jack it up to really tell.
I think the drivers wheel bearing is getting a bit worn. When the wheel was jacked up I grabbed them at 12 and 6 and pushed and pulled back and forth and there was just enough movement to feel it. Just a haircut it was there . The pass side I did not feel it like the drivers.
I also grabbed at 3 and 9 and pushed pulled and sounded like squishy-ness for lack of a better word.
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