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Loose Steering - 1949 Roadmaster


Dan O
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I have had my front end rebuilt so it is all tight but the steering wheel seems loose with a lot of play as I drive down the road.  I can turn the steering wheel 15 degrees or so before it turns the wheels.  So, I am constantly moving the steering wheel.  What is the cause of this?  I have not touched the steering box so I guess that needs attention?  Also, my steering wheel sits at 90 degrees to the right when I am driving straight ahead. Not sure how to address that issue but I bet they are related.

 

Any tips and advice will be most appreciated!

Edited by Dan O (see edit history)
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If you had your front end rebuilt the steering wheel should be in the correct position while going straight and not cocked to one side.   The tie rod ends need to be adjusted to get the steering wheel straight ahead when not turning.   Looseness in the steering wheel could be due to several causes including loose or worn tie rod ends, loose incorrectly adjusted wheel bearings but not likely if your front end was rebuilt.   Another possibility might be excessive play in the pitman arm to ball nut lash.   This is adjustable as long as the bearings are not seriously worn.  The end of the longer tie rod has a plug with a cotter pin to hold the current adjustment.

Check your shop manual as these conditions are discussed there.

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Does the wheel turn the same number of revolutions to the L and R stops?  If not, the steering box is not centered and the tie rods need to be adjusted together to pull the wheel (and steering gear) to center.  If the wheel is off to the right the left tie rod is too short and the right one is too long.  Turn each one the same number of revolutions in opposite directions to re-center the wheel.  Then you can determine whether adjustments can be made at the steering box to reduce the lash.

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I have had my front end rebuilt so it is all tight 

With that said the first thing to try is adjusting the steering box.  If you have a service manual it is covered there. 

Also a good time to add or refill the steering box with lube. 

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Unfortunately, the car is not stored at my home so I cannot jack it up to see if there is equal steering turns lock to lock as EmTee suggests BUT I had two older mechanics work on it and one did a front end alignment where we replaced everything but the center drag link (would not come off).  One remarked on the steering wheel and said it could not be merely pulled off and re-positioned like some cars I have had (is that right??)

 

So, I will break out the manual and review.  the steering box info.

 

I did drive it 25 miles today and it did well.  It gave a  bit of resistance at speed when I tried to push 70mph and surged a bit as if it just would not go over 70,  but then it did and cruised along at 70 for most of the way.  I have a rebuilt motor, tranny, brakes, carb, etc so she should run like new.  I have driven 54 Ford, 53 Merc back in the 70's and they ran better that this so something is going on.

IMG-1666.jpg

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22 hours ago, Joseph P. Indusi said:

   Another possibility might be excessive play in the pitman arm to ball nut lash.   This is adjustable as long as the bearings are not seriously worn. 

Mr. Joe - many thanks - I will investigate and report back!

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I didn't look in the manual, but it makes sense that it would not be able to be put on more than one way. That is the usual way on a car with a steering box and an independent front suspension. Steering boxes have a tight spot in the center, at least before they wear out, and if you move the steering wheel to a different clock position the steering will be really loose.

 

It starts from the steering wheel. The steering wheel makes sure the box is centered. An independent front suspension needs both tie rods to be exactly the same length, and once the toe is set, they will be. If they are not you can see it because the steering wheel is not centered. Well, that's true unless the car is bent, but in that case it is time for a trip to the frame shop.

 

This is in contrast to cars with rack and pinion steering. They go the other way. You make the tie rod lengths equal by measuring them, and then when setting toe you make exactly the same change on both sides. Once done, you take the steering wheel off and put it on straight.

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Both the steering wheel and pitman arm on my '38 are keyed so they can only be installed in one position.  My steering wheel was off slightly when I got the car.  I shortened one tie rod and lengthened the other by the same number of turns to re-center the wheel.  I first pulled the nut from the wheel and pitman arm to make sure they were where they belonged.

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A good thing to remember is that all parts wear evenly. If the outboard steering components needed rebuilding the box is probably worn out as well.

 

This picture shows a 1949 Buick box. The pitman sector and the steering shaft worn gear are usually the major wear areas. Both surfaces were hardened when manufactured. In use the hardened surface will wear away. After disassembling the box, inspection of the worm and sector will show small pinholes in the wear surface. That is a sign the hardness is gone. Once that happens the wear will be rapid, Usually you can see the "swale" in the worm. Parts can be found. The worm and shaft usually come as a replacement unit.

 

Many steering boxes have a adjustment screw at the base and owners are tempted to tighten that up. It doesn't compensate the real wear area. That will tighten the feedback to the power steering if equipped and that will overcompensate and give a twitchy feeling.

 

I would try to get an NOS sector and worm with the plan of dropping the box and installing them.

 

1950 Buick Steering Gear and Tie Rods - Hometown Buick

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