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Help with centering steering wheel?

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Mastiff, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    Today I replaced my old leaky steering box and installed the ORD bolt in brace kit while I was at it. This job is kind of a bear to do by yourself because the box is damn heavy!

    Anyway, I got it all back together, but when I put the box in, I had to rotate things (just a few degrees on the box drive output) to get the pitman arm teeth lined up. Not a biggy, but now my steering wheel is upside down when the tires are pointed forward. /forums/images/graemlins/doah.gif

    What should I do? I want to make sure I don't screw anything up. I verified that I can turn from stop to stop no problem. Should I just adjust the draglink to get the wheel centered up again?

    If I should just go after the draglink, any advice on how to go about it? It hasn't be adjusted in years of salt driving and it just won't turn for me. I can go maybe a quarter turn in each direction with extreme effort and then it just freezes up. I'm soaking it with liquid wrench right now, and I've heated it up a few time with MAPP.

    I'm ready for this project to be over!
     
  2. justhorsinaround

    justhorsinaround 3/4 ton status

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    I would use PB Blaster or WD 40 or whatever your favorite unsticker is and drench the thing and let it set for a while and go after it on the tighter downer bolts. I use a pair of channel locks to turn the link.

    Make sure your tires are turnin the same amount of degrees both directions.

    Hope this didn't confuse you to awful much.

    Good luck to y'all in the future.

    Allan
     
  3. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    After thinking about it some more, I think all I did was get the steering shaft itself turned upside down. If I could leave everything else alone and just reorient the steering shaft on the box, I think I'd be golden.

    The problem is, I just can't see how to accomplish this because of the two little prongs that stick up. Even if I undid the bolts at the box, those stinkin things would still lock everything up. Can they be removed, I mean non-destructively? /forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

    If I have to remove some of the box mounting bolts to accomplish this, I think I'll kill myself first! /forums/images/graemlins/doah.gif Stupid safety backup features!

    Hopefully someone knows what I'm talking about here and give me some advice. How would you go about replacing just the steering shaft? Because that's basically the same deal as what I need to do.

    Thanks again.
     
  4. gm4x

    gm4x 1/2 ton status

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    not tryin ta butt in.....don't change your adjustments on connecting rod between wheels, only from pittman arm to wheel steering arm to re-orient yer steering wheel, otherwise you'll need an alignment.
     
  5. 78k20

    78k20 Registered Member

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    Mastiff-

    I assume you're using the stock shaft? If so, there is just one bolt on the top that you'll need to remove that is "keyed" kind of like on your pitman arm-notched out on the male end going into the shaft joint, to allow for the bolt to pass through. Your lower end probably has the stock rag joint, just undue those bolts and slip it off at that end. Probably easier to start at the lower end first, then do the upper. While you've got it off, I'd recommend replacing it with a nice dual u-joint shaft. I went with Borgeson, they come ready-made, all you do is measure then separate, cut to length and put back together. Think I had to drill one hole at the upper end to lock it together, but overall, a very nice unit, built solid. Made a big difference in the wheel play itself, overall feels a lot more solid, more responsive, just all around "tight". Course, replaced everything else at the same time, and installed the box brace from ORD, so I can't exactly narrow it all down to just what part did what, but it is a nice improvement over stock-especially for an old worn out rag joint.

    As for centering the gearbox, do this first, then worry about your steering wheel. Personally, I've found that it's almost easier to just unhook the shaft from the gearbox to align the wheel-you've got many splines on there so you can get it pretty darned close by doing it this way. I've tried it with the "drag link" method, but somehow it always seems to come loose, or work it's way off center later down the road. Moving the shaft itself on the gearbox splines seems to work better/last longer for me. Just a thought.

    Best of Luck, and hope that helps,

    Mike

    -edit-
    /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gifOops, having re-read your post, I'm a little confused on a couple things. What are the "two little prongs" you refer too? I'm not quite sure how you would have installed the shaft upside down-the column end is a larger diameter/bigger spline count than the gearbox end. If you did by some chance, You want the male end pointing down towards the gearbox-so, should you get in a wreck and have your shaft collapse, the shaft will be pushed up, and inside the outter section. Make sense?

    Anyway, I left the original just in case there may be something useful for you. Had a rough day today, so I apologize if I've confused you, or made no sense at all. Please post what you find though, I'm interested to hear how it turns out.

    BTW-I love the truck, you've done a great job with it!
    -question though-Do you rub much with the Rancho springs???

    Again, Best of Luck,

    Mike
     
  6. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I'm talking about at the rag joint, where the shaft connects. There are two bolts and two prong-looking things. Even if the two bolts are removed, it's still not possible to get the shaft away from the steering box because of the prongs.

    It's the same deal if I try to completely remove the ragjoint and shaft from the box, I can remove the bolt holding the ragjoint to the box, but I can't pull it away from the box because there isn't any play.

    Does that make sense? It looks to me like they did all this on purpose so stuff wouldn't completely fall apart even if the bolts all came loose.

    It might mean that the only way to remove the steering shaft is to either remove the steering box, or dismantle the steering column. /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif If that's the case, I'm just going to dremel off one of those prongs. The other options are just too much work.
     
  7. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    You cannot unbolt your rag joint and turn it 180*. I learned that last weekend--it only goes together one way.
     
  8. m j

    m j 1/2 ton status

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    if it was straight before you changed the box then you have something installed wrong
    has the box been apart?
    every connection in the steering system is designed to go together 1 way
    you should not have moved anything a few teeth to get it on
    I just went through the exaspiration of disassembling my entire steering system to find the connection that was forced together incorrectly
    once every connection is correctly installed you fine tune the wheel orientation a few degrees with a draglink adjustment
     
  9. 84_Chevy_K10

    84_Chevy_K10 Banned

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    [ QUOTE ]
    once every connection is correctly installed you fine tune the wheel orientation a few degrees with a draglink adjustment

    [/ QUOTE ]

    That's exactly what I did. Lined it up, then adjusted my brand new Sky draglink until it all worked.
     
  10. scoutillac

    scoutillac 1/2 ton status

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    You can pull three bolt out of the box. Loosen the the one closest to the core support, but don't remove it. Then you can tip the box down and turn your steering shaft. When you get the shaft where you want it then lift the box back up and fit the shaft back on at the same time. Then put your other three box bolts back in. I had to do this when I rebuilt the box on my burb for the hydro assist.
     
  11. az-k5

    az-k5 1/2 ton status

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    I can rotate my rag joint connection 180° might check into that.
     
  12. justhorsinaround

    justhorsinaround 3/4 ton status

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    Ummm If all is well below the steering wheel i.e. the tires travel the same distance both ways and such, why not unbolt the steering wheel, rotate it 180 degrees and bolt it back on?

    I know I'm a dork but seems like we're over diagnosin the problem.

    Good luck to y'all in the future.

    Allan
     
  13. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    I think I'm confusing everyone. Here's what I think happened. When I was taking the box off, I removed everything except one mounting bolt and, since I was by myself, ran baling wire through one of the holes so the thing wouldn't fall on the ground when I took out the last one. I took it out and the thing flopped over a little. (Who cares, since it's just core now anyway).

    When I put the new one on, I held it up and screwed in one screw, but the shaft bolt holes didn't line up with the rag joint holes. The rag joint (and steering wheel) rotated when the old box fell down. Without thinking, I just put the shaft on at the closes angle that would line up with the bolt holes. I must have picked the wrong way by pure chance. I'm pretty sure the end of the steering shaft can is only keyed to within 180 degrees.

    Now it's all bolted together and I'm stuck. I'm not sure about removing the steering wheel, but that's gotta be a pain too.

    I can't imagine loosening three of those bolts again. What a pain that all was. All the work is done doing a constant situp at 45 degrees, or if I'm lucky, resting my head on a tie rod or something. The ORD brace normally wouldn't be tough, but I've got some fat battery cable going right past it on the front crossmember, plus a stray brake line in front of one of the other bolts from when I stupidly used Rancho's dropped brake bracket from the lift kit... /forums/images/graemlins/doah.gif

    I'm seriously going to dremel off one of the safety prongs. I'll just use some loctite on the bolts at the ragjoint to feel a little safer about it.

    Oh, I can't imagine why I couldn't rotate the shaft around the rag joint? Once it's free (and the column unlucked) the steering wheel can move it anywhere I want. Do you mean the end of the shaft is keyed to the ragjoint?
     
  14. 78k20

    78k20 Registered Member

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    That's why I mentioned just unhooking it at the box, and turning the wheel to where you want it, putting it back on-there are so many splines that it will line up, pretty darned close and your wheel will still be strait. This is what I did each and every time I had my truck apart for those damned AGR problems. As many times as I had to go through this, it was just easier, especially since I went with the dual u-joint shaft. The others are right though, for minor tweaking, the draglink is the way to do it.

    As for the rag joint itself, what Tim mentioned has me concerned now-I took my old system all apart just to "see how it works", since I was throwing it away anyway. Mine went on either way-180 degrees from itself. Tim mentioned his only went one way, so I don't know. Maybe mine was just so worn out that it didn't matter??? There was another post about everything only going one way, and that would fit in the grand scheme of things, but the way mine was, I don't quite see how it could only go one way-it's basically a mirror of itself. -Did they change something from '78-'84??? From what you mentioned, my first guess again, would be to unhook the rag bolts, turn the wheel right side up and put it back together. -Again, be sure to center the box first though-it's a pain to get the wheel nice and centered, then find out you forgot to center the box, so now it's all off again anyway!

    As for pulling the wheel itself, that is pretty simple if you decide to go that way-just pull the horn cover off, there is a c-clip, and a nut holding it on, that is it. There are three screws for the horn, but I don't remember if you need to pull them out or not-either way, it's very simple. You will most likely need a steering wheel puller-mine was rusted on so bad there was no way I could pull it by hand. Once you hook the puller up, put some tension on it, then tap the bolt with a hammer a time or two to help break the rust loose, it should slip right off.

    Anyway, hope something works out and let us know what comes of it.

    Best of Luck once again,

    Mike
     
  15. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    I really want to just unhook it at the box, but I can't see how I can get enough play to take it apart. Here are some pics to make everything more clear:

    The whole ugly deal:
    [​IMG]

    Closer up:
    [​IMG]

    Close-ups of rag joint:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    See that "prong" thing on the last picture? There are two of those, top and bottom (you can see 'em on the previous pic). Even if I take out those bolts on either side, I can't get the steering shaft pulled away far enough to clear those. Do you not have anything like that?

    The steering shaft kind of looks like it telescopes, but it really doesn't. There's just a little play in the rag joint and at a rubbery spot near the firewall.
     
  16. Fubeca

    Fubeca 1/2 ton status

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    My k5 is a '91 and it will only go together one way. The pitman arm will only go on one way, the ragjoint has different sized bolts and holes and only goes together one way and it will only go on the box one way. You might try adjusting the drag link before you tear the whole box off again. I was surprised at how a little adjustment moves the wheel a lot.

    When I bought my K30 the steering was wheel was off about 3/8 of a turn and I had to hold it to keep it going straight down the road. After I adjusted the DL it tracked straight and was centered.
     
  17. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    Now that you mention it, I can see right in the picture there that the two bolts are different sizes. I must have accidentally gotten it right the first time? /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif

    /forums/images/graemlins/thinking.gif I had to turn the box just a little to get the pitman arm teeth lined up. Maybe it was enough to rotate the steering wheel that much... The thing I didn't do that I should have was verify that the steering box was centered when I started. I trusted that they'd give me the new box already centered, which hopefully wasn't a big mistake.

    Okay, so here's my next question. How expensive is a new draglink? What is the correct tool to separate it from the the arms on either end? The thing looks pretty crappy anyway, so maybe I ought to replace it instead of fighting to rotate it.

    Thanks!
     
  18. m j

    m j 1/2 ton status

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    if you are 100% certain that every connection is in its proper orientation then adjust the drag link length

    but again for the non believers

    EVERY CONNECTION IN THE STEERING IS KEYED IN SOME WAY TO ONLY GO TOGETHER 1 WAY

    the steering wheel lockplate and the horn wire allow for a couple of degrees of movement at best, but why would you move it when it is marked to be perfectly straight when everything else is in the correct spot
    the steering column at the firewall connection is keyed with a bolt notch for the coupler
    the ragjoint has 2 different sized bolt holes
    the steering box input has a bolt notch for the coupler
    the steering box if 4wdr has a bolt notch, if 2wdr has 4 keyways

    mine was forced together at the firewall connection incorrectly
    once I found that the box is now centered and the wheel fine adjustment is in the draglink where it belongs
     
  19. Fubeca

    Fubeca 1/2 ton status

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    I think the last time I bought them the DL ends were around $25 each and the sleeve was about $11 from the local parts whore.
     
  20. Mastiff

    Mastiff 1/2 ton status Premium Member

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    I got the draglink parts. Is it bad for the steering gear to pound on the drag link end with a pickle fork?
     

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