« al's jeep | Main | marauder »

ball joints?

No, not ball joints.
This is mostly tech stuff, and kinda long, so don't jump if you're just looking for pics
this is the only one :)

Geneva's truck is having some steering problems. It's a bit wandery.. that is, the steering wanders (Wandery? Perhaps a wand manufacturing plant?)
Anyway, a couple weeks back she discovered that she had a bad pitman arm. That's the steering arm that conveys rotational movement from your steering wheel and steering gear box into side-side movement to steer the wheels via the rest of the steering rods (she has a 'recirculating ball' steering, not like rack&pinion). It had movement/play at the link.

She replaced the pitman, and said the steering wheel was suddenly off center by quite a bit. Well, there's only one way for the arm to go on and still bolt up, so... WTF? Now the steering wheel rotates 1.5 turns to the left lock, and 2 full turns to the right lock. Kudos to Lewis for pointing this out to me. The steering gear box is off center. Pulling the steering wheel or column off and putting it back on to look straight will do nothing to fix that. The steering box wants to be centered, and is designed to help you keep the vehicle straight only when it is centered... it's almost like a 'stiff spot' (similar to G spot, but much easier to find ;).

An off center box can cause wander, steering pulls, and brake problems. I figured maybe the new pitman was made slightly offcenter from where the original one is. Spit happens. Get an alignment and they should be able to center the wheel via the adjusting sleeves on the tie rod ends.

No-go. The shop told her she needed ball joints (not pictured). They also said they would pull her column off and put it back on to where the wheel looked straight. I see 2 problems with that. 1) I checked the ball joints last Monday and they looked OK, and 2) pulling off the column or steering wheel and reinstalling to make it appear on center will not center the steering gear box... still.
OK, 3 problems. The column only hooks to the box in one position. They'd have to pull the steering wheel, which can spline on in any position, not the column, still not fixing the problem, the offcenter box... still.

I looked at it again today. The ball joints are fine... still. I checked them 7waystosunday and they are fine. I pulled, pushed, pryed, prodded, and even checked them according to the shop manual (egads). Still fine.

The steering wheel is dead sideways. I tried to adjust the rods to straighten it. I got it about another quarter turn up and ran out of adjustment. Crap.

I also noticed the pitman kept fooling me into thinking it looked loose, but it wasn't. I found out the steering box shaft where the arm attaches is actually wiggling side-to-side slightly. Never saw that before, but OK, it needs a new box. What about getting it on center? The wiggle wont be the cause of a sideways steering wheel.

Well, I'm getting an ACDelco box and an ACDelco pitman for it. They better fit together right. She'll take the old pitman back where she got it.

Near as I can figure, these trucks came with 2 different types of power steering. Variable rate and non variable. The "variable rate" is supposed mean it's harder steering in the center for better road feel on the highway, but easier to turn the further off center, such as while parking or making a left ;)

Only the non-variable parts are available anymore for this 1983 chevy C10, and none of the manufacturers tell you the parts don't mix, but one states "except variable rate" on their pitman... That's only one out of 5+ different part manufacturers/suppliers of this pitman arm who tells you -through interpretation- their part might not fit right.
I think we have a variable box with a non-variable style pitman.

ACDelco supplies parts for GM, and the tech info on the steering gear specifically states "replaces all units". That's not a common disclaimer.
Let's hope it's true. She won't have variable rate steering anymore, but not many of these trucks did.
Most importantly, the steering should be centered and the gear box sector won't wiggle menacingly. Safety Still.
[homer]mmmm, stilll[/homer]

I'm going to set the toe myself (A minus B). Screw Tire King.