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Old 06-08-2009, 11:49 AM
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Steering Box Adjustment

I have a 72 chevy pickup with manual steering. The steering is quite sloppy meaning that I can move the steering wheel about 20 degrees back and forth without effecting a change in the actual tire position. The truck tracks straight down the road and the front end alignment is great. Is there a way to tighten up the play? There is a set screw with a locking nut on the top of the steering box is this what is used? how can I tell if it is time for new box?

Any input would be appreciated.

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Old 06-09-2009, 09:37 AM
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Could be the box for sure but more likely its worn out tie rod ends and ball joints in the rest of the system. That set screw and lock nut allow tightening the box somewhat. Set the gear straight ahead and loosen the nut. Tighten the screw 'til there is no play (not really tight, inch pounds, not foot pounds) then tighten the nut. Move the steering wheel just 'til the pitman arm begins to move. If you still have the 20deg movement, definitely need a new box. However if the wheel is tight and the pitman arm essentially moves with the wheel, your problem is the rest of the suspension. Good way to test that is jack up the front end and try to wiggle the tires back and forth. If they move the 20deg and the pitman arm/steering wheel are steady, plan on a front end rebuild. Chevys of that era eat up front ends in mass quantities.
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:13 AM
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Custom10,

I would also check the frame where the steering box is bolted. With bigger tires or doing any off road driving the frame cracks and causes the problem you speak of here.
There is a kit to repair these frame cracks so you know it must happen often.

Scholman
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:58 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willys36@aol.com
Could be the box for sure but more likely its worn out tie rod ends and ball joints in the rest of the system. That set screw and lock nut allow tightening the box somewhat. Set the gear straight ahead and loosen the nut. Tighten the screw 'til there is no play (not really tight, inch pounds, not foot pounds) then tighten the nut. Move the steering wheel just 'til the pitman arm begins to move. If you still have the 20deg movement, definitely need a new box. However if the wheel is tight and the pitman arm essentially moves with the wheel, your problem is the rest of the suspension. Good way to test that is jack up the front end and try to wiggle the tires back and forth. If they move the 20deg and the pitman arm/steering wheel are steady, plan on a front end rebuild. Chevys of that era eat up front ends in mass quantities.
I believe that the tie rods and all are good but I will use your method and double check things a bit closer, essentially then what I am looking for is movement of the pitman in relation to the steering wheel movement to check the box, if they are close then it could be other factors other than a worn box...makes sense thanks. What is that set screw actually doing inside the box? and as you say it can be over tightened, will this damage the unit?

cheers
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Old 06-09-2009, 11:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scholman
Custom10,

I would also check the frame where the steering box is bolted. With bigger tires or doing any off road driving the frame cracks and causes the problem you speak of here.
There is a kit to repair these frame cracks so you know it must happen often.

Scholman
good point...thanks
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Old 06-09-2009, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Custom10
What is that set screw actually doing inside the box?
Take a look at the drawing HERE. It is of a power assisted box, but you can get the gist of it.

The teeth on #8 and the rack are made in such a way that the lash is removed when the pitman shaft is adjusted tighter.

The steering will lose its "self-centering" and feel cobby if the adjustment is too tight. A little adjustment is all you're likely to get before the steering starts to feel wrong.

Hopefully, this will be all that you need, and I'm betting you will get some improvement- but it will not cure worn parts, obviously.

Last edited by cobalt327; 06-09-2009 at 12:54 PM.
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Old 06-09-2009, 01:40 PM
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There's another thread on here that had good Info on that adjustment and some warnings. Be carefull, if you tighten it too much the steering can bind/lock while you're in a turn.
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Old 06-09-2009, 02:21 PM
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The gears inside are basically rack and pinion. The set screw pushed the rack closer to the pinion, tightening up the mesh and taking out the slack. Once the slack in the gear mesh is removed, there is no benefit in over tightening. The gears are cut a little a little tighter in the middle of the stroke (ends up feeling better that way and self centers better) so that's why you need to make that adjustment there.



The picture above shows the guts of a typical gear. The steering shaft turns a worm gear inside the 'rack' gear. It is fitted with recirculating ball bearings so there is not the friction associated with a sliding worm gear. The 'rack' gear turns the 'pinion gear' on the sector shaft that turns the pitman arm. The adjusting screw you are referring to pushes and pulls the sector shaft/pinion gear in and out in relation to the rack gear. Since they are cut at an angle, as the shaft is pushed in, it tightens the mesh. As you can see, the thing is pretty bullet proof and about the only place they can wear out is the bushings supporting the sector shaft. They can wear and get sloppy but doesn't happen very often. Everything else is in ball bearings. It's usually the tie rod ends, A-arm bushings, and ball joints 99% of the time that are the bad actors.

Last edited by willys36@aol.com; 06-09-2009 at 02:30 PM.
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Old 06-09-2009, 05:06 PM
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OK well now it is much more clear to me, I will give it all a closer look...thanks very much to all , great info here.
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Old 06-11-2009, 04:06 PM
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regardless the box is probably very worn beyond its mechanical life and technically should be replaced

now would be the time to convert to power steering and its easy to do so on these trucks 87 and older power boxes work on the '63-up trucks and are the same


good luck!
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Old 06-12-2009, 11:45 AM
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Well closer inspection revealed that the box is worn bad. I can twist the columb shaft back and forth and the pitman barely moves, also looks like play/wear in the bottom bearing above the pitman, yes I am now in the market for a power steering setup.

Thanks All
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