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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 1950 Chevy 3100 has a 1974 Firebird clip. The streering wheel won't return to center after a right or left turn. I have replaced all of the steering linkage, ball joints, and control arm bushings. The steering gear is the original from the Firebird. The pump is from a 1973 Chevy truck.
I have set the camber to neg 1/2 degree and the caster to positive 4 degrees. the toe in is 1/8 inch. The tires are P215/70R15 on 7 inch rims. I have tightened to steering gear until all of the steering play was gone and then backed it off 1/8 of a turn.
I read other posts saying that replacing the steering gear did not solve this problem for others. The steering wheel is centered and turns easily on turning pads or while driving.
I am at a loss about what to do next to make the steering wheel return to center after a turn
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
the specs you list are the original specs for bias ply tires. I used to work in an automotive garage, anytime we switched a car to radials, we usually set the alignments to something similar to this. I added more positive caster trying to make the steering wheel self center.
 

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You said you tightened the steering gear (assume box) until all of the play was gone and backed off 1/8 turn. Sounds like the steering box is worn out. Steer boxes have a crown at the center point so when driving straight the steering is tight. This is what you adjust for. After about 1/2 turn of the steering wheel the steering gets loose (play) so it is easy to turn. If you tightened all the play out and the steering is tight from lock to lock the steering box crown is gone. This will prevent the steering wheel returning to straight ahead. You can test for this by taking the weight off of the front wheels or putting them on pads and turning the wheels lock to lock and feeling for a crown at midpoint.

Getting a "new" steering box can be a problem. If you get a rebuilt or remanufactured box and new bearings and seals were installed but the old gears were used you will have the same problem. You can bench test the box by feeling the crown at midpoint but it goes away off center. Getting one from a junkyard will probably be just as bad.

4* caster should be enough to get the steering to return to straight ahead. You can go more but then it gets harder to turn. Some cars go as high as 8* stock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I tested the steering gear for a crown as described. I could not feel any difference from lock to lock. I did notice that turning right is 1 and 1/4 turns to lock while turning left is 1 and 3/4 turns to lock. That tells me I am not running on the crown of the gear while straight ahead and that I have the lash adjustment too tight. It looks like my steering column is 90 degrees out of phase. I will correct this and hope this allows me to loosen the gear adjustment more. If that does not fix it, a NEW steering gear is available from Rock Auto.
 

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the specs you list are the original specs for bias ply tires. I used to work in an automotive garage, anytime we switched a car to radials, we usually set the alignments to something similar to this. I added more positive caster trying to make the steering wheel self center.
Yes they are and did you try them or go straight to what you provided?
 

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My 95 mustang calls for 3.5 * caster. I set it at 4*. When setting the steering wheel you must be at the center of the box. The steering wheel must be set so it is set straight with equal turns left and right. To do this you may have to disconnect the steering column from the box and move it on the splines. Also make sure the blinker cancelation is aligned with the steering wheel. Once you get that set the wheels must be aligned with the steering wheel locked in the straight ahead position.

If you have a 1974 steering box I would bet it is worn out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I started adjusting the steering linkage today. I now have the steering gear set so that it is 1 and 1/2 turns to lock from straight ahead to either right or left. The steering wheel is 1/4 turn from centered. I suspect something was fabricated wrong when the GM steering column was adapted to the truck and the Firebird clip. I'm pretty sure a new steering gear will happen.
 

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I started adjusting the steering linkage today. I now have the steering gear set so that it is 1 and 1/2 turns to lock from straight ahead to either right or left. The steering wheel is 1/4 turn from centered. I suspect something was fabricated wrong when the GM steering column was adapted to the truck and the Firebird clip. I'm pretty sure a new steering gear will happen.
You can adjust that with the tie-rod ends.

Russ
 

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If you leave the steering wheel 90* out and attempt to adjust the steering linkage with the tie rod adjustments to make the wheels go straight you will be driving straight with the steering wheel off by 90* off and will be off of the crown and the car with wonder. Just disconnect the steering column from the box and move the steering wheel shaft on the splines.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
What I have learned so far. It is critical to make sure the steering box is centered with the wheels straight ahead. If your vehicle is stock, the steering wheel will be centered, if you have custom fabrication like I do, that may not be true. Center the steering box with tires straight ahead using the tie rod adjustments, then make corrections to the column connections to get the steering wheel centered. I have made adjustments to center the steering box and loosened the lash adjustment almost 3/4 of a turn. the steering wheel is off by 90 degrees. The truck handles very well a 70 mph with no wander. The wheel returns to center after a left turn, but not after a right turn. I suspect that having the lash adjustment too tight for many years caused significant wear of the box and intend to replace it with a NEW one.
I was at a loss for a way to correct this and thank everyone for guiding me to a solution.
 

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What I have learned so far. It is critical to make sure the steering box is centered with the wheels straight ahead. If your vehicle is stock, the steering wheel will be centered, if you have custom fabrication like I do, that may not be true. Center the steering box with tires straight ahead using the tie rod adjustments, then make corrections to the column connections to get the steering wheel centered. I have made adjustments to center the steering box and loosened the lash adjustment almost 3/4 of a turn. the steering wheel is off by 90 degrees. The truck handles very well a 70 mph with no wander. The wheel returns to center after a left turn, but not after a right turn. I suspect that having the lash adjustment too tight for many years caused significant wear of the box and intend to replace it with a NEW one.
I was at a loss for a way to correct this and thank everyone for guiding me to a solution.
 

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A suggestion from someone who's been there ('56 Chevy truck, early '70s clip): Did you make sure the upper and lower bearings on the steering column are intact? I rebuilt my steering column and put a little bit too much pressure on the lock plate and it ruined the upper bearing. I could steer, but the wheel would not return on center. A new bearing fixed it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
A suggestion from someone who's been there ('56 Chevy truck, early '70s clip): Did you make sure the upper and lower bearings on the steering column are intact? I rebuilt my steering column and put a little bit too much pressure on the lock plate and it ruined the upper bearing. I could steer, but the wheel would not return on center. A new bearing fixed it.
The column I have is a mixture of parts from the Firebird that donated the clip and a Caprice. I did rebuild the column and used parts from a newer Caprice to give me tilt. When I uncouple the steering box I will check to make sure the column bearings allow the steering wheel and column shaft to turn freely. Thanks for the tip.
 

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The column I have is a mixture of parts from the Firebird that donated the clip and a Caprice. I did rebuild the column and used parts from a newer Caprice to give me tilt. When I uncouple the steering box I will check to make sure the column bearings allow the steering wheel and column shaft to turn freely. Thanks for the tip.
 

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Were did you get those specs at?

camber 1.00* +/- 0.75*
caster 0.00* +/- 1.00*
total toe 0.38* +/- 0.25*
Those settings are hardly what I would call driveable and low wear. 1/2° left camber, 1/4° right camber, plus of minus an 1/8, 2° positive caster with 1/2 to 3/4 more on the right, 1/8" total toe. Should drive straight with the crown if the road and not wipe out a set of tires. I aligned a lot of rear drive cars in the 70s and 80s with those specs and never had a complaint about driving feel, pull, or wear, bias or radial. You want to fly in the curves, that's a different thing.
 

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I tested the steering gear for a crown as described. I could not feel any difference from lock to lock. I did notice that turning right is 1 and 1/4 turns to lock while turning left is 1 and 3/4 turns to lock. That tells me I am not running on the crown of the gear while straight ahead and that I have the lash adjustment too tight. It looks like my steering column is 90 degrees out of phase. I will correct this and hope this allows me to loosen the gear adjustment more. If that does not fix it, a NEW steering gear is available from Rock Auto.
I suspect that you already know this but anyway, the steering box is centered by adjusting the drag link.
 
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