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Steering sucks, any solutions?

Discussion in 'Modified 1991-1994 Explorers' started by davy crockett, June 29, 2011.

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    1. davy crockett

      davy crockett Member

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      I've replaced all the steering linkage on my truck, had the steering box rebuilt with all the bearings replaced with bushings, plus new ball joints, but I still find the steering is crappy. There seems to be a fair amount of dead area (not sure how else to describe it, basically I can move the wheel back and forth and nothing happens) in the center and the steering is very soft so it gets ugly at highways speeds.

      Truck has a 4" suspension lift on 33x12.50's. I have the front swaybar hooked up with extended links, no rear bar but body roll doesn't seem to be an issue.

      The only steering component I haven't replaced is the lower steering shaft/coupler. Could this be part of the problem?

      Only other thing is I don't have a steering stabilizer installed I don't know if it would affect this. Bump steer hasn't been a huge issue.

      What else should I look at or is this just the way these trucks are? I have an old FJ40 on 33's with armstrong steering and I don't think its steering is much worse than my Ex and that's saying something.
       
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    3. Baddecision93

      Baddecision93 Active Member

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      This is my 3rd IFS/TTB Ford with oversized tires and they all steer horribly. The ones with under 100k could be brought back to decent with an alignment every 6 months but in a state covered in potholes I couldn't get more than 6 months under my belt before it got terrible again.

      My truck now is the oldest one I've had and the steering is by far the worst. I had it aligned after I lifted it and all the components inspected and the Ford dealer said everything was kosher.
      Our first gens are scaring the heck out of 20 yrs old and with avg miles/year we should easy be pushing 200,000k.

      I think unfortunately you're going to have to chalk it up to nature of the beast or spend an ungodly amount of cash trying to make it new again.

      I know I can't even let go of mine for 5 seconds, even after an alignment, for fear of sending oncoming traffic to their maker. And as far as dead spots I've had a boat with "tighter" steering lol.

      My 2 cents anyway.
       
    4. IZwack

      IZwack Moderator Emeritus

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    5. Albino 94LTD

      Albino 94LTD Recovering from Moab 2016 Elite Explorer

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      BD, steering shouldn't be that bad, mine isn't. Actually my X with 225,000 is more relaxing to drive on the freeway than my '03 Aviator though not nearly as 'tight/precise'.

      It's all in the alignment. My 'guy' increased the caster a bit, even over spec, to get it where I like it. Running a little 'toe in' will help prevent wandering but too much will prematurely wear out your tires.

      Also, on the recirculating ball type steering box, there is a pre-load screw and lock nut on the top of the box, adjusting that can reduce some of the 'center play', too much will cause binding and it won't want to return to center.

      Don't overlook those beam pivot bushings Izwack posted the link about. Pretty involved to replace them but well worth it.

      In the end, it will not feel like a rack & pinion rig but it CAN be safe and comfortable to drive.
       
    6. 4x4junkie

      4x4junkie Well-Known Member

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      I have to agree, sloppy steering or poor handling isn't just "nature of the beast" simply because it's old or has a lot of miles.

      As Albino mentions, these boxes are known to sometimes have play in them and it probably just needs to be adjusted properly. I would get under there and start checking to see where this "dead area" is originating from (have someone rock the wheel back & forth while you look at the linkage and column joints if need be. If the input to the box is turning but the output isn't, then you found your problem).
       
    7. Jason94sport

      Jason94sport Well-Known Member

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      X2, The 4 1st gens I have had all had play to some degree. Some worse then others. Nothing I did really helped it.
       
    8. Maniak

      Maniak Moderator-Stock 91-94 Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      I just helped a friend with his 88 f-150 that was scary to drive. He could rotate the steering wheel from 10 o'clock to the 2 o'clock position without it turning the pitman arm (big dead zone)

      The way we checked it was to use 2 people. First we checked the u-joint looking thing in the tilt steering.

      To do this, grab the steering shaft near the firewall (from under the hood) and see if the other person can can move the steering wheel. You should not be able to. In his case we could. That meant a full day's worth of work to pull apart his column and tighten the nut that had come loose from the tilt-steering joint.

      Next we wanted to check the shaft itself, the part under the hood. I had him bounce the steering wheel (now that we know it moves the upper shaft) and I found that the slip joint in the middle of the steering shaft was really worn bad. From the factory there are a couple bent metal shims/springs that go in that slip joint to keep the inner and outer shaft tight. His were long gone.

      Once we fixed that, we did the steering wheel shake again to check the rag joint on the steering shaft. It was fine on his truck, the entire shaft moved as one.

      Now when he bounces the steering wheel it has about 1" of dead zone before it makes the pitman arm move. Thats slop in the steering box, and is about right. If you have 0 slop it can make it hard to drive (My old Van had 0 slop, not fun).

      Its a night/day difference in driving his truck now.

      BTW, Our X with a highly modified D-35 TTB system with well over 300k miles is a breeze to drive. The only issue for anyone that drives it is the sway (no sway bars) but I steers great. It wasn't always so.. I have lots of caster, and my rag joint has been replaced (it was bad at one time, causing lots of slop).


      ~Mark
       
    9. RangerX

      RangerX Elite Ranger Staff Member Moderator Elite Explorer

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      Another possibility is you might have stripped the splines where shaft connects to the steering box. Mine did once, probably from pushing the tires against rocks offroad. I had huge deadzone where it felt like the steering was not even connected. Made for interesting freeway driving. ;) I replace the intermediate shaft and all was good.
       
    10. BWTGUY

      BWTGUY Active Member

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      Mr. Crockett, I have a 1992 Eddie Bauer with 152,000 miles on it when my daughter gave it to me as a project car . I replaced every%$#^& component in the front suspension and ALL bearing surfaces in the 4 X 4 system. NO JOY! still from 10 o'clock to 2 o'clock with zero wheel turn. My wife refused to ride in it so I had to fix it. After much additional testing and soul searching, I replaced the "rebuilt" steering gear box that I replaced just 18 months ago with an AGR custom built Ford Truck unit with absolutely perfect response and tried to rebuild the rag joints in the Intermediate steering shaft. The rebuild looked like new (more about that later). I put ol' Ed back together and went for a spin. Now I had only about 20-25 degrees of slop. I went to the local pick-apart to see if there might be another Ex with a decent lower steering shaft as Ford quit making them about 10 years ago. I scored! Found an Explorer with what looked like a fairly new shaft and rag joints and no feel-able slop in the shaft assembly. I installed same and for the first time in 12 years, the steering was what my daughter calls "normal". I took my own "rebuild" that I was so proud of, and discovered that the rubber grommet I used to hold the shaft and rag joint together, is too soft to work. I had about 3/8 inch play in the rag joint with the rebuilt unit. The pick-apart shaft has Zero slop and makes the Ed a pleasure to drive. I suggest not installing a rebuilt steering box as all existing boxes will have some play in either the gearing or the intermediate shaft that erases any gain in rebuilding the system. Flaming River makes a universal set and replacement shaft that can be used ion the Explorer if you cannot find a donor car. Hopefully this will keep others from suffering as I have in a search for steering without getting the (ahem) shaft..
       
    11. malohnes

      malohnes Active Member

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      The rag joint is often he weakest link that is also the most over-looked component in the steering system when looking for the cure for poor steering.
       
    12. FR-425

      FR-425 Used to be a road here. Elite Explorer

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      Here's a tip for oversize tire steering stability::

      It is common practice for alignment shops and factory setup's for that matter, to have 1 degree more caster on the right side to make up for "road curve" or "drainage slope".

      It is normal for a vehicle with dead flat alignment to follow road curve.

      So they add one degree caster to the right, so the car will pull "slightly" to the left.

      Then while driving on the average road that is sloped to the right for drainage, the car runs nice and straight.

      This "slight" pull will help with "wandering" while at highway speed especially with oversize tires.

      The only time you will feel sloppy is entering into right turns when you have to "cross" over the play in the steering.

      This will not help much with wide tires grabbing ruts however that's just the nature of having so much rubber on the road.

      I personal run mine dead flat at only 2 degree's caster 1.5 degree camber 1/8" tow in. and just deal with it chasing around a bit.

      I don't like higher caster angles for off road use such that the wheel's "lean" over to much when turning.
      I prefer a upright tire through the steering range. Yes, I lose some turning radius but I find that less troublesome than pushing the tire off the bead, or cutting the side wall, or dragging the wheel lip on the ground.

      Basically it comes down to primary use --highway or off-road-- and personal preference.

      MAKE SURE HOWEVER THAT ALL OF YOUR STEERING COMPONENTS ARE IN SERVICEABLE "SAFE" CONDITION.
       
      Last edited: December 15, 2013

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