Steering Wheel Play Inside Cabin | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

  • Register Today It's free!

Steering Wheel Play Inside Cabin

juliob

New Member
Joined
June 19, 2005
Messages
8
Reaction score
0
City, State
Myrtle Beach SC
Year, Model & Trim Level
97 XL 4.0 SOHC
We just inherited this 2004 Explorer XLS with 87k miles, mostly in great shape. There was some rust on the roof and I cleaned it sealed the windshield and coated it with Durabak. Ordered the rear panel that's cracked on every Explorer and will replace it tomorrow. Removing the old one was an adventure...

I noticed play in the steering wheel, it can be moved up and down, left and right, in and out.

I have done some research and on older F150s you can replace the steering wheel bearing but haven't found anything for the Explorer. TIA

See video for reference:
 



Join the Elite Explorers for $20 each year.
Elite Explorer members see no advertisements, no banner ads, no double underlined links,.
Add an avatar, upload photo attachments, and more!
.





The steering wheel is adjustable to some extent so the first thing is to make sure that the adjustment lever is locked down and the wheel is not just moving the way it is supposed to for adjustments.

Even though you have nice low mileage, rust is going to be an issue going forward. Rust cares about time and moisture, not about miles. It helps that you don't live in the land of snow and salt but I would take steps to keep the rust at bay. I would think about painting the frame and doing some undercoating. The rocker panels rot out on these, so I would start looking at some prevention for that.

Is the XLS the 4.0L v6?

LMHmedchem
 






Welcome Juliob!
I'm sorry to hijack, but I was going to post the same thing. I also have some play in & out on my steering wheel.
I checked the lever is good, I took the airbag off & made sure the T50 screw securing the wheel to the shaft was tight. All good.
My ball joints, end links, & sway bar links all appear to be good. I looked at the steering joint & that appears to look ok. Nothing that stands out.
I'm at a loss.
 






The adjustment lever is secured. Any other ideas of why there is play in the steering wheel?
 






The adjustment lever is secured. Any other ideas of why there is play in the steering wheel?
Unless the adjustment lever/mechanism is broken it is hard to imagine what would allow play in all of those directions and yet still allow the steering wheel to function. What difference in movement is there if you release the adjustment lever?

Some of the steering column parts are still available at Carid.com and there are column repair kits, etc, but you need to know what is wrong first as some of these parts are very expensive new. Hopefully someone here can post the procedure from the repair manual for how to dismantle the steering column. There are several related videos on YouTube for how to replace various parts and these will include at least part of the tear down procedure.

If you don't get an answer here soon I would collect the necessary information to start taking the steering column apart. I know you have to be careful with the clock spring mechanism so do some preparation and don't just grab a socket set and wade in. If you get it apart you should be able to find which part is broken, detached, etc. I might be inclined to start emailing around to salvage yards to see if you can find a steering column that doesn't have any play in it and just swap them out. Sometimes it is easier to exchange an entire assembly then to disassemble and replace smaller parts. Often these things were not manufactured with repairs in mind.

This is a site to check out that may be helpful,


the above is a detailed diagram of the entire steering column. This company rebuilds steering columns and they look like they are reasonable in price if they have, or can rebuild, what you need. They will likely know the exact cause of the symptoms you are seeing and may be able to sell you the parts you need. It they don't have a rebuilt in stock they may be able to rebuild yours. I definitely think it's worth a call or message there. I have never done business with them so I don't know anything about their reputation.

LMHmedchem
 






FYI
My play seems to be the inner tie rod ends. Shop wanted $490 with the alignment. F that, I got the parts for $80. I'll be replacing them on Sunday.
Doesn't seem hard from the videos I seen.
 






Doesn't seem hard from the videos I seen.
...it might not be too bad.

The inner tie rod ends can be very difficult to remove as they are very tightly attached. The ones I have removed were on a new rack so possibly the issue was threadlocker or something similar. I guess it's possible that with age they have loosed up, that would be a good thing.

Shops use a special tool for this job that extends out past the wheel well so you can get plenty of leverage to break it free. These tools go $40-$60 and are like this one,

LISLE 45750 Inner Tie Rod Tool ($56.79)

You can generally pick one up for about $40 at home depot or harbor freight.

There is a cheap $10 version,

PERFORMANCE TOOL W83027 Inner Tie Rod Tool ($9.08)

it's hard to say if this would work or not.

If you do get a tool, make sure it has the correct crows foot for your truck. Most of them have a selection but I would measure your new part to know what size you need.

I think that if you have one of these tools then it should not be too bad. I used my largest crescent wrench, which is pretty big. There is, however, very little space to work with in there. If you are using something similar (like a big wrench) then the issue will be clearance to get the wrench in the with space to turn it and enough leverage while upside down in your driveway. Hopefully you can find a video that shows a location where you can put a wrench where it will work. If not, and you don't have the specific tool, you might have to disconnect the rack from the cross-member which is a whole lot of additional work and potential problems. There are good reasons why a shop pays to have the special tool around. I would look at it carefully and see if there is room for whatever wrench you have before going out and buying something, but I generally end up getting the tool unless it's very expensive. It would, of course, be great if you could borrow one.

At any rate, the first thing to do is to carefully remove the inside strap clamp from the boot using a large flathead to pop it off. After that, pull the boot off enough to disconnect the breather tube and pull the boot off the end of the rack so it is floating. I would do this before removing the outer tie rod end if you can access it. With any luck, the outer tie rod end will be rusted enough to the inner rod so that the inner will break free when you try to unscrew the outer. Having the boot clamp off will let you just unscrew and remove the whole thing at once. If you get the outer tie rod end and the boot off but still need to break the inner rod loose, try turning the steering wheel to extend the rack gear out into the wheel well as far as possible. That might give you more space.

Once you have the inner rod off, carefully examine the protruding end of the rack gear. If there is any significant pitting on the rack gear, or if there is PS fluid in the boot (particularly if the boot is ripped), then you will likely need a rebuilt rack and not just a tie rod end. Also examine the boot as it will need to be replaced if it's ripped or looking badly cracked. You will definitely need to replace the strap clamp. I used standard worm gear clamps that you can get anywhere. There is no pressure on the system at that location so there is no need for anything significant. The replacement boot kits come with zip ties but I like a little more than that.

Let me know if you are running into issues as I have done this relatively recently. As is typical, getting the old part off will be 95% of the battle.

LMHmedchem
 






I also have some play in & out on my steering wheel.
I checked the lever is good,
FYI
My play seems to be the inner tie rod ends. Shop wanted $490 with the alignment. F that, I got the parts for $80. I'll be replacing them on Sunday.
Doesn't seem hard from the videos I seen.

I could be wrong, I mean you could have worn tie rod ends, but I don't see how that could cause in and out play in the steering wheel, rather tie rod ends should cause only rotational play in the steering wheel.
 






I could be wrong, I mean you could have worn tie rod ends, but I don't see how that could cause in and out play in the steering wheel, rather tie rod ends should cause only rotational play in the steering wheel.
There is more than one person posting in this thread with similar problems. I haven't been keeping track of who had what issue. I agree that it's hard to visualize how bad inner tie rod ends would cause in and out play in the wheel.

If this was the assessment of the shop, along with a $400 price quote for the job, I would suspect the shop is not quite on the level. I also wouldn't have paid $80 for 2 inner tie rod ends. Top quality Moog or ACDelco parts are $18 to $25. You have to get the Ford dealer parts to get to $40 each. These are prices that involve waiting for 3-4 days for delivery. Anything faster or picked up locally will always cost more.

You might want to return the $40 each parts and do a little more homework before wading in. It isn't going to hurt to install new inner tie rod ends but you may find that it's a long day of work that doesn't fix the problem. It's such a bore when that happens.

You might want to check with this site that I recommended above,

Steering Column Services

This is a company that rebuilds steering columns and sells steering parts. I would email or call listing the symptoms and see what they have to say about what may be broken.

LMHmedchem
 






In my case the in & out play is separate from the tie rods. Different problem. My front end is loose when turning & going over rough roads. The shop costs are all labor. $98X3. They do book hours & book says 1.5 hours per side.
 






The shop costs are all labor. $98X3. They do book hours & book says 1.5 hours per side.
Having done this upside down in my driveway without the special tools I think I can say that 1.5 hours per side is significantly over the top for a shop with a lift, air tools, and the correct tie rod tool.

This is the procedure (more or less as it would be done in a shop)

0. PB spray the castle nuts and lock nuts on the outer tie rod ends (they may not do this in a shop)
1. Break free the lug nuts on both front tires and put the truck on the lift.
2. Remove a front tire and remove some of the composite inner fender guard (may not be necessary)
3. Us a box wrench to break free the locking nut on the outer tie rod end and then snug it back up
4. Remove the cotter pin and castle nut from the outer tie rod end and pop it out of the knuckle
5. Us a box wrench to break free the outer tie rod end and then snug it back up
6. Remove the outer tie rod end counting the number of turns, record the number
7. Remove the lock nut
8. Remove the small outer spring clip on the rack boot
9. Use a large flat-head to pop the inner band clamp off of the boot.
10. Remove the boot being careful when disconnecting the breather tube
11. Attach the correct crows foot to the hex on the inner tie rod end
12. Attach the tie rod end removal tool to the crows foot and break the tie rod end free
13. Unscrew the inner tie rod end
14. Turn the wheel to fully extend the exposed end of the rack gear and inspect it for corrosion

Installation is just that list in reverse. Replacing the inner band clamp with a worm gear clamp is a pain under the truck in the driveway but up on a lift with a band clamp tool it should take a matter of seconds. You also have to jack the lower control arm back up to ride height before re-torquing the castle nut on the outer tie rod end. I suppose in a shop they may just put the truck back on the ground to do this.

I don't know, does that really sound like 1.5 hours per side for a mechanic in a shop who has done it many times and has all the right tools?

With the correct tool I think I could do it in the driveway in 30-45 minutes per side if the nuts were sprayed in advance. Even replacing the inner tie rod ends, outer tie rod ends, and rack boots with top quality Moog parts (~$75-$85 total with shipping) I would still expect this to come in at around $200 to $250. I think that just the inner tie rod ends for $400 is excessive to say the least.

Are you still going to do the repair today?

LMHmedchem
 






Next weekend. Parts were late.
 






Back
Top