"Walkin" while driving

Discussion in 'Trucks and Trailers' started by mstyles0927, Dec 1, 2000.

  1. mstyles0927

    mstyles0927 LawnSite Member
    from SC
    Messages: 32

    I know that 4X4's are supposed to have some play in the steering, but mine has gotten worse lately.

    I have 31 X 10.5 inch tires, and sometimes it feels like the truck is going one way and the steering wheel another!! I have heard that the front spring bushings may be replaced, the steering gearbox may need rebuilding or replaced, or the steering dampener may be going bad (its not; I checked and it still has a good bit of pressure/stiffness in it), etc to help control this 'walking' by the truck. I am looking for things to check 'first' without paying for a new steering gearbox.

    Is it a problem I have to learn to live with, or are there some good ideas out there?
  2. 3/4tonTodd

    3/4tonTodd LawnSite Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 127

    Have you checked your tie rods? I don't know how much you know about these so I'll assume you don't know anything about them and go from there. - oh, and I'm basing this on a late 70's model. You didn't mention your year.

    Tie rods are used in two places. One set is to keep both wheels pointed in the same direction. The easiest way to check this is with the truck on jack stands and the ignition in the LOCK position. With it in the air, see if either of the front wheels turns in or out like it is steering. It could be one wheel or the other, or both. (It's just easier to yank and shove on the tire with it in the air.)

    The other two tie rods are near the steering gear, and you can tell if these are bad with the wheels on the ground and the ignition in the UNLOCK position. If there is excessive play in the wheel, those are probably bad. The best way on this is to have someone turn the wheel while you watch the parts move. You don't need to crank the wheel till the tires move, just turn it gently left and right till it tightens up and wants to turn the wheels. You need to observe all four tie rods here, too.

    Of course, in both cases, if they're REALLY bad you can tell just by looking at them.

    Hope this wasn't a review lesson for you, and good luck!


    [Edited by 3/4tonTodd on 12-01-2000 at 09:05 PM]
  3. mstyles0927

    mstyles0927 LawnSite Member
    from SC
    Messages: 32

    No, this is what I was looking for--information. I am a passable 'shade-tree mechanic' who learns by doing. Thanks for the info!

    BTW, my truck is a 1980 SWB pickup.
  4. 3/4tonTodd

    3/4tonTodd LawnSite Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 127

    I did the tie rods on my truck (the ones at the wheels) recently. They're not difficult to do, but you do need an alignment when you're done. Also, if you determine that you need new tie rods, get your hands on a pickle fork. You may not need it if they're really sloppy, but if they're tight that fork will save you a LOT of time.

    If you do happen to do this yourself, you have to get those wheels lined up as close as possible. There may be an easier way than mine, but what I did was count the exposed threads on BOTH sides of the adjusting sleeve. I haven't done the other set on my truck yet, but I'll probably use the same method when I do them unless I can come across a simpler method.

  5. 84'GMC4x4

    84'GMC4x4 LawnSite Member
    from MA
    Messages: 84

    i just did all the tie rods on my truck (84' 3/4 ton) and i couldnt agree more about the pickle fork, that along with a nice big hammer saves LOTS of time and aggravation.
    the way i got the wheels lined up was just to measure the length of the old tie rod and then adjust the new one accordingly. that will be good enough to get you to the alignment shop.

    BTW make sure when you measure you go from grease fitting to grease fitting as they are stationary and the threaded hoobie's on the other side can move around.

  6. Chuck Smith

    Chuck Smith LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 849

    Tie rod ends do wear out, but I have replaced my drag link 3 times, to 1 time replacing the tie rod ends.

    The drag link connects the pitman arm on the steering box, to the steering arm on the axle.

    As was mention before, to check the drag link, cut the wheel full left. With the truck off, and the steering wheel unlocked, have someone rock the steering wheel, and get down there and look at the drag link. At least 90% of the time, it will be worn out.

    On my 77 Chevy, and my 80 GMC, the tie rod ends can be expensive to change. This is because the center link has a tie rod end that is part of it, and one tie rod end that screws into it. So you have to buy one tie rod end, and a center link. The center link is what really costs you. I think last time it was $130 here, compared to $30 for the tie rod end.

  7. John DiMartino

    John DiMartino LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,555

    Ive seem quite a few of these solid axles with bad ball joints too,raise the front tires and wiggle up and down to feel for any play,if they are bad,it will wander on the road too.
  8. samesam

    samesam LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I own a 77 k-5 Blazer and I had this problem that got steadly worse for a couple of years. Had everything checked out and no one could understand the reason for the wandering. Took this truck to all the local fron end shops and got ridiculous estimates to replace everything in sight. I got use to it but the wife refused to drive the truck. I got lucky when I took the truck to get some estimates on some new tires and described the problem. The mechanic took a look and tighened the bolts on the steering box. The bolts were tight but not torqued down properly. Simple fix and solved all the problems. Hope this helps.
  9. mstyles0927

    mstyles0927 LawnSite Member
    from SC
    Messages: 32

    Thanks to all for the suggestions. Now if the weather will just warm up some, I can check out some of these things....

Share This Page