Ottawa-Gatineau Vehicle Steering - Correcting Loose Steering

If you have conventional gear box-type power steering, rather than rack and pinion, steering adjustment is not difficult. Your service manual will show you the location of your power steering gearbox. On the top of the gearbox is an Allen-type screw that controls your steering adjustment. With the engine still running, move the adjustment screw by a quarter-turn. Test-turn the steering wheel after each adjustment until you find a comfortable setting. Then, check the adjustment by making several turns during a test drive. The steering wheel should return to centre easily and the vehicle should straighten.

If the steering shimmies, especially right after pavement bumps, you need to check the tightness of the steering linkages, simply shake the entire wheel assembly while the car is resting on jackstands. While some horizontal movement is expected, unrestricted vertical play may be a sign that a worn tie rod should be replaced.

If your car has parallelogram steering (with four tie-rod ends) or rack and pinion steering (with two tie-rod ends), the procedure is a little different. You can replace or adjust a tie-rod end, by removing the cotter pin and then unscrewing the nut from the rod end. Use both a sledge and a pickle-fork rod end separator to unseat the joint. If you don't have a pickle fork, use a tie-rod end puller to squeeze apart the rod ends without damaging the dust boot.

Before adjusting or removing the tie-rod end, measure inner-to-outer tie-rod length from center to center. This measurement helps you correctly position the new rod end without changing the toe adjustment. Now you can loosen the locking bolt on the tie rod collar and unscrew the worn rod end. Install the new rod and tighten it according to your measurements. After doing any tie rod or other steering linkage repairs, check and adjust your wheels' alignment with a 4-wheel alignment machine.

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