Steering Wheel will not stay straight

Tiny
LIVANGRIC
  • MEMBER
  • 1993 GMC C1500
  • 5.7L
  • V8
  • RWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 140,000 MILES
I had new tires installed and had the front end aligned. I replaced the upper ball joints, pitman arm, idler arm, and a frame bushings before the alignment because I knew they were bad. The steering feels better now than it ever has, but when I start the truck when cold and turn one way or the other it is like something slips and the steering wheel will no longer be straight when driving down the road straight. It will be off either to the right or left. I can skip it back sometimes and make it right. I do not know what this would be other than the steering gear unless there is something in the column that could slip.
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Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 AT 5:11 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
LIVANGRIC
  • MEMBER
I should say it was doing this before the alignment as well.
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Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 AT 5:12 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
A much better suspect is a lower control arm bushing. In particular, look at the cross member where the bushings are attached for signs the bolts have been sliding back and forth. You may not be able to replicate this with a pry bar. It may be necessary to remove the control arm to inspect the mounting holes in the cross member.

The tie rod ends are pretty close to being in the same plane as the lower control arm, so when the control arm shifts and makes the lower ball joint move to the left or right, the steering linkage needs to have its length changed the same amount. Since no alignment technician is running alongside the truck to do that, the mismatched length turns that wheel left or right, and you have to make the two front wheels equal by turning the steering wheel. That is why it is off-center at times.

This may not be practical, but if you can get it in the off-center condition and keep it there, another alignment check will show which wheel has the problem.

You also could have an upper control arm shifting position but that will have almost no affect on the steering wheel's position. It will cause a pull one way though. By 1993 most GM trucks had upper frame bolt holes that had to be cut to an oval shape with a special tool to allow for alignment adjustment, and blocks were removed and cam washers were installed. They could not be bothered to do that at the factory, but that is what is needed to make it adjustable. It is possible one of those bolts was not fully tightened and the control arm is sliding back and forth. Rust can develop in the threads making the bolt appear to be fully tightened when it really is not.
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Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 AT 6:01 PM
Tiny
LIVANGRIC
  • MEMBER
Thanks for the quick response. I will look at the lower bushings as soon as I can and get back with another reply. It may be a day or two before I am able to get to it.
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Wednesday, May 18th, 2016 AT 6:35 PM
Tiny
WRENCHTECH
  • EXPERT
Also, make sure the frame is not rusted out where the steering box mounts to it, allowing the steering box to move.
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Thursday, May 19th, 2016 AT 9:07 AM
Tiny
LIVANGRIC
  • MEMBER
I have been watching the steering box and shaft under the hood while someone else turned the wheel so I know that is not the case, but thanks for thinking of everything you can.
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Thursday, May 19th, 2016 AT 9:16 AM
Tiny
KEN
  • ADMIN
Hey LIVANGRIC,

Doe the truck happen to have a custom steering wheel?
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Saturday, May 21st, 2016 AT 3:55 PM

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