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Discussion Starter #1
The loose spot in the steering is typically dead center, but in my Caprice, it's off to the right slightly, like around 1230-100. It's got an SS box that was rebuilt by Lee's Manufacturing, installed by me. It's been like this ever since I installed the rebuilt box, which was years ago. I had the front end aligned after the box was installed.

I noticed a bit of wear on the inside edge of the right front tire, so the car is going in for another alignment tomorrow and I figured I'd see if there was something I could do to make the loose spot on-center. I assumed that maybe the input shaft or pittman arm were off by one tooth, but they are both keyed so they can only install one way.

What else can I do? Can I move the steering wheel one tooth to the right, perhaps? Could the location of the loose spot be fixed by the alignment?
 

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The steering wheel can be moved on the splines.

The sloppy spot in the steering box is the center. While you have other things apart, you can adjust the box for minimum play. Instructions are in the FSM with one exception. When adjusting the Torrington bearing play, always turn the shaft from left to right before setting the plate, or the screw shaft will push the bearing against the plate, and it will be loose.

First you should check the tierods to see if they are the same length as adjusted. If they are noticeably different lengths, the steering box is not using the center point of its travel (I think you will find this to be the case).

Another way to check whether the box is centered is to first mark the Pittman arm when going straight as a reference. Rotate the steering from one extreme to the other and then move it half the distance. Compare the original mark, with the position of the arm. You may find that it is at the sloppy area.

If it is not centered, you will also have a side to side differential in the rotation when the cancel cam for the turn signals turns off the turn signal. Get the turn signals to turn off at the same but opposite points, and you can tell how far off the box is. Once you find that point, you may have to rotate the locking ring to get the horn button connector to go through the locking ring, and use that to install the steering wheel straight up. The clock spring and steering wheel aligns with the locking ring, so check that too.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
The steering wheel can be moved on the splines.

First you should check the tierods to see if they are the same length as adjusted. If they are noticeably different lengths, the steering box is not using the center point of its travel (I think you will find this to be the case).
Looking under the car, there are more threads showing on one tie rod than on the other, which seems to confirm that the steering wheel is off center. I'll get a puller, remove the steering wheel, and turn it a spline or two to the right. Is there more to it than that? Your other statement sounds like there might be, so I'll re-read it once I have the steering wheel off.

If it is not centered, you will also have a side to side differential in the rotation when the cancel cam for the turn signals turns off the turn signal. Get the turn signals to turn off at the same but opposite points, and you can tell how far off the box is. Once you find that point, you may have to rotate the locking ring to get the horn button connector to go through the locking ring, and use that to install the steering wheel straight up. The clock spring and steering wheel aligns with the locking ring, so check that too.
Interestingly the turn signal cancellation "click" (the point at which, once past, if I turn back towards center, the signal will cancel itself) seems to be at about the same place on both sides--930 or so on the left, and 230 or so on the right.

The box doesn't have a lot of play in it--it feels like it has about the same amount now as it did when I got it back from Lee's. I assume they adjusted it optimally, so I am hesitant to make any adjustments myself.

Thanks!
 

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First you should check the tierods to see if they are the same length as adjusted. If they are noticeably different lengths, the steering box is not using the center point of its travel (I think you will find this to be the case).

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Looking under the car, there are more threads showing on one tie rod than on the other, which seems to confirm that the steering wheel is off center. I'll get a puller, remove the steering wheel, and turn it a spline or two to the right. Is there more to it than that? Your other statement sounds like there might be, so I'll re-read it once I have the steering wheel off.



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I think what Fred is saying, and you confirmed is if your tie rods do appear different length (based on counting threads or measuring, correct that FIRST as that may be likely the centering issue.

Maybe when car was aligned the shop got it off. I took a car back after alignment because the wheel was no longer centered and they fixed it by re-adjusting tie rods
 

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It isn't hard to center the wheel by turning both tie-rod adjusters the same number of turns in the same direction of rotation..
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I think what Fred is saying, and you confirmed is if your tie rods do appear different length (based on counting threads or measuring, correct that FIRST as that may be likely the centering issue.

Maybe when car was aligned the shop got it off. I took a car back after alignment because the wheel was no longer centered and they fixed it by re-adjusting tie rods
Okay, just trying to wrap my head around this. So if the car has 4 inches of exposed tie rod threads on one side and 2 inches of exposed thread on the other side (these are random numbers), and the alignment shop corrects it so that there are 3 inches of exposed thread on both sides.. can they do that and still keep the steering wheel centered? Won't adjusting the tie rods so that the exposed threads are even on both sides result in the steering wheel being cocked to one side when the car is going straight?

Just to make sure I'm clear on what the situation is--right now, when I have the steering wheel at 1200, the car goes down the road straight. But when I'm at a stop and I move the steering wheel right or left, I can tell that the loose spot is around the 1230 to 100 position. And, as soon as I release the steering wheel while driving, it goes to the 1230-100 position and the car pulls to the right.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It isn't hard to center the wheel by turning both tie-rod adjusters the same number of turns in the same direction of rotation..
Oooooh okay.. I think that answers my main question in the post above this.

So basically what you're saying is that the alignment shop can put the loose spot back at 1200, AND have the car be going down the road straight when the steering wheel is as the 1200 position (the slack in the loose spot and the pull from road crown notwithstanding)?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks, guys. I dunno how I got confused about this.
 

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When the steering box is centered, that does not necessarily mean the steering wheel will be centered. If the steering wheel is centered, that is a good thing, but if it is not, you may have to adjust a number of things to make it straight. You did not say if your steering wheel was centered in its current condition.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
When the steering box is centered, that does not necessarily mean the steering wheel will be centered. If the steering wheel is centered, that is a good thing, but if it is not, you may have to adjust a number of things to make it straight. You did not say if your steering wheel was centered in its current condition.
When the car is going down the road, the steering wheel is at 1200 even if there is road crown. (Normally, with the loose spot in the center, I'd expect the steering wheel to be around 1130-1145 while the car is going straight, to compensate for road crown pulling it left.) If the road is completely flat and there is no road crown, the steering wheel will usually be around 1230 or so for the car to be going straight. But since practically all roads are crowned, it's almost always at 1200 when going straight.
 

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on flat surface the steering wheel should be centered while going straight.

Any car will have a "slight" off center if compensating for "crown"....but basically the wheel should be centered if driving straight

I suspect a tie rod adjustment will center the wheel since the box and shaft are keyed.
 

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If the camber and caster are set correctly, the car will go down the road with the steering wheel straight ahead a 12:00. Most are set with 0 to .8 degrees camber, and slightly less caster on the low side. One caveat is that the tires are on the correct side of the car (sometimes radials can cause the car to pull or push to one side if moved from one side to the other). Since yours is at 12:00, the camber and caster is correct, and since the tierods are different lengths, the steering wheel is not centered properly, and the tierods are not centered properly. Some shops will adjust the tierods to give you a straight up steering wheel by adjusting the tierods. If the steering wheel is not on straight up, you get results like yours.

With that said, your steering wheel is not straight up, and when the tierods are adjusted evenly, you can rotate your steering wheel to center it. Check all of the parts down to the turn signal return cam for proper alignment.

The wheel alignment is good, and all you need is to have the toe adjusted until the tierods are even. If you want to do it yourself, it is easy. Mark the turnbuckles so that you know where they were when you started. Turn them evenly but in the direction that causes them to move in opposite directions (may turn the same direction to move opposite) until the steering box is centered, then you can adjust the steering wheel. I would measure the distance between the outer tierod ends (grease fittings?), and write it down, before you move anything, just in case you forget how many turns you did on each side. If you turn the key to the first detent, it will unlock the steering wheel, and allow you to move the box instead of the tires. Test everything before tightening the turnbuckle clamps.

If you count the threads on the outside of both turnbuckles, subtract the lesser, and divide by two, you will get the approximate number of turns you need to move the turnbuckles
 

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alignment if correct steering wheel on a flat straight road road hands off steering wheel the car should not drift left or right. if it does always drift to the same side , then the camber is off.

on the toe adjustment the front of the tires both should be closer in the forward part of the tire. this will keep the vehicle from drifting on a poorly paved road ...you want the front tires pointing in not out .......

how to check this quickly is using 2 fishing rods . put line from the rear tire center to front tire center . the line on the forward part of the front of tire shoulder should have a 1/4 inch gap.. this also should be the same on the other side so 2 fishing rods .. this with the steering wheel straight .

it the toe is off I use steel plates 2 steel plates each side under each front tire.. then I adjust the tie rods.. this allows the tires to move easy put a little grease on the steel plate surface.............

with this done on toe the steering wheel should be straight on a straight road if it still is not then something is worn or bent............
 

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alignment if correct steering wheel on a flat straight road road hands off steering wheel the car should not drift left or right. if it does always drift to the same side , then the camber is off.

on the toe adjustment the front of the tires both should be closer in the forward part of the tire. this will keep the vehicle from drifting on a poorly paved road ...you want the front tires pointing in not out .......

how to check this quickly is using 2 fishing rods . put line from the rear tire center to front tire center . the line on the forward part of the front of tire shoulder should have a 1/4 inch gap.. this also should be the same on the other side so 2 fishing rods .. this with the steering wheel straight .

it the toe is off I use steel plates 2 steel plates each side under each front tire.. then I adjust the tie rods.. this allows the tires to move easy put a little grease on the steel plate surface.............

with this done on toe the steering wheel should be straight on a straight road if it still is not then something is worn or bent............
If it pulls to one side, the camber OR caster can be off, it can also be a broken belt on one of the tires. I have had all three scenarios at one time or another.

Depending on the ride height, the steel plates may not give you enough clearance to work on the tierods. Counting threads can be done with the car on jack stands. Even if you can work on it sitting on the steel plates, you still have to rotate the turnbuckles the same amount on each side. You can get it really close by counting threads, then fine tune it once you have the steering wheel on correctly.

Another way to get the steering wheel on straight up is to align the D tube end on the end of the column, vertically. Once you have the steering wheel straight up, you can set the toe to center the wheel.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Good news—the issue is resolved after an alignment. Thanks for all of the input!
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
In the picture below, pre-alignment measurements are above and post-alignment are below. I had requested:
Caster +5.0 degrees +/- 0.2 degrees
Camber -0.5 degrees +/- 0.2 degrees
Toe 0.05 degrees in

I got some seat time tonight on a varying degree of roads, ranging from narrow, heavily-crowned backroads to wider, two-lane, moderately crowned roads, to 5-lane mildly-crowned roads.

I shut have kept my damn mouth shut. I hate this car now.

When the dead spot was off to the right, the steering wheel was at 12:00 going down the road, and since it was out of the dead spot, it didn't drift or wander.

Now that the dead spot is back on center, the car feels like a big wallowy piece of shiznite. I can wag the steering wheel between 11:00 and 1:00 while cruising at 60mph and the car pretty much goes straight. In order to maintain straight, the steering wheel needs to be around 11:00.

The car has an Impala SS 12.7:1 box that was rebuilt by Lee Manufacturing (to the tune of around $500), as well as all new (as of 20K miles ago) front suspension parts from Pro Forged (ball joints, tie rods, etc--I bought the kit). The slop is literally all in the steering box--with the car off and the steering unlocked, I can rotate the steering shaft going into the power steering box and there is plenty of movement on the input side, with literally no movement on the output side.

The steering literally feels as sloppy as the steering on my now-gone 165K-mile RMW that had all original steering wear components and a stock steering box.

I had messed with adjusting the preload on both this box (before it was rebuilt) and the one on my RMW, and making it tight to the point of almost binding did not make a noticeable improvement in reducing slop.

Super frustrated right now with this car. Can't believe an alignment ruined the driving experience so badly.

 

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Discussion Starter #19

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When you were tightening the Torrington bearing, did you bring the shaft up to center from the left? If it clicks at any time, the bearing may be bad. Yes, I know you said you had it rebuilt, but even the best shop can make a mistake, or get a bad part now and then.

The box may have a bad part in it. I have a used Imp/9C1 box in my wagon, and it only has about a 1/4 inch of play after setting the bearings, and center.
 
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