Steering - weak return to center? - Chevy Impala SS Forum
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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 01:38 AM Thread Starter
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Steering - weak return to center?

Now that this 94 FWB I'm working on has had the control arms replaced and a proper alignment I can start looking at other issues with the suspension and steering.

Ever since we've had this car we've noticed that the steering's tendency to return to center is very weak and after a certain point reached early in turning the wheels is basically non-existent. Now that the suspension is aligned to spec, it hasn't gotten any better. I don't remember whether this was the case with the one I drove not many years after it was made - is this normal for the platform and if so, is there anything other than a non-factory-spec alignment to be done about it?

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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 05:50 AM
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I'd be leaning toward a steering box adjustment at this point. Maybe a steering damper issue?

https://www.impalassforum.com/vBullet...ts-needed.html

Did they/you replace the nuts that secure the upper control arms and may have been loosened during the Alignment process? If not, check that they did not back out and you lost shims. These nuts really should be replaced as part of the alignment. They loosen up after a use or 2 and won't hold their position and keep the shims from falling out.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 06:27 AM
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The stock settings for the caster is probably the issue. You can increase the caster by removing shims from the front stack, and adding the same amount to the rear on both sides. Moving 0.030 (1/32 inch) from the front to the back will give you almost 1/2 degree of increased caster. It will not upset the rest of your alignment, although you could have your toe checked just to verify that. There is a thread about improved alignment specs on the forum. Often there are thick shims in the stack, and you can put thinner ones in, and/or move them from front to back to achieve your desired settings. Measure, and write down the size of the stack and keep the shims together, so you do not mix them up, or forget what the original was, in case you want to go back to that. A little dab of different color paint on each stack of shims, also helps identify the original location. Most of the shims have the size stamped on them, but you should have a calipers, or micrometer to measure them just in case.


The return is generally weak on the B and D body cars, and the caster determines the desire for the wheels to return to straight. The more you have the more you get.

1991 OCC 461 (.030 over 454) BBC, 3.23 posi, flash to pass, drop spindles & springs, Impala rims, Hydroboost, Recaros, MOMO/wood SW w/QR, custom wood shift knob, Pioneer DEH P77DH
1992 OCC now with 5.7 tbi, DEH P77DH
For a parts list, check https://www.impalassforum.com/vBulle...ion-parts.html

Last edited by Fred Kiehl; 04-20-2017 at 06:40 AM.
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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-20-2017, 07:31 AM
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You mentioned you had an alignment done, and you don't appear the type to have used a 'toe-n-go' chain.

That said, I'll offer my FWs have had the squishiest and most vague overall steering of any car out there, including my wife's Tribute!

Now years back when trying to cure cloverleaf jerkover I did not feel appreciable difference when unplugging the Variable Effort boost potentiometer, thus sending system into fulltime/full boost (it's at the firewall). There's a very detailed thread on the differences between CHEV-Buick-Cady pumps (Joel?), and for a car that's already had previously "wrong repairs" it may be yours had an incorrect replacement.

Not much else except box and caster points above.

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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 12:09 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4DoorSS View Post
I'd be leaning toward a steering box adjustment at this point. Maybe a steering damper issue?

https://www.impalassforum.com/vBullet...ts-needed.html

Did they/you replace the nuts that secure the upper control arms and may have been loosened during the Alignment process? If not, check that they did not back out and you lost shims. These nuts really should be replaced as part of the alignment. They loosen up after a use or 2 and won't hold their position and keep the shims from falling out.
The nuts were checked before and after and were still nice and tight. The problem existed before the alignment as well.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 12:14 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 96 Black View Post
You mentioned you had an alignment done, and you don't appear the type to have used a 'toe-n-go' chain.
Yes, I used a local specialist shop - all they do is suspension and brakes.

FYI, the newer alignment rigs are no longer able to align the FW or the equally-fender-obscuring-tire early B-bodies. The newer laser alignment rigs do not fit under the rear fenders and require special adapters in order to work - which most shops didn't purchase.

Quote:
That said, I'll offer my FWs have had the squishiest and most vague overall steering of any car out there, including my wife's Tribute!
Yeah, I've driven worse but they're usually older American rigs from the 70s.

Quote:
Now years back when trying to cure cloverleaf jerkover I did not feel appreciable difference when unplugging the Variable Effort boost potentiometer, thus sending system into fulltime/full boost (it's at the firewall). There's a very detailed thread on the differences between CHEV-Buick-Cady pumps (Joel?), and for a car that's already had previously "wrong repairs" it may be yours had an incorrect replacement.
We already unplugged the potentiometer and got a noticeable improvement.

Quote:
Not much else except box and caster points above.
One thing we're looking at doing is replacing this Saginaw box with one from another car that doesn't have variable ratio and does have better feel/feedback. It's looking like one from a Jeep ZJ Grand Cherokee is the best candidate, but that's something for another time.

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post #7 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 12:20 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred Kiehl View Post
The stock settings for the caster is probably the issue. You can increase the caster by removing shims from the front stack, and adding the same amount to the rear on both sides. Moving 0.030 (1/32 inch) from the front to the back will give you almost 1/2 degree of increased caster. It will not upset the rest of your alignment, although you could have your toe checked just to verify that. There is a thread about improved alignment specs on the forum. Often there are thick shims in the stack, and you can put thinner ones in, and/or move them from front to back to achieve your desired settings. Measure, and write down the size of the stack and keep the shims together, so you do not mix them up, or forget what the original was, in case you want to go back to that. A little dab of different color paint on each stack of shims, also helps identify the original location. Most of the shims have the size stamped on them, but you should have a calipers, or micrometer to measure them just in case.


The return is generally weak on the B and D body cars, and the caster determines the desire for the wheels to return to straight. The more you have the more you get.
That doesn't sound like a particularly fun way to adjust caster... What's the stock alignment caster spec?

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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 07:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CB700S View Post
That doesn't sound like a particularly fun way to adjust caster... What's the stock alignment caster spec?
I agree with fred . they did not do the caster properly or at all.

toe and go ! thats what IMO they did. I doubt they even have the shims .

I do my own alignments did the first one back in 1996. had a right drift . also had to set toe vehicle drifted too much tires must point in not out .......it does not take much ...

when I replace my tires all 4 look exactly the same ... the passenger side is a PITA.
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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 09:11 PM
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I picked up a lightly used camber/caster gauge a few years ago, on ebay, for about $66. It has the magnet mount for the hub. I can set my camber and caster at home. I also made a set of toe gauges, and they work with a couple of tape measures. The camber/caster gauges have paid for themselves a few times over. After the first alignment, they are free. A good, and I mean complete, alignment costs about $130 here in FL. I can do the same quality of alignment in my driveway.
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1991 OCC 461 (.030 over 454) BBC, 3.23 posi, flash to pass, drop spindles & springs, Impala rims, Hydroboost, Recaros, MOMO/wood SW w/QR, custom wood shift knob, Pioneer DEH P77DH
1992 OCC now with 5.7 tbi, DEH P77DH
For a parts list, check https://www.impalassforum.com/vBulle...ion-parts.html
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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 04-22-2017, 09:15 PM
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Spec caster is 3.5 degrees. The "improved" setting is 4 degrees. The difference is 1/32 inch shim removed from the front, and added to the back stack.

1991 OCC 461 (.030 over 454) BBC, 3.23 posi, flash to pass, drop spindles & springs, Impala rims, Hydroboost, Recaros, MOMO/wood SW w/QR, custom wood shift knob, Pioneer DEH P77DH
1992 OCC now with 5.7 tbi, DEH P77DH
For a parts list, check https://www.impalassforum.com/vBulle...ion-parts.html
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