Common cause of Play In Steering?

adum12

Original poster
Member
Nov 17, 2012
8
Hello All,
Recently bought a 2002 TB LTZ 151,00 miles. Immediately I noticed there is free play in the steering. I am able to move the steering wheel approx 2" without it affecting the wheels. What are some common causes of this problem.
 

The_Roadie

Lifetime VIP Donor
Member
Nov 19, 2011
9,957
Portland, OR
Outer tie rod ends are the most common wear items. Also inner tie rod ends, upper and lower ball joints, and upper and lower control arm bushings. Less likely are steering rack internal issues or a loose coupling in the steering shaft.

If you're a DIY'er, get it up on jack stands and wiggle the wheel at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions while looking at the tie rod ends where they connect to the steering knuckle. Google for these terms if they're unfamiliar. If you're a pay-for-it maintenance person, take it in for an alignment at a trusted and competent shop and they'll inspect it, since they can't do an alignment with that much slop.

If the vehicle's new to you, and you don't have a clue about the maintenance history - at 100K the spark plugs and ALL fluids are due. Welcome!

EDIT: If you're 4WD, the transfer case is a surprisingly short 50K interval to change its fluid.

ALSO: Small world. My brother used to live in Appleton - now Waupaca. Was there in July.
 

Mooseman

Moderator
Dec 4, 2011
25,344
Ottawa, ON
One way or another, you'll need an alignment. Take it to a shop that's friendly to DIY'ers and ask for an alignment. They have to check it prior to the alignment for anything worn. Once you get the "you need this and that" list, they'll usually just charge you (or not) for the check and deduct it from the total of the alignment after you replace the needed parts. That way they're pretty sure you'll come back to complete the alignment. You can discuss this prior to getting it checked just to be sure he won't charge you twice for the check.
 

81turboguy

Member
Nov 13, 2012
48
I have a similar issue. I can move the steering wheel an inch or so before the tires start to move. I've recently replaced the inner and outer tie rods and have had an alignment done. A week ago a blew a rear tire driving home from work and the tow truck driver (spare was completely frozen in place) and myself noticed there was play in the front left tire. He thought it might be the upper ball joint. Does the intermediate shaft also have to be replaced/tightened?

I've also noticed when in 4wd-HI that the steering wheel likes to be turned way left for the truck to be able to go straight. I realize the ball joint could cause some of the play but the 4wd pull has be confused. I tested on dry pavement after a snow storm that we had here. Is it caused by one wheel turning more than the other? I haven't had it up on jacks to check if both tires are spinning.
 

The_Roadie

Lifetime VIP Donor
Member
Nov 19, 2011
9,957
Portland, OR
81turboguy said:
I have a similar issue. I can move the steering wheel an inch or so before the tires start to move. I've recently replaced the inner and outer tie rods and have had an alignment done.
The alignment tech should have inspected everything relevant to make sure you don't have play that should have been fixed (by their shop, of course) before wasting time and money on an alignment that wouldn't be accurate.
A week ago a blew a rear tire driving home from work and the tow truck driver (spare was completely frozen in place) and myself noticed there was play in the front left tire.
Play at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions? Or 12 and 6?
He thought it might be the upper ball joint.
Or the lower. The alignment tech should have checked these.
Does the intermediate shaft also have to be replaced/tightened?
The intermediate shaft we talk about here goes from the front differential through the oil pan to the splined disconnect on the passenger side of the oil pan. What do you mean when you say "intermediate shaft"?
I've also noticed when in 4wd-HI that the steering wheel likes to be turned way left for the truck to be able to go straight.
That's not right. You're on snow, ice or pavement? Are all your tires the same size, brand, and at proper inflation pressure?
I realize the ball joint could cause some of the play but the 4wd pull has be confused. I tested on dry pavement after a snow storm that we had here. Is it caused by one wheel turning more than the other? I haven't had it up on jacks to check if both tires are spinning.
Could be a broken splined disconnect, since needing to turn the wheel to the left means the driver's side is pulling more than the passenger's side.
 

81turboguy

Member
Nov 13, 2012
48
Thanks for the reply Roadie.
Play at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions? Or 12 and 6?
9 and 3

The intermediate shaft we talk about here goes from the front differential through the oil pan to the splined disconnect on the passenger side of the oil pan. What do you mean when you say "intermediate shaft"?
The shaft the comes down from the steering wheel then into the steering box. Is there another name for it? I was searching here, might have picked up the wrong name Facts about steering slop.... - Car Forums and Automotive Chat

That's not right. You're on snow, ice or pavement? Are all your tires the same size, brand, and at proper inflation pressure?Could be a broken splined disconnect, since needing to turn the wheel to the left means the driver's side is pulling more than the passenger's side.
Recently on pavement for a short distance because I started to suspect something was up after a recent snow storm. Front 2 tires are the same and the back 2 are the same. I did see this article about the disconnect Offroadtb.com Front Axle 4WD Disconnect
 

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