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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My whole front end (steering, suspension, tie rods, bushings) was redone by the previous owner. He never drove the car after doing the work, so the new setup has never been adjusted.

The problem is, the steering goes way too far to the right (the tire hits the frame), and to the left I would need a parking lot to turn it around. The allignment is not that far off and I'll have that finished up at a shop, but I want to be able to at least drive it there.

It doesn't LOOK like the pitman arm was removed from the box (see below), but I could be wrong. What should I look for to correct this? Should I just center the steering box and reinstall the pitman, or is that not the right direction to go in?

I have pictures and measurments of the steering if that is of any use...

Thanks
-Kent

(this pic was taken with the wheels pointing straight ahead)
 

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Here is what I think you need to do. (I think some one tried to center the steering wheel after it had been removed by adjusting your tie rod adjuster sleeves, this is normally how you would do a toe adjustment but if they did not do it equally on both sides you would end up with the problem you are describing)

Jack the front of the car up.

Remove the adjuster sleeves between the outer and inner tie rod ends on both sides of the car.

Have some one under the front end of the car so no parts hit the frame.

Rotate the steering wheel lock to lock and count the number of turns.

Divide by two and from either lock turn that many turns in (1/2 total number of turns). Do not worry about weather the steering wheel is straight. This is what mostly happened the last time the front end was put together.

Now put the adjuster selves back on the inner and outer tie rod ends, being careful not to turn the steering wheel. Do it this way. Insert both ends of the inner and outer tie rod ends into the adjuster sleeve and start the treads at the same time. Do this on both sides. Be careful that you turn the adjusters on both sides the same number of turns. Get at lest five turns on each sleeve.

Take a tape measure and measure from a good point of reference on one tire to the other (same point on both tires) towards the front of the car and towards the rear of the car.

If the measurement is shorter on the front then the rear the tires are toed in and you need to adjust the sleeves out. Do this an equal number of turns on both sides.

Once you have the front and rear measurements equal, your toe is adjusted good enough to take it to an alignment shop to get the toe set. Your caster and camber does not have to be reset, as you did nothing to change it. A toe only alignment should run about $29.00.

Once your toe is set correctly, and your wheels are adjusted equally on the left and right you can reset your steering wheel.

Oh, yes. I believe the Pitman arm has an unsplinded "tooth" which means that it can only be installed in one spot. I'm not sure on this and this is different on different cars but I believe this is the case.:waving:


 

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Set the steering so that the pitman arm is parallel to the centerline (running front to rear). Then disconnect the tie rods from the wheels. Position the wheels straight ahead, and then adjust the tie rods until they will connect to the spindles. That will get you really close.
 

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wow.. that pitman arm is way off.
i'd probably do like Glenn said and take it all apart and start over. get the box centered, then move the pitman arm over until it's straight. make sure the steering wheel is installed right- unless someone banged away on the end of the shaft in the column, there will be a mark on the shaft behind the big nut that holds the wheel on that will be straight up when the box is centered.
after that is all set right, put the tie rods back on- they will be close to the same length on both sides- just have the same amount of threads showing on the left side as on the right, and kind of eyeball the alignment using the rear wheels as a reference point to get it close enough to drive it.
 

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There are typically four positions (in 90 degree increments) that the pitman arm can be assembled on a Saginaw power gear. However, you can only assemble the arm in the one correct location for your car (all of the others will be off to the sides or pointing in the wrong direction.)

Here is a paper on centering your steering gear, flexible coupling, steering column, and steering wheel. It should help you to understand how all of the steering components are supposed to come together. This paper will not help you set the toe but it will insure that your steering system is assembled correctly, (i.e. your turn signals will cancel, your steering wheel will be straight, your steering gear will be on center.)

http://jimshea.corvettefaq.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/05/StrgSystemCenteringChevelleRev19MY06.doc

You didn't mention the year of your Chevelle (or the steering components.) For steering gears that were manufactured in 1969 and later the following is correct.

With the gear exactly on center, there should be a flat on the input shaft and it should be exactly at 12 o'clock. With the gear exactly on center, the pitman arm should be pointing straight back (in line with the centerline of the car.)

If the gear is on center and the pitman arm not pointing straight back, I would be very suspicious. It is possible for a vehicle (or the steering gear in a vehicle) to be involved in a front end, side impact that could actually twist the pitman shaft. If that is the case, don't even think about using that gear.

JIML82
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
The car is a 1970 El Camino, should've mentioned that first thing... Thanks for the article, Jim. I haven't read through it yet and it will probably answer these questions, but I'll ask anyways.

So in theory, since both the pitman arm and steering wheel are keyed to their shafts so they can only go on in one position, if the steering wheel is straight, the box should be straight? If that's not the case, I'll need to take a closer look at the box, shaft, pitman arm etc.

After reading what you guys said, it sounds like the steering box might be one full turn out. He might have had the steering wheel straight (but 360 deg off), then aligned it from there. I can get 1.5 turns to the right, and only 5/8 of a turn to the left. I'm thinking the other part of the problem is that after the steering linkages were put together with the arm at the wrong angle, he aligned it in that position.

If you take a look at both sides of the steering, it looks like the Driver's side tie rod should be longer than the Passenger's. From what I can see, the Center Link is not symmetrical, and the Driver's side tie rod connects closer to the middle of the car (when the wheels are straight). Is that correct, or am I looking at that the wrong way? I measured the tie rods and they were the same length (~18").

Either way, I'll need to take it all apart and put it back together like you guys said. Thanks for the help. I never like working on things not understanding how they work.

-Kent

 

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it's actually a very simple system. the tie rods on both sides should be very close to the same length.
i notice from you pics that the pitman arm and idler arm are at about the same angle, so at least he center link isn't bent or something like that.
get the idler and Pitman arm pointing straight, then adjust the tie rods on one side until it's close to straight, then make the other one the same length. this will get it close enough to drive to an alignment shop.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I got the steering straightened out yesterday, the source of the problem was the center link. It wasn't bent, it was just installed backwards...

The centre link isn't symmetrical, so it put the steering way off to the right. It was also causing some binding on the cross member under the engine.

Threw it all back together and did a quick eyeball alignment. Thanks for the help guys!

-Kent
 
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