Auto Repair Help

by Jim Miller

The steering has excessive play. The steering may feel sloppy and may require constant correction in order to keep the vehicle in a straight line.

The usual cause of this symptom is worn suspension components, such as a rack and pinion or steering box. It can also be caused by worn tie rod ends or center link.

A visual inspection of the front suspension will usually uncover the cause of the symptom. The front end is connected to the steering box or rack and pinion through a series of linkages. Most of these linkages contain joints that allow them to move back and forth while still maintaining a direct link to the steering mechanism. If these joints wear, they will become sloppy and allow play in the steering linkage which will make the steering feel sloppy. These joints will require inspection. With the vehicle on the ground, the engine off, the steering wheel unlocked and the parking brake applied, have an assistant rotate the steering wheel back and forth just to the point where resistance is felt. Inspect each part of the steering linkage for excessive play. Each joint should be tight and move together without play. If the joints are in good working order, the most probable cause is a worn steering box or rack and pinion. This can be confirmed my inspecting the action and relationship of the steering shaft to the output steering linkage. There should be very little or no play in the steering gear. The output linkage should move in direct relationship to the input shaft without hesitation.

Special tools and equipment are often required to service the front end suspension components. A front end alignment should be performed after replacement of any suspension component. Do not attempt repairs to the front end or steering components without first consulting a vehicle specific service manual.

(Jim is a lifelong fan of Dodger Baseball and used to race sprint cars in the 1980s.)

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9 Comments on "Steering Feels Loose And Sloppy"

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Dartanian Wade
3 years 12 days ago

I replaced the idler arm and the pitman and it is still loose and pulls to the left a little bit. I was thinking it was either the center link or, hopefully not, the steering box. any ideas?

2 years 11 months ago

So basically you just need to get the front end alined and then your good? and how much would that cost?

Leo Traverzo
1 year 11 months ago

What is the approximate cost of repairing steering problem on a car? Right now there is just a lot of play on the steering wheel. Thanks.

1 year 8 months ago

my left wheel turn without turning steering . please suggest why that was not happening like that before.

1 year 6 months ago

I sometimes experience this! I will check the front suspension periodically.

Darren Strong
1 year 1 month ago

my 56 f100 tends to wonder when driving n there is a shouder when turning

24 days 16 hours ago

Our steering wheel breaks loose in the same two places when turning right or left. These points are directly opposite from each other. What is happening?

22 days 42 minutes ago

My steering wheel turns upside down when making turns. I ran over something in the road and now I have this problem.
I just replaced my tie rods and new tires and got alignment. What might be the problem?

19 days 6 hours ago

We just had the steering rack replaced and had a front end alignment done. Now the steering wheel feels loose and the steering wheel still pulls to the left while driving.