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.)

6 Responses to “Steering Feels Loose And Sloppy”

  1. Dartanian Wade says:

    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. Skyler says:

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

  3. Leo Traverzo says:

    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.

  4. mahboob khan says:

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

  5. Bill Thomas says:

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

  6. Darren Strong says:

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

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