How to Adjust Steering Gearby Don Bowman
Looseness in the steering can be caused by various factors. Though the gear box is the usual culprit, it is a good idea to first check all the ball joints, tie rod ends, drag links, control arm bushings and rag joint for looseness. If all else seems fine, you probably have a worn gear box. Although the gear box normally only moves a little bit, it will take up the movement difference in the steering wheel and the pitman arm. When the wheel is turned back and forth, note how far the wheel moves before the pitman arm moves. This is what will be mostly removed.
Loosen the lock nut on the steering gear box four turns. Spray some penetrant on the stud where it enters the gear box. Raise the car with the floor jack enough to get the weight off the wheels.
Install the Allen socket into the recess in the stud on the gear box. Install the extension and tap it lightly with the hammer to break the adjusting stud loose.
Have someone sit in the car and rock the steering wheel back and forth just through the range of looseness. Start the engine to do this if the vehicle has power steering.
Watch the pitman arm and the rag joint as the adjusting stud is moved in. The freeplay in the box can be seen when comparing the movement of the rag joint to the movement of the pitman arm. The adjusting stud will only move a few degrees at a time when the steering wheel changes direction.
Tighten the adjusting stud a few degrees. Have the person helping turn the steering all the way in both directions once and then continue to rock the wheel while the stud is tightened further. If the gear box is tightened too much, the steering wheel will not return when turned and will have to be forced back to straight ahead. If the steering wheel is turned all the way both ways several times, it will loosen up; when it no longer loosens up, it is too tight. Loosen it slightly until it will return easily.
Hold the Allen socket in position and tighten the lock nut on the gear box.