1985 Suburban steering issues

Discussion in 'Chevy Suburban Forum (GMC Yukon XL)' started by KLRjunkie, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. KLRjunkie

    KLRjunkie New Member

    I tried to search for steering issues, but came up empty.

    I have an 85 Suburban that's having some steering issues. It's a half ton 4x4, with stock rims/tires and NO lift kit. First of all, the wheel has a lot of play. I can turn it probably three inches from the center in both directions, and the truck does not swing back and forth across the lane.

    Even more troubling is when I am traveling on the interstate, say there is an easy right turn. I turn the wheel to the right, but if I were to let go, the wheel stays in that position (it does not drag back to center). So, a minor adjustment would require me to turn the wheel left, but because of the significant play in the wheel, I have to turn it drastically left just to make a small adjustment.

    I end up having a lot of trouble keeping the truck in my lane, and am constantly swinging the wheel severely left and right for minor adjustments.

    When I turn the wheel, the power steering pump is *not* making any noise. The truck has stock wheel and tire sizes. I have never replaced anything dealing with the steering (pump, linkage, etc.). I don't know if it matters, but it does have a new Chevy 350 motor, as the old motor threw a rod.

    Thanks in advance!
  2. Z07

    Z07 Member

    Time for a new steering gear, my friend. Verify by grabing the lower steering column just above the steering gear and turning it by hand. If it is loose and turns freely matching the play you describe then it's done.

    This repair will expose the next weakest link in your steering. At the age of your truck you are probably looking at tierods, idler arm, and pitman arm too.

    If you build four 1' squares of plywood you can put a pair under each of the front wheels. Load them up with grease between them and then they will allow the wheels to turn easily while you watch. Have someone turn the steering wheel from lock to lock while you lie underneith and look for looseness. You will likely see a progressive engagement of the various parts instead of a simultanious movement. For example, the steering column turns then the relay rod moves then one tierod pair tenses up then the wheel/tire moves then the other side's tierod pair tenses up, etc.
  3. 2COR517

    2COR517 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    Your truck does not have an idler arm, relay rod, or serviceable pitman arm. The draglink connects the pitman arm on the steering box, and the steering arm on the drivers side knuckle. One tie rod connects both knuckles together. You could have wear at any or all of the following locations:

    Upper and lower balljoints, both sides. Four total.
    Tie rod ends. Two total.
    Drag link ends. Two total.

    It is also possible that the steering box is gone, as Z07mentioned. I would start by getting someone to saw the wheel back and forth while you look around underneath. Follow the motion from the steering shaft into the steering box, box to drag link, drag link to driver side knuckle, knuckle to left tie rod, right tie rod to pass side knuckle. There should be zero play at each joint.

    You should also check the ball joints. Jack each tire separately by the axle. Use a large prybar under the tire to lift it while watching the ball joints. Any play, they need to be replaced. While you have one tire up in the air, grab it at 12 oclock and 6 oclock and shake back and forth. Wheel bearings are usually very reliable in these rigs, but you can look for movement. You can also grab the wheel at 3 and 9 and shake side to side to look for steering component wear
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2009
  4. KLRjunkie

    KLRjunkie New Member

    Thank you 2COR517 and Z07. I mentioned it when I got my inspection sticker (well after I got the sticker of course) and the mechanic suggested that it was probably the steering box.

    I should have mentioned that the upper and lower ball joints were replaced recently. I used to live with a buddy who was very knowledgeable and happy to help. So, a lot of the maintenance I was able to do, with his help. Now that I've moved, I suppose I'll just have to bring it to a local shop and I'll be at their mercy. But at least I can check a few things myself before doing so.
  5. 2COR517

    2COR517 Epic Member 5+ Years 1000 Posts

    It's good the ball joints are done. By far the most labor intensive components involved. It's likely the box, you will be able to tell in 30 seconds.

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