I have too much play in the steering. I took off the steering wheel, to check what gears I have and their condition, see pictures. I Think the gears don't show too much wear, but I am new, so what do I know? I googled the forum, and read a bunch about it, but I need someone with more experienced advice, to make sure. I have the 5 to 1 Ratio gears, and they all looked tight, by my eyes, but they all just pulled off the pins, with no problem. Is that OK, or should they a tight fit? Also, the long pin looks like it has gone past, where it is suppose to stop at in the groove, and made it a bit longer, on both sides. Are my eyes, deceiving me again? Is the cast worn out, or can it be fixed? All help appreciated.
It's likely you have wear in several places that adds up to the total play. The pins should need to be punched out of the main steering shaft, so I guess it's best to replace them, but first you can put them back, put everything together and have a good check of everything in the steering assembly while turning the steering wheel to the left and right. To check the drag link connections you may need help by someone else to turn the wheel. Look and feel, sometimes it's the connection between the steering shaft and the pitman arm that's loose, sometimes it's the bearing in the frame bracket.. Be sure to check where the steering gear housing is connected to the column - a little play there gives lots of play in the steering wheel.
A little trouble with photos
Thank you Roger, your always very helpful to me, It's 2:30 AM on the west coast here, off to bed now, will have friends help me this weekend. Thanks again, Keith
Here is one way to reduce the file size of pictures to fit within the forum 240K limit:
You probably need to shim the connections at the ends of the steering link. You can get shims from the part sellers, or make your own. The bottom right photo is a shim made from a copper penny hammered over a ball peed hammer end to make the correct thickness and shape.
Before you try to disassemble and fix anything, you first need to know what is causing the problem. This test is best done with two people. One to turn the steering wheel back and forth and the other to inspect all the various parts and joints under the front end of the car.
Things to check: The pitman arm. That is the arm attached to the lower end of the steering column. This should be tight where it is attached to the column. The ball joint at the end of the pitman arm should not have play either. While you are at that side of the car, notice the bushings at the lower steering bracket (the bracket which is bolted to the frame. The steering shaft should not be noticeably loose in the bracket when you move the wheel back and forth. Now go to the other side of the car. The ball joint where the drag link is attached to the right spindle should not bee loose with noticeable play. Next check the tie rod between the two spindle arms. If any of the above parts show looseness, they should be fixed. Next check: Have the assistant get out of the car and move the wheel back and forth at the top of the wheel while you look at the spokes. They should be tight in the hubs and at the felloes (around the rim) Also look at the wheel bearings. does the hub move back and forth on the spindle? If so, the wheel bearings should be adjusted. It is good to re pack with wheel bearing grease and then adjust them. They should be adjusted to where you just begin to feel a little drag when spinning the wheel, then back off about 1/32 inch. Just enough for the wheel to spin freely without any wobble. If you pack with grease, check again after driving a short distance. Check the spindle bolts (also referred to as "king pins") They should not rock back and forth when you push the top of the wheel back and forth. If they are loose, replace and re-bush the spindles. Lastly check all the nuts which hold the spindle arms to spindle and radius rod (wishbone) to the axle. They should be tight and cotter pinned. Next check the ball joint where the radius rod is attached to the crankcase. There should be no noticeable play and both nuts should be wired together. Do NOT place cotter pins here. The wires will keep both the nuts on and keep the studs from unscrewing.
After checking all these, work to tighten or replace the necessary parts. The last thing to check is the gears in the column. If they are worn, they should also be replaced.
The best way to find any play or looseness in the front end and steering is to jack up the front axle.
Use 2 jack stands to get it off the ground.
Turn your steering wheel slowly from right to left and you will begin to see where all the slack is.
You may be surprised how much play there is when you check all the tie rod ends and steering gear components when the axle is off the ground and moved from side to side!
The procedure for finding the place(s) from where steering play originates is fairly straightforward. _First, do the easy stuff: Check that the steering column is securely mounted to the firewall. _If it's loose, grab a wrench and tighten the nuts. _Next, inspect the exterior of the steering gear case directly under the steering wheel. _Make sure the rivets that mount the steering gear case to the steering column are tight and that there's no looseness at all between the steering gear case and the steering column.
Open the driver's side hood and check that the steering column mounting bracket is very securely mounted to the car's frame. _Have a buddy twist the steering wheel from side to side to reveal any hidden looseness there._Now, very gently and slowly, twist the steering wheel from side to side. _If the steering wheel is moving and the steering shaft in the steering column is not, your problem (or at least part of it) is on the driver's side of the dashboard.
Next, unbolt the steering wheel acorn nut and check for looseness between the Woodruff key and keyway of the steering wheel. _Remove the steering wheel and bag the Woodruff key for safekeeping.
Now remove and bag the little set-screw that secures the cap on the steering gear case and unscrew the cap on the steering gear case. _Wipe away any excess grease. _Remount the Woodruff key and steering wheel. _Slowly turn the steering wheel from side to side and check for any play between the teeth of the gears in the steering gear case or between the individual gears and the little pegs upon which they're mounted.
Get under the car and check for any looseness between the steering column shaft and the Pitman arm. _If you find any looseness there, pull the cotter pin and try tightening the nut. _Maybe you'll get real lucky and that'll be all it needs. _If that doesn't work, check for looseness between the Woodruff key and the keyway.
Now check for any looseness in the Pitman arm's ball joint. _The remaining possible culprits are front-end items; things like loose nuts & bolts, worn bushings, kingpins, etc.
Four inches of play in the steering wheel is quite a lot, so it's likely you have looseness in more than one of the above areas.
Oh... and one more thing: what Royce said.
(and what John and Norman said)
Each of the places mentioned above may not seem real loose, but remember, together they multiply the looseness in the steering. They are not additive, but multiply.
Thanks to everyone for the great information. I will get the resized photos done as soon as I can, a picture is worth a 1000 words, right? As I said, the gears look good to me, but???? Also, the former owner had shimmy problems, and installed a steering stabilizer on it. So this has been a problem, for awhile. Since getting the car in Dec., 2014, the car hasn't been driven much, and all this time, I have been upgrading it and making it road worthy, to my standards. I just want a safe and reliable car. just recently, I also discovered, the drag link was bent! Is it supposed to have a slight elliptical bend in it? Logic tell me NO! Again, I will get the pictures done very soon to show you. I have to go into town now, but will get it done soon. Thanks again. I'll keep you updated.
You're right on the drag link...a big "NO"! Go over everything as stated above and you'll get it in OK shape. These steering systems aint rocket science!
Just revolt the ground and of the car from the column to the wheel bearings. There is NO slop in the steering. When I turn the wheel the fender dips on the oopposet side.
Keith, assuming that you have rebuilt all front end and steering components, except the gears in the gear box under the steering wheel, I would check and replace them, When my Dad and I restored my Grandfather's 27 coupe, we replaced the king pins; the tie rod bushings; the drag link cap and virtually everything except the steering gears and pins, and still had as much steering wheel play as you have. Removing the steering wheel and gear box cover and turning the steering wheel shaft with the cover off, it was immediately evident where the problem was. We replaced the gears and pins and all but an inch was taken up. If we had used the over size gears available, we probably wouldn't have had any play.
Well, I totally Screwed up tonight...I was putting the steering gear case back together, everything fit good with the new grease, key went in tight, cap screwed back on, screw set in...then I started screwing on the Acorn nut, to button it all up, And I Cross Threaded it onto the Steering Gear Drive Pinion...and >>>> up the threads on both!!! My "help", bailed on me...I think, I resized the photos, but when I went to upload them onto the Forum, I can't Find them!! Now, I have to order a New Gear kit AND???? Last week, my Water Well Pump for the house, completely broke down, after 2 days with no water, and $2,300.00 Dollars later... and the months not over yet. SIGH Better go to bed, and Stay there till NOV.1st!!!
I would think you should be able to remove the steering column and have the threads re-tapped and just buy a new acorn nut. Sounds like if it weren't for bad luck you'd have no luck at all. Sorry about that. Thats the story of my brother's life too. Good luck. Don't let it get you down!
But you can check for where there are play without the nut - then hopefully a thread file and a new nut can fix the most recent problem
CAUTION! That acorn nut has non-standard threads. Use a thread file to clean up the threads on the drive pinion. As I recall, the threads are coarser than the typical NC threads for that size bolt. I am surprised that you damaged that pinion because the steel is pretty hard.
Here's another look at some new steering shims. They don't cost very much.
When checking the gear case to see if it's tight in the column, just watch it as you turn the wheel back and forth. If the case is loose you can see it wobble.
Bent Drag Links
Sorry still having trouble uploading to photos to forum.
A bent drag link has a tendency to flex and shouldn't be used. They're usually solid and can be straightened. There were many different lengths used, with the right length the pitman arm will point downwards with the wheels pointing straight forward.
A too short drag link can cause overcenter issues, especially when turning full left and if the stop in the gear housing doesn't work (or isn't there, as in earlier Fords)
Steve - About your "inexpensive" steering shims,.....do you just install them in their flat "natural" state like they seem to appear in your excellent photo, or do you shape them a bit concave with a ball peen hammer,.....???
Keith, I sent you an e-mail just now.
Harold, you could bend them before installing them but I don't bother. As soft as they are, tightening the bolts will do it.
Hmmm,....that would also preclude the chance of bending them too much. Thanks Steve,......harold
Hi everyone, a quick update, the only real front end work I have done on the old gal is, repack and replace the front wheel bearings, added the APCO Spring loaded Ball caps, on the tie rods, (Drag Link), oiled and lubed up everything, real good. The tie rod yoke balls, looked Great!, Even the inside of the ball caps, weren't even scored or damaged in any way, they looked and felt smooth, and didn't seem to be out of shape, ( or Oval). The drag links, themselves, both looked like they ran over a telephone pole, both bent in the same spot, AND, bent exactly the same shape. I read on an old forum, that I could try to bend them back, using a vise. I tried it, and got them to come back 3/4 of the way, but still not completely straight. Just to tough for this old man. It also suggested between a "Y", in a tree, I got 2 acres of those! I have a perfect , Grand Maple, right in front of my house, so??? Going to order parts Monday AM, to get them started coming my way. Might have to see if I can find some used ones. Any recommendations or leads???
Before I forget, which happens too much these days, the tie rod ends are TIGHT, no movement at all, after trying to straighten them, I tried to move them, and couldn't budge them.
Also, I did that work back in March, and the car hasn't even got 175 miles on it with me. Needless to say, it will not be driven until those tie rods are straighten out, Literally, or replaced. My plan is to start at the Acorn nut holding on the steering wheel, and go until I stop at the right front tire, and inspect and push and pull everything, until the problem is fixed, as you have suggested. Still working on getting photos. Thanks for everything so far.
You'll have to overbend it some to get it to stay straight - if you need more force, just use a pipe that goes over the drag link as an extension. A sturdy vice should be your best friend when fixing up a Model T (and other kinds of old stuff)
And the tie rod is hollow so there's a risk it's been distorted in the tube - so it can be easier to use another (if available)
Keith, do like I did for my '20, send your old tie rod into Snyders to exchange for a new one. Best $ I spent. (at the time!) We'll talk about that later when I call you.
Be certain that the pitman arm is tight on the steering column shaft and that the woodruff key is there and in good condition. You should also inspect the woodruff key seat in the steering shaft to be sure it's not worn. A badly worn key seat can develop cracks at its corners that ultimately can lead to a broken steering shaft.
Jerry V, it just so happens, that I ordered a new pitman arm and woodruff key this morning, along with some other steering parts of course. I haven't tested anything of the steering components yet on the car, but I like to have it ready, if needed. It's been raining here since Saturday night pretty hard at times. I just remembered something else, when I put the steering wheel back on to test and watch the gears inside the case, they were meshing up very nicely, and seemed tight, BUT, I noticed,, out of the top of my eyes, that the Steering Colum, moved, Up, and to the Right, like when a engine would, as it was Revved up, very slightly, but enough that it caught my eye. Hmmmm??? I'm go to go to Harbor Freight, and see if I can find a reasonable priced Hydraulic device, to straighten out my drag link and tie rod with. If not, I will put up an ad in the classifieds, to see if anyone has some good straight ones. Thanks
Still working on the uploading photo....
Chris B, please put the above link (or something better, if you have something) in the "Posting Pictures" section of the "Instructions for Forum Use" thread.
Yes folks, there is such a thing as a thread called "Instructions for Forum Use"!
Bent Tie Rods/Drag Links 1925 FORDOR
Mark, sorry.... I finally got it figured out. See above thread.
Well done, Keith, sorry if it sounded like I was scolding you, that wasn't my intent!
I've posted that link dozens of times over the past couple of months and will continue to do so to help facilitate the posting of more pictures on the forum. There may be better ways to resize pictures, but the advantage of that one is that every Windows machine I've ever seen comes with "Paint" installed on it.
Congrats on the picture posting Keith!! Great feeling, eh? Snyder's used to have replacement tie rods, call them and see if they still do.
Hi Everyone, Well, my steering parts should be arriving hopefully, tomorrow afternoon. Today has stopped raining, but they are predicting a lot of rain for about a week, starting tonight. I'm going to get the T up on jack stands today, and ready for her complete steering physical, and get the Drag Links off, to be able to work on them. The photo above shows the Links, Before, I tried to correct them. I have a Doctors office phone call due in about 10 minutes. Again thanks for the detailed information, on how to proceed. Will update, as wrenches "start a turning", with results.
Steve J....way up there, shouldn't those shims be the old all copper ones??
While you have your T up on the jack stands for its 'physical' its a good idea to also check the wishbone socket were it attaches to the engine pan.
Sometimes there is more slack than necessary. Its something we readily don't think about since its not easily seen.
Just wanted to do an update from my last posting. Since then, I got my steering parts order from Lang's, then on Thursday of the same week, I slipped on a rug in my house, and did the "splits", with my legs! Not A Pretty sight, and a more painful one to top it off. I aggravated a chronic back injury, and was mostly in bed, for over a week. I couldn't walk or sit, for all that time. Anyway, I'm walking again with some pain, but can deal with it.
I tried getting some used Drag Links, but Lang's, Snyder's, didn't have any....and Chaffin's still hasn't ever called me back. I took Roger K.'s advise, and tried bending them again. Well, this time it worked! A tree in my front yard, with a great "Y", in the trunks, bent the long one straight, with only 2 medium pulls! I couldn't believe, how easy it was, and put the straight edge on it a few times, to make sure it really was straight.
Put all the parts back together, yesterday, until the pain said stop. I had to replace the Pitman Arm, as when I grabbed it, it moved about a 1/4" or more, sideways, and the nut was loose, and then the Arm, just fell, to the ground. I thought I might have force it off, was I wrong! It was badly worn, just under the Ball, where it connects to the arm. The New one fit perfectly, with the New Woodruff Key, and is nice and tight.
The Wishbone, is also very tight, with 1 shim added, but No sign of wear. The Steering Column Shaft and Steering Box, are also tight and with no leaks or movement. The New Steering Drive Pinion, and Gear Set, went in with no problems, and are meshing very nicely.
In the next couple of days, I have to finish and double check for tightness and make sure all nuts and cotter pins are in place, and test the front wheels for any play, and probably check the grease in the hubs again. After that, test to see if the slack was taken up, and see if any play in the steering wheel is present. Well, I will update, when I have it done and tested.
Again, I can't thank you all enough, who wrote with suggestions and advise, for helping me through this. I have the upmost respect and gratitude,for you. Until I update again, take care,
Sounds like you're on the "road" to recovery...for your car, and hopefully your back too! I know how back issues can be, trust me!
Looks like this is Part of my steering wheel play problem. This is an Ford Scripted pitman arm, so let's say it has been on there for 90 years, the problem has been working on this for a few years, as I suspected. But since I don't know the cars history, I will never know for sure. As long as, the New one, helps me solve my the problem.
Keith, what is the problem with your pitman arm? From here, it looks pretty good in your picture. The ball looks to be pretty much round. Dave
David S.... The groove cut just below the ball, and just above where the arm is attached. On the left side under the ball, you just make out a half moon groove wear cut probably by the tie rod cap? The cut goes completely around the bottom of the ball end. The paint is worn away, I know it hard to see.
Keith...kinda agree with David's thought...I'd be more concerned with the condition of where the arm fits ONTO the steering shaft, than that groove on top of the ball. I would think if anything that would possibly permit the drag link and cap to fit even tighter? If it is loose on it, shims would be fine. Just a thought.
That ball & grooving look 100% normal to me. In fact, that looks like a very good pitman arm, from what we can see of it.
The pitman arm on my car and the NOS replacement in my parts stash have the groove near the ball, just like your picture.
Keith, that groove on the ball itself is pretty common from what I have seen. What you have watch out for is where someone in the past filed the cap to tighten up the steering, which I think may have happened on yours. Not a problem if only done a time or two. Where you run into a problem is, each time the cap is filed, it reduces the I D of the cap. After awhile, the ball starts getting a groove worn into it, the more filing, the worse it gets. When it gets worn a lot, and the cap keeps getting filed to tighten it up, the ball will bind in the socket when turned lock to lock because the ball is egg shaped now, making things wear even worse. Now there is nothing wrong with filing to tighten things up, BUT, BOTH surfaces should be filed a like amount, so as to keep the socket I D round. The cap on my '25 mostly original coupe had been filed so much over the years that it wore the ball very egg shaped. I built up the ball with bronze, fitted it to the socket, and replaced the cap. Works great now. Dave
David, Tim, Mark, Jerry,
Thanks for the valuable information. This is a brand new experience for me, so that's why I'm seeking out people who have done this before, so I can do it right, especially with the steering!
So if this is a normal occurrence, the only problem was with the pitman arm was it being loose and falling off the steering column shaft and having about 1/4" movement, form side to side, as it was still mounted with the nut on, before I removed it. The ball does look perfectly round, as does the cap, by my eyes too. The steering shaft, shows no wear or scoring, or movement whatsoever, no matter how hard I tried to tug on it, as well did the steering box. Now the New Pitman Arm and woodruff key, went on tight, and no movement at all, form side to side, even before, bolting the cap back on. After bolting on the cap, I cannot budge it either.
Now that filing part, is new to me, I never heard of that before, but it sure makes sense, way back when, to do that. Now I don't know if it was done or not, as while I was cleaning up the old parts, nothing caught my eye, but I wasn't looking for that either. I do have a cap that came off the car, when I put the APCO spring loaded caps on, back in March? Would you recommend, replacing it with the Ball cap, I reused? It looks in great shape, with no wear in it, and no filing marks, on the bottom.
I'm going out now to recheck things, then see if all I have done so far, has helped the problem. I will update later this evening, with the results.
Thanks again so much,
Update from this morning:
Went out and checked all my connections,nuts and cotter pins, and it looks good and feels solid. I drained off the some fuel from the Sediment Bulb and the Carb bowl, as it has been very rainy and stays very damp at the house here. Raised the front of the car off the ground with the floor jack, and turned the steering wheel left and right and.....Drum Roll Please.....It Is Tight!!!!
Yeah!!!! Not claiming full victory just yet though! Started the car and let it run for about 15 minutes, as it hasn't been started for a couple of weeks. Went in the house for a few minutes, and came out, and it was starting to rain! That's what is does best of all in the Pacific Northwest. Tuesday is Suppose to be dry, and no rain, but you know how accurate the weather people are!
I will have to drive it to test it for sure, so not declaring full victory yet. But it was such a great feeling of grabbing the wheel after all this time, and work, and feeling it being so tight, NO SLOP, at all! I'll drive it around the front yard and do some Figure 8's, then take in onto the road, if I feel good after that test.
The only road I can drive on, is a 2 lane country road, with the river on one side, and a rock hillside on the other, and it's 50 MPH, and not many turnoffs, hence my reluctance to drive on the road first. Well, hope the weather is good as they predict. I will post the results when there in.
Keith, that is great, BUT, you need to check the play with the wheels on the ground. Wiggle the steering wheel while watching the front wheels, that will tell you how well you have done. Any movement of the steering should move the wheels, if all is well. Dave
David, your right, and all will be tested Tuesday, as long as it don't rain. I want to double check the front hubs for grease, and then tighten them up before driving.
Keep us posted. Dave
The verdict is in.....VICTORY AT lAST!!! Today I drove the Fordor all the way into town,(8 miles one way), and the steering is 100% better!!! There might be 1 1/2", very slight movement at the most, in the steering wheel. It feels tight, and it feels Right!!! There was no noises or funny feeling in the wheel, when I turned the wheel slightly to the left, it went left, and the same with the right. I drove around in circles in a big empty lot in town, and again, it did what it's suppose to do, and the turning radius was the same, for left and right, which is a good sign!!! You can't imagine, how good this makes me feel. I am so happy that we did it!
I was sitting down when I got back home today, and was thinking, that one year ago this month, I made a deal to get this car, after a 50 year wait, and I didn't even know how to start the car, let alone, drive one, but I read and viewed video's, over and over, and taught myself how to do it. I also think driving on the 3 1/2" tires, takes a bit to get use too, at higher speeds..30 to 35 MPH.
I owe all of you, who took the time, to help me with this project, a big THANK YOU. I probably wouldn't have tackled this, without your help. The "book", tells me just so much, but your detailed information is what got me through it.
Now, I have to work on my driving and shifting skills, especially with the Ruckstell. But, with practice, I'll get it down, but again, the rain returns again tomorrow. So I will have less driving time,as Fall/Winter arrives, but I'll do it when I can.
So, Thank You Forum, for everything.
I may get to drive the Fordor into town again on Thursday, weather permitting. I want to do a quick check of the Toe In and camber alignment, and don't really have any level ground,at home. I will take the service manual, and follow that, and get an idea, if anything is way off. After the bent Drag Links / Tie Rods, I'm sure that they are probably off Kilter?
Keith, an extra pair of hands sure comes in handy when checking the toe in. I tried measuring mine two or three times by myself and thought all was well, but I kept wearing out front tires. Finally got my grandson to help me, and found out the toe in was at 3/4". No wonder they were wearing out. Been there. Dave