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Steering wheel center and toe adjustment

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OldGuyOldJeep

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Ok I posted this as a reply and thought it deserves its own post. The Additional is in ALL CAPS. I also included a copy paste of the text from the factory service manual. I am just trying to save people a little money and fix a couple self-caused issues that almost everyone does incorrectly. If the service manual had explained why to do it the way it is says to…….


I would like to correct a couple of misconceptions that causes loose Squirrley steering, short lived steering gearboxes, and wasted money. This applies to most Jeeps that I have come across with a “loose” steering issue, assuming the steering components are in at lease fair condition. If you ignore these misconceptions your Jeep will drive true and be responsive no matter what your tire pressure you run and even with less than perfect ball joins (not bad ones), and without damaging the gearbox by have far too little lash. You will also find your steering gearbox will last multiple times longer due to the reduced stress on the gearing and correct lash. You will find these misconceptions on every forum and YouTube how to video. Honestly, I have yet to see anyone do it correctly. Even Alignment shops and dealerships generally fail at these issues. The shop manual is actually correct (except the order) and though it is not explained sufficiently to understand why it is the correct way. Let’s get to these horrible misconceptions. * SEE LAST PARAGRAPH FROM THE MANUAL ON TOE WICH COVERS THE ONLY PROPER WAY TO CENTER THE STEERING WHEEL.

Firstly, to center your steering wheel:
Most people don’t want to hear this, but you DO NOT adjust your steering wheel center via the drag link!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This needs more emphasis so!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. The drag link adjustment is for the passenger side toe!!!!! If is the drag link as the steering wheel centering method, then you already F-ed up your whole alignment and probably think that the steering gearboxes fail too often. ADJUSTING THE DRAG LINK TO CENTER THE STEERING WHEEL IS JUST MOVEING YOUR PITMAN ARM AND GEARBOX OFF CENTER! THIS MEANS THE HYDRLIC PERSURE IS NO LONGER EQUAL ON BOTH SIDES SO THE GEARING TAKES ALL THE IMPACT INSTEAD OF IT BEING BUFFERED BY THE HYDROLIC FLUID; HENCE, YOUR GEARBOX FAILES!

Secondly, adjust gearbox lash to increase responsiveness:
Lash DOES NOT INCREASE RESPONSIVENESS! It may seem to for a bit, but I find most people have it far tighter than it should be causing it to actually loose responsiveness do to restricting the hydronic pressure. If your gearbox has play in it with the engine running, then ether your gearing is bad, or the power steering pump is not providing adequate volume or pressure. Okay or air in it. Ok ok sometimes, very very very rarely it is incorrect lash. IF THE STEERING BOX IS CENTERED AND SO IS THE PITMAN ARM THE EQULIZED PRESURE REMOVE THE PLAY IN THE WHEEL AT THE CENTER POINT. There are only three (3) reasons to ever adjust lash:

1. You, yourself just rebuilt the gearbox and it is still on the bench while you are finishing it up.
2. The lock nut came loose and now you must relash it.
3. You have been running 40” tires for the last 250,000 miles and you really want to get to 300K before having to purchase another one.

Ok let’s talk about the pitman arm arc. The pitman arm arc is a symmetrical arc as it relates to the pivot at the gearbox; however, when it is working in combination with the drag links three non-equal distance pivot points it functions as an oblique arc. This means the further it is turned from center the low the arc’s slope is between input motion on the steering wheel and out motion on the front wheels. It also means that the pitman arm must be correctly positioned to have the most equal response to both directions of turn eliminating steering wheel play. A lot of people say they have a huge dead area when the steering wheel is centered. IF the Pitman arm is incorrectly centered, One Direction will briefly go to a higher Slope arc point, making it seem to turn quicker to that direction and a lower slope turning to the other, seem to have a larger dead zone to one side. This gives that feeling of Squirrely steering feeling when driving down a straight road and making minor corrections.

Alignment:
This is assuming your Jeep is in unknown condition, so only the first time and you don’t know how bad it is boogered up it really is.

1. Ensure your Gearbox is at roughly at the center point. (Self-Explanatory)

2. Ensure you pitman arm is pointing straight backwards and directly perpendicular to the front drive axle. (If not, it isn’t on the correct spline, yank it off and replace so it is on the correct spline)

3. Ensure your steering wheel is dead centered with the pitman arm still perpendicular to the front axle. (If not, yep you guessed it, pull the intermediate steering shaft. While keeping both the pitman arm perpendicular to the axle and the steering wheel straight, replace the intermediate shaft on the correct spline. Also, the splines on the upper intermediate shaft connection and the ones on the gear box connection are ½ of a spline different. So, if you are going for perfection and it’s off a smidge, disconnect at the upper shaft and turn it one spine.) IFYOUR STEERING WHEEL AND SHAFTS ARE CORRECLY SPLINED YOU CAN THEN ALWAS DIAL YOU TOE TO THE PITMAN ARM POSITION. ONCE SET RECORD THE LEADING EDGE OF YOUR RIM TO THE ARM AND IT MAKES FOR QUICK ADJUSTMENTS.

4. Set up Alinement method: (I use the 3-string method, that is setting a center string down the middle between the two frame rails and using the center line to setup two more parallel lines to the to measure toe and trust angle. This gives you the benefit of checking the axle center and giving a second reference point to ensure parallel. It also ensures that the frame is perpendicular to the measuring lines which avoids more complicated geometry maths when calculating angle. Just good old Pythagorean theorem.)

#ProTip those magnetic tennis ball things you use to alight trailer hitch to the trailer make an excellent line holder. Just stick the magnet to the underside of you bumpers at both ends and run you line and move them to parallel. They even telescope so you can set then to whatever height makes measuring easiest. Yes, you do have to measure from the inside edge of the rim. I painted marks so I can just pop them on without having to measure ever time.

5. While keeping the pitman arm perpendicular, use the “DRAG LINK” to adjust the passenger toe to between -.15 and -.45 degrees with the sweet spot being -.30 degrees.

6. Use the tie rod adjustment to adjust the drive side tire toe to between -.15 and -.45 with the sweet spot being -.30 degrees.

7. Have a beer, the test drive can wait, you did it correctly this time so it will handle like Carol Shelby aligned it himself.

I hope this is helpful.

*
SERVICE Manuel:
TOE POSITION
NOTE: The wheel toe position adjustment is the
final adjustment. This adjustment must be performed
with the engine running, if the vehicle is
equipped with power steering.

(1) Start the engine and turn wheels both ways
before straightening the steering wheel. Center and
secure the steering wheel.
(2) Loosen the adjustment sleeve clamp bolts (Fig. 3).
(3) Adjust the right wheel toe position with the drag
link (Fig. 4). Turn the sleeve until the right wheel is at
the correct positive TOE-IN position. Position the clamp
bolts as shown (Fig. 3) and tighten to 49 N·m (36 ft.
lbs.). Make sure the toe setting does not change
during clamp tightening.

(4) Adjust the left wheel toe position with the tie
rod. Turn the sleeve until the left wheel is at the
same TOE-IN position as the right wheel. Position
the clamp bolts as shown (Fig. 3) and tighten to 27
N·m (20 ft. lbs.). Make sure the toe setting does
not change during clamp tightening.

(5) Verify the right toe specifications and turn off
the engine.
(6)Have a beer, the test drive can wait.
 

AndyG

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Thanks- boy have I been uneducated.

Question - can you typically tell a big difference when using this method? I know it may be a silly question, but I’m asking as I digest all this.

Good post.
 
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OldGuyOldJeep

OldGuyOldJeep

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Thanks- boy have I been uneducated.

Question - can you typically tell a big difference when using this method? I know it may be a silly question, but I’m asking as I digest all this.

Good post.

I have seen dramatic differences, especially with less than perfect parts. The longevity is also improved. Something I forgot in that rant, make sure your steering shaft uv joints are center at center wheel to ensure the locked to center feel.
 
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OldGuyOldJeep

OldGuyOldJeep

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Thanks- boy have I been uneducated.

Question - can you typically tell a big difference when using this method? I know it may be a silly question, but I’m asking as I digest all this.

Good post.
Honestly, everyone wants it to be easy and before you really focus on the geometry and how the gearbox works It seems that easy. I did. I kept getting this uneasy filling about the service manual wording and I found a Saginaw manual from the 1960’s. It explained about the gearbox’s fluid dynamics. Apparently when centered it creates a fluid loop.
 

AndyG

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I have seen dramatic differences, especially with less than perfect parts. The longevity is also improved. Something I forgot in that rant, make sure your steering shaft uv joints are center at center wheel to ensure the locked to center feel.

Can you expound on that - what to look for - thanks
 
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hosejockey61

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Before this goes on any further, tell me how you plan to adjust the pitman arm a spline or two when they are keyed. Also explain how to align the steering shaft a spline or two when the connection to the steering box can only go on one way with the flat side?

The Saginaw box in a TJ will favor slightly to the passenger side when it is centered. It can't go directly straight back.

PXL_20221125_010819552.jpg


PXL_20221125_010838008.jpg


PXL_20221125_011229284.jpg
 

eastbloc

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Yah, was about to ask which year of TJ is this refering to, because mine is keyed and bias towards passenger side
 

AndyG

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Before this goes on any further, tell me how you plan to adjust the pitman arm a spline or two when they are keyed. Also explain how to align the steering shaft a spline or two when the connection to the steering box can only go on one way with the flat side?

The Saginaw box in a TJ will favor slightly to the passenger side when it is centered. It can't go directly straight back.

View attachment 379271

View attachment 379272

View attachment 379273

And…..being that it is keyed… don’t you actually center the pitman when you center the wheel? Seems their relationship is fixed.
 

hosejockey61

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And…..being that it is keyed… don’t you actually center the pitman when you center the wheel? Seems their relationship is fixed.

No. When the steering box is centered in its travel, then you install the pitman arm. It is keyed at 90° intervals. When you put it on the box it will point slightly to the passenger side. If you try to use the next point it would be pointing at the passenger wheel.

Once the box is centered, and the pitman arm goes on, then you connect the drag link. From there you can do the driveway alignment which includes straightening the steering when by adjusting the drag link buckle.
 

mrblaine

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Before this goes on any further, tell me how you plan to adjust the pitman arm a spline or two when they are keyed. Also explain how to align the steering shaft a spline or two when the connection to the steering box can only go on one way with the flat side?

The Saginaw box in a TJ will favor slightly to the passenger side when it is centered. It can't go directly straight back.

View attachment 379271

View attachment 379272

View attachment 379273

Thanks for saving me the trouble. For those following along, the TJ steering system is keyed to only be installed one way from the steering wheel through the input shaft at the steering gear all the way through the steering gear to the pitman arm.

The only thing I would change is to take another look at the pitman and verify it is pointed back and to the right vehicle side. I typically see them just slightly off center to the left side of the vehicle.


The other thing is, I am 99.9% sure you can't install the pitman incorrectly without trying very hard and then it will be obvious that it is fucked up. The steering gear only has about 90 degrees of rotation. The keys are 90 degrees apart, pretty hard to screw that up. Never hurts to start with it centered before you install the pitman though.

The gear should be run centered though, on our higher performance stuff, if it is off center, that can cause a pull while driving due to providing some assist one direction.
 

AndyG

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No. When the steering box is centered in its travel, then you install the pitman arm. It is keyed at 90° intervals. When you put it on the box it will point slightly to the passenger side. If you try to use the next point it would be pointing at the passenger wheel.

Once the box is centered, and the pitman arm goes on, then you connect the drag link. From there you can do the driveway alignment which includes straightening the steering when by adjusting the drag link buckle.

I’m thinking from a centered start- that the pitman is installed as described-

- from that point on would the wheel/pitman arm not always be at relative points- and using the centering sleeve would then have no bad effect?

Maybe I’m missing something.
 

cpwolf

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*
SERVICE Manuel:
TOE POSITION
NOTE: The wheel toe position adjustment is the
final adjustment. This adjustment must be performed
with the engine running, if the vehicle is
equipped with power steering.

(1) Start the engine and turn wheels both ways
before straightening the steering wheel. Center and
secure the steering wheel.
(2) Loosen the adjustment sleeve clamp bolts (Fig. 3).
(3) Adjust the right wheel toe position with the drag
link (Fig. 4). Turn the sleeve until the right wheel is at
the correct positive TOE-IN position. Position the clamp
bolts as shown (Fig. 3) and tighten to 49 N·m (36 ft.
lbs.). Make sure the toe setting does not change
during clamp tightening.

(4) Adjust the left wheel toe position with the tie
rod. Turn the sleeve until the left wheel is at the
same TOE-IN position as the right wheel. Position
the clamp bolts as shown (Fig. 3) and tighten to 27
N·m (20 ft. lbs.). Make sure the toe setting does
not change during clamp tightening.

(5) Verify the right toe specifications and turn off
the engine.
(6)Have a beer, the test drive can wait.

So, I’m trying to digest (literally ha) but digest this information.

In general, with the steering you can’t change that to the Pitman really, if its centered, it’s keyed and being off what 90 degrees is noticeable (if steering only goes 90 degrees, basically impossible?).

So, the Service Manual is saying “hold the steering wheel centered and turn the drag link sleeve until the passenger wheel is in the exactly correct toe in.”

Well, isn’t is 100% the same thing if the tire is “at the exact position, and you rotate the sleeve to get to the exact center”…..the EXACT same thing? It’s the exact same result, instead of being on Jack stands and the tires turning with the adjustment, the tires stay on the ground and the steering wheel turns to exact center? Ipso Facto, no difference in that?

If you adjust the Driver side Tie Rod to them exactly match the toe in….and the passenger is exact, this is all the same thing?

Maybe I’m missing someone .

The short answer seems to be “before you do this toe in and steering wheel center, make sure your Pitman Arm is going straight ish (barely to passenger) back and the steering box is centered”. That’s it, if you start there, all of this adjustment is just “tires move or steering wheel moves”

I’m not seeing what we’re learning new here?
 
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AndyG

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That’s what I keep thinking if you have the Pitman and steering wheel relationship centered it all works out as far as the fluid dynamics- The rest is just moving the tires

In that thought setting the Pitman arm up 90° wrong or so would be your unforgivable sin
 
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OldGuyOldJeep

OldGuyOldJeep

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I’m thinking from a centered start- that the pitman is installed as described-

- from that point on would the wheel/pitman arm not always be at relative points- and using the centering sleeve would then have no bad effect?

Maybe I’m missing something.

Probably because I explained it poorly. I other words, what’s in my head and what makes it to paper don’t mesh. Also I slipped into a little bit of generic steering gearbox that doesn’t all apply directly to a TJ or even every great box. When I read it before posting I already knew what I was trying to convey even though no one else would have. Not all are splined at every joint. The TJ and most GM’s have two points that are the issue . On the Tj there is the upper lower Union which on early 97’s and some odd ball 98’s that is splined and keyed ; however, the bulk have the “boxed?” end. This connection goes both ways. So at this pion 180 degrees off input translates to about 11 degrees difference on output. (Quik rounding in my head math, not to be trusted). Similarly is true at the upper to column shard con tin. Half So trying again. The relationship between pitman arm itself and the gear box output shaft are keyed but the input shaft can not centered while the while output shaft is close enough to look centered . This leaves 360 degrees difference input or 22 degrees off output. ( again head maths and also dependent on your particular gear box ratio. Now factor new changing any one part the only way to have this goofed up is by turning something while the part is disconnected. Like changing a gearbox, and moving it to reconnect the pit before connecting the steering shaft. now if the drag link was use to set the center you just moved the output enough to rotate the input around at your gearboxes ratio. So now connecting the shaft without turning the wheel the exact same turns as the input (which most don’t realize the just did.) puts the shag off from the pitman. The way I explained didn’t show how TJ could be off but it does work on every gearbox even if every thing doesn’t apply directly to a TJ. Even if you ignore the shaft alignment. A cause all that does in center the steering wheel to the gearbox. As long as it’s not enough, said that the clock spring would be damaged it’s not that important. I will say, I rarely see older jeeps, that the Pitman arm and steering wheel still center together. The important part as far as handling and longevity is that the pitman arm is perpendicular with a centered gearbox when the wheels are also aligned to straight with toe offset. I also apologize I should have customized it just for TJ’s eliminating any extra confusion. When I was born they told me check two options: mechanically inclined, well spoken, or fantastic lover. Well I didn’t check the well spoken opinion; and if they had told that all I was getting was on option I wouldn’t have checked mechanical inclined either. 😂🤣😂🤣
 
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OldGuyOldJeep

OldGuyOldJeep

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I’m thinking from a centered start- that the pitman is installed as described-

- from that point on would the wheel/pitman arm not always be at relative points- and using the centering sleeve would then have no bad effect?

Maybe I’m missing something.

Probably because I explained it poorly. I other words, what’s in my head and what makes it to paper don’t mesh. Also I slipped into a little bit of generic steering gearbox that doesn’t all apply directly to a TJ or even every great box. When I read it before posting I already knew what I was trying to convey even though no one else would have. Not all are splined at every joint. The TJ and most GM’s have two points that are the issue . On the Tj there is the upper lower Union which on early 97’s and some odd ball 98’s that is splined and keyed ; however, the bulk have the “boxed?” end. This connection goes both ways. So at this pion 180 degrees off input translates to about 11 degrees difference on output. (Quik rounding in my head math, not to be trusted). Similarly is true at the upper to column shard con tin. Half So trying again. The relationship between pitman arm itself and the gear box output shaft are keyed but the input shaft can not centered while the while output shaft is close enough to look centered . This leaves 360 degrees difference input or 22 degrees off output. ( again head maths and also dependent on your particular gear box ratio. Now factor new changing any one part the only way to have this goofed up is by turning something while the part is disconnected. Like changing a gearbox, and moving it to reconnect the pit before connecting the steering shaft. now if the drag link was use to set the center you just moved the output enough to rotate the input around at your gearboxes ratio. So now connecting the shaft without turning the wheel the exact same turns as the input (which most don’t realize the just did.) puts the shag off from the pitman. The way I explained didn’t show how TJ could be off but it does work on every gearbox even if every thing doesn’t apply directly to a TJ. Even if you ignore the shaft alignment. A cause all that does in center the steering wheel to the gearbox. As long as it’s not enough, said that the clock spring would be damaged it’s not that important. I will say, I rarely see older jeeps, that the Pitman arm and steering wheel still center together. The important part as far as handling and longevity is that the pitman arm is perpendicular with a centered gearbox when the wheels are also aligned to straight with toe offset. I also apologize I should have customized it just for TJ’s eliminating any extra confusion. When I was born they told me check two options: mechanically inclined, well spoken, or fantastic lover. Well I didn’t check the well spoken opinion; and if they had told that all I was getting was on option I wouldn’t have checked mechanical inclined either. 😂🤣😂🤣
 

Jerry Bransford

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Frankly, the explanations were so long that I pretty much zoned out except where the pitman arm clocking caught my attention, as did how/how not to center the steering wheel and its affect on toe-in. I disagreed with both of those.
 

mrblaine

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Probably because I explained it poorly. I other words, what’s in my head and what makes it to paper don’t mesh. Also I slipped into a little bit of generic steering gearbox that doesn’t all apply directly to a TJ or even every great box. When I read it before posting I already knew what I was trying to convey even though no one else would have. Not all are splined at every joint. The TJ and most GM’s have two points that are the issue . On the Tj there is the upper lower Union which on early 97’s and some odd ball 98’s that is splined and keyed ; however, the bulk have the “boxed?” end. This connection goes both ways. So at this pion 180 degrees off input translates to about 11 degrees difference on output. (Quik rounding in my head math, not to be trusted). Similarly is true at the upper to column shard con tin. Half So trying again. The relationship between pitman arm itself and the gear box output shaft are keyed but the input shaft can not centered while the while output shaft is close enough to look centered . This leaves 360 degrees difference input or 22 degrees off output. ( again head maths and also dependent on your particular gear box ratio. Now factor new changing any one part the only way to have this goofed up is by turning something while the part is disconnected. Like changing a gearbox, and moving it to reconnect the pit before connecting the steering shaft. now if the drag link was use to set the center you just moved the output enough to rotate the input around at your gearboxes ratio. So now connecting the shaft without turning the wheel the exact same turns as the input (which most don’t realize the just did.) puts the shag off from the pitman. The way I explained didn’t show how TJ could be off but it does work on every gearbox even if every thing doesn’t apply directly to a TJ. Even if you ignore the shaft alignment. A cause all that does in center the steering wheel to the gearbox. As long as it’s not enough, said that the clock spring would be damaged it’s not that important. I will say, I rarely see older jeeps, that the Pitman arm and steering wheel still center together. The important part as far as handling and longevity is that the pitman arm is perpendicular with a centered gearbox when the wheels are also aligned to straight with toe offset. I also apologize I should have customized it just for TJ’s eliminating any extra confusion. When I was born they told me check two options: mechanically inclined, well spoken, or fantastic lover. Well I didn’t check the well spoken opinion; and if they had told that all I was getting was on option I wouldn’t have checked mechanical inclined either. 😂🤣😂🤣

I have a reasonably early 97 and it is still not clock-able from the steering wheel splines to the gear side side of the pitman at each and every connection.

The pitman will never be parallel to the bore of the steering gear, it isn't clocked that way from the factory.
 
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