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Crooked steering wheel after new wheels and alignment


Dan Boone
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Hello, Avanti owners.  I just got new wheels for this '63. Really sets it off.  It was pulling to the right after putting the new wheels on.  We replaced all the bushings, tie rods, etc.  It needed it badly.  Problem is when I had it aligned properly the steering wheel is crooked.  Alignment shop tells me that there is not sufficient thread left on the tie rods to align the steering wheel.  They want to rebuild it....much $. I do have a bellcrank shim and seal kit.  Do you think it would make any difference in the straightness of the steering wheel to install this shim and seal kit?  Or do you have any ideas to offer me to straighten my steering wheel without sinking so much money into rebuilding the whole system.  I'm prepared to hear a grim diagnosis if warranted.  I would appreciate your input in this regard.  Dan

 
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Bellcrank kits have nothing to do with toe-in.   Centering the steering wheel is the last thing to do after a front end alignment.  You set the caster, then camber and then toe-in ( which can sacrifice some of the camber)  Once the toe-in is correct, you turn both tie rod clamps in opposite directions equally, to move the wheel either right or left.   If they got to the toe-in part, that means the other two settings were close.    If while they were setting the toe-in, they noticed the clamp was getting to the end, it would not be difficult, at that point, to rearrange the clamps to accommodate more adjustment.   It could be they were spending more time than they thought necessary on the car and realized their problem too late, deciding to squeeze you for more $$$.

Outer pins do not have much to do with toe-in.  If you replaced the rubber bushings, they alone should have pulled things back to a very tolerable point.  Installing new tie rods should make the job very easy.  If they obtained the parts and they don't work, it's on them to correct that issue.   

  My thoughts are that they are trying to draw you into spending a bit more $$$.   (Actually, I can't remember exactly, but some Stude steering wheels can be lifted off the shaft threads and recentered inside the car, but that may introduce a turning circle issue)

If the car is driveable, I'd pay them, get out of there and contact your nearest AOAI Chapter to find out where to get it looked at .

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Thanks for the quick replies.  Nothing is wrong with the car except the steering wheel which drives me crazy.  I'll try some things with the advice you've given me.  I think that shop I went to was trying to bleed me dry.  db

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24 minutes ago, Peddler said:

Pull the steering wheel and move it a couple splines.  Fine tune it with tie rod adjustment.

It is more important that the car is pointed straight ahead when the steering box is centered.   Then your steering wheel should be correct.  

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Hey, Guys....I believe all of us are assuming two things: First, perhaps the new tie rod ends aren't as "long" as the originals. Therefore, there would be less threaded shank available for the adjustment. Hopefully, Dan still has the original tie rod ends, and can compare their length to the ones the shop installed.

Second assumption: That the steering wheel is currently properly indexed on the splined shaft, as observed when removing the center medallion on the steering wheel. It's been awhile since I had mine off, but I recall an indexing indication for the shaft and the wheel. Was it a cold chisel mark and a dot? I don't recall.  Anyway, I believe Dan should twist off the medallion and check that. If his front end was so crappy before, perhaps someone previously relocated the steering wheel on the shaft to get the steering wheel centered.  IF so, Dan can remove the steering wheel and rotate it back to the indexed position. Hopefully, that would yield a straight steering wheel positioning.  

If this doesn't take care of the issue, I think the consensus of comments "to find another shop" makes great sense. However, if the new shop can't inexpensively solve the steering wheel centering problem, I think I could live with repositioning the steering wheel on the splined shaft. This won't cause any problems with the turning circle or centering of the gears in the steering box, since the position of the splined shaft (thus what's inside the steering box) doesn't change in the least. You've only changed the position of the wheel that turns the shaft. John

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If you have to reposition the steering wheel to get it centered when the wheels are pointed straight, to me that would mean that the steering box would not be centered as it should be for proper operation.  

The steering wheel did not move on its shaft during front end parts replacement or alignment. 

It is hard to diagnose these things long distance.  I go back to my first statement of finding another shop.  Research with other hobbyists in your area to try to determine a good shop.  

Edited by studegary
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On my day off work I plan to try to pull the steering wheel off and re-center it.  I'm beginning to think the trusted alignment shop that I took it to wanted to re-build my steering for $1,300 plus, and left the steering that way to try to convince me.  They didn't know that I could ask other owners like you guys.  I have a little story for you that I hope you find interesting:  I've had our regular cars on a lifetime alignment and tire rotation and balance for years at Firestone.  When I took my Volvo in for an oil change and free alignment the last time, Firestone informed me that they could not change the oil because the drain plug was stripped.  I told them that's interesting since they were the only ones that changed the oil in that car since about 2005.  They said it was because the oil pan was aluminum and soft.  I left.  I went home and called the Bureau for Automotive Repair.  I spoke with an agent, and he asked me if I have any receipts.  I told him I had all the receipts.  He wanted copies, so I sent him copies in chronological order.  In the meantime, I asked my friend if he could find one.  He found a very nice oil pan, and we installed it.  The agent from the Bureau called me back about a week later, and told me that Bridgestone/Firestone wanted to pay me for that new oil pan, and after I sent them receipts for the work we did, they sent me a check for what I paid for it, installation, etc., about $500, half the cost of what Firestone was going to charge me.  Some of those old, trusted shops cannot be trusted.  

Thanks to all of you.  I really appreciate it.  I bought the Avanti from my brother about six years ago and promised him that I would take care of it.  He had it about 35 years.  I plan to keep my promise to him.  db

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Dan, it's wonderful that you're interested in your brother's Avanti, and want to start enjoying it. It sounds like you're a pretty persistent guy. You'll get to the bottom of this steering thing, for sure.

Gary, with regard to your second paragraph: In my earlier comments, I meant that a prior owner or shop, might have moved the steering wheel on the splined shaft to center it (to compensate for all the front end wear-related issues Dan's shop eventually fixed). No telling what might have been done in the past!

I sure agree with you that it's hard to do much but guess, when trying to help by long distance. John

Edited by Jolly-John
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Before you reinstall the wheel, be sure you have the same number of turns in each direction. Otherwise it's not centered no matter what it looks like. Aesthetics shouldn't outweigh correct steering geometry.

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John, I did get your email.  Thank you.  I pulled the cap off of the steering wheel, took two screws off, removed the apparatus that holds the cap.  I was now at the nut that holds the steering wheel.  I did have the 15/16 wrench to loosen it, but could not.  I drove to a shop close to my house, and the guy said he didn't have any idea what to charge me, for loosening a bolt! They send flyers every day and call themselves "the honest mechanics."  Well, the guy that put my new wheels on was happy to loosen that bolt for me with his air gun.  Next I went to Autozone to borrow a steering wheel remover.  They loan you tools for free if you give them a deposit.  They first gave me a cheap one and they screws to hold the puller would not fit.  I took that one back and borrowed the master wheel puller kit.  That did the job, and yesterday, it wasn't raining much, I took it for a little drive, the steering wheel is straight.  Wala!  It is a little loose now, though, and I plan to look into that.  My wife thinks I like the car better than her.  db

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Yes, Dan, most of us guys will suggest that you should get used to hearing that comment from your wife on a fairly regular basis!

So, once you got the large nut off, could you tell if there was any factory index mark that would show the original (from the factory) position of the steering wheel on the shaft? If so, was the steering wheel and the shaft still indexed to that position? If no index mark, was your solution to simply relocate the position of the steering wheel a notch or two on the splined shaft, until the wheel was centered? Glad you're happy with the outcome. John

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John, I did get your email.  Thank you.  I pulled the cap off of the steering wheel, took two screws off, removed the apparatus that holds the cap.  I was now at the nut that holds the steering wheel.  I did have the 15/16 wrench to loosen it, but could not.  I drove to a shop close to my house, and the guy said he didn't have any idea what to charge me, for loosening a bolt! They send flyers every day and call themselves "the honest mechanics."  Well, the guy that put my new wheels on was happy to loosen that bolt for me with his air gun.  Next I went to Autozone to borrow a steering wheel remover.  They loan you tools for free if you give them a deposit.  They first gave me a cheap one and they screws to hold the puller would not fit.  I took that one back and borrowed the master wheel puller kit.  That did the job, and yesterday, it wasn't raining much, I took it for a little drive, the steering wheel is straight.  Wala!  It is a little loose now, though, and I plan to look into that.  My wife thinks I like the car better than her.  db

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Okay, now I have another question for you guys:  The steering is too loose now.  Do you think a bell crank shim and seal kit would help in tightening up the steering?  db

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What do you mean by loose?  The way to check the bellcrank is to grab ahold of it where the tie rod ends attach and try to move it up and down.  Another way is to have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth while you watch the bellcrank.  If it moves up and down at all it should be rebuilt.  If you have power steering the control valve can cause some looseness.  Be sure to have the engine running when you check this because the spool valve will have a lot of movement without pressure from the pump.  If you don't have power steering, check the pitman arm tie rod end.  I recently worked on a friend's GT hawk and the tie rod end to pitman arm nut was several rounds loose.   I've been following this thread a bit and am concerned about relocating the steering wheel on the steering shaft.  If I remember right, the last time that I had the steering wheel off my Hawk I thought that it was keyed to the shaft with a missing spline tooth, ensuring that it would go on only one way.  If the wheel appears to be loose at the top make sure that you didn't try to force the wheel down over the spline.

Roger List

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The steering wheel went back on easily and the nut is tight.  It's something under the hood.  Thanks for the reply.  I'll check some of those areas.  db

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