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Old 10-22-2008, 09:46 PM   #1
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Moving steering wheel

I guess that's the best way to describe what is going on. Whenever the steering wheel is turned past a certain point, the steering wheel will move in relationship to driving straight. Meaning, if the steering wheel is level, meaning both halves are the same level(-), and i turn too far to the left, then when I go back the steering wheel will be (/) like this, but only 5-20 degrees. The same goes for the opposite. When I bought the car, the airbag was on loose, but I don't know what that means. I am considering visiting a dealership, (best choice for these things here), but wanted to know what I should be checking first.
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Old 10-23-2008, 05:21 AM   #2
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My guess: It shouldn't take a dealer to figure that one out. Even a crappy mechanic should be able to handle it. If it's just something loose, then the teenagers at the local tire retail chain can do it as part of an alignment.

I would not feel safe driving that car.
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Old 10-23-2008, 05:54 AM   #3
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That doesn't sound good. Do you think it could be slipping on the shaft?

To test this, turn the key to the "on" position, but don't start the car. Next, try to turn the steering wheel with moderate force. If the steering wheel turns in one direction and keeps turning- it is definitely slipping on the shaft- have the car towed and get it fixed asap.
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Old 10-23-2008, 07:18 AM   #4
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The car has already had an alignment done. It was one of the first things done to it. I will go check the wheel right now and see what happens.

It doesn't seem to be slipping in the column. I also wanted to mention something else. When I turn to lock, it seems that something is going too far. I checked the PS tire and wheel, and there was no play in the hub, up down left or right. Gonna try to get it looked at on Saturday. Gonna be with the GF, so I wont need my car.
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Old 10-23-2008, 08:09 AM   #5
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Did the problem start before the alignment, or after? If it started before, then they're jerks for aligning it while it has that problem. If it happened after, I'd take it back to them and see if they failed to tighten something properly.

Could be a control arm adjustment or something.
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Old 10-23-2008, 09:30 AM   #6
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If it doesn't slip and drives straight you can adjust the wheel fairly easily.

Park with the wheels dead straight like you want them, it doesn't matter if the steering wheel is off to a side. Actually, better if it isn't.

Under the hood your steering column can be separated by unbolting a shackle. That'll let the steering wheel freely turn and the wheels stay. Line the wheel up where you want it and re-tighten the shackle. If you already know how far it needs adjusted you could just measure it.
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Old 10-23-2008, 11:47 AM   #7
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If they failed to tighten a tie rod locking nut back after aligning the front end it could be that the tie rod is backing out of the tie rod end, but if that's the case it will probably continue to get worse until it comes completely loose. If it's backing out then the alignment will be off again. If you can't check it yourself any alignment shop can check it out. I'd have it checked out ASAP. It could also be the steering shaft is slipping where it bolts to the sterring rack. Since the air bag was loose someone may have had the steering wheel off for some reason and not got it tightened back properly or the splines on the shaft are worn letting the wheel turn on the shaft.
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Old 10-23-2008, 12:08 PM   #8
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I would also check to make sure that the steering box isn't out of adjustment and/or worn out. This isn't something usually done in your average tire store alignment, but your mechanic should be able to look at it and try to adjust it relatively cheaply. If the box is worn out and beyond adjustment that can cost you though.

-Jay
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Old 10-23-2008, 01:31 PM   #9
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Does it keep spinning further out of 'straight' or a pretty common range of where 'straight' occurs.

If it's slipping when off or the column is 'locked' like asked above, then you're slipping the wheel on the shaft, I'd take the steering wheel off and verify the splines are ok and fix it for 'straight'. I've never done it the under the hood way.

If it's a pretty common range like I asked before, then it's probably the steering box. The worm gear or however the steering translates from teh steering shaft to the tie rods, could have a worn section.

My '92 Caprice was like this. I got it aligned first thing and was told the steering box was bad and alignment wouldn't fully fix the 'problem'. The problem was that if I turned left and then back to straight, the steering wheel would be level (-), but if I turned right and back to straight it'd be at about (\), and then to go left again I had a pretty good range of slop before it'd go left. You can definately feel it, I mean I could turn a good 1/16-1/8 of a turn and still go straight and not start actually steering the car either left or right.

I felt this was perfectly 'safe' though, I drove it like this for almost 3 years and didn't even think to mention it when I sold it (just realized I never mentioned it this second and sold it years ago). I mean you just got used to it. It never felt sloppy or unsafe really, you could always steer and there's no way it could really worsen or stop working completely. Just multiple choices for 'straight'.
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Old 10-23-2008, 03:18 PM   #10
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My 74 Chevy pickup drove very similar to your Caprice. A friend of mine showed me how to adjust it. I got it tightened up and it drove like a new vehicle after that.

-Jay
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