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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys thanks for stopping! I appreciate the read and help, and apologize for the book I wrote.

I've been doing a lot of work on my 2001 dakota QC 4x4... and I think I may have made a mistake and could use a bit of direction.馃槵

About 2 months ago I replaced most of the steering & suspension setup (except the rack and pin gear)
I of course had the truck aligned when I finished, and everything was gold for a bit.

Last week I noticed some play developing in the steering wheel, looked around and found the 'intermediate steering shaft' was rusted and the u joints were almost gone... So I replaced it today.

Well... now my steering wheel is a good 20掳 off center!!

How can I correct this?!? Can the wheel be adjusted separately? My book, and some interwebs, warns me NOT to rotate the wheel while the shaft is off because of a clock spring and airbag issues etc. I kinda think the, very unclear, service manuals I have are referring to the upper shaft that goes through the fire wall... but I didn't wanna risk it yet without better info.

I'm considering separating the steering shaft again, rotating the rack, slap it back and get another alignment??
I plan on replacing the rack soon, because I noticed it's leaking today. Could that be the culprit? since the alignment was done with these bad parts still on?

Any help is appreciated!! Im worried it's a sign of bigger issues.
I bought this truck at auction, and have been rebuilding it 'teaching myself' mechanic work, so I'm very hesitant and a bright shade of green still.
 

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2003 RT (5.9)
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I have done this job on my own Dak, & as long as you didn't turn the steering wheel or turn the tires in one direction or another after disconnecting the shaft from the rack, I cannot see how your steering wheel would be off center. I am no expert on this, so maybe there is something I am not knowing about this.
When I changed mine & also when I changed my rack, I am pretty sure that for both jobs I made sure that the wheel was locked so that it wouldn't move.

I'm considering separating the steering shaft again, rotating the rack, slap it back and get another alignment??
I plan on replacing the rack soon, because I noticed it's leaking today. Could that be the culprit?
I don't see where you would need an alignment unless you did something with your outer (or inner) tie rods.
You didn't mess with the outer tie rod ends, did you?
In other words, I am thinking that if you separate the intermediate shaft from the rack, point the wheels straight & center the steering wheel, if you have the right intermediate shaft, it should line up & everything should be more or less straight.
As I typed, I am no expert, but it seems like this should work.
As far as your rack being the culprit, no, I don't see how, unless, as I typed before, you turned it some before you connected the new steering shaft to it.

When you do change your rack, you can take the old outer tie rod ends off & count the turns on each one as you remove them & then put your new outer tie rod ends on using the same amount of turns to install each one, & that should get you close, but I'd still say that, at this point, you should get an alignment.

Keep us posted on your developments on this one; it has got me curious.
 

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2003 RT (5.9)
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How can I correct this?!? Can the wheel be adjusted separately? My book, and some interwebs, warns me NOT to rotate the wheel while the shaft is off because of a clock spring and airbag issues etc. I kinda think the, very unclear, service manuals I have are referring to the upper shaft that goes through the fire wall... but I didn't wanna risk it yet without better info.
Now this part I am unsure of. Not to take your thread to far astray, but I once got off work one morning & went out for a spin in my '02 GMC (which, although is a different make, I would think that the steering would be set much the same way) & got into an unbanked curve way too fast & I wound up against the curb on the outside of that curve way hard & when I came out of it, not only did I completely ruin the rims on that side, the steering wheel was clocked about 90 degrees off! I didn't drive it a whole lot, but I did drive it 10 or 15 miles with no ill effects to get into an alignment shop. I do not know what I did, but when they got done with it, my wheel was straight again.

So I guess an alignment might be one answer for you, but if it was me, first I'd disconnect the intermediate shaft from the rack (or, thinking about it, maybe at the top union?) & straighten everything out & see if it would go together for you straight. I'd try that anyway.

What book are you using?
I just did recently get a genuine FSM from Ebay for my '03, so if you don't have a FSM, I can check mine & see what it says. It's late right now, but let me know if you want me to do that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I made absolutely sure not to move the steering wheel while I did the removal and replacement. I even strapped the seat belt around it to be sure.
I have basic chilton and haynes manuals and one I downloaded off the forum here. And they barely even discuss this part but for a sentence or so in procedure to remove the steering wheel which I didn't do.

I didnt suspend the vehicle or remove the tires to do the repair, I just pulled it up on my ramps. but I don't see why that would matter. The wheel was straight when I got in the truck after the swap
I didnt even notice the crookedness while test driving after, until I parked.

At this point my only thought is -I didn't tighten the pinch bolt enough and it slipped during my test drive? I live on a mountain our roads are a tad rough but not horrible. But the truck still tracks straight so I'm inclined to think the alignment is still OK
I'll check it out more indepth again tomorrow and see if I can find any issues. I'll also be getting tires soon, so an alignment is definitely in my future. But I am a bit annoyed, I'm supposed to be making it better

this is the first I've dealt with the rack and pinion style steering, wishful thinking it was the part I have no experience with. I rebuilt my chevy k1500 and my suburban suspensions steering and brakes this summer too. And had no similar issues.

馃槄
 

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1988 Dodge Dakota LWB RC 3.9V6 3 speed auto
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I'll bet that the column or the rack shifted a small bit and you didn't get the flat lined up right.

Don't know that's what it is, but I'd lay money on it.

For 20*, you can get that aligned out I bet.

RwP
 

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My book, and some interwebs, warns me NOT to rotate the wheel while the shaft is off because of a clock spring and airbag issues etc. I kinda think the, very unclear, service manuals I have are referring to the upper shaft that goes through the fire wall... but I didn't wanna risk it yet without better info.
In my well used Haynes, I think I see the warnings you are talking about. There is one warning specifically related to "the airbag clock spring" being properly centered prior to reinstalling the steering wheel, which does not apply to this job.

Then there is the warning for when you are changing the rack, which warns you not to let the steering wheel rotate when the rack is removed "or damage to the airbag system could occur."

Then I got into my new to me '03 Dak FSM for the very first time, & there are a couple notes in bold that tell one that the steering column on an AT Dak may not be equipped with the internal locking shaft [. . .] & go on to say that an alternate method should be used

(I guess using the seat belt to restrain the steering wheel would meet that criteria)

& there is a note in bold that says to use new pinch bolts on both shafts.
So I don't think with your steering wheel being only 20 degrees off center presents any danger. You noted that you didn't even notice while driving, & remember me driving around with my wheel a full 90 off after my nascar run with my GMC. However, I did preface that with "I don't think . . .".

Ralph feels that in the course of the work that you were doing the rack or the steering column shifted slightly, &, over the course of my time on this & another Dak board, I have learned to believe in Ralph. I have only done this job once on mine (actually I first changed my rack & a while later I changed the intermediate steering shaft) so I am not claiming any expertise, but if the steering column was restrained & didn't move & the weight was on the tires I don't see the rack moving. But I have learned that there are many things in life I don't know.

So anyway, my FSM doesn't say a whole lot about this job. It presents it as straight forward, & I am paraphrasing, but it basically says to install the lower coupler to the rack & pinion & then the upper coupler to the lower & gives the torque for the upper & lower pinch bolts as 42 ft lb.

Ralph did go on to say that if you took it to an alignment shop that they could probably center it for you, & remembering how far off my GMC was when I hit the wall, I'd say that I am sure they could straighten out 20 degrees. But if you are planning on changing the rack anyway, I'd do that first, as I think that you should get an alignment after that, & that way you can save paying for getting an extra alignment.
 

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Oh, and by the way, did you replace your pinch bolt?
I was looking for one specifically for that application somewhere, but I couldn't find one, so I reused my old one. I should probably replace & I guess I could go to the dealer.

If you replaced yours, where did you get it?
 

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2003 RT (5.9)
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How can I correct this?!? Can the wheel be adjusted separately? My book, and some interwebs, warns me NOT to rotate the wheel while the shaft is off because of a clock spring and airbag issues etc. I kinda think the, very unclear, service manuals I have are referring to the upper shaft that goes through the fire wall... but I didn't wanna risk it yet without better info.
Ohhhh, I see what you were saying.
I tend to not read thoroughly when I am on the computer.
My FSM actually does give a WARNING in bold, & it says to disarm the airbag before "servicing the steering column." And that's at the front of the chapter, so I guess it proably applies to everything else in that chapter as well. And then when you were reclocking your steering wheel to make up for that 20 degrees that' where the clock spring warning would come in.

I don't think I'd try to do it that way. I think that if your wheels are straight & you remove the shaft at the rack & then straighten the steering wheel that 20 degrees that you need & put the shaft coupler back on the rack, I would THINK that should fix it.
 

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At this point my only thought is -I didn't tighten the pinch bolt enough and it slipped during my test drive?
Sorry to come back to this in multiple posts, but as I age, that's the way my mind works.
Combine that with the fact that when I read text on my computer screen I tend not to read thoroughly. . . .

I would think that if your pinch bolt was so loose that the coupler was slipping &/or jumping slines on the shaft for the pinion, your problems would be way way beyond just being 20 degrees off center.

That would be easy enough to check, though.
 

C'mon Dodge - NEW DAKOTA
2003 Dakota Club Cab Sport 4.7L
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Isn't there a splined coupling in that steering shaft? My bet is you are off one spline. No danger in taking it apart again and tweaking that by one spline if you don't move the wheels and only turn the steering wheel one spline tooth. And no need for another alignment -- the main purpose of which is to set caster, camber, toe-in, etc, not the steering wheel centering.
 
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