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WMRRA13

How to Center the Steering Wheel? - Yet another Motovan thread...

17 posts in this topic

Hey kids;

I recently picked up a new-to-me motovan. ...

I had my Dodge van for about 10 years followed by my Chevy (that's for sale) for the past 11 years. Now I'm going to see if I can make a Ford van last me 10 or more years...

March152010%20150.JPG

The rig is pretty solid and has about 60k miles. It drives straight and doesn't pull but the steering wheel is not centered. Do any of you guys know the quick and easy way to center the wheel?

Can I just pull the steering wheel off and put it back on in the proper position? Or, do I need to crawl under it and fettle with the tie rods? The latter seems like a PITA and more prone to error.

Thanks,

Tyler

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On my jeep, you just adjust the drag link. Very simple. I am not 100% sure on that Ford.

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..I would take it to the alinement shop because when every thing is wright the steering wheel should be in the correct position.

This is correct. But let me ask this.....How far off center is your steering wheel?

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That is only correct, theoretically if the vehicle is 100% showroom floor stock. If anything was replaced on the front end (tires, shocks, struts, tie rod, tie rod ends, drag link, etc.) then it has the potential to throw off the steering wheel alignment. Even if everything including alignment is correct.

There is no need to take it to an alignment shop if the only thing off is the centering of the steering wheel, unless you have money just burning a hole in your pocket. 5 minutes and a crescent wrench and the 'problem' can be solved. Now if you have alignment problems or some other front end problems, it might be in your best interest to take it to a shop. If you are able to change oil, you should be able to fix this issue.

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Hey kids;

I recently picked up a new-to-me motovan. ...

I had my Dodge van for about 10 years followed by my Chevy (that's for sale) for the past 11 years. Now I'm going to see if I can make a Ford van last me 10 or more years...

March152010%20150.JPG

The rig is pretty solid and has about 60k miles. It drives straight and doesn't pull but the steering wheel is not centered. Do any of you guys know the quick and easy way to center the wheel?

Can I just pull the steering wheel off and put it back on in the proper position? Or, do I need to crawl under it and fettle with the tie rods? The latter seems like a PITA and more prone to error.

Thanks,

Tyler

Tyler, several truicks can be done. Its not a rack and pinion type, so try this. Lets say its a smidge off to the right, turn the wheel hard left (engine running) and just go till it hits the stops, then crank it a bit beyond that. That can do it. There is enough movement in the old drag link/pitman arm/idler are type steering to usually square it up. And in fact, this may be the reason its off.

Replineing 5the wheel can work. If its less than a spline, the toe adjsutment. A 1/4 turn on a tie rod end is about a half a spline. (just make sure you go the right direction) But some rigs can be resplines, ie a blind spling, horn mechanism etc may interfere.

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On the E350's, it's a drag link adjustment (between the pitman arm and the steering knuckle). DO NOT touch the tie rod end adjustments, that is for the toe. Take a good peek at your tires for irregular wear....these vans were notorious for irregular tire wear.

Before you begin adjusting anything, start by jacking it up and inspecting the ball joints, radius arm bushings, wheel bearings, and I-beam pivot bushings.

If the ball joints have never been replaced, most likely, they are toast.....it was not uncommon to see them smoked before the warranty was up in 50%+ of the units.

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Here is a little visual. Just loosen up those 2 bolts and rotate that sleeve what ever direction you need to center the steering wheel. Tighten up the bolts. Simple.

IMG00019-20100325-2211.jpg

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Hey guys;

Thank you very much for the photos and GREAT suggestions! Even a knuckle dragger like me can get at least one of these methods to work.

When I get home tonight I'll start w/ Rick's suggestion of cranking the wheel to the stop. If that doesn't do the trick I'll get out the tools....

Also thanks for the tip on checking the other front end components. I don't like the sound of 50% not making it through the warranty period! The tires don't appear to be wearing unevenly but they look nearly new so maybe it's too early to tell.

Have a great weekend boys!

-Tyler

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Here is a little visual. Just loosen up those 2 bolts and rotate that sleeve what ever direction you need to center the steering wheel. Tighten up the bolts. Simple.

IMG00019-20100325-2211.jpg

This is the most accurate information in this thread.

Quick tip - Do this in a neighborhood or parking lot. Loosen the bolts on the sleeve so you can adjust it. Then drive forward about 150-200 feet to be sure you are driving exactly straight. Then adjust the sleeve until the wheel centers.

Test by backing up and driving straight one more time. Make any sleeve adjustments, then tighten the two bolts on the sleeve.

This is about a 10 - 20 minute job.

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Well I had a few issues with the suggested fixes.....

-The cranking the wheel to the stop trick didn't work.

-The drag link adjustment doesn't seem to be as straight fwd as described.

In the pic of the jeep, it appears the drag link adjustment would be a direct link to the clocking of the steering wheel AND adjusting it would NOT affect relationship between the front wheels.

On my E250 the drag link IS the defacto tie-rod on the drivers side and therefore, adjusting it WOULD change the alignment UNLESS I adjust the tie-rod an equal and opposite amount.

Am I missing something here?

I ended up pulling the steering wheel but of course one spline wasn't enough and two was too much....

Thanks,

Tyler

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If yours is different then mine below then post a pic if you can. A pic sometimes speaks a thousand words

Here is an expanded view of what my jeep and your van should look like. The yellow line is the drag link. It should connect from your pitman arm to the steering knuckle. The red line is the tie rod. It should connect the drag link to the drivers steering knuckle. They are connected but adjusting the drag link doesn't effect the toe. Only the steering wheel alignment. When those two zinc gold plated brackets at the end of the tie road are loosened and the entire tie rod is twisted/turned, that is what adjusts the toe. Just a fyi. Hopefully this helps. I will admit that I never worked on a ford front end before, just going by what I know from jeeps.

IMG00029-20100328-1704.jpg

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If yours is different then mine below then post a pic if you can. A pic sometimes speaks a thousand words

Here is an expanded view of what my jeep and your van should look like. The yellow line is the drag link. It should connect from your pitman arm to the steering knuckle. The red line is the tie rod. It should connect the drag link to the drivers steering knuckle. They are connected but adjusting the drag link doesn't effect the toe. Only the steering wheel alignment. When those two zinc gold plated brackets at the end of the tie road are loosened and the entire tie rod is twisted/turned, that is what adjusts the toe. Just a fyi. Hopefully this helps. I will admit that I never worked on a ford front end before, just going by what I know from jeeps.

IMG00029-20100328-1704.jpg

First off, thanks for all your effort and patience!

Unfortunately, I'm on an airplane and can't really post a pic but, your pic is providng the requisite 1k words.

On my E250 the the drag link and tie rod are connected in a similar fashion. HOWEVER, their is no adjustment between the Pitman arm and where the drag link is connected to the tie-rod. Both the drag link and the tie-rod have their ONLY adjustments near the wheel.

The only way my pea brain can see to adjust the clocking of the wheel is to adj the tie-rod and drag link in equal but opposite directions.

Unless someone can tell me a better way, I'll give that a shot when I get home later this week.

Cheers,

Tyler

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Welcome to the world of ford ball joints! I run a fleet of ford trucks and you can et your watch to when the ball joint go out, right around 37,000 miles! you are correct that you would have to do two adjustment, oe on the left and one on the right. I hate to say it but you prolly have something loose in the front end, tie rod, or drag link. something of that nature.long story short, find loose thing, replace if any found and bite the bullet and get an alignment.

Mark

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First off, thanks for all your effort and patience!

Unfortunately, I'm on an airplane and can't really post a pic but, your pic is providng the requisite 1k words.

On my E250 the the drag link and tie rod are connected in a similar fashion. HOWEVER, their is no adjustment between the Pitman arm and where the drag link is connected to the tie-rod. Both the drag link and the tie-rod have their ONLY adjustments near the wheel.

The only way my pea brain can see to adjust the clocking of the wheel is to adj the tie-rod and drag link in equal but opposite directions.

Unless someone can tell me a better way, I'll give that a shot when I get home later this week.

Cheers,

Tyler

OK, It took many therapy sessions and much self-medication to forget this, but you brought up bad flashbacks and memories of these front ends.......:lol:

Yes, you really need to center the steering wheel during the alignment process on these POS-two drunks leaning against each other front ends (that's what the tires resemble in so many cases).

You center the wheel, adjust the passenger side tire so it's going straight (per the alignment rack's readings) then adjust the drivers side so the toe is in spec.

Damn you for making me drag up those bad memories!:thumbsup:

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Here is an expanded view of what my jeep and your van should look like.

...Why?....Let's see....The van is 2wd and has I-Beams....so I guess it's NOT going to look like your Jeeps suspension at all....:thumbsup:

Chickenhauler got it right....There is no adjustment on the drag link so it's a different deal...Several Ford I-Beam trucks were the same way....

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Welcome to the world of ford ball joints! I run a fleet of ford trucks and you can et your watch to when the ball joint go out, right around 37,000 miles! you are correct that you would have to do two adjustment, oe on the left and one on the right. I hate to say it but you prolly have something loose in the front end, tie rod, or drag link. something of that nature.long story short, find loose thing, replace if any found and bite the bullet and get an alignment.

Mark

Thanks Mark, I check it out more carefully when I get home.

Cheers,

Tyler

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