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Discussion Starter #1
I recently changed out the steering box on my 2001 s10 ext cab. Everything went great until it was time to road test. That's when I noticed the wheel is misaligned by a quarter turn or so. I was very careful to have the spline pointing in the right direction, and the wheel appears centered if you turn it while the truck is sitting still. I get nearly the same amount of turns to either the left or right before termination, but it does seem to let it go a little more to the left. Not sure how to fix this since I've already taken the box off once, realigned everything and still had the problem. My next move will be taking the box off again and get the spline adjusted to a little left of top dead center, in hopes to compensate. I'd appreciate any suggestions on how to fix this.
 

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Steering wheel alignment is adjusted with the tie rods. Basically you need to adjust both tie rods in the same direction the same amount to straighten the steering wheel to the wheels/tires.

I'm guessing you're alignment was off from the slop in the old steering box and that's the reason for the sudden change rather than anything wrong with the current box.
 

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The rag joint is keyed.

The pitman arm is keyed.

Either the tie rods are mis-adjusted or your steering wheel is off center on the steering shaft at the top. I think that's the only joint in the entire system that isn't keyed.
 

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The rag joint is keyed.

The pitman arm is keyed.

Either the tie rods are mis-adjusted or your steering wheel is off center on the steering shaft at the top. I think that's the only joint in the entire system that isn't keyed.
Steering wheel spline is keyed as well. It's the tie rod adjustment alone that can straighten it out.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks you guys! I was beating myself up about not getting the thing lined up right, but like you said the shaft and spline are keyed so it's not like I could have been off that way. Now I remember that when I had the control arms replaced they also put a new tie rod on the passenger side. This must be why it's off, because the old box did have an awful lot of slop in it.

I wanted to be sure that's what the problem was before I took it to be aligned, because the mechanic said it would cost extra if they had to detach the spline from the worm gear. Now I'm reasonably confident that my box placement is correct, because the keyed part of my spline in facing straight up and the little hole is dead center on the bottom. Given that I get about the same revolutions to the left or right before termination, it probably is that this new tie rod is off a bit. I wonder if I can fix it myself by eyeballing it, or if the shop will need to get the wheel centered again. Maybe if I mark the current rod position I can just set it back to that if I get sideways trying to get things lined up.
 

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Have you replaced the idler arm? Checked it for play?

Usually, when replacing a tie rod assembly, I measure the length and set the new one to match as closely as possible.

Toe is pretty easy to set with a tape measure and a couple of reasonably straight boards or pieces of square metal tubing. Press the straight pieces (I prefer metal, but straight boards will work) against the wheels and press them against the wheels. Use a tape measure to measure distance between your straight pieces directly below the leading edge of the tire and the trailing edge of the tire. You want the front of the tires a little under 1/8" closer together than the rear of the tires.

You can also check camber with a level. The front tires should be straight upright on level ground. The camber spec is zero +/- 1° (except for ZR2 which is around 1° positive camber, tops of wheels tilted outwards). I use nickels stacked on my level (taped to it) for a reference. Put your level up to the tire, pressed against the widest part of the tire at the top and the bottom. Your target for zero is perfectly vertical (make sure the ground you're on is exactly level). 1 degree is about 6 nickels stacked between the level and the tire. For 1° of positive camber on the ZR2, you want the bubble in the level centered with 6 nickels stacked between the bottom of the tire and the level. Personaly, I prefer zero camber for the ZR2 and -1° for the standard trucks, so I put 6 nickels between the top of the tire and the level and aim for centering the bubble that way.

Caster is harder to measure at home, and accurate caster measurements require an alignment rack or a lot of time calculating trigonometry. The more important thing with caster is having it equal (or close) on both sides. That you can measure with the level and the steering wheel turned to full lock to check if caster is equal on both sides, which is the more important thing. Measure the left side with full right turn lock, and the right side with full left turn lock. Camber should increase by an equal amount on each side with the wheels turned in fully. If the left side has a slightly smaller increase, that's OK as it counteracts the effect of road crown. If your caster is unequal, the truck will pull toward the side with the least caster.
 

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If you mark the tie rods and turn both sides an equal amount you shouldn't change the alignment. Just be sure that as you lengthen one side you are shortening the other or you will get lost. If you turn one side clockwise turn the other ccw in equal amounts. Like one revolution at a time.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the tips, guys. I should have stated the condition of the steering rack. Basically when I got the control arms put on, I also had the shop evaluate everything down there. They found the tie rod on the passenger side was bad, but the driver side tie rod, idler arm, pitman and centerlink were all good. I took care in the box replacement process not to rupture the boot for the pitman, by simply leaving it on and dropping the new gear into place on top of it. Made the job a lot harder, but whatever. Like the shop said, that pitman is still good.

The alignment was perfect before I swapped the box out, so it makes me think whatever needs doing is a minor adjustment.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I finally gave up trying to get it right and took the thing to a shop. Same shop that looked at it before. They said they couldn't get the alignment done because there's something wrong with the box. What they did seemed to square the wheel, and the truck isn't pulling noticeably. But I'm concerned it will eat the tires in the front if they aren't aligned right. This is a difficult situation because to return this thing I would need to remove it from my truck and mail it back. So, many days of not driving the truck, only to get it back and have to do everything I did over again. I'm going to drive it a bit more and see if I can live with the problem.
 

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When I put a manual box on my '01 the steering wheel was out almost 180. Took it to an alignment shop and they straightened it out without issue.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
The shop says that it's easier to turn the wheel left than it is to turn it right, but I don't really notice. Everything seems fine, actually, so I don't get why it wouldn't take an alignment. My wheel is centered like it needs to be, and the truck doesn't noticeably pull in either direction. This has made things complicated, as I'm unsure if I want to go to the trouble of de-installing the thing and mailing it back. If they had just charged me and given the truck back to me I probably wouldn't have noticed anything was amiss.
 

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I have had the same problem since I changed my steering box. It's been aligned by t
wo shops and either have an explanation as t why I'm getting back with a crooked wheel. It drives me nuts. ..z
 

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try this- park the truck with your steering wheel centered- get out and using a 3 foot level as a straight edge- lay it against each front wheel and chalk a 3 ft line- then back the truck up and measure the distance at the front of the line and the back of the line- if different- you need an adjustment on the tie rods that is not the same- if distance is the same, you wheels are parallel and it is time to go to a different shop- one that has a laser rig .most places will center your wheel if you ask BEFOREHAND- but the lower quality shops will whine or blame bad parts that you did to get more $$$ out of you.
 

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I'll try the trick with the level this weekend. I drove the truck all week and had no problems. Wheel is still centered. There's another shop nearby I think will give an honest estimate on the steering components, I just have to take it by there early in the morning some day. If their guy drives it and says the box is fine, I'll consider the problem solved and conclude the guy from the other shop was ****. Probably just trying to swindle me, which is disheartening considering how much business I've done with them over the years.
 
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