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Crooked steering wheel sometimes.

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  • Crooked steering wheel sometimes.

    As the title states my steering wheel is crooked sometimes and straight sometimes. I've changed the tie rods, inner and outer, checked the ball joints which are fine, can't see any slop in the steering linkage and don't see any movement from the steering rack. I went around all 4 corners and tugged on each wheel and I cant find any movement anywhere. I checked the wheel bearings and they look newly packed and in good shape. The only thing I found on my inspection of the front is the sway bar end links were loose but that didn't change anything. The rack seems in good shape and not leaking. There is an occasional wine from the power steering pump but I don't think that would cause this. When driving I can't detect any slop in the steering at all. It seems tight and direct. I haven't had them long but the tires don't seem to be wearing in any unusual way and it had a 4 wheel alignment when I got the tires. The car has done it the whole time I've owned it and it hasn't gotten worse but I can't figure out what it is.

    The angle of the steering wheel will change depending on which way I turn after I back out of the driveway. While driving normally it will stay fairly consistant. If it is crooked it will be to the right. Sometimes it drives straight as an arrow regardless of the wheel position. Sometimes it pulls to the right. If I accelerate hard it will straighten out the wheel usually.

    The last things I can think of in the front are the front struts or possibly a dragging brake caliper. It has newish rear shocks done by the previous owner and the fronts were done at some point because they are not the adjustables anymore. Rears are bilstein but I have no idea what the fronts are or their age.

    Any other ideas or suggestions?

  • #2
    Check the steering wheel universals. I believe there are 2 between the steering wheel and the steering rack, and they wear out like mine did 20 years ago. Here is how to test them.

    Turn the car on and let it idle so there is power steering. While outside the car, reach in and turn the steering wheel back and forth like 2 inches. Look and see if the front tires move immediately or if there is some play before they move. In my case I had too much play. Also in my case it was much harder to turn right than left, and it would pull sometimes to the right and other times not pull right so much. I guess the universals were binding one way but not the other. It was kind of dangerous to drive that way.
    Last edited by FlyingT; 10-04-2019, 04:04 PM.
    Restore it, Don't crush it. They don't make em like this anymore.

    Scott
    85 Turbo, original owner, restored
    93 NA Babied


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    • #3
      I'll give it a try. It is sometimes slightly harder to turn left. I have checked the u joint closest to the rack but I didn't see any play and it looks fine but maybe the other one is the problem.

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      • #4
        I tried this out and I really couldn't notice any play in the steering. I put the car on jack stands and took a large adjustable wrench to twist the lower u joint and I didn't notice any play either. What I did notice was drips of fluid coming out of the pinion when I turned the linkage. I don't normally have a drip there but it has definitely been leaking and I am dissappointed I didn't notice it before. I guess I need a new rack and I might as well remove the linkage while I'm in there and replace the joints. I'm not totally convinced it is the problem but I'm not convinced it isn't the problem either.

        I was hoping I could make till winter when I plan to pull the engine to address multiple oil leaks and a few other things that would be much easier when it was out incliuding replacing the rack and installing the delrin bushings I got for it. Now I'm not comfortable driving it like it is.

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        • #5
          I don't know where you live and I haven't asked yet if this place ships. But I would call them and ask. I have a steering rack with them being rebuilt now and they also rebuilt my Turbo CV axles. Call (626) 369-7880 and ask for Larry at ABC Axle.

          It might just be me, but I trust a place I can talk to to rebuild the components rather than ordering rebuilds from a parts store where you don't know what kind of QC they have.

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          • krog 86t
            krog 86t commented
            Editing a comment
            Thanks for the tip. I will talk to them when I finally get the rack out. I'm in NC and I believe that is California area code. You sent me window triangles to try out.

        • #6
          My 89 does this too. Pretty sure it’s torsion links tied to the front radiator cross member. They are filled with some liquid and leak out. They sell after market energy suspension. I checked everything it’s the only thing that could cause the shift. I’ve yet to replace mine but it is the only thing left that could cause the shift.
          Jeff
          71 240z

          80 280zx 10th Anniversary

          88 300zx Turbo, 89 300zx Turbo

          Datsun Jeff

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          • krog 86t
            krog 86t commented
            Editing a comment
            I haven't thought of or checked that yet. I'll check it out the next time I get under there. That said I yanked on every wheel on the car and couldn't find anything loose or moving.

        • #7
          Did you or a previous owner install aftermarket rack bushings? I know people have had issues in the past with poly bushings sliding "predictably" like that after wide low speed turns because there's less friction than OEM rubber. I don't think this was a problem with aluminum or delrin.

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          • krog 86t
            krog 86t commented
            Editing a comment
            From what I can tell the bushings look stock and in decent shape. I wasn't able to detect any shift in the rack when I was inspecting down there.

        • #8
          My new plan is to check those torsion links and if they are the culprit to replace them although I am leaning to the steering linkage being the issue. That top joint is right next to the exhaust/ turbo and probably has dealt with a ton of heat in its lifetime. If the torsion bars dont look bad then I'm going to try to remove the linkage and replace/get replaced the u joints. Everything I do to this car is a learning experience and I can't tell if the linkage will come out just by removing the 2 bolts or if there are other things that need loosened so I have enough play to get it off the "spindles" where it attatches. I'm hoping it is one of those things and not the rack because that seems to be the biggest job of the three and I would rather wait til I have the engine out to do it.


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          • #9
            I had the same issue. Turned out to be the nuts holding to top of my starts to the insulators. The nuts were loose and chewed the flat spot of my insulator housing. Got new insulators. Tightens down the nuts to spec. No wondering ever since. Just a thought.

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            • #10
              Struts.

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              • #11
                Well I feel a little dumb. It was the rack bushings all along. When I was trying to remove the linkage I noticed a ton of play in the rack that my previous attempts hadn't shown. I put the new bushings in and it has fixed the inconsistent steering wheel issue.

                In the process I also discovered that my alignment dots on the strut insulators were in strange positions. When I got it aligned my guy said I needed some kind of aftermarket camber adjustment. He's a good mechanic but doesn't really know z's. I am pretty sure the P.O. who installed the struts didn't line up everything properly and the front camber is all wonky. I marked the positions and at least the insulators aren't moving. Hopefully all it will take is a little disassembly and properly lining everything up to make it drive like it is supposed to. Fingers crossed nothing got damaged as a result.
                Last edited by krog 86t; 10-11-2019, 08:35 AM.

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                • #12
                  You're welcome

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