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Old 08-20-2018, 03:41 AM   #1
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Default 2003 Roadtrek 200 P on 2002 Chevy Express chassis. Steering Wander

2003 Roadtrek 200 Pop. on a 2002 Chev Express 3500 chassis 58k miles. Steering wander. This is the RT with the big fiberglass "wide body". No rear doors, only a side door behind the passenger door.

Brand new Michelin defender tires. I have had this RT for a year. I have noticed that there is about 15 degrees of "free play" in the steering wheel. It is most noticeable on the highway and at highway speeds. Especially noticeable when trucks creating "wash" are adjacent to or passing me. But even just traveling straight down the lane, I can move the steering wheel approximately 7-8 degrees off center to either side and there is no response in the steering direction. The wife doesn't care. I can't stand it. If I was a cop I would stop me for "weaving"...

I have troubleshot it the best I can. In fact there appears to be no play in the steering system. I am not sure I am diagnosing it accurately. When I have an assistant turn the steering wheel side to side 7-8 degrees with the engine on, and me underneath, there appears to be play SOMEWHERE because there is freeplay in the wheel. Yet when I manually check Pitman, Idler, control arms, tie rod ends, ball joints there still appears to be no play.

I have heard that the Chevy Express steering boxes are somewhat prone to sloppiness, and that there is a fairly simple adjustment, but that if the adjustment isn't done " just right" it could lead to premature failure of the steering box. A VERY expensive fix.

I brought it to one mechanic who said he went thought the steering system and said it all looked tight.

I brought it to be aligned and it did not need any adjustment. Completely within spec.

I am ready to take it somewhere, but I am hesitant because I don't want a "parts jockey" just throwing parts at it and guessing. I want someone with experience to say "this is your issue" and fix/replace it and have it resolve the issue. I can replace everything in the front end just as well as the next guy, and for a lot less coin.

Anyone with of one of these "bigger" RT Pop 200 have a similar issue? If so what did you do about it?

Thanks.
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Old 08-20-2018, 04:15 AM   #2
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First you need to determine if things are loose or not. Get on a good solid surface with the tires straight ahead and do the crawl under again. 15* is a lot of play, like 2" of steering wheel movement. You should be able to tell if it is the steering gear because you can see the input shaft and the steering arm on the output at the same time, or even have a hold of them. I have heard of a lot more trouble with the Dodge van steering gears than the Chevy. At that age and mileage, the front end parts could be good or bad, depending on if they were greased regularly or not.


The steering gear adjustment of the preload in the gear may help if the slop is there, or may make it too tight off center once you get the center tight.


Defenders are good tires, we have them on our Chevy 190, and are very directionally stable, but will feel funny if they are low on pressure. 65 front and 80 psi rear would be the normal pressures most run.


There is also a chance, not a big chance, that what you are feeling isn't looseness but is just poor handling for another reason. Big steering corrections can be the result of the van reacting poorly to conditions because of it's setup.


Good luck on your quest, but at least right now you have good excuse to have DW drive and you ride



What you describe, the wandering and big corrections, could be caused by understeer, which could be the result of weak springs and shocks, especially in the rear. Be sure to check the front sway bar links to make sure they are intact as they are at the age when many fail.


What you describe could also be caused from a front end alignment that is towed out on the front wheels. Being towed out will make the front end slow to initially react to steering inputs, but when you finally get the steering turned enough, the van will dart quickly the way you turned, usually going too far and requiring a big correction coming back.
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:49 AM   #3
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Your Roadtrek 200P is likely built on a 2002 cutaway chassis rather than a van chassis. I have a '97 GMC van. That series ran from 1997 to 2002. I'd think that front end would the same on the vans and cutaways.

The symptoms you describe are very similar to what I experienced. Those issues got me started doing my own mechanical repairs and upgrades. That initial success gave me the confidence to tackle bigger projects. Booster was a tremendous help.

Here's a link to the topic about steering on my van: http://www.classbforum.com/forums/f8...ring-2649.html

The steering issues were solved by the end of that topic.

My van has 15 lube points (grease zerks). They're all listed in the post above. Your RT might have the same number.

I was lucky that my wife wanted the handling fix as much as me.

Here's another link that applies to 1997 - 2002 Chevy / GMC vans: http://www.classbforum.com/forums/f8...ings-4136.html

Those coil springs and airbags lifted the van up 2.25" restoring it to the upper end of the Z trim specs.
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Old 08-20-2018, 01:37 PM   #4
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Thanks to both for the quick reply.

I guess I am still wondering what chassis I have. I think MarkoPolo hit it. It must be a van cutaway as the rear door to the "house" (just behind the passenger door) is Roadtrek and fiberglass and NOT Chevy.

My van is not here at this time, waiting for it to come home today or tomorrow. I will check the steering config as to what parts I have and don't have. I will also run through some more diagnostics as mentioned above and in MarkoPolo's great thread.

MarkoPolo, would you say that your Moog Drag link/Connecting rod made the biggest improvement in steering tightness? Also, I have read about adjusting "slop" out of the steering box, (I can't confirm if I have any or not), but many folks claim if you don't do this just right, it will either break the steering box or cause it to prematurely wear out.

Thoughts?

Thanks.

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Old 08-20-2018, 02:10 PM   #5
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You are certainly on the previous generation Chevy cutaway chassis as you suspect, and I also would expect the front end parts to be the same as the full bodied van like Marko has. You are correct that Marko did an excellent job of dialing in his van, and also in the documentation of that dialing in, including the thought processes.


As to the steering gear adjustment, I really haven't found that there is the level of risk that you have been being told, but there certainly is a possibility of errors making things worse, though.



The deal with the steering gear is that the adjustment sets the amount of clearance between gears of the steering box by pushing them closer together or letting them be further apart. As the gears wear over time that clearance gets bigger in the center where the gears are most of the time, and you wind up with looseness (slop).



I think what your sources were referring to is that the first instinct is to tighten the adjuster until the slop is out of that area of the gear. You would likely see an improvement in straight ahead stability. The problem comes if the gears are badly worn it takes too much adjustment to get them tight again in the middle. Moving the gears closer together affect the entire range, so the non center areas can wind up too tight. Having the too tight areas can overload power steering pumps and slow steering return to straight, and if horribly tight cause the gears to gall and fail (but they have to be very tight. If you can't get the gear with no slop in the center while keeping the correct tightness elsewhere, the gear would need to be replaced.



The good news is that there should be an easy to find adjustment procedure in the factory service manual for the van that you can do. Our van is the next generation, but I will look and see what it says about it. Somebody here likely will have a factory manual to look up for your year van.


At your mileage, it is not really very likely the gear is worn out, so an adjustment would be probably the most that is needed. If by chance you do need to replace it, be aware that the parts store rebuilt gears are generally not very good in quality. Good rebuilds are available from Redhead, but are substantially more cost. With a low mile one like you have, it would probably be best to have Redhead rebuild yours rather than get a core that had many more miles on it.



Marko has shown that the generation of van you have can be made to handle very well, so following his route should be able to get you there.
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Old 08-20-2018, 04:23 PM   #6
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I think it was a combination of things that made the steering much better on my van. I made a minor adjustment of the center set screw on the steering gear at the same time as replacing that drag link bar.

I remember reading about all the cautions re: adjusting the center set screw on the steering gear so I would have only made a minor adjustment to it.

I replaced the drag link, adjusted the steering gear center set screw, upgraded to Bilstein shocks, added a Hellwig rear anti sway bar and then I took took the van in for a wheel alignment. All of it was done during an approximate 1 month time frame from what I recall.
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Old 08-20-2018, 05:07 PM   #7
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I just took a look at the steering gear adjustment in our 07 Chevy van factory service manual, and it is pretty straight forward and similar to others I have seen.


As expected, it tells you to set the gear in the center position, after checking lock to lock to confirm center. I was a bit surprised it didn't include a spec for too tight off center beyond a priliminary check of 45* each way not binding, which would cover all normal driving other than sharper turns.


The procedure is shown for testing the gear on the bench, but it probably could be done in the van from underneath or maybe the left wheelwell.


You basically just disconnect the steering shaft at the gear, and take off the steering arm to isolate the gear from other moving parts and give access to the shafts. If in the van, you would also want to drain all the fluid out to prevent it from messing up torque readings.


The setting was just to loosen the lock nut and turn the adjuster out all the way, then back in one turn.


Lock the lock nut down and check the rotating torque needed in or near the center position on the steering shaft input stub. This is the gear preload and on ours it would 7-15 in-lbs, so a quite small amount of force. If it is not in that area, repeat with either tightening or loosening the adjuster screw.


On a used gear, you would expect to be on the low end of the torque in the center, and may be a bit over the high end elsewhere. What you really don't want to see is a jump in torque as you move right around center as that will make the steering feel sticky and jumpy. This is likely why they say to do the 45* check, which I would also do after I was done, and also manually feel how the force changes as you go lock to lock with the steering wheel connected but not the steering arm.


There is one more thing that is an outside chance and hasn't been mentioned yet. Take a good look at the universal joints in the steering shaft. It is fairly common for them to partially fail, with the bearings falling out but the two haves not separating. That kind of failure would give you similar steering wheel play to what you describe.
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Old 08-20-2018, 10:43 PM   #8
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Well, I had a long drawn out reply typed with thanks to all, and the forum made me login when I hit post, and it lost my reply. I don't have time right now to retype the whole thing. Please excuse my brevity.

the Cliffs Notes version:

1. Thanks for the replies.

2. My RT came home today and I found out my it has recent Gabriel Ultra front shocks.

3.Upon further diagnosing: No rear sway bar, rear shocks appear to be OEM

4. Front sway bar and links and bushings are all looking good.

5. I have the steering setup that has BOTH the relay rod AND the control rod with 2 idler arms.

6. When having an assistant move the steering wheel from 10:30 to 1:30 back and forth, there is some EVER SO SLIGHT play (and audible metal to metal click) between the pitman arm and the steering box output shaft.

7. I am hoping it's the pitman arm and NOT the output shaft. This is the PN I found GM 26049439.

8. Do I use a special puller for this, or a pickle fork (separator) and hand sledge ? Any tips and trick for this job?

9. Somewhere I saw a post that mentioned a 3 spline and 4 spline pitman arm. I would prefer to have the correct one when I remove the existing one. Is there a way to tell which one I have?

Thanks again.

P.....
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Old 08-20-2018, 11:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PJW73NH View Post
Well, I had a long drawn out reply typed with thanks to all, and the forum made me login when I hit post, and it lost my reply. I don't have time right now to retype the whole thing. Please excuse my brevity.

the Cliffs Notes version:

1. Thanks for the replies.

2. My RT came home today and I found out my it has recent Gabriel Ultra front shocks.

3.Upon further diagnosing: No rear sway bar, rear shocks appear to be OEM

4. Front sway bar and links and bushings are all looking good.

5. I have the steering setup that has BOTH the relay rod AND the control rod with 2 idler arms.

6. When having an assistant move the steering wheel from 10:30 to 1:30 back and forth, there is some EVER SO SLIGHT play (and audible metal to metal click) between the pitman arm and the steering box output shaft.

7. I am hoping it's the pitman arm and NOT the output shaft. This is the PN I found GM 26049439.

8. Do I use a special puller for this, or a pickle fork (separator) and hand sledge ? Any tips and trick for this job?

9. Somewhere I saw a post that mentioned a 3 spline and 4 spline pitman arm. I would prefer to have the correct one when I remove the existing one. Is there a way to tell which one I have?

Thanks again.

P.....

Interesting, as the metal to metal sounds would not be a normal thing that happens. Isolating where the sound is coming from is sometimes very hard as it travels through the parts well. On edit, if the clicking is coming when the direction changes, it could be from the recirculating balls in the steering gear hitting each other at direction change.


There normally would be no play between the shaft and the steering arm as that is a spline fit and should be completely tight. You might be seeing some play in the lower bearing of the steering box.


To take the arm off the output shaft of the steering box, you should use a screw type puller, as you don't want to be beating on anything directly connected to the steering box and it's lower bearing. Some parts stores have free loaner tools and some have very low cost rentals, so that would be your best source. Pickle forks are OK for the greaseable joints on the other steering parts, but not if you are going to reuse the parts because they fork will wreck the boot. Start soaking the steering arm splines and bolt with penetrating oil as soon as you can, as they can be very tight sometimes.


You might be able to see how many splines you have once the nut is off the end of the output shaft.


The u joints on the steering shaft to the box input were not loose or damaged?



When your assistant was moving the steering from 10:30 to 1:30 the steering parts to wheels were all moving smoothly, except for the tiny looseness you found? If so, you may not need steering parts, but might need the other handling upgrades like Marko did.
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Old 08-22-2018, 01:58 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by booster View Post
Interesting, as the metal to metal sounds would not be a normal thing that happens. Isolating where the sound is coming from is sometimes very hard as it travels through the parts well. On edit, if the clicking is coming when the direction changes, it could be from the recirculating balls in the steering gear hitting each other at direction change.

There normally would be no play between the shaft and the steering arm as that is a spline fit and should be completely tight. You might be seeing some play in the lower bearing of the steering box.


....snip...

You might be able to see how many splines you have once the nut is off the end of the output shaft.


The u joints on the steering shaft to the box input were not loose or damaged?


When your assistant was moving the steering from 10:30 to 1:30 the steering parts to wheels were all moving smoothly, except for the tiny looseness you found? If so, you may not need steering parts, but might need the other handling upgrades like Marko did.
Booster, thanks for the in-depth replies. Marko too. Thank you.

Yes, the sound of the metal click does travel. I am aware of this. I can hear/feel it "further out" in the steering components, but it is real strong at the pitman/shaft joint. I will have to look again, and get another set of eyes on it to see if I just "wishing" this or if it is truly happening. Have a look here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4wcbio8r9...qmWJx-sya?dl=0

at 3 vids. Look closely at the shaft/arm/nut. In a couple of places in each vid *I SWEAR* I see slop. Look closely and give it some time.

I agree, there should be no play in the splines/shaft. And yes, I DO see the bearing seal you mention that in fact, DOES give the "impression" of slop. But what I am seeing (or think I am seeing) is the big nut on the end of the output shaft moves ever so slightly in relation to the pitman arm.

Th U joints appear to be tight. With the steering wheel locked,I am able to grab the bottom ujoint/shaft and try and wiggle it. I get no detectable play at all. Solid.

Yes, I could not see/feel any play in any of the other components while the wheel was turning back and forth. Both tires were on the pavement, and both were reacting properly to the actions of the steering wheel.

Thanks again for all the input.
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