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steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:02 am
by hartley hare
hi all
seems a lot of posts and ideas on this one,cant seem to find exact cause...

have got a lot of play,clockwise and anticlockwise,on steering wheel,3/4-1 inch......
try to make it brief,
new track rod ends,upper and lower joints,no play in wheel bearings,new rack mounting rubbers,and new shaft coupling, crash clamp tight, and ball joints on rack ends have no play,(checked when new bellows fitted)

i removed cap nut from rack, removed shims and refitted without spring, and play was still there..!
i know about the shimming,and +4 thou, in the manual....
so is my rack knackered? or have i missed something?
are there any other bushes in rack that could be causing the problem?
the pinion has about 1mm end float on it when checked with a lever..
so, is the rack supported by any bushings,n/s and o/s? if so are they available?
dont really want to go down the recon rack route if its something i can do myself.....

hope this makes sense..

great site

stu :?

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:10 am
by RotoFlexible

There is a bushing in the end of the rack opposite the pinion. It can and does wear, allowing that end of the rack to rise and fall instead of causing immediate action on the track rod. If you grab that wheel by the sides and pull it back and forth, you can hear/feel a clunk as the rack moves in the loose bushing, and see the end of the rack moving up and down.

The bushing can be replaced. When I did it about ten years ago, the bushing was readily available and inexpensive, but I don't think you can do the job without removing the unit from the car. Once it was out, I took it to a machine shop for disassembly and removal/replacement of the bushing.

Hope this helps. It is a royal pain to tear apart your front end after you have put so much work into it...

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 7:58 am
by andyelan
Hi Stu

It is possible that the bush opposite the pinion is worn but I can't see that resulting in 3/4" to 1" play at the steering wheel. New ones are available however and are easy to fit once the rack is out of the car.

I would just check first that you really do have free play. Normally the top bush in the steering column is a very loose fit and what can sometimes be thought of as play is actually the steetring wheel moving bodily from side to side. Another possibility is that there is actually no play and what you can feel is the slipper (under the cap nut) being dragged from side to side as the rack moves. This can be checked by putting a dial gauge against the wheel and seeing if it moves as the steering wheel is turned.

Personally, from the way you describe things, I dont think its any of the above. If you've checked eveything as you say you have and it's all ok, then the only thing left is a worn pinion and/or pinion bushes. Either way, I think you're going to have to take the rack off the car pull it apart. If you do find the pinion is worn then you could have problems as I don't think new right hand drive ones are available new anymore so you would have to try and source a good s/h one. Do remember however not all pinions are the same, the late Plus 2 at least uses a 6 tooth one which is different from the Elan.

Hope this info helps. I'm just overhauling the steering rack from my Plus 2 at the moment so I do know a bit about them.


Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 8:02 am
by gordont
After I removed and refreshed the universal coupling on my steering column the steering was noticably tighter.

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 9:45 am
by john.p.clegg

One thing to try is having the wheels straight ahead,turn the steering wheel through 180 degrees and the check if you have the same play then through another 180 degrees,the first uses a different part of the rack and pinion,the latter uses a different part of the rack...most of the play in a rack and pinion occurs in the "straight ahead" position.

John :wink:

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 10:40 am
by andyelan
Hi There

John, I can never understand how this logic applies to a rack and pinion steering set-up. Under normal circumstances the rack is held into constant mesh by the slipper pushing on it so if there were any wear around the straight ahead position then I would have thought it would be compensated for simply by the rack being pushed further into mesh with the spring. I do agree that if the flanks of the teeth on the pinion or rack are so badly worn that they are bottoming out, then what you suggest would happen, however, if this is the case, then I would suggest a new pinion and most likely a new rack will certainly be required.

I perhaps should also point out that wear like this cannot be got rid of out by removing shims from under slipper cap. All that will do is increase the force required to turn the steering wheel and will give symptoms very similar to bump-steer when driving.


Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Wed Mar 09, 2011 11:06 am
by Higs
With two people you should be able to identify where the play is.

By gently moving the steering wheel, it should be observable where the movement stops i.e.

- the steering column moves but the u/j does not turn - problem with bushes
- the u/j input turns but the pinion doesn't - problem with u/j
- the pinion turns but the rack ends do not - problem with rack internals
- the rack ends move but the steering arms don't - problem with track rod ends


Once this is done then you can narrow what remedial action is required.


Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2011 9:14 pm
by hartley hare
many thanks guys,
going to take out rack this week and check n/s bush etc....
rack was the only thing i didn't o/h ........

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2011 8:53 pm
by hartley hare
thanks for all the advice everyone...
traced it down to a knackered pinion and rack,looks like the pinion o ring worn and let in water at some time in past, (car last on the road around 89)... causing rusting of pinion and rack,(will try to post pics)..
bought a rack off ebay,rebuilt it to spec in workshop manual,dimensions etc....
have fitted to car and, stationary it feels ok...

my question is........this rack had nylon cup seats in the ball joints at each end of the this ok?
or have i just wasted my time and money....

many thanks in advance.....

and can anyone give me a basic/starter,average thickness of shim,spacer to fit under rack as mine have long since gone.....

Re: steering wheel play..

PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2011 4:19 pm
by mikealdren
the shim thickness is different for each car, have a search for steering rack shims as there have been lost of posts in the past. You basically need to get the rack height correct so that the suspension movement around the normal ride height doesn't introduce bump steer, it is very important in getting the handling right.