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Old 06-17-2019, 02:32 PM   #1
shifty
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1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

So, you can't do the Jeep shaft swap on the 97-98 trucks. I've read this over and over again, along with the reasoning. Wish I could do that on my '98 Sierra SLT but no dice.

Anyway, I confirmed today my 3" or so CW/CCW turning slop in my steering is mostly b/c my rag joint is worn to hell after 20 years without being replaced.

My question is this: Is it really worth wasting 1-2hrs dicking around by pulling the old shaft assembly, grinding/drilling the rivets to remove the old rag joint, bolting in a new rag joint, then reinstalling the whole thing? It looks like you could just Drop $150 on GM part# 26033170 (edited to include correct p/n) intermediate shaft assembly which looks to include a replacement rag joint, unbolt the old/bolt in the new part in under 15 minutes with no grinding, busted knuckles, etc?

I'm all about saving a few bucks to fix a problem that's been driving me bonkers, I'm just trying to figure out ... is $$ the main reason people choose to hammer out the OEM part just to bolt in something aftermarket that may/may not last 20 years like the old part and could potentially come unbolted if you drive on gnarly roads like me?

Are there any other solutions to this issue that don't involve doing something stupid like adding a 3rd u-joint into the mix?
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Last edited by shifty; 06-19-2019 at 11:27 PM.
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Old 06-17-2019, 02:37 PM   #2
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

Now, if you look at the GM catalog at the same time this post was made, part #1 points to three pieces which is exactly what the OEM intermediate shaft assembly is. Unless I'm mistaken, it looks like that would include a new rag joint cover, collapsible shaft, and rag joint. BUT...

EDIT: At the time of this posting, part #1 and #6 had the same part number in GM's catalog at every major GM Parts website online. This is apparently a known error with the GM catalog. Part #1 - which is GM part# 26033170 - is discontinued for a while now and cannot be purchased. Don't make the mistake I did by buying GM part# 26034521!
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Last edited by shifty; 06-19-2019 at 11:29 PM. Reason: Edited to add a part number/catalog warning.
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Old 06-18-2019, 04:36 PM   #3
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

Another edit ... just so I'm not misinforming anyone, as you can see here, GM definitely has a screw-up in their parts catalog. I ordered the replacement shaft assembly (26034521) yesterday per their diagram and went to pick it up today... and I got (the top) part #6 in the diagram here instead because I didn't see the part numbers were the same. Me and the internet parts guy at the dealership were both scratching our head.

Got home while parts guy is trying to figure it out and looked at the catalog again. Damn catalog has the same part number for two different parts!! And I checked several Chevy Parts sites, same thing.

So now I'm on the hunt to find which part is correct, shaft assembly including the rag joint and rag joint cover.

Looks like Dorman 425-185 Coupling Steering Shaft or NAPA part# NPS 70185 is the assembly I need but daaaaamn that's expensive!! They show that's a replacement for GM 26033170 so I think that's maybe the correct part. Part is discontinued, naturally, if that's the correct one (Murphy's law!)
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:08 PM   #4
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

You can't replace the shaft for $150 otherwise we'd be doing it instead of putting in the work.
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Old 06-18-2019, 05:35 PM   #5
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom View Post
You can't replace the shaft for $150 otherwise we'd be doing it instead of putting in the work.
Yup. Best price I'm getting online for the Dorman replacement is $225 shipped, and that's hitting the big box parts stores and using 20% off coupons (most have them for summer right now).
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Old 06-19-2019, 10:29 PM   #6
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

Well, today was my lucky day! Saved $100 bucks inadvertently and fixed the vast majority of my steering slop problems. I think the only way to improve more would be a quick-ratio gearbox replacement and replace pitman/idler arms and other steering bits.

But on the luck, the dealership parts guy called around noon as promised. Said, "Sorry about the mix-up. Talked to Charlotte yesterday. They admit catalog is messed up, the part you need is discontinued. They sent me the recommended replacement, from Dorman? Come get it, no extra charge."

Wasted no time to go pick it up before he changed his mind. Maybe their cost is close to $150 or something? Dunno. I wasn't going to argue and wasn't about to mention the best price I found being $250 after tax.

Picked up my $250 part at no extra charge (I think I'm out $157 after tax), thanked him, got home and installed it after work.

End result: At least 80% of my steering slop is now gone and no more lane drift for me on the interstate. Still a tiny void near top/center, maybe 1" versus the huge 6-8" void before.

For the install, man, getting the splined gearbox side of the intermediate shaft fully on the gearbox was a BEAST. Mostly because of that &@$@#* stupid ass protective cover, you can only rotate and slide it up and out of the way 3/4" or so. There has to be some trick to getting the gearbox end off/on? I ultimately got creative with a picklefork on reinstall to help gently nudge it down onto the gearbox splined end.

Things I wish I would've known before install that may help others:

To get it out, start by putting the steering wheel at top-center, wheels straight, then lock the wheel and use the seat belt thru the steering wheel and latch it to keep the wheel from moving. Sorry, overkill, I know, but w/e, I don't want to risk damage to my airbag bits.

I was replacing mine completely, so I didn't mark any positions on anything, if you're just swapping out the rag joint, all recommendations are to mark locations. I don't necessarily understand why, both ends are basically keyed anyway.

I rotated the protective cover on the gearbox end and popped out that 11mm bolt with a ratchet and 30" of extension, then pulled out the 15mm bolt under the brake booster near the firewall.

After that, I collapsed the intermediate shaft from the firewall side into the gearbox end, then started to work at popping off the gearbox side. I found wedging a long screwdriver worked fairly well to get it started, then a little wiggling and prying finished it. This was the easy part, and I think a picklefork might've actually been useful here, I just didn't want to dick anything up on the gearbox so I skipped that and used a flat blade screwdriver for leverage and some muscle.

On reinstall, there must be a trick to it? I'm probably too stupid to figure it out. The shaft collapses so you can't really tap on the firewall end to get the splined end onto the gearbox without collapsing the column (which is a PITA to expand after) unless you slid out the firewall end of the shaft totally, but I reckon it'll be a beast getting it back together again later once the gearbox side is on.

The easiest way I could find was to loosely bolt up the firewall side (w/loctite pre-applied) then finagle the stupid plastic cover on the gearbox side up to start sliding the splined gearbox side onto where it needs to be. I worked that end on a 1/4" or so to start. From there, using forceful wiggling, I was only able to get it on 1/2" or so then hit a wall, got it nowhere near past the first set of splines.

I'm thinking maybe I'd have benefited from wedging open up the splined end of the intermediate shaft 1mm-2mm or so, maybe that's the trick to help it slide on easier? I was able to slide back the rubber cover enough to get a picklefork over the lower half of the shaft and gently tap with a ballpeen to nudge the gearbox onto the splines the rest of the way w/o mushrooming anything or messing up the rag joint.

To finish up, 11mm gearbox side bolt takes 22ft lbs torque and 15mm firewall side nut takes 46ft lbs torque, then slide and rotate on the plastic cover and snap back into place. I saw at least one person recommending loctite red, but I may need to take this off again later, so I used loctite blue and torqued to factory spec.

Total install time was about 45 minutes, but I was being really careful and spent 20 mins scratching my head when I got stuck trying to figure out securing the gearbox end over the splined shaft.

Only tips I can add here,

If your vehicle has the round evap canister, you'd probably benefit greatly from removing it prior to attempting installation.

In hindsight, I'm also wondering if jacking up the front driver side of the truck to possibly drop the arms down a bit and give more room to tinker with the protective cover would help. That was single-handedly the biggest F'ing pain in my ass to deal with, without it the job would've been a breeze.
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Old 06-20-2019, 12:37 PM   #7
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Re: 1997 - 1998 rag joint worn

That shroud where the shaft meets the gearbox was invented by the devil no doubt about it. I cut mine into strips more or less to make it easier.
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-78 c10 short/step: 388cid, M20, 5/5 drop, lots more. Playtoy and first vehicle.
-98 c1500 x-cab: 5.7L, 17" rims, 5/6 drop, flowmaster, helper bags,NBS rear disk brakes.
-02 Suburban 4x4: stock
-CBR600F4i, CBR600RR, CBR1000RR, and standup skis
DISCLAIMER: I cant spell for the life of me.
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