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Old 08-08-2017, 09:12 AM   #1
mister.freeze
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WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I've read so many threads about steering that suddenly got stiff, but no resolutions. I know I'm not the first, nor will I be the last. What's up with my steering????

OK, so here's what happened. For years (going on 20 now that I've had my K5), I've had light, responsive steering. 1 finger could turn lock to lock, at idle, in gear, with the tires on the ground. No bump steer or significant play. For some reason, the steering wasn't centered after an alignment, but I could live with that. Just be for a trip to Austin (from Houston) I topped off the power steering with fluid (Prestone power steering fluid with stop leak) because the hydraboost had been seeping and I just wanted to be 100% for the trip. I did this after my 10 mile commute from work. Backing out of the driveway, the steering was stiff and the pump was groaning.

I fought this all the way to Austin and back. Gone was the smoothness and responsiveness. I had a big gap between 11 and 1 o'clock, and the wheel stayed wherever I left it; no self-centering. I figured that since I had been running ATF for so long the PS fluid was too thick or even incompatible and causing my troubles. So I got home and replaced the pump, gear box, AND Hydraboost. I even removed the steering dampeners. No change. I even drained the fluid and went back to ATF. Nothing.

I've heard all kinds of muck about ball joints, U-joints, slipping belts, worn gear boxes, etc. What's the official word? What happened, in the span of 10 minutes, that I haven't yet been able to resolve?

Thanks in advance for any input or help. I want this fixed and for this thread to be the answer nobody seems to be able to post.
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Old 08-08-2017, 03:34 PM   #2
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Sounds like the u-joints in the axle shafts have frozen up. Sometimes they will freeze up on one side of the joint and when it rotates into position(even with locking hubs the axles will rotate occasionally when unlocked) to be the joint that needs to pivot when you turn it makes the steering stiff. The play between 11:00 and 1:00 o'clock is because when the joint is frozen and you turn the wheel the tie rod bar flexes or pressure builds in the system until you get enough force on the joint to move it then it moves all at once. This will cause the front end to dart once it moves.
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Old 08-08-2017, 03:41 PM   #3
mister.freeze
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Would locking the hubs a bit move them around and maybe free them up, or at least confirm that's the problem?
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Old 08-08-2017, 05:27 PM   #4
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

It may depending on how bad they are. It is always a good idea to lock them in periodically and drive a few miles for lubrication purposes if you don't regularly use 4wd.
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Old 08-08-2017, 06:12 PM   #5
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I'd love to hear an answer. My steering has always been a little "odd" to me as well. I also have the seeping hydraboost and groaning and no self-centering.

I've had my front shafts out several times and the u-joints are definitely not frozen by any means...
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Old 08-08-2017, 07:10 PM   #6
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I had a truck that I used aftermarket ball joints once do the same thing in the end bought some spicer ball joints installed them it was fixed. You could jack up the front end, unlock the steering wheel, and turn lock to lock to see if you feel a tight spot in the range of motion that would narrow it down to ball joints or a bad u-joint. You might also jack up one front wheel at a time engage the hub turn the turning wheel a bit so the wheel is not straight ahead and turn the tire to see if it is smooth or stiff if stiff u-joint time.
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Old 08-08-2017, 10:14 PM   #7
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Rode home (about 15 miles) with locked hubs. Not sure if there's a difference or not yet. Will commute that way again in the morning.
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Old 08-09-2017, 03:15 PM   #8
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Make sure that you don't have a kink/blockage in any of the low pressure return lines that run from the hydroboost and steering gear back to the pump reservoir. Sounds like you may be "starving" the pump. If the problem started right after you added the power steering fluid with stop leak, I would suspect that the stop leak may have reacted badly with the ATF and caused a blockage somewhere.
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Old 08-09-2017, 05:04 PM   #9
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Quote:
Originally Posted by cleszkie View Post
Make sure that you don't have a kink/blockage in any of the low pressure return lines that run from the hydroboost and steering gear back to the pump reservoir. Sounds like you may be "starving" the pump. If the problem started right after you added the power steering fluid with stop leak, I would suspect that the stop leak may have reacted badly with the ATF and caused a blockage somewhere.
To add on to what Cleszkie said, stop leak works by causing rubber components to swell. In older lines that may cause blockage in the lines.
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Old 08-09-2017, 11:28 PM   #10
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Jumped in and headed home, the steering was almost back to normal for the first tenth of a mile or so. Then it stiffened up pretty good for another half, then backed off to manageable. Git home and removed all the retun lines, blew them out with compressed air, and topped off with more ATF. Did the induvidual ujoint check: they look good, no play, and no stiff spots. Did the air bleed procedure: definitely stiffer from center to rt lock than center to left. Test drove: better, but nothing like it was. Gonna do a thorough flush with ATF tomorrow. I mixed some ATF with the stop-leak pwr steering fluid in a cup to see if there was any troble. Nothing noticeable. I think the viscosity difference may be the issue here. With the motor running and the cap off, I can see good circulation in the reservoir.
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Old 08-10-2017, 05:06 PM   #11
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

So when did the 'alignment' come into play? Was it done just prior to this issue? Who did it?
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Old 08-10-2017, 05:47 PM   #12
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Local shop aligned it a few weeks prior. Really don't think that was a factor, but who knows?

Round trip to work: i THINK it's getting better. Methinks every time I add mor ATF, I dilute the PS fluid...
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Old 08-11-2017, 01:35 AM   #13
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Quote:
Originally Posted by mister.freeze View Post
Local shop aligned it a few weeks prior. Really don't think that was a factor, but who knows?

Round trip to work: i THINK it's getting better. Methinks every time I add mor ATF, I dilute the PS fluid...
Did they mess with the preload on the top of the steering box? Some shops think they are doing you a favor by messing with something they know nothing about. I've never seen issues as you are having by mixing atf with ps fluid. Curious about the hydra-boost and why you have it on this model
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Old 08-11-2017, 07:17 AM   #14
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

It was fine after the alignment for a while. Since then, I've replaced that gear box so no, they didn't mess with the 'preload.'

Hydraboost was installed because my stroker motor (R.I.P.) didn't make enough vacuum for the brake booster to work properly, even with a vacuum reservoir. It's been on there for a good 11 years, and was replaced with the gearbox and PS pump.
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Old 08-12-2017, 10:01 AM   #15
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

You might want to pull the boost valve out of the power steering pump it might be sticking causing your odd steering. It is the fitting that your power steering hose screws into on the back of the power steering pump be careful it has a spring and piston behind it.
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Old 08-13-2017, 03:21 PM   #16
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

What do I do after pulling it out? It's a new pump, should be ok...
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Old 08-14-2017, 05:10 PM   #17
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I've tried numerous valves and mine still acts the same. I tried factory, factory LSX, factory mustang, etc...and even went on to drill them out per a discussion with hydratech.
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Old 08-14-2017, 07:44 PM   #18
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

If a piece of trash got in the valve it would cause some of the problems you are seeing.
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Old 08-14-2017, 10:58 PM   #19
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Next chance I get, I'm ginna see if more return fluid is coming from the gearbox or hydroboost. The brakes work as expected, so I think the gearbox might be starving
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Old 08-19-2017, 06:11 PM   #20
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Dammit. Nothing new to report. All lines are clear and flowing. No leaks. Fixed a dragging caliper just in case. Checked plumbing routing too. During bleedings, definitely more difficult from center to rt lock and back. Left feels good. Plenty of fresh ATF in the system now. No binding detected in the ball joints or ujoints. Since the problem remained from before ps pump, gearbox, and hydroboost were replaced, it has to be something in the joints or knuckles, right?
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Old 08-19-2017, 08:07 PM   #21
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

To me it sounds like your steering box bit the farm bet some stop leak got into the valve body in the steering box.
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Old 08-20-2017, 10:17 AM   #22
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

It's a fresh box, so the fluid shoukd not have had an effect. If that's the case though, I'll swap it out for another.

Did find the pitman arm loose on the output shaft of the box. The notch is bigger than the bolt on the pitman arm. I tightened it up a lot, test drive later today.
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Old 08-20-2017, 10:36 AM   #23
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I would swap the box I just helped a friend with his 1996 chevy had the same problem would not return to center and hard to right the parts house box was junk we just found a good used box problem was fixed. I have not had any luck with parts house boxes over the years. If still doing it after that I would look at your ball joints. You might have a friend turn the steering wheel and you watch the front end to see if anything looks abnormal or parts that are loose. What side of houston are you I ask because might be easier to see what it is doing in person I am on north side by lake conroe.

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Old 08-20-2017, 11:46 AM   #24
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

Cypress, (6 & West).

Just ordered another box, will try to swap itout this week. I've had the wheels turned lock to lock ad nauseum while on jack stands while watching and observing. The sudden onset and persistence of the problem is the perplexing part.
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Old 08-21-2017, 01:51 AM   #25
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Re: WTF steering: 72 4x4 K5

I have a extra gear box. Just replaced mine with a redhead. No more play in steering.. I'm in Katy. I can come by and give you a hand this week. LMK!
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