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Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan


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homersupervan
New User

Dec 4, 2012, 10:45 PM

Post #1 of 10 (5015 views)
Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

Hi - I recently purchased a: 1986 Dodge Ram B250 campervan conversion, with a 318 V8. The van has (supposedly - 5 digit odometer!) 109,000kms on it (though may be 209,000...). It was previously owned by a mechanic, and is generally in great shape.

I recently took the van into a mechanic - it developed a vibration when accelerating, and there was a coolant leak from the water pump.

They recommended replacing the water pump (it's completely shot) and replacing the U joints to solve the vibration. These were expected.

They also said, however, that the steering gearbox needed replacing. The steering is loose, there is some play there, which I knew but hasn't been an issue for me. They said that 'there is a LOT of play' in the steering box, and that it needs replacing too. However, this is an expensive proposition.

So, I wanted to know what the consequences are to not having the steering box replaced. Yeah, the steering is loose, but not so much that I thought it was a problem. I've driven the van on windy highways, snakelike mountain roads, slick wet roads, and the steering worked (just takes a bit more rotation of the steering wheel).

Does anyone have any advice? Do I really need the steering box replaced, and what are the safety ramifications of leaving it be? It is a camper van - I didn't buy it expecting sports car handling. There's no wobble and the steering hasn't appeared to slip at all.

Also, the mechanic quoted $1500 canadian to replace all three parts (water pump, U joints, steering box). The steering box work represents about half of this estimate. I'm on a tight budget so don't want to do anything unnecessary - but I also don't want my steering to fail sending me hurtling into oncoming traffic.

Any advice is very appreciated!

Thanks,
Blair


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 4:03 AM

Post #2 of 10 (4983 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In


Quote
So, I wanted to know what the consequences are to not having the steering box replaced.


Do you really need to ask that question?



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 6:04 AM

Post #3 of 10 (4973 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

Tough call. Mopar steering gear boxes designed in the 1960's did get used a lot long after in the RVs and trucks. About now would take some old phart to decide if you have what was normal wear or a bad steering gear box. Just also know that the feeling of freeplay is highly likely to less caster designed into some HD applications.

If that gearbox has a lock down nut and an Allen head stud with nothing else wrong about it but some extra play it probably can be adjusted. Note, that Allen stud is reverse threaded to reduce lash of some expected wear within limits. Done when you are sure it is limited to the box itself only, wheels hoisted turning parts by hand watching incoming shaft and Pitman arm along with general feel, noise or clicking in box, engine off. If you over tighten it, it will probably not recover and behave to where it was before it was touched. This if attempted at all remains AYOR with knowledge now about gone on setting them. You stop short of perfect by feel then tighten the hold down nut or you are screwed. That's the best reason nobody is going to want to touch it but rather just toss it. A reman would probably come with a drop of evidence paint and void anything about it if broken,

T


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 9:52 AM

Post #4 of 10 (4958 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

You should not attempt to adjust the wear out of a worn steering box. It wears a flat spot in the worm in the straight ahead position and will bind up if you try to adjust that play out. The adjustment was put there for factory setup and should not be touched after that.
Replace the steering box before someone gets killed from it breaking and locking up.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



Tom Greenleaf
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Tom Greenleaf profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 11:23 AM

Post #5 of 10 (4949 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

The situation needs to be assessed as normal or not which remains unknown. Already said that doing it wrong if it is fit to is done by exacting methods. Same crap they would do it it was a core being rebuilt and some can't be. Knowing the difference is harder to ascertain.

If tolerable and not causing issues now it should be safe to leave it alone. Will be critical to know that actual allowable "stack up" of any free play it might not even have right there. Too much not known for certain to mess with it first. Everything else known correct before even blaming the damn thing,

T


homersupervan
New User

Dec 5, 2012, 12:49 PM

Post #6 of 10 (4943 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

Thanks for the comments. And Hammer Time, I was asking whether or not the current play in the steering box just results in loose steering (which I'm ok with), or if it indicates wear that will result in the loss of steering or lockup. I'm not a mechanic, and this is my first older vehicle, so I'm sorry if you think my question was stupid, but I'm on a tight budget so want to make sure any repairs are absolutely necessary. The van was previously owned by a mechanic, and since I've bought it (and put a couple thousand kms on it), the steering has been a bit loose (meaning steering wheel play before the tires turn), but I wasn't sure if this might have been something the old owner adjusted himself, or if in fact it is worn out and represents a safety issue. The steering doesn't appear to have gotten any looser since I bought it. I have no desire to drive an unsafe vehicle - but also don't have the budget to replace everything that may be an issue. But I'm getting the sense that y'all think it should probably be replaced.

I was quoted about $700 to replace the steering box. Do you think I can negotiate that, or buy a remanufactured gearbox myself and ask the mechanic to install it? Btw - $700 is about 1/5 of what I paid for the van, so, it's a bit of a big ticket repair at that price.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 1:17 PM

Post #7 of 10 (4938 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

You have been told that you have a severely worn steering box. I'm not there to determine just how severe so we have to take the technician's opinion. I can't rule out total failure or lockup up and I would be derelict to propose that it's safe. You're been told your steering box is bad. Don't ask people on a forum to say it's safe.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



homersupervan
New User

Dec 5, 2012, 5:14 PM

Post #8 of 10 (4926 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

Hammer Time - I'm not sure what I did to offend you, but I think you are misunderstanding what it was I was asking. I think professionals (not just auto mechanics) need to remind themselves that the average person does not possess knowledge that is 'obvious' or plainly apparent to those with years of experience and training. In my profession (which is not, obviously, as an automotive mechanic), I try to do so, no matter how silly a question is or how obvious the answer is in my own mind. For the average person, it is very intimidating having a mechanic propose work that the average person can not really understand without more explanation - even though the cost of the replacements may represent a large sum of money and the decision to go forward left to the person without the knowledge. It was my impression that forums such as these were relatively safe ways to get that information from impartial experts.

I understand now that the 'play' in the steering box is a result of excessive wear, and that this poses a risk of failure. I am going to get the steering box replaced.

Not knowing the ins and outs of how steering mechanisms work, I did not know right off the bat that the 'play' in the steering box was an indication of it not being safe. I was not looking for anyone to say its safe, sight unseen. I was just trying to increase my knowledge of what was proposed, and the reason for the proposed replacement.

So, in any case, I will not be coming back to this forum again. I appreciate your comments, those that did not make me feel like a total idiot, anyways.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
Hammer Time profile image

Dec 5, 2012, 5:28 PM

Post #9 of 10 (4918 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

What knowledge does it require beyond plain common sense to know that if you have been told that there is a problem with your steering or your brakes, it is a safety concern and should be repaired ASAP. You shouldn't be asking someone on the Internet that hasn't examined your car if it is serious enough to repair. It's steering. that speaks for itself. If you were to have an accident tomorrow and someone was injured, it would take any good lawyer about 2 seconds to sue you from every angle possible.


If you have any doubts about the need or the price, take it to get a second opinion. The price does sound a bit on the steep side,



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



(This post was edited by Hammer Time on Dec 5, 2012, 5:35 PM)


homersupervan
New User

Dec 5, 2012, 6:30 PM

Post #10 of 10 (4908 views)
Re: Steering Box Needs Replacement? - Dodge B250 Campervan Sign In

This will be my last post on the matter, no need to beat a dead horse.

If you look at my original posting, you'll note that I was simply told the steering box had a lot of play and should be replaced. No mention was made by the technician looking at the van of the possibility of steering failure or lock-up. The mechanic looking at the van was brief and uninformative, and did not warn me that driving the van is dangerous without replacing the steering box. I did not know, and this is why I was seeking more information, if this was just a handling issue or a safety issue. That being said, I did take it seriously, did not drive the van back from the shop without the repairs (it's still in the shop parking lot, while I try to scrounge up enough money to make the repairs).

Note a post from another technician on another forum:

"Steering boxes can be adjusted within certain parameters to provide for more or less play. However this should not be done by those not familiar or experienced in these issues. Since your mechanic indicated there was a LOT of play in the steering box, it seems to me that this would be an indication of an excessively worn steering box - to which adjustments won't solve the problem. Having a worn steering box is a serious issue, as it can result in failure of your steering, even while driving, which would put you and others on the road at risk. Clarify with your technician or get a second opinion, but this is not just a handling issue, and the loose steering can indicate excessive wear, so I would go with your technician's recommendation to replace."

I know that suffering automotive imbeciles like me can be difficult, but let's just try to get along and not imply that I lack common sense and am out to hurt people.

At least I asked the question, instead of not following up and deciding, on an uninformed basis, to assume that the loose steering was just a handling issue.

So, thanks again, hope y'all have a great day.






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