Steering Wheel and Alignment

by George Lyle, Steve Dolan, and Fred Stoermer

George Lyle writes:

For a normal alignment the steering wheel doesn't need removing.

However, if components are replaced, the steering wheel may need to be repositioned if you're picky about it being horizontal. The reason is that only one tie rod is adjustable.

You can adjust out minor crookedness with the drag link, but you have to be careful to make sure that you don't adjust it so that you run to the end of the worm gear in the gearbox. This is _very_ bad for the worm and peg, and we all know what a hassle and cost it is to replace the steering box!

The correct way to adjust the steering is to get the wheels centered, then make sure the steering box is centered, then move the wheel on its shaft to center the wheel. The last bit of crookedness is taken out with the drag link.

The PO of my bus had the drag link replaced and my wheel is 90 degrees to where it should be. I'm still looking for someone with the proper puller for the wheel or the time to fab one up myself. In the meantime I've grown accustomed to looking around the spoke to read the speedo :)

Steve Dolan writes:

The steering wheel *does not* need to be removed! and I gotta say that by adjusting the drag link, you can take more than a 90 degree lopsidedness out of your steering wheel. And, if your steering wheel is at all lopsided you very much should! These days there are very few places (including VW Dealers) that know the drill on setting up the front end on a bus. Below is an outline of the steps:

1) remove the front end of the drag link from the pitman arm. Use a puller or tie rod press, *NOT* a pickle fork! If the end on your drag link uses a castellated nut and cotter pin, fine, otherwise go out and buy a new vibration proof nut (this is one nut you *really* don't want to lose!).

2) set the left wheel camber (eccentric bushing on the lower ball joint)

3) Set the left wheel (this is the one with the solid tie rod) to the proper toe by just moving it by hand.

4) set right wheel camber

5) set right wheel toe using the adjustable tie rod

6) center the steering box. Turn the steering wheel all the way to one end and then all the way to the other, counting turns. Turn it back 1/2 the turn count, including 1/2 the partial turns. If no one had messed with it, and no major accidents have bent anything, the steering wheel will be very close to level at this point. If it's not, center the box and we will re-level the wheel in step 8. If it's less than 1/8th of a turn off, you can level it, but if you are a perfectionist, center the steering box and do step 8.

7) adjust the drag link. Adjust it 'til it drops into the pitman arm as close as possible. you may find that when it is correctly adjusted, that levels your steering wheel all by itself, as you must do full turns on the adjustable end. It is a fine thread, with a fair amount of length, so it should be able to reach any undamaged, centered steering box (but see the worst case note) After it is in place, tighten on the nut and *BE SURE TO INSTALL THE COTTER PIN!!!!!*

8) If your steering wheel is not level, then (and only then) you need to pull and re-install it. on the later busses (my '76 and 78) the wheel lifts off after the nut is removed. On earlier busses *you ***must*** use a puller*! There is no way, as the original poster found, to get the wheel off without it. I don't know where the divide is, but the 73 is a tapered shaft, and the 76 is straight, so it is between those two.

Worst case scenarios:

If your drag link is not able to be adjusted to the pitman arm... I would assume massive front end damage in this case. Before you move another inch, check for bent tie rods and/or drag link! if all looks well, you need to have it hauled to a shop to check the trailing arms. This should have showed up when adjusting the camber, but maybe not, if both upper and lower are bent. Also check the beam for straightness!

If all parts of the system are OK, and it is an aftermarket drag link that is just the wrong length (I dunno... it *could* happen...) then the pitman arm *is* removable, and can be adjusted, but it is in the worst spot for applying a puller, it is the biggest tapered, splined shaft I have ever dealt with and is, basically, a metric bear to get off (a metric bear, BTW, is equivalent to 2.2 english bears :) AFAIK, this tapered, splined shaft is applicable to all years of breadloaf busses.

I usually take my busses to a tire place, have them perform steps 2-5, bring it home and pop the drag link and set the steering wheel myself.

Fred Stoermer writes:

The steering box MUST be at it's center point when driving straight ahead and properly adjusted. See discussion of this in Bentley.

There is a designed in "tight spot" (for lack of a better term) in the steering box, located at the center point of it's travel. Even a brand new and accurately adjusted steering box will have slack/play in the steering wheel on either side of this center point.

Steering box adjustment must be made with the box centered on this "tight spot". Doing otherwise will damage the unit immediately, and can even cause the box to seize as you attempt to steer. This is definitely a VERY BAD THING!

Even if it doesn't seize, the improperly adjusted internals will quickly be damaged by being forced to turn through the "tight spot" and you'll be back in the market for a new/rebuilt steering box.

These units are too expensive, and too much of a hassle to replace, to risk damage due to incorrect adjustment. I don't always agree with the Bentley manual, but in this instance you ignore it's instructions at your peril.

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