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1999 White Diamond ETC
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Discussion Starter #1
When I purchased the car, it had broken tie rod ends.

I got those replaced. I would ocasionally feel a "clunk" on the steering wheel while turning. One day, with the car on ramps I noticed that a bolt was missing that fastens the steering rack to the frame. I replaced it and tightened it.

It fixed the clunk, about 90%. Ocasionally especially at low speeds (parking lot) I will feel the clunk as a light tapping while the wheel is turned a certain way (as if there was a slight bit of slack--1 or 2 degrees)... it dissapears at higher speeds. The other day I felt it while I was on a turn only ramp (with a lateral incline).

On a side note, my steering wheel aims left about 3 or 4 degrees, when centered. How is that corrected? Easy for a DIYer?

Thanks for your thoughts and comments.
 

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mtflight said:
When I purchased the car, it had broken tie rod ends.

I got those replaced. I would ocasionally feel a "clunk" on the steering wheel while turning. One day, with the car on ramps I noticed that a bolt was missing that fastens the steering rack to the frame. I replaced it and tightened it.

It fixed the clunk, about 90%. Ocasionally especially at low speeds (parking lot) I will feel the clunk as a light tapping while the wheel is turned a certain way (as if there was a slight bit of slack--1 or 2 degrees)... it dissapears at higher speeds. The other day I felt it while I was on a turn only ramp (with a lateral incline).

On a side note, my steering wheel aims left about 3 or 4 degrees, when centered. How is that corrected? Easy for a DIYer?

Thanks for your thoughts and comments.
Sounds to me like you need a front end alignment. They would probably adjust the tie rods a little bit to correct your steering wheel position issue - possibly moving the end slightly out on the right side and/or the end slightly in on the left side, depending on the toe-in parameters. I would say that's not really a DIYer type project, as most of us probably don't have the equipment or procedures needed to actually measure the angles properly. As far as the low speed steering slack, you said you replaced the outer tie rod ends, but there could be an issue with the inner tie rod end(s). I don't honestly know if they are wear items on our cars or not, but I've fixed them on Chryslers before and the symptoms were the same. Both the alignment and the inner tie-rod end inspection/replacement could be done at the same time by a trustworthy alignment shop. My 2 cents worth anyway... Hope it gets you somewhere.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
mcowden said:
Sounds to me like you need a front end alignment. They would probably adjust the tie rods a little bit to correct your steering wheel position issue - possibly moving the end slightly out on the right side and/or the end slightly in on the left side, depending on the toe-in parameters. I would say that's not really a DIYer type project, as most of us probably don't have the equipment or procedures needed to actually measure the angles properly. As far as the low speed steering slack, you said you replaced the outer tie rod ends, but there could be an issue with the inner tie rod end(s). I don't honestly know if they are wear items on our cars or not, but I've fixed them on Chryslers before and the symptoms were the same. Both the alignment and the inner tie-rod end inspection/replacement could be done at the same time by a trustworthy alignment shop. My 2 cents worth anyway... Hope it gets you somewhere.
Thanks Mike. I've had multiple alignments, and they don't point anything out as worn or replaceable. It checks out (and they correct whatever).

Thanks though.
 

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mtflight said:
Thanks Mike. I've had multiple alignments, and they don't point anything out as worn or replaceable. It checks out (and they correct whatever).

Thanks though.
The inner tie rod ends might not be something they regularly check. The first time I had to replace them on a friend's Intrepid, the two first parts stores I went to didn't even stock any inner tie-rod ends, and the counter guys looked at me like I was from outer space when I insisted that's what I needed. If you ask the alignment places if they checked them, my guess is they'd say no. In fact, that misaligned steering wheel could be the result of the loose inner tie rod if it's bad enough. An alignment wouldn't fix it because the car would be stationary at the time they checked the angle and they would just correct for what was there and move on. But then as soon as you move the car, the thing could shimmy one way or the other and it's off center again. Hopefully someone else who knows more than me will chime in here with more thoughts about inner tie rod ends, but in the meantime, ask the alignment place if they check them. My guess is they do not unless you specifically ask about it. If you have one or both of them loose, it could be pretty hard on the steering rack.

Here's what the inner ones look like:

http://198.208.187.182/internet/PartImage.jsp?mfgname=ACDELCO&prodlinecd=45&acpartnbr=45A2053
 

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Multiple alignments huh? That sounds very strange to me that they would leave the steering wheel crooked. Maybe they aligned the wheels while the steering wheel was pointed a few degrees to the left. They are supposed to secure the steering wheel before they begin the alignment, maybe they didn't.

Mcowden does make good points about the inner tie rod ends... Aren't they supposed to check those before the alignment also though? I do, and I thought that was standard procedure... When I do an alignment I first check the bearings and tie rods for play before doing anything, it just ensures a good alignment. If they are bad I call the owner and tell them that I need to replace them first, before the alignment. I don't see why they would skip checking those items first because it gets them more money if they notice that they are bad. Or maybe they wanted you to come back for more alignments to pump more money out of you... :hmm:
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Krashed989 said:
Multiple alignments huh? That sounds very strange to me that they would leave the steering wheel crooked. Maybe they aligned the wheels while the steering wheel was pointed a few degrees to the left. They are supposed to secure the steering wheel before they begin the alignment, maybe they didn't.

Mcowden does make good points about the inner tie rod ends... Aren't they supposed to check those before the alignment also though? I do, and I thought that was standard procedure... When I do an alignment I first check the bearings and tie rods for play before doing anything, it just ensures a good alignment. If they are bad I call the owner and tell them that I need to replace them first, before the alignment. I don't see why they would skip checking those items first because it gets them more money if they notice that they are bad. Or maybe they wanted you to come back for more alignments to pump more money out of you... :hmm:
It was Sears, and during the first 6000 miles / 6 months the alignments were free.

The steering wheel is only off by a couple of degrees... hard to notice I guess.

I would think they are the first ones to say if something is loose or broken.

My 6000 miles are up. What are some good places to get an alignment done? I was looking into Firestone because they have a lifetime alignment for $140 I think. I paid $69 for a 6K miles at Sears, using a Hunter machine.
 

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If the car had two broken outer tie rod ends when you bought it and it there is slack in the steering, my money's on a worn rack or an inner tie rod issue. How did those two outer ends get broken? I think any shop could easily miss an inner tie rod issue because it's not a very common problem, it probably can't be moved by hand, and they wouldn't notice it unless they watched both wheels moving at the same time. They're hard to see on these cars anyway. Krashed989, how do you check them for looseness? It seems to me like it would be hard to detect by just looking at it and moving the rod by hand.

If there is slack in the steering, something needs to be checked out anyway. I would take it to a reputable shop and specifically ask them to inspect both inner tie rod ends as well as the steering rack for looseness.
 

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I'd actually have a few questions -

1) I'd want to figure out why the bolt had fallen off that the steering rack was attached by - are the threads shot? Is the threaded portion the bolt goes into spilt? If the fastener was torqued correctly it shouldn't have fallen out.
2) I'd get the rack checked - while it was not properly fastened down some damage could have been done.
3) Since the whole assembly had been out of plane (when the bolt had gone missing and the rack wasn't properly attached) I'd be really interested in the condition of all the tie-rod ends - they're designed to provide free movement in a limited range of motion - with the rack out of plane that could easily have been exceeded and damage to all four could have occured.

I don't mean to be an alarmist - but as this is a steering issue, I'd get everything checked out ASAP - there's a reason that most people who suffer a broken tie-rod or ball joint while on the road at speed don't tell about it - if you're moving along and a critical front suspension component fails you probalby won't be around to tell the story - this stuff is serious - imagine the consequence of going along at 80MPH and suddenly having each front wheel go it's own direction -

Just my 2 cents

Steve
 

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mcowden said:
...Krashed989, how do you check them for looseness?...

Well, usually I check them with the wheels on table stands and someone else turning the steering wheel back and forth (not hard turns, just a few degrees in both directions to get pressure on the rods); If one moves without the other, I know something is wrong. If I'm just doing a service or something like that, I just check them by putting my hands on the 3 and 9 positions and turning the wheel by hand; if it feels loose like that I know something is wrong.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Here is a diagram from the shop manual, showing the steering rack, knuckles and tie rods.

I was missing bolt #2.

Who, inexpensive preferrably, should I go to?

I was test-driving the car earlier and noticed the "shudder" or "tapping" is present when coasting anywhere from 4-8 mph, the wheel is either center, or I am turning it left, from center. I exaggerate with "shudder" but it's really more like a light tap, and it occurs in the travel distance (wheel turn) of maybe a 1/8." Cannot be discerned from irregularities of the street when going faster than 8mph. There is no real play in the steering wheel.

I don't know how the outer tie rod ends were broken. I do recall paying a Firestone to rotate my tires. They offered a complete break system check for $19.99 with a free rotation, which they claimed was cheaper than rotating the tires.

When I picked it up, they had an estimate for $3.5k which included replacing the steering rack, all 4 shocks. The steering rack was "leaking" according to them, and so was the engine. I knew it was my cooler line that was leaking, but they said the leak came from high above and they would need to do a dye test to find out (BS, I replaced the cooler line myself and it stopped leaking). If my steering rack was leaking, then I assume my power steering fluid would be going down--negative. This was 6 months ago... power steering level has been the same. Shocks still look moist, but a little leaking is normal (as per the shop manual) as long as the car doesn't show symptoms of redundant bounciness.

I had my tie rod ends replaced prior to having tires rotated that time, and there was no mention of any issues with the components. They did sucker me in that they charged me 1.5 hrs at $70/hr for a front-end alignment. They said the alignment was necessary after replacing the tie-rod ends. This was before I started doing my own work (thanks Ranger).
 

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Call me crazy but maybe you should check on your #1 bolts. If the #2 bolt was loose or missing than maybe one or more of the other bolts are loose too.
 

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Krashed989 said:
Call me crazy but maybe you should check on your #1 bolts. If the #2 bolt was loose or missing than maybe one or more of the other bolts are loose too.
If it was my tush behind the wheel I'd put that bad boy in the air and check all the front suspension and steering fasteners! I agree - if #2 was loose then the rack could have wiggled around and loosened other fasteners as well -

Steve
 

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Discussion Starter #13
So thanks to all the discussion I go to Pep Boys to have them drive the car and replicate the feeling in the steering wheel. They put her up on ramps, and everything is tight, and in good shape.

Then they brought her down and had someone steer while they put their hands on the struts.... the feeling is there.

Diagnosis: Broken strut mounts. Recommended repair schedule A. (RA)

Cost: price of the part plus $50 per strut labor

+ $54.99 alignment.

Their price for the strut mounts $85.00 each, so I will research the prices.

I'm glad it's not critical/dangerous, or is it??

Thoughts and opinions welcome, and thanks again for the help!
 

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mtflight said:
I'm glad it's not critical/dangerous, or is it??
Why would it be critical? It (they) just secure a major suspension component to the chassis of the vehicle and impact (pun intended) the direction your caddy is goin' on those Dallas freeways ...
Yeah - I am a sarcastic SOB - I've always taken the stance that anything that can make my vehicle go in a different direction than the one I intend (broken suspension components) is a critical and potentially lethal component -
Steve
 
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