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Author Topic: Got my bus back with rebuilt steering gear today  (Read 4726 times)
belfert
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« on: April 03, 2009, 08:05:07 PM »

I went and picked up my bus today after a local shop pulled the steering gear and sent it out for a rebuild.  The steering is certainly tighter now.  When I first drove the bus around to the front of the shop it felt like there was less power steering boost, but it feels normal now after driving the 30 miles home.

I am disappointed that the steering is not as improved as I expected.  The original issue was a fair amount of steering input required to keep the bus going straight down the road.  The issue is better, but it almost seems like something is worn out and the first bit of steering input in either direction isn't making it to the steering gear.  I have a tilt steering column.  Could something be worn in the steering column itself?

I had the steering gear rebuilt as everything else in the steering system checks out according to multiple shops.  The shop that did the work is known nationally for fixing steering and control problems in motorhomes and other large vehicles.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2009, 12:51:31 AM »

Brian,

It depends how much of an angle your steering column deals with, but I tracked my own steering slop to two U joints in my tilt/telescope column being a bit worn.

When you factor in two or three loose U joints, it adds up to what you may be experiencing.

HTH

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« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2009, 04:24:28 AM »

Have you ever drove another bus? What you are experienceing may be normal.    Jim
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« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2009, 05:33:02 AM »

Belfer,

What type of bus do you have? My 04,s have several places were you can adjust plus shim to take the play out.
John
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« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2009, 08:46:05 AM »

Belfert,

Capture the steering shaft at the input to the steering gear.  Use a vice grip and clamp....anything to keep the input shaft from turning even the slightest bit.  Then go in and try the wheel with little force.  Should be almost no movement at all.   If there is....I hope you have u-joints.

Your problem with the coach being "hard" to keep straight or keeping you "busy" isn't likely to be in the steering box.  It is usually "binding or sticking or worn" KING pins.  A frozen tie rod end would also do it but I have never seen them fail that way.  If you have two sets of u-joints in you steering column and the bottom one is rusted and binding up AND the top one has excessive play, that would also give your symptoms.  The alignment could also be out.

Your front wheels should "return to center neutral" position on their own and stay there till they are forced off by steering input.  The caster has to be set to cause that centering force.  The toe, if not set proper, will load the fronts and cause them to not return to center or pull off to one side.  If anything in the front prevents absolutely free movement of the front wheels and the front can't easily find center....you will be a busy beaver keeping it headed down the road.  This freedom of movement must be verified with the fronts loaded with the weight of the bus.  To do that the fronts are set on lazy susan type ball bearing platforms and the tire, with the ball joint/tie rod disconnected, is pushed through a right lock to left lock arc.  There should be ABSOLUTELY no spot where the thing binds and becomes hard to move. 

I have been through this and I started of with multiple problems.  When I FINALLY got it sorted out I knew way more about front end geometry and failures and anomalies than I EVER wanted to.  This is dismal experience talk'n here.  You can have the sloppiest steering wheel and ball joints and idler arm on planet earth and if the alignment and kings are good it will run true and track straight down the road like it was on rails.  A bump, dip or cambered road will interfere with that theory but you get the point.

Keep testing and fixing, Good luck

John
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« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2009, 04:45:54 PM »

No, I have not driven another bus, ever.  I do suspect my bus steers better than 75% of the buses owned by members of this board.  I might be trying for perfect steering that just doesn't exist on a vehicle of this size.  I know it will never steer as well as a car.

The tie rod ends were replaced about 12,000 miles ago.  The king pins have been checked by multiple shops who claim they are good.  The bearings in the steering control arms have been replaced.  The wheels were aligned after the steering gear was reinstalled.

I was already planning to clamp the steering column at the gear to check for any play in the column.  I have another project going on so I won't be to get to this for at least three weeks.  (It will be a lot warmer then too.)
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2009, 05:15:25 PM »

I know that I have mentioned it before, but my former steering column would bind somewhere.  When coming out of a turn, the bus should true itself.  If you have to help it get back to center, something is binding.  Changing the steering column dealt with that issue.  It still does not steer as easily as I would like, but I do not think I could get it much better without changing from assist to integral power steering.
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2009, 07:18:18 PM »

Brian,

In my "adventure" I had had my kings replaced, also.  Everybody that looked at them looked for excessive play.  Being new, there was none of that.  The problem was that the dip that installed the kings didn't ream out the bushings to properly size them to the new kings.  Standard procedure I am told.  I think it was the fifth shop I had it in where the owner took a personal interest.  He had his mech remove the tie rod end and then he grabbed the wheel and turned it.  He grinned and said you do that.  Right at center it stuck and I couldn't push it through.  He said "your kings aren't properly sized.  I don't have to check the other side as this alone will cause your problem".  I took it back to the place that did the original work twice and I watched them jack it up, remove the tie rod ends on both sides and move the wheel freely from right to left.  After that I took it to a different shop every Sat till I found the problem.  Seems it needed to be loaded for the problem to present itself.  This is just background info fellow Knut, I'm not saying that this is your problem.  I worked hard and long to get that straightened out and I actually did none of the work....couldn't.

Good luck.

John
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« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2009, 07:30:46 PM »

Johned,

Great information,

John
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« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2009, 07:38:28 PM »

Brian, have you aligned all three axles on mine I have it checked every 3 or 4 years and I have no road wander at any speed.If you are ever in Eugene OR stop at Kaiser Brake and Alignment they can align it where it will steer right on my Eagle it is just a hand laying on top of the steering wheel no white knuckles .    

good luck
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« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2009, 08:12:25 PM »

What Lvr said,

I know Dick Kaiser.  Great guy and Beaver and Monaco and Marathon favor him for any steer problem.

I may have mentioned this before but my friend got some of Kaiser's overflow from time to time.  We looked at a Beaver that had a tracking and wander problem.  It turned out that the massive box that held the steering gear would flex many inches from side to side sitting still and inputting steering load.  It was baffling!!!  The fix was to run bracing to the assy that held the steering gear.  After that it didn't move and the owner stopped in Cottage grove to call the shop and report that the bus handled amazingly well and all his problems were solved.  That steering box assy looked like something off of a army tank BEFORE it was braced.  Just another tid bit.

John
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« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2009, 06:33:15 PM »

The steering on my coach is nowhere near white knuckle, but it is annoying to constantly make minor corrections.  One can easily steer with one hand.  I'm going to look at the steering column and then give up if that is not an issue.

I am NOT going to do like Busted Knuckle's crazy mechanic and ride on a creeper under a bus going down the road.  He did that to diagnose the steering on another Dina bus.  That is BK learned about the bearing in the steering control arms.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2009, 03:45:49 PM »

Okay, I finally got out to the bus and looked at the steering column.  There is one u-joint in the column.  I clamped the steering shaft below the u-joint and thee steering wheel didn't move much so there is only a small amount of play in the u-joint.  I should probably crawl under the bus and do the same thing at the gear itself, but I expect the result will be the same.

I don't know anything about u-joints, but I suspect there is always going to be some play in them.  It probably would not make sense to replace the u-joint at this time.
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« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2009, 07:16:18 PM »

BK,

Constantly making minor steering corrections is called normal driving. If these small corrections are not made you end up in the ditch.

You notice them now because you are so intense about your new steering overhaul.

Give this same attention to your steering while driving a car and you will see that you are doing this but the difference is that it is second nature and you don't normally notice it.

I became more aware of this recently while teaching a granddaughter to drive. Beginners tend to not move the wheel until they are almost off the road instead of making many small corrections.
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2009, 07:27:18 PM »

Brian...you said, "I am NOT going to do like Busted Knuckle's crazy mechanic and ride on a creeper under a bus going down the road."
Now where is your spirit of adventure buddy? 
Jack Wink Grin
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2009, 08:11:08 PM »

Constantly making minor steering corrections is called normal driving. If these small corrections are not made you end up in the ditch.

On a straight highway my car if I let go of the wheel the car will go straight for quite a while.  My bus certainly won't do that.  It would end up in the ditch or the other lane in no time.  If I hold the steering wheel in one spot on my car it will keep going in that direction until I move the wheel again.  With the bus I have to make constant steering corrections when going around curves and such.

The whole reason to have the steering gear rebuilt was to try to reduce the amount of steering input required.  The amount of steering input required is certainly less after the rebuild, but the improvement is less than had I hoped for.  I do realize an old bus will never steer like a new car and this might as good as a bus ever gets.

The steering issues aren't going to stop me from taking the bus out as often as I can.  My friends and I have already been across half the USA twice in the bus.
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« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2009, 09:22:19 PM »

Brian,

I answered you right after you posted about your steering u joint but it obviously went into the either.

The u joint should have absolutely no "play" that you can feel.  Splines are going to have some inherent play but any in u joint should be correctable by replacing them.

Try this:  in a large parking lot, at a max speed for that location...25 mph or less, wind up the wheel for a right turn and then let go of the wheel without braking.  The steering should return to straight.  Then try the other direction.  Camber is what brings it back to center.  When these things are aligned the camber gets set.  Problem is that the real camber called for sometimes can't be achieved and might not be enuf anyway.  Mine needed sooooo many shims it looked dangerous to me.  The tech had showed me where there was no adj possible with my current conditions so I was prepared.  The more camber the more steady she will be but to much wears tires a little and might make the steering more difficult.  You need a experienced mech to tell you what you can get away with.  Any toe out will give your symptoms as will too much toe in.  More than one has said that the tag or drives will also do it if they aren't properly set up.  My understanding is that this busy steering condition is never solved by an awful lot of people.

Good luck with this and I am sure interested in the outcome....tanks!

John
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« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2009, 05:41:42 AM »

Brian (and others), I have been thinking quite a bit about this thread.

My Eagle would probably not pass a DOT steering wheel movement test.  I have replace the tie rod ends and made sure that the box is not loose.  But I still have a bit more wheel movement than I would like.

The Eagle still handles very well.  Having said that, I agree with others that suggest that the driver process is really very important.

My steering wheel is the original (large) and in a fairly flat orientation (no tilting).  I find that if I have my hands in the "3 and 9" position, I am always making slight steering adjustments ("sawing the wheel").  If I put my hands at the "5 and 7" (or closer to "6"), I am much more comfortable and make a lot less small adjustments. 

At the "3 and 9" position, you really notice the "slop" in the wheel.  I find that the "slop" is not noticeable when your hands are at the bottom of the wheel.  I tried to reason why (terrible engineering mind habit Smiley) and just gave up.  It works for me.

Jim
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« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2009, 05:57:45 AM »

FWIW I was able to determine (in my own mind) that our last bus had unacceptable steering play by:

Driving our current bus. The difference is beyond night and day. It is a remarkable, undeniable difference. So my first suggestion is drive someone else's bus where the driver is happy with their steering setup and see how your bus differs from theirs.

Secondly, I was never more aware of my last bus's need for input and correction than when I was in a crosswind and we went under an overpass which momentarily blocked the side wind. Although my current bus is affected by the wind, it doesn't try and jump across two lanes when the wind momentarily stops.

White knuckling is no fun. I remember it well.

Brian, I am picking up my bus in the next couple of days, we should go for a ride and maybe that will give you a baseline to determine if you're expectations are realistic. Our current MCI handles at least as well as the last Prevost I toured in which was a 2000 LeMirage so I am fairly confident that I have "acceptable" steering.

Hope it helps... Well, at least you can tell the goose that took out your windshield that you tried to swerve but your bus didn't respond!!!

Rick
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« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2009, 11:44:58 AM »

Really look forward to that report!

I have watched quite a few bus drivers "in action".  The ones that are the most relaxed and least "busy" are the Prevost drivers.  Little see saw of the wheel and the least input going straight down the road.  The rain water crown of any highway "should" cause a drift to the down side.  Even my Lex moves like that although it moves the least.

Belfert,

If you turn the wheel ever so lightly and get movement and the "pitman" shaft is not moving, the play IS in the "REBUILT" steering gear.  Take it back.  I know that you cannot accomplish the steering gear adjustment anywhere but on the bench and out of the vehicle.  Surgical cleanliness is called for if you open it up.  A box wrench is put on the input shaft and there should be absolutely NO PLAY if it isn't worn and IS adjusted properly.  Given the amt of difficulty you are having I would suggest that you take the box back out and go thru the "tests" for play and verify that all the set-up adjustments are properly done.  I solved this exact problem recently doing exactly that.....mis assembled!!!

I don't think you are asking too much.  Honestly, I don't.  Seems we have run the course on our getting the fix.  I solved my "insoluble" problem by taking the thing to EXPERT alignment shops till I bumped into someone that was smart enuf to diagnose the problem.  They can't charge unless they find the problem....right?  Diagnosis charge is one man hour around here.  Even at the House of Lex.

Good luck with this,

John
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« Reply #20 on: May 19, 2009, 11:26:00 AM »

Brian,

Once the steer tires take a set they will pretty much drive the same until they are worn out and you get another chance, even when you change other things.

Alignment shops look at specs that give tolerances and tolerances are not good enough. My Eagle does fine with 0 toe and that is a real 0. If it didn't I would shoot for 1/16 inch in. I also had huge problems with chasing the steering, but new R280's and precise toe along with some Lucas Power Steering Additive solved it for me.

Rear steer,( likely tag toe), is also a possible culprit as is steer axle ride height, so get the book out and get friendly with your tape measure.
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« Reply #21 on: May 19, 2009, 11:44:14 AM »

Cupping, panic stop "flat spot", out of round and worn into a misalignment were all cured by having the tire "shaved round".  At least on cars and that was back in the day.  Given the cost of these tires I would think that shops would be able to perform this (rounding) procedure in "this day".

A real confusing experience, for me at least, was my introduction to "radial tire pull".  Logic told me that this was a load of crap.  Had the car aligned and had a lot of pull afterwards.  Alignment was done in conjunction with tire purchase.  Checked alignment twice with no corrective adjustment....I watched.  Was told that they should move the tires around on the front and I was really skeptical.  That cured the pull problem and I have been a believer in Black Magic ever since.

Good luck,

John
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« Reply #22 on: May 20, 2009, 06:46:07 AM »

JohnEd has some good points about how finicky the steering gear box is to free play adjustment. Also, it is extremely hard to tell the difference between a box that is slightly loose and slightly tight in terms of how the coach reacts to steering input. As little is 1/16 of a turn in the adjustment screw can make a lot of difference in how the bus steers.

However, taking one off to adjust it is a pain. Adjusting one by trial and error is tricky. Adjusting one by the feel of the adjusting screw is ineffective.

I did something a little different, and this takes two people. I mounted a dial indicator on the pitman arm coming out of the box. I centered the steering wheel and put two pieces of tape about 2 inches apart on the wheel, and jury rigged a fixed point close to the wheel. I used a bent clothes hangar. I had one of my sons move the steering wheel from one tape mark to the other and back. I measured the total movement on the dial indicator while he did that. I intentionally started with the gear box on the loose side. I continued to tighten the adjustment screw, and tightened the lock nut each time, while recording the movement. You will see the movement range on the dial indicator increase as you decrease the slop in the box. Then you will reach a point where tightening the adjustment screw produces no additional movement in the dial indicator. At that point you have all the play out of the box. Back the adjustment screw off one hair, and you are good to go.

I agree that the best way is to take the box out and adjust on the bench, but if you can't do that, this is a second best approach.

Now, I have a question for the experts. If one of your tag wheels is out of alignment, what happens? Let's say that one of the tags was pointed to the left. Does that make the bus pull to the right or the left?
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« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2009, 08:03:23 AM »

I haven't driven the bus for a while since it is still in the sick bay with a bad heater hose and broken windshield so I haven't been too worried about the steering.

I would hope the steering box is adjusted properly since it was just rebuilt.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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« Reply #24 on: May 20, 2009, 08:33:09 AM »

Check your tires.  I just changed from 24 year old XVA's to new cheap tires.  The difference in the ride is night and day.  With the XVA's the bus felt stable and drove bigger.  With the cheapies the bus wanders as one would expect with a short wheel base vehicle and the ride is a lot busier. 

Mike
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« Reply #25 on: May 20, 2009, 10:43:15 AM »

Richard,

I don't claim to be an expert, but I think if you have a tag wheel steering the rear of the bus into oncomming traffic,(left) that the input to the steering wheel would be to turn the front of the vehicle to the right to keep it in it's lane. If the tag wheel is only pulling you across the road a couple of inches every 200 feet, you would need to do alot of steering to stay in your lane. 2 inches runout in 200 feet is likely less than 1/8 of an inch adjustment, so everything needs to be real straight if you want a nice driving coach.

Same thing for the drivers, alot of our coaches have been in daily service and seen alot of curbs. If the drivers are pushed back on the passenger side from curbing and the tag is out from wear, the steer axle could be perfect and you could still spend your day steering your butt off. As each axle hits the cross marks in a concrete highway, it will unload the tire a little and regrab the surface, really compounding the driver input senario if the axles are not straight.

You can use a ball of string to check the drive axle. Park on the grass and just come from under the coach and around the drive tire, touching each side of it as high as the body will allow, and go foreward 15 feet past the front of your bus. drive a stake into the ground, tie the string to it and cut it off. Go to the other side and do the same thing. You will see right away how true the axle is running under the coach.

To check the toe on your tag, you can get a real good idea by just putting the tape measure under the coach and measuring the distance behind the tires and in front of the tires on that axle as far off the ground as you can get. It takes a helper and you need to pick a tread groove to use, but after a few measurements, you will get a pretty good ball park idea of what needs attention.

I want my rig to be straight while going foreward with the power on. There is no reason to measure after backing or turning, so be sure that its shook out and pointing straight ahead. I measure semi truck drivers while pulling a hill, so the axles are loaded to the power to the ground position. I just use the trailer brakes to kill the engine, get out and get my measurements and go back to he shop to put them straight using measurements I took with the axles in the power to the road mode. With a bus, I would just kill it on a flat stretch and roll to a stop without any brake so the brakes could not interfere with my foreward motion axle setting preference.

Once you know exactly what needs to be moved, either move it yourself, or take it to the shop and tell them exactly what you want, not what the book says is close enough. Like, I want my R drive axle moved foreward 1/4 inch, or I want the toe on my tag set to zero and thats all I need. My local frame shop, Fosters, in Seattle actually likes that kind of work. They do just what you want, don't go any further and just charge me by the hour for what I want, so every time I visit my rig gets a little better.  The alternative is I take the rig to the frame shop, put all the alignment tools on it and they say well, Larry, its all in spec, your within the + here and the - there, so thanks for stopping by with your $200 and have a nice day.

Mike made a good point about tires. Paccar doesn't get any complaints putting R280's on all their new Peterbilt and Kenworth trucks, or they would not use them. They are not cheap, but you sure gotta love them if you sit behind them, (or in front of them on your bus).

I really don't know what is in the Lucas product for worn power steering gears or gears that wander that is so good, but it sure works.
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« Reply #26 on: May 20, 2009, 10:45:41 AM »

Not an expert but regarding the tag wheel pointing left and causing the bus to pull one way or the other, I would think neither. In setting up the race car which I DID become very good at and known for, I would actually put the LR toe'd IN to help the car corner. Along with that I would set one rear wheel ahead of the other a measurable distance to achieve what is known as "rear steer" and used widely on dirt racing cars and in the last few years has become popular to pavement cars. The difference is which tire is the leading tire! Does this compare to your question? Probably not but the situation is similar with the only difference being our rear wheels on the car are drives where as tags are free rolling!
Again, not an expert just my opinion!

Ace
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« Reply #27 on: May 20, 2009, 11:17:45 AM »

Ace,

When I set my circle burners up like you say, they drive themselves around the corner and I actually have to steer them down the straight away. My preference too.
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« Reply #28 on: May 20, 2009, 11:23:08 AM »

Thanks NJT.

I have spent a lot of time with string, tape measures, laser pointers, and a home made castor camber gauge to get the very best drive I can. Your explanation made a lot of sense. I really appreciated the insight about how much steering input correction a constant pull to one side would make as the road conditions varied mile after mile.

As for as my question about the tags. I can imagine two different scenarios. The first is if the tag tire is pointed to the left, then it could just move the rear of the bus left as you go down the highway, moving the whole bus left, meaning you would have to input a steering correction to the right. On the other hand, a tag pointing the left could use the drive wheels as a fulcrum so to speak and cause the bus to pull right, needing a correction to the left. I was just curious if anyone had ever found their bogey out of alignment, and what they noticed when it was aligned.
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« Reply #29 on: May 20, 2009, 01:14:50 PM »

Another factor that can have a big effect on handling is worn radius rod bushings. If the rear bushings are worn, they let the rear axle "wiggle". Each "wiggle" requires steering input to correct the "wiggle".  Jack
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« Reply #30 on: May 22, 2009, 06:38:31 AM »

I can tell you that replacing the rear bushings on my old 4104 made a dramatic difference in steering. That was after replacing the fronts which didn't make a lot of difference.
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