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I have a 1987 Chevy Silverado and all of a sudden my steering wheel is not centered.

Also I notice there is free play in the steering. Any ideas?

  • If this came on quickly it could get worse quickly too, I'd avoid driving this until it's fixed! – GdD Mar 14 '18 at 9:38
  • Miles? Any other new symptoms? How fast have you driven it since this started happening? – iDriveSidewayz Mar 14 '18 at 11:59
  • This is can be a safety related issue. You will want to diagnose and repair this one pronto. Don’t delay till it gets worse. – zipzit Mar 14 '18 at 23:39
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Trucks often use a worm gear system as the steering mechanism. Older Chevrolet's use a recirculating ball steering gear which has small ball bearings in the grooves of the worm gear. There is an external disc-shaped bracket attached to the worm gear that connects to the steering shaft where the steering wheel is attached.

Between the bracket on the gear and the steering shaft is a rag joint. The rag joint is often made out of some type of rubber and since your truck is an '87 I'd check the condition of the rubber. The rubber can become "dry-rotted" and quickly deteriorate. Rag joint failure would definitely cause the steering wheel to become off-centered and cause excessive free-play.

If the rag joint is not at fault, then I'd check the steering linkages starting from the Pitman arm down to the tie-rods. If your truck has hydraulic assisted steering, then I'd check the fluid lines and the condition of the fluid as well.

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This is usually caused by a change under the vehicle, some possibilities:

Tyre pressures, low on one side

Steering joint excessive play

Suspension joint excessive play

So, check the pressures then you will be looking at other possibilities.

Do not do the easy option of just adjusting the wheel on the column - the cause is elsewhere.

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Typically when steering changes quickly, there is a reason. Components fail. Sometimes slowly. Sometime suddenly. Hitting bumps hard can have a devastating effect on worn components.

Note: I am assuming your truck does not have a rack and pinion.

If the steering wheel is no longer centered, this can be caused by bad wheel alignment and/or component failure. Your truck has tie-rods, idler arm, drag link, pitman arm and steering box. All but the steering box have ball joints.

In the picture below, the ball joints are circled in red.

enter image description here

Because you said it happened all of a sudden and there is lots of free play, I am inclined to think it is a bad ball joint in one or more components.

(photo credit: http://www.chevytrucks.org/)

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