SOLVED: Loose steering wheel play -- is this normal?? (see video)

Is this type of loose steering wheel play normal for a 2004 Tahoe?

  • Yes

    Votes: 2 25.0%
  • No

    Votes: 6 75.0%

  • Total voters
    8

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ggeorgia

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I've had this annoying loose play at my steering wheel for as long as I can remember on my 2004 Tahoe. I recorded a video of me in the driver's seat with the truck off and in park. I'm able to easily nudge the steering wheel with just a finger. Is this normal?? For instance, was this characteristic of all new GMT800 trucks or something that happens as they age? (I'm been the 2nd owner since 2009, which is why I ask).

Note: I also took footage under the hood to show the intermediate shaft moving with the input shaft of the brand-new steering gear box I recently installed -- so, it's not an issue of the intermediate shaft, as some might suspect (my apologies if this isn't clear in the video, it's difficult to capture, but take my word for it). Even though the input shaft moves, there's no output shaft movement at the pitman arm or at the wheel, for that matter.


In case you're wondering, I've adjusted the tensioning screw (on the previous gear box, not the new one since it will void the warranty and didn't seem necessary), but that never seemed to address this loose play issue.

To give you some background, I've replaced the followed related parts over the course of several years, but nothing has seemed to fix it. :
  • steering gear box, new (2021)
  • steering gear box, remanufactured (2016)
  • intermediate steering shaft, upper and lower (2016)
  • steering shaft bearing (2016)
  • pitman arm (2015)
The latest part I decided to throw at this is a brand-new Lares 11422 steering gear box (top of the bulleted list). Evidently, remanufactured gear boxes only have seals replaced, but none of the wormgear or mechanicals are actually replaced or checked for wear, so it seemed like it would likely fix the issue. To my frustration, after installing, it also had the same sort of loose play I showed in the video. It's maddening!!! I talked to the Lares support staff and they agreed to honor the warranty and sent me a replacement, but that ALSO has the same loose play.

When driving, the new Lares gear box did seem a bit firmer, so it wasn't a total waste, but that little bit of extra play subsists no matter what I do.

If this is par for the course for GMT800 vehicle, then I'll live with it, but I've had no problem fixing any other issue I've had (the latest major repair being cylinder head replacement in December) with the Tahoe, except this. Really appreciate your input!
 

1BADI5

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Have you replaced the Idler arm? Only missing piece that I could see that could be associated with the issue
 

iddqd

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I'd go and tighten an adjustment screw on a gearbox. I couldn't see in the video if pitman arm is moving with the rotation of the input shaft, but it looks to me like that steering gear adjustment is the culprit.
 

OR VietVet

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Yes, steering gear needs to be tightened but should be done in small increments. No more than a 1/4 turn at a time. Road test each time to set the adjustment. Also, check steering gear mount area for any bolt looseness or frame cracks.
 

Teamiez

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Always wondered how good Those new lares boxes are, I have been fighting play myself. Redheads sucked so did reman Delcos best I came up with was a used oem from lkq with 91,000 miles on it
 

wildcatgoal

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I'm not going to say that's "normal" but that is extremely common. I've never come across an old NNBS that didn't have this kind of dead play, some worse than others. I managed to get rid of most if it with my third AC Delco rebuild box (I exchanged them twice) and I had to do some modifications to the lower intermediate shaft (the lower portion of which connects directly to the steering box and is what we are seeing move in this video). Considering you've apparently found a "new" steering gearbox (I didn't know anyone was manufacturing the hard parts anymore), than I would take a very close look at the joint at the bottom of the lower intermediate shaft connecting to the steering box. I found that mine had effectively stretched/opened up overtime and no amount of tightening that little bolt actually got it to lock onto the shaft and it would shift before catching the detent and moving the box. I decided as an experiment to layer aluminum foil over the sector shaft connection on the steering box and shove the lower intermediate shaft on, bolted it down. Once I got enough aluminum foil to fill in the gap I had, most of my play that was similar to this went away. I then tore all of that apart (don't want aluminum mashed together with steel for too long) and basically hammered that lower joint on the lower intermediate shaft down making the hole smaller. That really didn't have the effect that filling the gaps completely did so I took it to a welder and he somehow added material into the hole. Now my clamp bolt locks the lower intermediate joint to the steering box with vengeance and I don't get this play.

Also, I did try a Dorman lower intermediate shaft as a replacement. The joint on it was very tight and proved my aluminum foil trick was right, but the set screw broke inside of it and RockAuto got that back in the mail. Dorman is such garbage every single time.
 

exp500

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As far as steering boxes, the only boxes I have noticed not having any issues has been Blue Top, But only a few uses spotted on these boards. I have had perfect results with Lares, never had to return, GM many returns, repeatedly. PITA. Maybe Lares will fix you up with a good one If you try again. Bench test it before you install by rocking input with a long bar/torque wrench and watch output move or not move.
 

Joel Ragan Young

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After replacing most of the steering and suspension in my effort to get rid of the slop in the steering, and tightening the steering gear box, I drove my '05 for another year before seeing the greatest improvement provided by installing Energy Suspension sway bar bushings. I cannot believe how much that $40 helped the steering. Now, I can feel the sway bar resistance and the steering is tighter on center. I am changing out the rear springs, sway bar bushings and all shocks this week to further improve the ride and handling. I also levelled out using torsion keys.
 

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