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DaSOB 03-12-2011 04:25 PM

That pesky steering shaft bearing
OK, here's the coda to the Saga of Sammy's Steering Shaft Scraping.

As I had posted, I found the source of the scraping noise I was getting when I would turn the steering wheel. It was the lower steering shaft bearing, which is held in place in the shift collar by a spring on the shaft.

There is absolutely NO technical info on the guts of the steering column - Dodge's solution to any steering shaft problem is simply to replace the whole column, at a cost of around $2300 including parts and labor. So, since I managed to replace this bad bearing with one of Rock Solid's solid rubber bushings, I decided to post a photo of the bearing assembly in its component parts. This will give us at least a nugget of info that can be of use to others who have steering column problems.

Here is a photo of the disassembled bearing:

Left to right - bearing "seal", race, bearing, shift collar. The seal holds the race and bearing into the collar, and a spring on the lower shaft pushes against the seal. If you'll look at the race, you'll see that it's tapered and has a gap to allow it to compress - obviously this is to allow the spring to compress it around the shaft and simultaneously press it into the bearing. The big failing here, aside from the obvious one of wear (bet you can't walk into a bearing supply house and buy one of THESE) is that dirt and water can easily get into the bearing, which is what happened to mine. Why Dodge designed this cockamamie Rube Goldberg thing when a simple rubber bushing would do/does better is beyond me.

Be that as it may, the noise is gone now, the steering is tighter, and I saved about $2200.

Ram15002ndgen 03-13-2011 12:03 AM

Good show Sammy! I have enjoyed your posts on the steering problems. This post actually makes sense to me as to what was happening in my own steering column. I had my column replaced three times when my truck was new (as I believe I already mentioned) because it would always develop a thumping noise in the steering wheel. Dodge's answer, like you said was to replace the entire column. I didn't like it, but it was under warranty. After the warranty ran out the noise returned on the last column. I wasn't about to replace the entire column at that expense (as you stated the ridiculous cost) so I just shot a lot of WD-40 up that shaft that you show there at the far right. Low and behold the problem went away. Now it makes perfect sense. Over time dirt and crap gets in there and makes the bearing ride rough and transfer vibration up through to the steering wheel. Shooting the WD-40 in there must have lubricated and dislodged the dirt particles that got wedged inside there. Now at least I can understand why it happened and why I was able to redneck it to work. Now it's quiet and when it gives me trouble I just shoot some more WD-40 up there. Eventually the grease will wear away on the bearings and I will have to deal with it more fully as you did.

DaSOB 03-13-2011 12:32 AM

Ram15002ndgen, you hit on the same stopgap solution that I did, although I came by it somewhat differently. I shot some teflon/silicone lube up into the column inside the truck, through a metal grate just above the toe plate. At the time, I had no idea that it was the bearing, I was literally shooting in the dark. The noise went away and I assumed (correctly) that I had somehow lubed the offending bearing (I knew it was a bearing from the feel, but finding/replacing it was the bugger). The lube obviously ran down the shaft and into the bearing (blind hawg found an acorn). It was only when I decided to install the Rock Solid bushing that I uncovered the culprit.

My suggestion to you is to spend $60 and get one of Rock Solid's bushings. The hardest part about installing it is working around the vacuum booster. All you really do is cut the spring retainer off the shaft with a Dremel (and that sucker will launch as soon as you cut through) and then pry out the shift collar (took a little doing because it was a tight press fit). Clean off the shaft, shoot a little lube on it, slide the new bushing up nice and snug, then drive on the metal retainer with a section of 1" PVC.

They give you a piece of PVC with the bushing, but it's not long enough unless you have the column off the truck. Spend a couple of bucks on a section of PVC at Lowe's or Home Depot, and cut a nice generous length that will let you have room to swing a mallet up in the engine compartment.

Best $60 I've spent in a while!


CdnoilRAM 03-13-2011 10:50 AM

This is such good info I'm moving it to the 2nd gen section and putting a sticky on it.

Ram15002ndgen 03-13-2011 01:07 PM

Thanks for the link. I bookmarked it and will take a look at my steering and see how it feels. My lack of motivation comes from the thought of having to remove the entire column, but you say you did it in the truck. So I guess you disconnected the U-joint and went in from that angle? How do you even undo that little U-joint?

DaSOB 03-14-2011 12:41 AM

Yep, changed out the bushing with the column on the truck. Getting the intermediate shaft off was no problem. All you do is rotate the steering wheel until you can get a long extension in behind the vacuum booster and get a socket on the pinch bolt that secures the U joint to the lower end of the steering shaft. Here's the upper end of the intermediate shaft:

The lower end of the steering shaft has a "Double D" shape - keep this in mind when you start putting the U joint back on the lower shaft. It ain't splined - you have to line up the rounds and flats. Look closely at the picture and you'll see the threaded hole for the pinch bolt that secures the U joint to the steering shaft (the bolt comes in from the backside in this photo). Directly opposite that, notice that the opening in the U joint for the shaft has an interior flat (at 6:00 in this photo). Just unscrew the pinch bolt and remove it completely, then grab the upper end of the intermediate shaft with your left hand and push down toward the steering gear to telescope the intermediate shaft while you finagle the U joint off the steering shaft with your right. With enough wiggling and cussing, you will eventually collapse the intermediate shaft and walk the U joint off the steering shaft. Note - you will probably come away with battle damage to your lower right arm because of the tight space behind the vacuum booster.

Getting the spring off the steering shaft is no big deal - a few minutes with a Dremel and a cutoff wheel will cut through the metal spring keeper on the shaft. Just be aware that when you do finally cut through the keeper (and probably a coil or two of the spring), the spring will shoot off the shaft. Your cutoff wheel will be history, but that's just a nitnoy thing. I tried putting a hose clamp on the shaft to prevent this, but the spring blew right through it.

It's really a fairly straightforward and simple job.

DaSOB 03-14-2011 12:47 AM


Originally Posted by CdnoilRAM (Post 470300)
This is such good info I'm moving it to the 2nd gen section and putting a sticky on it.

Glad to be of assistance!

Ram15002ndgen 03-14-2011 12:10 PM

Very interesting. I was not aware that there was another U-joint tucked away behind the booster. I thought you took off the U-joint below the booster since I see two U-joints in the engine bay below the booster. So this assembly basically has 3 U-joints. The hardest part of any job is knowing how it's done. I agree that cussing and battle damage are a common part of just about any auto job. I would have had a lot more of those if you hadn't told me about this hidden U-joint, (hahaha). Good info indeed.

DaSOB 03-14-2011 12:16 PM

There are only two U-joints, the one pictured and one at the steering gear. The intermediate shaft can telescope, and it has a rubber boot covering the opening in the upper half of the intermediate shaft where the lower half slides into it. That may be what you are looking at.

Ram15002ndgen 03-16-2011 06:27 PM

I looked at mine much closer today and I understand what you mean now. It's a little hard to see black parts in a black truck with a black engine bay. Had to shine some lights in there to be able to see better. I shook mine around to see if there was any play and there is BUT the play is not in the shaft area that you fixed, it's in the shaft above it. Looking at the pic from rock solid, there is nothing that the repair would do for mine. I guess the steering on these trucks is much sloppier than I had imagined. When I shot the WD-40, I did so into the upper shaft, not the area where the rubber bushing is in this pic. I'll keep an eye on it for future problems.

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