Some of y'all have seen my threads grousing about the problems I was having with noise and slack in my steering. Well, I fixed 'em without putting in a new column, and I'm gonna show y'all what I found for y'all's future reference.
I had had a loud scraping noise in my steering column when I would turn it lock to lock. Didn't hear it with small movements in normal driving, but hauling on the wheel to park my ole Ram elicited noises that sounded a lot like when the dentist is really scraping your teeth. I went through manuals, sites, mechanics, tarot cards and the Dali Lama trying to get to the source of the scrape. I tore down the column as far as I could go, but could only determine that the scraping was somehow associated with the shift collar in the column - I could feel the scraping in the selector lever when I would turn the wheel. I did the spray 'n' pray thing with probably a couple of quarts of various spray lubes through every opening in the column I could find. Nada. Time for another beer.
I also had some wander in the steering - made it hard to nap on long trips because I had to stay awake and keep it between the ditches.
I finally broke down and ordered a new column from Columns Galore - very nice folks, highly recommended. Anyway a day or two later I was screwing around under the dash and found that the lower end of the column is covered by a large-mesh plate. I shot a few blasts of teflon lube in there... VOILA! The grinding noise went away!
I called Columns Galore and canceled the order, and they were very gracious.
OK, on to the slack. I have already posted about the OEM intermediate shaft so I won't go into that here. Put in the Borgeson - world of difference, but still a little sloppy.
A while back I had bought an aftermarket replacement lower bushing from Rock Solid Ram Truck Steering
, so I decided I might as well go ahead and install it. It's a pretty straightforward and simple fix - the most difficult part was working around the vacuum booster to get the old bushing out.
OK, installed that, and now my steering is tighter than the bark on a tree. Beauty!
Now, about that scraping noise. Have a look at these two pics:
This is the culprit. There is a bearing pressed into this bushing, and that bearing was completely shot. I can rotate the inner race with my finger, and it feels like the thing is full of sand. In the closeup you can see that some of the solvent I used to clean the bushing is in the actual race, and that it is full of rust. When I had hosed the lower end of the column through the mesh, enough lube had run down into the bearing to quieten it.
The reason I was feeling the scrape in the selector lever is that this bushing seats through the shift collar, and the scraping was being conducted up to the selector lever because of that.
But now that I have the new bushing and the new intermediate shaft, I have nice tight steering and no noise - my boy is like a new truck!
So y'all might want to file this tidbit for future reference. My suggestion is that if you haven't already, get a Rock Solid bushing and replace the OEM one. It's vastly superior and it won't wear out.