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Loose Steering Advice


Dan Ratner

My 74 Corvette has really sloppy steering. Its gotten to the point to where I am getting nervous going into corners. To give you an idea, there is about a 4" play in the steering.

All this leads me to the inevitable conclusion that I need a front end overhaul. Question is, how hard is this to do? While I am mechanically inclined, I am not a mechanic. My tools are pretty run of the mill. I don't have anything real fancy. I would really like to learn more about my vette but maybe I am biting off more than I can chew here.

I am assuming that I will have to work on the ball joints, tie rods and idler arm. I hope that the steering linkage will be tight but if not, I guess I will have to examine that that too.

So if some of you more experienced mechanics can tell me:

-on a scale of 1-10 what would this project rank in difficulty?

-any special tools I will need?

-how long will it take ?

-should I just take it to a mechanic and have beer instead?

-dan ratner
Dan I don't know too much about front ends but I do know that c3 vettes are known for eating up idler arms. This is a important part because if it goes I believe so does all your steering.

Some one with more knowledge on the subject will probably chime in, but be careful with that steering as yours sounds like it's in bad shape.
I have a completly blown front end but was still able to get better steering. Several things to consider other than a complete rebuild are the idler arm, flexible coupling (rag joint) and steering lash. If the idler arm has more than about a 1/4" of movement it needs replacing. If you have the original rag joint, replace it. Does it look old or oily? Does it still have 2 rivets in it? These are ways to tell if its original. Also, on top of the steering gear box you will see 3 bolts and a screw with a jam nut around it. Loosen the jam nut and turn the screw about 1/4 turn. With car running (assuming you have power steering), begin to check amount of play in steering wheel. Keep turning the screw until play in wheel is minimal. I only replaced my rag joint and adjusted steering gear lash and made a huge difference. I had to turn the lash screw 3 full turns to get it tight. I'm not suggesting this will fix a worn suspension, but it will buy you some time.


Ok, I planned at looking at all those parts but again I am more concerned about how difficult this is project is to do. I know I am asking for a very subjective response but I really have no clue as to how much expertise and tools I will need to complete such a review of the front steering and suspension.
If your 74 front end parts are anything like my low mileage 75 they are probably all ready to be replaced if they haven't been already. I installed all polyurethane bushings in mine. Complete front end kits aren't real pricey, but labor could be substantial if a garage was to do all the work. Springs should probably be replaced if they are original. Good advice someone had on the rag joint, but be careful with the gear box preload. If you get the preload too tight the box will bind. You should probably get a service manual which explains the procedure for setting both preload adjustments. In any case a garage should probably due an alignment after parts are replaced. The rear end alignment should also be checked as mis alignment causes major wear on the yoke shafts.
Well, I finally got the car jacked up and the wheels off. One lug nut was a booger and I ended up having to fork over $100 bucks for an impact wrench and other assorted goodies. 3 hours and about a gallon of wd-40 later the lug nut came off.

What I found under the car was really disapointing. Almost every bushing that I saw was badly worn. The sway bar bushings are almost completely disintergrated. The lower and upper ball joints look shot. Control arms and tie rod joints don't look that good either.

Don't even ask me the condition of the power steering cylinder and pitman arm. Ugly. Very ugly.

Phew, this is going to be a lot of work. What should I tackle first? Should I work from the steering box down and then out to each wheel?


I'm not sure what order you should do this in , but I do know that your going to be amazed how you Vette handle's and ride's after you do it.

Of course if your doing it yourself you need to have a 4 wheel alingment.

I'd make it my first prioitiy too.


Yeah, DEFINATELY I will get an alignment job. I am sure I am going to throw things out of whack. I just hope its not so bad that I can't drive it the 5 miles to the aligment shop from my house.


Seems like you'll be doing most of the front end, if all those parts are obviously bad. While you have it that torn down, don't overlook the upper and lower control arm bushings. You don't want to find out that they are worn after you've completed the job. When dismanteling, try to count turns or measure distances for tie rod ends, so you can at least start with rough adjustments when re-assembling, untill you get it aligned. Good Luck.

Not sure what your budget is, but if you end up pulling out the control arms, you might consider trading them in for reconditioned arms complete with new ball joints and bushings. ($500-600 for the 4) You're probably gong to need a tie rod end tool - wedged fork to force the tie rod end apart with a BFH (big hammer) and spring compressor if you pull the control arms. Let us know how you make out.

4-500 bucks! Yikes. Thats like $100 a wheel. Hmm, well it would save some effort in the long run. Wouldn't have to remove the ball joints. I think I will go price them. Is there any place online that might have a price for that.

Dan Ratner said:
.. ... I think I will go price them. Is there any place online that might have a price for that.


One of Supporting Vendors is SSautoSports Steve provides a discount to CACC members on parts and stuff. He is pretty sharp on Sharks (mehcanically) and one heck of a fiberglass man. Another suspension place is Ikerds.

Good luck, sounds like you and your '74 will be doing a lot of bonding in the very near future :D

Try Muskegon Brake www.muskegonbrake.com or Eckler's, Chicago Corvette, Mid America, or Performance Suspension Technology www.p-s-t.com. They all have complete front end kits and rebult control arms. It really isn't too difficult to rebuild these yourself once you have them off, but the rebuilt ones would save some time and they will also be painted. You can also get kits to rebuild your cylinder and control valve. You probably better look at all the rear bushings as well if the fronts are that bad. Good luck, I'm sure you will be thrilled when it's done
Thanks for the info Big Fish. I actually discovered PST in the back of a Chevy Performance Mag. I went ahead and ordered a front end rebuild kit today. It will arrive in about 7 days.

In the meantime, I got around to removing the rotor and dust shield. I wished the Haynes book I have was clearer in its instructions because I spent a good bit of time trying to remove what I THOUGHT were the bolts that hold the calipers in place. Instead I was loosening the bolts that hold the calipers together. Anyway the whole assembly is now off. I have clear access to the control arms and rods. I think tomorrow I will tackle the drivers side wheel and then the sway bar.

Two questions though:
1) What do I do with this brake caliper. On other cars, I have used an old wire clothes hanger and hooked it over a bolt or anything handy in the wheel well. However, on the Vette I don't really see anyplace to hang the caliper. Any suggestions.

2) I am thinking of writing up instructions on how to do this so the next person who tries doesn't make the same dumb mistakes I do. Is there a place on this site where such instructions are stored or another site that has similar do it yourself type instructions?

Dan Ratner said:
4-500 bucks! Yikes. Thats like $100 a wheel.

I saw your post above that you've gone ahead and ordered the new parts. Good call. My first thought though when I read your prior quoted statement was, "Ok. $100 per wheel, or you can drive into a wall. And then it's only a couple grand per front end! Heheheh... There aren't many nickle & dime items in this game :L
Dan, you might want to completely remove the calipers and plug the lines because it sounds like the car will be laid up for a while, and it will be easier to work on the suspension without those calipers in the way. I would suggest you place a short 2 X 4 or something to slightly compress the pistons toward their normal position. this will prevent the pistons from coming out of the sleeves.
Ugh! I really didnt' want to mess with the brakes. I'll get brake fluid everywhere and then I gotta go bleed the system. That would be a major drag.
It's not that bad. If you cant plug the brake lines, wrap a plastic bag over them and put a Zip tie around it to hold it in place. Tie it up out of the way and go at the front end. When you're all done, you'll want to bleed the brakes anyway, and perhaps even change the fluid. It's not nearly as bad as you may think.

Good luck,
Steve :w

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