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Steering shaft problems...

Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Hello Guys and Gals, haven't posted here in a while, as everything has been going along pretty smoothly! Recently though, the steering has been getting a little loose, so I did some checking today. There's an intermediate shaft that runs from the firewall to the steering gear, and I found that the U-joint nearest the R&P has quite a bit of play in it. Looks like I'm going to have to replace it. My FSM makes reference to removing and replacing the entire shaft, not just the u-joint. :eyerole

I used the search to try to find some info on the problem, and found a couple posts from a couple of years ago that said the part was no longer available! :eek:hnoes Has anyone had to replace this piece, and if so, were you able to find it new, or did you have to find one at one of the Corvette salvage yards?

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Barry
 

lone73

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
456
Location
Texas
Corvette
'73 4spd coupe, '04 6 speed coupe
There was a thread about this that I participated in a while back. May be the one you found... I believe the whole shaft from GM is ~$500.00. It is just a regular old rag joint that usually needs replacing though. I bought a universal coupler from a parts store for about $5. Unbelievable difference in steering.


The U-joint near the firewall has just a tiny bit of slop in it that I can feel if I rock the wheel with one hand on the joint. I will probably look for something from Flaming River or someplace eventually.... not GM. I replaced my rag joint at about 140K miles. Got 192K on it now and it still steers pretty good. Car could use some ball joints though.

Evidence of a bad coupler is that the steering may have an annoying on-center pop as you rock the steering back and forth an inch or two. Mine did this for years until I discovered that there was actually a rag joint hidden at the bottom end of the shaft.

Be sure not to compress the shaft exiting the firewall when you have the main shaft out or (I believe) the air bag will deploy. Disconnect the battery. Probably should consult a manual. There's a plastic cover snapped around the joint. A real pain to get back on there. I just left mine off.

good luck with it
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WhalePirot

Well-known member
Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
2,942
Location
SoCA
Corvette
1984 White Z-51/ZF6-40/Shinoda body
I had the clicking problem and play which I tried to fix with a used part; very costly. The replacement had the same problem so I returned it, then discovered that the play was in the collapsing section; the slider. It was fixed with a drilled hole and a bolt, but my column will no longer collapse.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Thanks much for the great information! I got the intermediate shaft out today, and sure enough, the problem is the rag joint. It's worn pretty badly. I'm going to check with the dealer to see if it's available, and how many limbs I will have to donate. :ugh

:w

Thanks again,
Barry
 

gmjunkie

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 11, 2004
Messages
4,547
Location
Old Fort NC/Vero Beach FL
Corvette
03 Z-51,78 L82 Coupe
I used the search to try to find some info on the problem, and found a couple posts from a couple of years ago that said the part was no longer available! :eek:hnoes Has anyone had to replace this piece, and if so, were you able to find it new, or did you have to find one at one of the Corvette salvage yards?

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

Barry

Rag joint comes on the intermediate shaft!!!(Discontinued from GM) You'll have to get a Universal Rag from a parts store,and then the fun begins!!!
Be sure not to compress the shaft exiting the firewall when you have the main shaft out or (I believe) the air bag will deploy. Disconnect the battery. Probably should consult a manual. There's a plastic cover snapped around the joint. A real pain to get back on there. I just left mine off.

good luck with it
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.
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You can compress the shaft,It's made to compress in a collision so you won't eat the Steering Column!!
The problem is if you turn the steering wheel after the shaft is removed,it can break the SIR Coil in the column and the bag won't deploy in a Collision!!:upthumbs
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Thanks Junk! I haven't hit the parts store yet to look for the universal replacement rag joint, but I'm assuming that I will have to drill out the two rivets that hold the old joint in place. Is that correct? And then I'm guessing put bolts in there instead?

Since I occasionally do track days in this car (in addition to being my daily driver), I was also wondering about the possibility of replacing the rag joint with a machined aluminum piece. Anyone tried that, and are there any downsides?

Barry
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Ok, a bit more research into the purpose of the rag joint reveals that it’s there to control noise, vibration and harshness in the steering. I found a web site that makes a solid aluminum piece for mid 90’s Camaros, and it looks like it might fit the Corvette. I’ve e-mailed the company asking for the dimensions of the bolt centers, and will post back here if it turns out to be the same size.

Since the piece is not that hard to swap out, I might be willing to trade some vibration for increased steering feel. Again, all opinions are welcome!

The Camaro site is http://www.unbalancedengineering.com/Camaro/ . See also http://home.comcast.net/~nstama/ragjoint.htm .
 

lone73

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
456
Location
Texas
Corvette
'73 4spd coupe, '04 6 speed coupe
but I'm assuming that I will have to drill out the two rivets that hold the old joint in place. Is that correct? And then I'm guessing put bolts in there instead?
Barry

Yes drill them out and replace with bolts. That's what I did with mine.
The camaro part sounds cool. Let us know if it works out for you.
 

lone73

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 24, 2003
Messages
456
Location
Texas
Corvette
'73 4spd coupe, '04 6 speed coupe
...
You can compress the shaft,It's made to compress in a collision so you won't eat the Steering Column!!
The problem is if you turn the steering wheel after the shaft is removed,it can break the SIR Coil in the column and the bag won't deploy in a Collision!!:upthumbs

Just checked my manual. You are correct SIR !!! :pat
Hmmm... I know I read somewhere that you were not supposed to compress the firewall shaft... probably on another forum .

Still though, I wonder how the vehicle senses a front end collision ?
 

gmjunkie

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 11, 2004
Messages
4,547
Location
Old Fort NC/Vero Beach FL
Corvette
03 Z-51,78 L82 Coupe
Thanks Junk! I haven't hit the parts store yet to look for the universal replacement rag joint, but I'm assuming that I will have to drill out the two rivets that hold the old joint in place. Is that correct? And then I'm guessing put bolts in there instead?

Since I occasionally do track days in this car (in addition to being my daily driver), I was also wondering about the possibility of replacing the rag joint with a machined aluminum piece. Anyone tried that, and are there any downsides?

Barry
Most have 2 rivets and 2 longer studs that you have to get out some how!!I've found them to be of very hard steel and a drill won't touch them!! So I use a dermal,rotary file and stone to get the head off of it and then push it through with a punch!!You have to be careful because there is a Ground strap and other parts that you will have to reuse!! There are kits out there that comes with the bolts and studs,the studs are there in case the Rag joint completely breaks so the intermediate shaft won't separate from the coupler and you loose complete control of the vehicle!!
The last one that I had to replace came from Dorman as a complete unit (I think it was $48.00 from Parts Plus)and all I had to do was cut 2 small welds and drive the old coupler off the shaft and slide the new on on and drill a hole through the shaft and drive a heavy duty tension pin through the coupler and shaft!!:upthumbs

As far as a solid type u/joint affair,you will pick up vibration in the steering wheel from every pebble and crack in the road!!:upthumbs
 

gmjunkie

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 11, 2004
Messages
4,547
Location
Old Fort NC/Vero Beach FL
Corvette
03 Z-51,78 L82 Coupe
Just checked my manual. You are correct SIR !!! :pat
You don't have to call me SIR,Junk is fine!!:D
Been in the collision business for over 39 years!!Have worked with I-Car,NTHSA,Insurance Company's, and other Safety and Testing Organizations through the years!!
Still though, I wonder how the vehicle senses a front end collision ?
Now that takes a little more to explain,I guess the best way is to explain, Sensors,Modules and Control circuitry through the ECM and Body!!Different cars and years do it in different ways!! Some have sensors in crumple zones,some have inertia switches,some even sense it partially through the seat belt retractors!!!:upthumbs
You'd probly crap if I told you how they Blow the air bags up in Milliseconds!!:chuckle:chuckle:chuckle
 

G Winter

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Joined
Aug 21, 2004
Messages
2,177
Location
NW Iowa
Corvette
1990 red convert 6 sp
Most have 2 rivets and 2 longer studs that you have to get out some how!!I've found them to be of very hard steel and a drill won't touch them!! So I use a dermal,rotary file and stone to get the head off of it and then push it through with a punch!!

A little tip. To drill very hard material, use a masonry bit on a low speed. I think the tips are carbide and will drill almost anything including leaf springs.:D

Glenn
:w
 

WhalePirot

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Joined
May 9, 2002
Messages
2,942
Location
SoCA
Corvette
1984 White Z-51/ZF6-40/Shinoda body
To drill very hard material, use a masonry bit on a low speed.
Cool tip and new to me. I will remember it and use it one day, probably soon.

TYVM :w
 

John '85

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Joined
Mar 22, 2006
Messages
57
Location
Fremont CA
Corvette
1985 Red Coupe TKO500 Z51
I have an '85 with a lot of play in the steering, where is this rag joint located? is it part of the shaft assy?
yb.dll
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
It's in the intermediate shaft...

This is what the steering shaft loolike on my '96. The rag joint is a fabric-reinforced rubber disk, located near the rack and pinion steering gear.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
By way of an update, I replaced the rag joint on my car with a solid aluminum piece from unbalancedengineering.com. The piece itself is the correct size, but the center hole, and two of the bolt holes, were about 1/16 of an inch too small. I drilled them out a bit, and it mounted up just fine.

I have yet to drive the car with the rag joint eliminator in place, so I don't know how much vibration will now be transmitted up to the steering wheel, but I'll let ya'll know.

Barry
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Yup, sure did. Looks different than the one out of my car. Do you have a factory service manual? Maybe the '85 had a different intermediate shaft assembly, the FSM might show what a '85 shaft looks like.

In my research on replacement rag joints, I saw a few "inline" type items. Basically an inner and an outer steel collar, with rubber between them. Kinda looks like that bit in the middle of your shaft. So to speak…
 

John '85

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 22, 2006
Messages
57
Location
Fremont CA
Corvette
1985 Red Coupe TKO500 Z51
Yes, I have the FSM, and it looks like this. I got this picture from the Corvette Centra catalog who sells these shafts for 84 and 85's. So you think there is a rubber sleeve in the telescoping part of the shaft? wow, never thought of that!
I have quite a lot of play in the steering at speed. I have changed everything, shocks, R&P, mono springs, and checked allignment. This is my last hope.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2003
Messages
174
Location
So Cal
Corvette
1996 LT4 Collector Edition
Hey John, what I did to narrow down my problem was put the front of the car up on ramps (engine off), and have my son move the wheel back and forth a bit. I was then able to see where the slop was.

I really have no idea how that '85 shaft is constructed, I was just venturing a guess as to where the rag joint might be. I'm pretty sure most cars come from the factory with a rag joint, but maybe those early C4s didn't have one!

Best of luck!

Barry
 

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