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Steering rack play

Discussion in '1st Gen Tundras (2000-2006)' started by tswiftwater, Mar 29, 2020.

  1. Mar 29, 2020 at 2:18 PM
    #1
    tswiftwater

    tswiftwater [OP] New Member

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    Golden, CO
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    2006 Tundra Double Cab
    I have a 2006 DC 4x4 with some free play in the steering wheel that has been driving me crazy. I'd like to put it to rest with all of this at-home time. I've done some searching but can't seem to find someone who has had my exact problem.

    With the engine on or off, the steering wheel rotates with little effort about 5 degrees before engaging the tie rods. While there is some movement in the steering column U joints and collapsable joint in the upper column, most of the unwanted rotation is successfully transferred through the steering column down to the pinion shaft. I've verified this by removing the nut on the underside of the steering rack housing, and observing the bottom of the pinion shaft rotate in the bearings while a helper rotates the steering wheel through the free travel range.

    I recently did a "rebuild" of the front end, including lower ball joints, inner and outer tie rods, steering rack bushings, lower control arm bushings, and sway bar links. I've double checked these components and there is no apparent unwanted movement. I re-torqued the steering rack guide and verified that there is no transverse movement in the rack (either front/back or up/down). I couldn't tell you if the free play was present before replacing all of these other components. Perhaps it was there but I didn't notice it because of all the other slop in the bushings.

    The same amount of free play can be felt at any steering wheel position (straight forward, 1/4 turn, 1/2 turn, etc. to full turn).

    The steering rack is leaking a small amount into the tie rod bellows, and has been since before replacing the other front end parts.

    I'm left with the conclusion that the pinion gear is not engaging the rack gear properly. One hypothesis is the rack gear shaft itself became axially rotated, causing the helical pinion gear to engage at an angle. Looking at the diagram from the Toyota parts website (shown below), I don't see anything constraining the rack shaft from axial rotation, so maybe I unknowingly rotated it when replacing the inner tie rods.

    Does anyone have any similar experience, or expertise with steering gears that may shed some light? If the answer is to replace the steering rack, I'm okay with that, but I like to understand what is happening first, especially with such an expensive part.

    Cheers!

    steering diagram.jpg
     
  2. Mar 29, 2020 at 3:02 PM
    #2
    seth419

    seth419 New Member

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    Santa Barbara, CA
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    Not sure if I understand your rotation hypothesis, but I think if you unknowingly rotated it your steering wheel would just not be centered and there still shouldn't be play if the rack was good.

    I would replace the rack if the seals are leaking through the bellows. Sounds like your play is coming from a worn rack, how many miles do you have? I replaced my rack with a Detroit Axle rebuilt unit and the steering feels like a brand new truck. I think it was about $225 shipped and they send a pre paid shipping label for your rack and just put it back in the same box and drop off. Your rack return gets you a lifetime warranty. The rack replacement was a very easy DIY. Just get it aligned when you are done.
     
  3. Mar 29, 2020 at 4:11 PM
    #3
    tswiftwater

    tswiftwater [OP] New Member

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    225 is very reasonable... thanks for the recommendation. Perhaps I should just do it.

    150k on the truck, original rack. What did yours doing before you replaced it? Was there play, or did you replace it because of leaking seals?

    The rotation hypothesis is for rotation around the axis of the rack gear shaft. For example, 90 degree of rotation would result in the teeth of the rack facing upward instead of towards the front of the truck, but i'm imagining only a bit of rotation. I'm not saying its a great hypothesis, but searching for something. As far as normal wear, I can't seem to figure out which components in the diagram above would wear down to produce my symptoms.
     
  4. Mar 29, 2020 at 4:50 PM
    #4
    seth419

    seth419 New Member

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    Mostly just the seals wearing and allowing fluid to seep out. Even a slight leak could be enough to create play in the power steering system.
     
  5. Mar 29, 2020 at 5:22 PM
    #5
    tswiftwater

    tswiftwater [OP] New Member

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    But the play is in the gearing, not in the power assist cylinder, so how does the leak cause play?
     
  6. Apr 5, 2020 at 11:37 AM
    #6
    seth419

    seth419 New Member

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    Im confused, what gearing are you watching turn? All the gearing is internal. Do you have any pics of what you are talking about? I replaced mine because it had a little play, leaking seals, and 280k miles.
     
  7. Apr 5, 2020 at 12:33 PM
    #7
    Johnsonman

    Johnsonman New Member

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    LED headlamps/fogs; interior footlamps.
  8. Apr 23, 2020 at 3:29 PM
    #8
    Kyle700

    Kyle700 New Member

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    None
    I have the same problem, my rack is about two years old. I saw a post of a Tacoma owner that had is two-piece steering shaft in the column welded together, solved is problem. (He had play with the inner/upper rod where is sits in the outer/lower half)
     
  9. May 2, 2020 at 9:18 AM
    #9
    Professional Hand Model

    Professional Hand Model A.K.A ‘Golden Hands’

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    ‘Somewhere’... a State of Mind
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    Hand Protectors
    I put new Energy Suspension Rack Bushings on. They were the black ones and I found them to be very squishy. Ended up switching the D-ring old bushing back on as I had saved it. That tightened up the rack a little better the way it was before putting in the new ones.

    I retrospect, I should have left well enough alone. The bushings prior were replaced at some point by someone and they were still good. They are probably Dormans. Much firmer in hand than the squishy ES ones which might be great for rock climbing but not so much for street feel.
     

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