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Hello, I've got a 1992 GMC sierra 1500 straight axled with a dana 44 front axle and a dana 60 rear. The set up is stout but my steering while on the road is horrible. there is about a quarter of a wheel turn in the steering wheel before the tires move. its pretty much a bone stock steering rack and I have kinda narrowed it down to the ball joints on the steering bar but before I commit to just throwing parts at it I wanted to hear some input from y'all. below is an almost identical image of my steering rack from the web. i was going to begin by replacing the ball joint ends on the bar that attaches to the pitman arm. would this be the correct course of action? The Dana 44 Story: How This Ultra-Tough Axle Became An Off-Road Legend |  DrivingLine

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Hi, Liam Angus...I waited to see whether others would reply here...The Heim joints could be a source of play, however, the first place I would look is the steering gear.  You have braced and trussed and made a real effort to eliminate play, so let's address the steering gear itself.

First-off, you need to be certain the steering gear is on its center position with the front wheels pointed straight ahead.  If not, the gear will be off-center and in a play zone when driving the vehicle straight.  (There will be play and/or wander.) Once this is determined, I would verify whether there is play at the gear's cross-shaft/rack teeth.  Engine off, you can do this by holding the pitman arm in one hand and rocking/rotating (back and forth with slight pressure) the steering stub shaft at the top of the gear.  The gear must be on its center when you perform this test. Also check for stub shaft spline movement and steering shaft coupler or joint wear, including the upper/tilt steering wheel mechanism. 

If there is noticeable backlash as you rock the stub shaft (engine turned off, gear static), the gear (cross-shaft) is out of adjustment or has excessive wear.  A dramatic amount of play denotes wear, which can be bearings or tooth mesh that require rebuilding the gear.  Slight amount of play requires an over-center adjustment of the gear.  (First distinguish whether the stub shaft bearing is loose by rocking the shaft laterally/radially.)  The drag link should be disconnected at the pitman arm for any adjustment.  There should be no play at the over-center position, the factory spec (look it up and follow the specification) is a very slight amount of drag over center.  If there are signs of wear, remove the gear and rebuild it on the bench, following the factory steps.

I did a lengthy video on rebuilding a typical Saginaw 800 steering gear.  If your steering gear is loose or shows ominous wear, and you want more insight into the gear's construction and rebuilding steps, review this video.  Use a factory workshop manual for the actual steps to adjust or rebuild your specific gear.  Do this job on the workbench in a clean and dry environment:


You know what bump steer is.  If your steering linkage is not too sloped (looks fairly level at vehicle static height) and the track bar is adjusted right with the correct axle "arc" when the axle moves up and down or articulates, you should have very little or no bump steer.  This is different than "play" at the steering gear or steering linkage.  Be sure your knuckle ball-joints are in good condition and preloaded (adjusters set properly) to the factory adjustment for this Dana 44 axle.  Looseness at the ball-joints can create play or wander, too; however, you're describing play or movement at the steering wheel, which is typically not knuckle looseness.

Another consideration is the caster angle at the front wheels, which has more to do with wander or not returning to center after road curves than the play you experience at the steering wheel.  Caster does help stabilize the steering.  You need ample caster angle (positive degrees), the amount determined by your Dana 44 axle source.  GM straight axle trucks have a lot of positive caster angle.  I can help clarify the setting if you have a year/model prototype for the D44 beam axle.

Check this out and let us know what you find...


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  • Moses Ludel changed the title to Dana 44 Solid Front Axle Steering Loose
  • 3 weeks later...

Thank you Moses I just got around to seeing your reply and I’ll definitely try taking these steps in order to narrow down my concern. As soon as I get a definitive answer I’ll be sure to get in contact with you and let you know what it ended up being 

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