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How to align your steering wheel (fix crooked steering wheel)

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Old 07-04-2010, 08:55 PM   #1
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How to align your steering wheel (fix crooked steering wheel)

I don't know about you guys, but it seems that every time I go offroading I knock my truck out of alignment. Most of the time it's just the alignment of the steering wheel with the wheels - meaning the truck tracks straight and handles well, but the steering wheel is not sitting straight when the truck is traveling straight. I've even taken it in to get alignments before and had it returned aligned, but with the steering wheel out of alignment with the wheels.

Well, I decided that I wanted to find out if I could just pop the steering wheel off and rotate it on it's spine to correct those sorts of issues. And I did, and here's how:

Disclaimer: This may or may not be a good idea in the long run, but it worked as a temporary fix for me. Do it at your own risk. Some of the downsides have been pointed out below.

1. Disconnect negative wire from battery, wait at least 90 seconds (to disable air bag).

2. Turn steering wheel to reveal two screws, one on the upper right, and one on the upper left, corner of the plastic pieces behind the steering wheel.

3. Remove the screws, and pull the lower plastic cover down off the steering column.

4. Observe two plastic covers on the side of the steering wheel. Remove them carefully, use a flat blade screw driver to pry them out.

5. Unscrew the two Torx screws inside.

6. CAREFULLY remove the airbag. Do not set it face down. The Toyota repair manual says to hold it from the bottom.

7. Remove the nut holding the steering wheel in place - it is the large nut dead in the center. It's a 17mm if I remember correctly.

8. Remove steering wheel, rotate to desired position, and push it back on the spine.

9. Replace and tighten the large nut holding the steering wheel in place.

10. Replace air bag. Tighten Torx screws.

11. Replace plastic covers.

12. Replace steering column covers.

13. Replace screws.

14. Test drive and re-adjust if needed.
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:06 PM   #2
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If they did a proper alignment, and not just a toe-and-go, your wheel would have been straight.
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:20 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skytower View Post
If they did a proper alignment, and not just a toe-and-go, your wheel would have been straight.
Of course. I also turned right around and had them correct it.

I'm pulling the steering wheel to correct it for when I knock it out of place offroad.
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Old 07-04-2010, 09:24 PM   #4
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i do my own toe alignment after offroading, just loosen tie rod nut, adjust, tighten, test drive and repeat until you have a slight toe-in
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Old 07-04-2010, 11:04 PM   #5
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Are you sure that your clockspring (spiral wire assembly) is not being thrown out of adjustment when you do that? They only have limited travel each direction, and they are extremely expensive to replace.

If you center the wheel the normal way (adjusting the tie rods) you can be reasonably sure that the clockspring is always returned to the natural center adjustment when the wheel is pointed straight ahead.
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Old 07-05-2010, 12:08 AM   #6
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I wouldn't take the steering wheel off. I know what you are talking about though. My steering wheel used to do the same thing after offroading. Even with it cocked to the side the truck drives true. This is because your steering will always find its center. Generally the steering only pulls if the caster or camber or both have been affected. If only the toe has changed the result will be that your wheel is off center.

I have rectified all of this by first off, airing down significantly before all offroading. The tires on your truck account for a great deal of the suspension. I never offroad with more than 20psi max. Secondly, get yourself a good quality alignment and make sure the numbers look right on the sheet. If everything looks good, get under your truck and mark on the frame with something sharp, where the caster/camber lobes are positioned. Now you'll know if they move and where to move them back to. Whenever the wheel goes off center on you, check the toe alignment yourself. Each tire should be toe in by 1/16th of an inch.
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Old 07-05-2010, 08:07 AM   #8
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I'm not too worried about the spiral cable - I only moves the steering wheel a very small amount. Plus, mine is already shot (horn works but airbag light is on)
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Old 07-05-2010, 03:45 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JKD View Post
Are you sure that your clockspring (spiral wire assembly) is not being thrown out of adjustment when you do that? They only have limited travel each direction, and they are extremely expensive to replace.

If you center the wheel the normal way (adjusting the tie rods) you can be reasonably sure that the clockspring is always returned to the natural center adjustment when the wheel is pointed straight ahead.
Good point, I think that's how mine broke.
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Old 07-05-2010, 03:57 PM   #10
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this is going to be good
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Old 07-05-2010, 04:11 PM   #11
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Well it might not be a good idea to do it this way. The steering wheel is normally set in the neutral point of the Rack-n-pinion. (Mid point)
That's why they do all the adjustments from the tie rod.

But it might not be so bad if it's only a very small adjustment. But IMHO, you're better off doing it the right way, and have the alignment shop adjust the tie rods.

Good Luck with that!
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Old 11-09-2010, 06:45 PM   #12
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why dont you just do the same thing at the knuckle down at the fire wall inside the cab?? it would take like 2 min. Just makes more sense to me!!! or if your that anal about how straight you steering is then dont wheel your truck!!
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Old 11-09-2010, 06:53 PM   #13
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Moving your steering wheel on the column is the simplest way to do this, but not the correct way. I personally like to adjust it at the tie rod ends, just make sure you make the same adjustment to each tie rod end. 1/2 turn at a time. This is how it is done in a shop with an alignment machine.
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Old 11-09-2010, 08:06 PM   #14
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Doing your alignment by repositioning the steering wheel is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. How is that going to fix an excessive toe in or toe out condition? Not to mention your steering rack is out of calibration by doing that. If your wheel is cocked over to one side it's most likely because one tire has toed itself in or out. If you than move your wheel only, the other tire will be out of alignment. The alignment must be done from the tie rods.
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