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Old 07-06-2013, 05:30 PM   #1
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Steering Wheel not coming back to center

We have a new 2014 Four Winds 31A (Bunkhouse model) on a 2013 Ford E450 chassis. After turning left or right the steering wheel does not come back to center. We have to turn the wheel about 1/4 to 1/3 of a turn to go straight again. We have had the front end alignment checked with 1/8 toe, +4.XX caster (both L & R). We have had unit weight checked finding the front to be 4340#, rear 9200# and total 13540#. (Front GAWR 5000#, Rear GAWR 9600#, GVWR 14500#). We have backed off the gear box as far as we can in an attempt to free up the steering. We have LT225/75R-16 by Michelin tires and the pressures have been checked and rechecked and set based on the unit weight per Michelin. Do we have a bad gear box?
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:42 PM   #2
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I would look for locked up king pins (ball joints?) tie rods something like that. On a 2014 it would be rare but I would suspect that before the steering box.
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Old 07-06-2013, 05:50 PM   #3
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It is highly unlikely that a gear box would be defective so soon. Since it is new the dealer or an alignment shop selected by your dealer should be able to solve the problem. I have a disc for the F-53 chassis but it only goes up to 2009. What I'm leading to is the amount of + caster that they recommend. It has been recommended and done by several on these forums to dial in more caster than recommended by the manufacturer. Caster is the tilt of the steering ais either forward (negative) and rearward (positive). If you want or need more information just Google, "Caster Explained) to get a better idea.

A bicycle has positive caster. A chopper (motorcycle) has excessive positive caster. Think of the chopper. With the wheel way out in front when you turn left and right the weight of the front end has to be raised. When you let go of the wheel the weight forces the wheel to return to the center. That happens with your car. If you turn slowly and stop the wheel stays turned. When you start moving forward the wheel begins to turn to the center, because as you roll forward the weight of the front end returns the wheel. That's what is supposed to happen. If the manufacturer recommends +2.5 degrees of caster ask them to change it to +3.5 degrees. They may not want to do it because then it's not in specs but it will help your steering wheel return.

There are other things that may be preventing the return but with a fairly new vehicle they should check out all those items.

TeJay
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Old 07-06-2013, 06:17 PM   #4
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The caster is already at +4.XX.
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:46 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by mrcchiefe7 View Post
The caster is already at +4.XX.
Good description of +caster Tejay, thanks for that.

The Ford range specification is about +1.5 to +7.5. I have not yet heard of anyone having caster/camber sleeves for the E450 that would ever get to the +7.5. The OP needs to get as much +caster as he can get in the specified range. And, do not take no for an answer, keep looking for an alignment shop until you get as much +caster as can be mustered.

Your front end weight would suggest the camber angle is going to be OK so all the adjustment range can be dedicated to +caster.

Just as an example, my 2007 Honda civic has a Caster Angle of +7.0 with a range of +6.0 to +8.0. I think the reason the Ford E350/E450 has such a broad range is because the chassis may be used as a city only cube van (less +caster) or a highway RV (needing more +caster).
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Old 07-06-2013, 07:58 PM   #6
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Here is a link to the most commonly used adjustable caster/camber sleeves for the E450 that I am aware. They will give up to +2.0 degrees more caster if there is no need for any camber adjustment. If the OP were lucky with a 2013 model of adding +2.0 to +4.xx he would be setting a new record.

59400 - Fully Adjustable Camber/Caster Bushing, Ford Pinch Bolt Axles - Ingalls Engineering Co., Inc.

Here is a thread of my experience with a E450 +caster:

E350/E450 Handling Problems are caused by too little + CASTER

Just a bit of explanation as to why I thought my steering box needed to be tightened up and the OP may feel the box needs to be loosened.

When you are in a high speed turn in an E350/E450 the normal road feeling should only require a constant pressure on the steering wheel INTO the turn, you should never need to apply pressure away from the turn.

Without enough +caster you may find it necessary to be going back and forth through the center dead zone to track the turn, that is a "too little" +caster problem, IMO.
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Old 07-07-2013, 07:27 AM   #7
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I have read all of the report about the + caster helping with the handling problems at highway speeds, but I have not heard anyone report the the steering wheel not coming back to center after turning. This is also causing us the have the handling problem at highway speeds.
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Old 07-07-2013, 08:24 AM   #8
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Positive caster is involved with both straight ahead tracking at highway speeds and returnability of the steering wheel following a turn. The front chassis weight will aid in doing both. Also if there is weight forcing the wheels to track straight that will also assist in reducing the effect of wind, 18-wheelers etc, etc. Caster is the single most important alignment angle to aid in straight ahead tracking and handling.

The only downside effects are this: Since you are raising more weight with the steering it might increase the turning force. That is compensated by the power steering. With to much + caster you might get wheel shimmy. I don't know how that would happen but that's what I read.

I also believe that the manufacturers of the F-53 chassis as well as others realize, as mentioned that the chassis may go on different weight vehicles, trucks, MH, etc. That's why they give a range and not just a specific angle. It does surprise me that the RV manufacturers don't increase the caster angle knowing just how much positive effect it will have on handling. Then there's the CHF also. Why don't they put the bolts on the inner hole from the factory??? If you've read the CHF thread you know that ford has given their blessing to do just that and they still don't do it at the factory.

TeJay
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Old 07-07-2013, 09:29 AM   #9
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QUOTE from TeJay:
"With to much + caster you might get wheel shimmy. I don't know how that would happen but that's what I read."

I have an opinion on this topic. I think the "too much caster causes wheel shimmy" is an old wives tale that comes from the world of "casters" as applied to shopping carts and wheel chairs et al


Shopping cart caster employs a "caster trail" only, they do not have a "caster angle". The front suspension of a vehicle has both a "caster angle" and a "caster trail". The "caster angle" is a "return to center" stabilizing force and this caster angle results in a "caster trail" once the velocity is greater than zero. The caster trail is a "wind vane" effect where the tire patch drags along behind the point the "caster angle" (steering axis) is projected to the road surface. So that puts me in the camp that believes the "death wobble" is because of "too little" or no "caster angle".

This is just an opinion, here is a link to a description of "caster angle" and "caster trail"

http://youronlinemechanic.com/caster-and-caster-trail/
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Old 07-08-2013, 02:27 PM   #10
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I have talked to both Thor and Ford about the handling problem tracking and steering wheel not returning to center after making a turn (R/L). Ford is saying that we are 400#'s to light on the front axle and this is causing the problems that we are having. Ford also stated that air bags or new springs are required in the rear to raise the rear to add the additional weight to the front axle. The rep at Thor is to talk to his tech to see what can be done. Here are the actual weights that we have Front 4340#, Rear 9200#, Gross 13540#. Weight spec are Front GAWR 5000#, Rear GAWR 9600# and GVWR 14500#. Ford also stated the the problem is with Thor.
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Old 07-08-2013, 03:11 PM   #11
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FWIW, I cannot see how raising the rear end at the axel is going to distribute any more then a few pounds on the front.

Following the Ford philosphy I am going to suggest there are three ways you can achieve the wanted effect:

1. Add more weight to the front axel, or
2. Add more + caster, or
3. Do 1 and 2 above.

JMO

Our 2004 28 foot e450 is F 4390# and R 8690# and front caster about +5.3
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrcchiefe7 View Post
.....
Ford also stated that air bags or new springs are required in the rear to raise the rear to add the additional weight to the front axle.
......
Again FWIW, raising the rear end is going to reduce the effective or "measured caster" at the front end, and that is counter productive to our desired effect.

Ford Frame Angle

At first it may appear that I am contradicting what this link suggests about how the "frame angle" is used to correct the "measured caster" to the "caster specification".

What I am suggesting is that the vehicle is going to perform or handle to the "measured caster" and not to the "caster specification". So, to suggest that applying the "frame angle" (of + 1.0 degree) to the "measured caster" (+3.5 degree) in their example is going to make it all good because it is now within specification (+4.5 degrees) does nothing for the handling or performance at the actual "measured caster" (+3.5 degrees).

IMO
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Old 07-09-2013, 01:04 PM   #13
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Looking at this from another angle, no pun intended, if the "specified caster" were +4.5 degrees and the "frame angle" were 0.0 Degrees and the effective "measured caster" were +4.5 degrees then we are in spec.

Now, if we raise the rear end so that we have a "frame angle" of +1.0 degrees we will now have a "measured caster" of +3.5 degrees. Does applying the logic in the link Ford Frame Angle get us back to the +4.5 "measured caster" we had before we raised the rear end? I think not.
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Old 07-09-2013, 01:39 PM   #14
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Just a likely useless thought - I would try having someone rock the steering wheel back and forth with engine running and look for loose joints in front end and odd noises, esp. in the steering box. Does your steering wheel have any play at all with vehicle at rest with engine running? Does it turn smoothly or feel tight? Steering damper defective? Or seized ball joints or tie rods?? On a new unit like yours, this should all be okay. I have read about defective parts and premature failure on parts like this on new vehicles in the Ford forums. Parts quality is questionable these days. IIRC, premature wear/failure in factory Ford steering boxes has been a known problem.

But if it's a new unit, why not just get the dealer to fix? If they aren't willing, capable or competent, why not take it to a front end shop for inspection and take a report back to the dealer and force their hand to pay for it? This approach has worked for us before.

A manufacturer saying it's okay and it's nothing to do with them? Where have I heard that before?

Not sure I'd want to be playing with the steering box adjustment on a new unit.

If it were me, I'd just take it to a reputable front end and/or frame shop that is capable of checking this out and if possible, is a certified inspection facility (we have them here). Even if you to pay for the inspection. You might be able to get this reimbursed. I've found some shops will bend over backwards to help you on something like this while some don't want to get involved. What if the frame is out of alignment? Do these get shipped on a flatdeck or driven to the dealer? If driven, a driver could have hit something.

I sure would want to get this investigated and be made 100% right. It will obviously affect handling, safety and tire wear.
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