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Old 09-06-2012, 08:14 PM   #1
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Loose Front End Parts?!?

I need some advice. I have a 35 foot, 1989 Holiday Rambler Alumalite with 46,000 miles on it. It has a 454 Chevy engine with a 3 speed automatic transmission. I recently put new tires all the way around. Yesterday I took it to the only shop within a 90 mile radius that services motorhomes, to have the front end aligned. As part of the alignment process, they checked out the front end for worn out parts. Before I dropped it off, I told them that I was experiencing about a 2 to 4 inch play in the steering wheel under conditions that I outline later in this post. After reading some other posts, I thought maybe the steering wheel gear box might need to be adjusted, and asked them to check that out. (I don’t even know where to look for it, and probably couldn’t adjust it if I did know where it was or what it looked like)

A few hours after dropping it off, I get a call from the service department, telling me they could not do the alignment, because I had a lot of “loose” parts on the front end. On their service report it says, “Checked front end parts before completing alignment. Found both lower ball joints are worn and top ball joints are loose. Found both idler arms loose and left wheel bearing loose.” They want to charge me $950 in parts, and $850 in labor to replace everything that is loose or worn.

Well, it’s a 1989 RV…of course things are going to be loose or worn. He did say it was safe to drive, and when I let go of the steering wheel on a straight stretch of road, the rig stays straight for a long time. If the road is nice and smooth, I can control the rig with one finger. I only notice the play in the steering wheel if I get over 70 mph, if it’s really windy, or on a curvy/winding road. I usually drive about 60-65 mph on the interstate, and at that speed, everything seems to be just fine.

They only charged me $30 to have it checked out, so that’s OK, but I was so taken back by what the guy told me on the phone, that I wasn’t sure what to say, so I didn’t ask any questions. I just said I’d have to get back to him. Like I said, it’s the only shop within a 90 mile radius from where I live in Minnesota, and I live 30 miles from the shop, so I just couldn’t leave work for a few minutes and have them show me what they were talking about.

Has anyone else encountered this kind of diagnosis when asking for a front end alignment, and if so, what did you do about it?
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Old 09-06-2012, 08:27 PM   #2
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Yep, that's the first thing done when preparing for an alignment. If you don't rust the shop to be truthful then go there and have them show you the loose parts. If they are loose they need to be replaced. Regardless of them saying it's safe to drive my experience tells me that it is not safe to drive...........there's a reason that correct linkages don't come from the factory loose.
The price quoted sounds like a fair price.
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Old 09-06-2012, 11:13 PM   #3
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Jack it up and check it yourself if you don't trust/believe them... it is easy to check and witness for yourself..15 minutes tops to check it
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Old 09-07-2012, 06:20 AM   #4
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I think the real question is do you want to put that kinda money into that rig?
Like they said, it is still safe to drive....
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Old 09-07-2012, 06:42 AM   #5
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You can check it yourself like SC3283 said. Use your leveling jacks and get your front wheels off the ground. For safety, chock the rear wheels and use jack stands under the frame. May need to put a few boards under them. Get a pry bar under the tire and ground and have a friend pry the wheel up and down while you look at the upper and lower ball joints or kingpin. Then have a friend wiggle the tire side to side while you look at the steering linkages. While wiggling the tire side to side look at every connection starting at the steering box, idler arm, relay rod and tie rod ends. Do this to both tires. Nothing should be loose. Side to side looseness could also be wheel bearings, which is more noticeable with light side to side pressure, while the steering linkage looseness is easier to see with harder side to side pressure.

While off the ground, have your friend rotate the steering wheel back and forth and watch the free play from your steering box or linkages.

While off the ground, take the opportunity to grease all of the fittings on your front suspension.
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Old 09-07-2012, 07:14 AM   #6
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Parts upper and lower ball joints 4 tie rods will set you back $300 just did it il send you a PDF file for this check this afternoon
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Old 09-07-2012, 09:47 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBWallyp View Post
I need some advice. I have a 35 foot, 1989 Holiday Rambler Alumalite with 46,000 miles on it. It has a 454 Chevy engine with a 3 speed automatic transmission. I recently put new tires all the way around. Yesterday I took it to the only shop within a 90 mile radius that services motorhomes, to have the front end aligned. As part of the alignment process, they checked out the front end for worn out parts. Before I dropped it off, I told them that I was experiencing about a 2 to 4 inch play in the steering wheel under conditions that I outline later in this post. After reading some other posts, I thought maybe the steering wheel gear box might need to be adjusted, and asked them to check that out........
A few hours after dropping it off, I get a call from the service department, telling me they could not do the alignment, because I had a lot of “loose” parts on the front end. On their service report it says, “Checked front end parts before completing alignment. Found both lower ball joints are worn and top ball joints are loose. Found both idler arms loose and left wheel bearing loose.” They want to charge me $950 in parts, and $850 in labor to replace everything that is loose or worn........

Has anyone else encountered this kind of diagnosis when asking for a front end alignment, and if so, what did you do about it?
I believe you have a GM/Chevy P32 MH chassis, and what you describe is fairly "normal" wear on the IFS. Before replacing all those front end parts, I suggest you check out this link: Bell Crank for Workhorse and Chevy P30, P32 and P37 Chassis

IMO, changing this ONE part may do more to correct your steering issues than replacing all the rest. Generally speaking you'll get more bang for the bucks with the improved bell crank, as the OE was not a durable design.

Since the other parts are not unsafe, I suggest a good lube job for them and don't worry about the alignment unless you begin to experience severe tire wear.
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Old 09-07-2012, 10:14 AM   #8
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In my fifteen years, We have PDI'd hundreds of p30 chassis. I don't ever remember one that had worn out the front end in forty thousand miles. If it was never lubed in that whole time, I suppose it would possible. I would for sure get a second and maybe even a third opinion. I have heard other shops brag of cleaning parts and adjusting the front end and charging for a rebuild.
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Old 09-07-2012, 11:45 AM   #9
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At 53000 my lowers were shot greased all the time uppers were wore a little drivers bell cranks shot did I think super steer passenger was just out of spec I rebushed and bored to size I'm a machinist drives great now
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Old 09-09-2012, 12:21 PM   #10
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IMO the P30/32 chassis is very prone to wearing out the parts mentioned... (yes ours is a P32) All good info already posted here, but just so you know there is a P30 group on yahoo with bunches of good info on these chassis !
edgray mentioned Henderson's bell crank and from what I've read (a lot) it makes a whole new driving experience. Henderson's is known for being about the best shop country wide for chassis work. Too bad they are a couple thousand miles from us....
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:41 PM   #11
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Thanks everyone. You've given me a lot of good advice, and a lot to think about and look over. I crawled underneath my rig and was checking things out this afternoon. I found the bell cranks, and they look like a job that I could do. I also found the steering gear box, and that looks pretty easy to adjust as well.

So I have two more quick questions:

1. If I adjust the gear box, should I start with a 1/4 turn and then road test it to see if it makes a difference? A follow up to that question, is should the wheels be turned or straight when adjusting the box?

2. I reached above the power steering and grabbed the shaft. I was able to turn that back and forth with no force at all, and the steering wheel inside was turning back and forth as I was moving it. This is the play in the steering wheel that I was referring to in my original post. Should it be that easy to turn, or should it be tight?

Any further help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 09-11-2012, 05:58 AM   #12
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I can't help on the box I have done them if you adjust too tight it can Faust damage I'll be home this afternoon I'm sure I have a PDF to check the front end fully do you have a dial indicator ?
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Old 09-11-2012, 06:45 AM   #13
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To adjust the steering box, jack up the front end. For safety, chock the rear wheels and use jack stands under the frame.

The locknut is (most likely) reverse thread, (clockwise to loosen), Remember the clock position of the slot, or better yet, scribe it on the box so you know where you started from. Have your friend rotate the steering wheel back and forth and he can describe the free play from your steering box while you adjust the set screw. (I forget which way to turn the screw, but if it gets worse, then turn the screw the other way.

You will probably only need to turn it less than 1/4 turn.

Hold the set screw while you tighten the locknut when your done.

If you don't like the change, you can always put it back to where it was or try again..
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Old 09-11-2012, 09:20 AM   #14
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Whem2fish...I do not have a dial indicator. I sure would appreciate that PDF you're talking about.

Mgscott4...stupid question. Do I have the motor running when my friend is turning the tires back and forth?

Thanks again!
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