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Old 11-08-2013, 07:22 PM   #1
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Steering Wheel Play

Since this is my first coach I do not have a point of reference...I need your collective help.

Before I purchased the coach I spoke with Frank from Spartan about how the coach should feel when it drives down the road.

He described it much like an any vehicle and that it could easily be driven straight with one hand in the five o'clock position.

I have found that description to be a big disappointment for me.

I am constantly struggling to keep the coach between the lines.

I have about 1- 1 1/2 inches of free play in my steering wheel.

Meaning the coach will not turn in an opposite direction until I have moved the wheel at least that distance.

So I am constantly turning the wheel back and forth (left and right) every 2-3 seconds As I attempt to drive in a straight line. It's not fun.

Going around curves in the highway are no problem as it handles just fine.

I can't seem to drive this bus straight -- the problem seems to be worse with the coach loaded.

My forearms are physically worn out today on an 8 hour drive.

I have called Entegra who passed me to Spartan who told me to get an alignment. Don't think that is my problem.

Please help.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:34 PM   #2
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I have a coach over 13 years old. I know there is that much play in mine also. It just takes getting used to. I started out over correcting and it made me keep working the wheel back and forth. Your forearms are tired because you are gripping the wheel. The coach will center, it just takes some getting used to.

I'm sure there will be others on here that will say you should have no play. They may be right, I am by no means an expert. I felt the same at first until I relaxed a little. I can drive 8 hours with no fatigue. You may just need some time behind the wheel. It may help to quit looking at the position in the lane, and look at the traffic ahead of you, and glance at some of the beautiful scenery Al's.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:40 PM   #3
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I bet the alignment will make a difference. Make sure they check the shocks when they align it. Then take it to Spartan to check the ride height and steering hox play(sounds like that is where your problem likely is). All JMHO
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:43 PM   #4
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Curt,
All steering systems are about the same with minor differences. There will be a steering gear box. Inside the steering gear box there is a worm gear that can be worn or out of adjustment. Then there are these parts: pitman arm, tie rods (both inner and outer) and connecting links. There are also king pins which are basically large !" round bars that are the pivot points for heavy duty steering systems. The steering knuckle will pivot on these large pivot rods. Any time there is play in the steering wheel, (play is moving the steering wheel and no apparent movement of the front wheels occurs) means that one or more of these ball and socket joints is worn. It could be one or an accumulation of wear in more than one that is having a negative effect in the steering action. When you move the steering wheel it is taking up the wear in one or more of the parts then the wheels move.

Fine a decent heavy duty repair facility that knows about truck steering systems. They can very easily and quickly check to determine which part is responsible for the slop in your steering. Make sure they show you which part is defective. This is one of those things where they can dupe you into believing that you need more than you really need. The wear on these defective parts can be easily seen. If you think that the repair price is to high get a second opinion.

Wheel misalignment is more likely to effect pulling and tire wear. ANY TIME there is excessive steering wheel movement to keep the coach straight it is due to worn steering parts. There are some other causes but this is the first place to start. If you start some other place you will be chasing your tail. You have to check for obvious worn parts before anything else. Shocks will not effect steering looseness. Their only purpose is to dampen suspension (leaf spring) bounce or movement after encountering a bump.

One more thing before somebody mentions it. An insufficient amount of positive caster will increase the need to correct straight ahead steering. In other words. If you have the correct amount of caster on the front wheels it will assist in keeping the coach going straight down the road. I didn't want to mention this unless all others aspects of the steering are first checked. If you have any worn steering parts they MUST be replaced before an alignment is performed.

TeJay
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:47 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TeJay View Post
Curt, All steering systems are about the same with minor differences. There will be a steering gear box. Inside the steering gear box there is a worm gear that can be worn or out of adjustment. Then there are these parts: pitman arm, tie rods (both inner and outer) and connecting links. There are also king pins which are basically large !" round bars that are the pivot points for heavy duty steering systems. The steering knuckle will pivot on these large pivot rods. Any time there is play in the steering wheel, (play is moving the steering wheel and no apparent movement of the front wheels occurs) means that one or more of these ball and socket joints is worn. It could be one or an accumulation of wear in more than one that is having a negative effect in the steering action. When you move the steering wheel it is taking up the wear in one or more of the parts then the wheels move. Fine a decent heavy duty repair facility that knows about truck steering systems. They can very easily and quickly check to determine which part is responsible for the slop in your steering. Make sure they show you which part is defective. This is one of those things where they can dupe you into believing that you need more than you really need. The wear on these defective parts can be easily seen. If you think that the repair price is to high get a second opinion. TeJay
Thanks TeJay.

My coach is 2 months old.

Would there be enough "wear" in that amount of time to cause this issue? Or would something simply need to be tightened somewhere?

Curt
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ann n Gene View Post
I bet the alignment will make a difference. Make sure they check the shocks when they align it. Then take it to Spartan to check the ride height and steering hox play(sounds like that is where your problem likely is). All JMHO
We had an alignment done.

Don't think they checked the shocks -- I know they did not perform a ride height adjustment.

Curt
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:52 PM   #7
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A friend recently bought a '02 DP. He described having the same tiring driving experience. The tires were two years old per date codes, tread was near new. Had alignment done and no joy. Had alignment and steering checked at a 2nd truck shop. The 2nd shop recommended he renew the steer tires. The "original" tires were Continental and he replaced them with Michelins. Cured the problem for him. I'm not suggesting you change your steer axle tires, just relating another owners experience.
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Old 11-08-2013, 07:58 PM   #8
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Also my first coach. Felt the exact same way on my maiden voyage...shoulders hurt and stressed out. I have the mobileye "screecher" and it was going off non stop. 7000 miles later, no more weaving, screeching, nor stress.
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:01 PM   #9
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You can get an after market steering stabilizer. I had on my '06 Winny Journey. It helped a lot. It gave the front end a center which is an issue with non-IFS Freightliner chassis. Could be on the Spartan also.
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:11 PM   #10
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Curt,
I didn't realize that your coach was so new. No harm no foul. At least you got a good primer on steering linkages.

It's unlikely that sufficient wear is present in that short of a period but that does not mean that everything is good. There has to be a reason why it takes that much effort to keep the coach heading straight down the road.
If they find nothing loose then ask them to check the caster setting. Caster is the forward (positive) and rearward (negative) tilt of the steering axis. Here's a simple way to explain it. A bicycle has positive caster built into the front wheel. The pivot point is tilted towards the rider or positively. That allows your weight to push down on the front wheel and it keeps it going straight. That allows you to take your hands off and steer/track straight with your weight. This is the same thing that happens in a car. If (for example) the range for your caster is 2-6 degrees positive and yours is setting at 3 degrees ask them to set it to 5 or 6 degrees. That will place more weight on the front wheels giving you better straight ahead tracking. More positive caster will require more steering effort when making turns but since you have power steering it should not make any difference.

Our coach had 700 miles on it when we had the wheels aligned. All alignment angles were off. If you're coach is that new I'd get it back to the dealer and have a technician take it for a drive. I've driven a lot of different buses, and several MH's. If it feels like the steering is loose then it probably is. It's not something that I believe you need to get used to. There still must be a reason why it is needing that much correction to keep it straight. With the engine running slowly move the steering wheel back and forth and have somebody raise their hand when the wheel begins to move. That way you can determine how much play is present.

Let us know how things turn out

TeJay
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:14 PM   #11
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Also my first coach. Felt the exact same way on my maiden voyage...shoulders hurt and stressed out. I have the mobileye "screecher" and it was going off non stop. 7000 miles later, no more weaving, screeching, nor stress.
Can you drive your coach in a straight line with one hand without rocking the wheel back and forth every 2-3 seconds?
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:28 PM   #12
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I think so. I have found when I look forward down the road and am not worried about the lines, the ride becomes relaxed. I believe I have similar play. But it is not nearly as bothersome now. I have had alignment, ride height, and shocks checked at spartan. With the front wheels behind you, it takes a little while to get used to no over steering the nose. Others may chime in on their experiences. These are mine as a newbie.
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Old 11-08-2013, 08:37 PM   #13
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Curt I think your slack is the norm, my new AC Spartan has the same feel, although I drive it just fine. I spoke to a Spartan Tech about it and he said the gearbox can't be adjusted. My other Rigs were tighter so it took a bit of adjusting too. It is very easy to over drive these big rigs, as you relax you will be more at home with it.
Set back relax and enjoy!

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Old 11-08-2013, 08:48 PM   #14
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You may be over controlling, as was suggested above. If that is the case, it helps to move your gaze further down the road. Your primary concentration should be on the roadway hundreds of feet in front of you, not close by. Perhaps you are doing this, but if not, give it a try and see if it helps.
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