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Steering wheel oscilates left & right

1696 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  FJK1
99 F250 4X4, 160 K miles

As the title says, the steering wheel can oscilate left & right while going straight ahead. If you hold on to the wheel, you can still feel it. What tends to start this off is a left turn. Right turns tend to stop the oscillation. I'm thinking this is a hydraulic problem, but I am open to any suggestions. Also noteworthy, with vehicle stopped, turning the wheels left you can feel a bind or hard to turn point; turning wheels right with vehicle stopped is normal through steering travel.

Any help out there?
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Simple test for a seized front axle u-joint: Jack up the front end off the ground with the steering wheel to one side. Then lock one hub at a time and spin the tire. Any binding indicates a seized u-joint on that side.
What amazes me is that left turns initiate this problem, but not all the time.

That's because the u-joint is more than likely seized on one axis. When you steer in 2wd, the axle shaft pivots only on one axis. So, depending on which axis (seized one or un-seized one) the shaft happens to be pivoting on, you may have good steering one minute and wonky steering the next.
Brain power...maybe a little...more like lot's of experience. Judging by your comment, are you saying that you are driving in 4wd all the time?
OK, I'll try top explain this better... So as you drive the front axle shaft still spins, although freely as there is still some friction to cause it to spin. The axle shaft needs to "bend" at the u-joint in order for the truck to steer. When you steer the steering knuckle moves and "bends" the axle shaft...imagine a line going straight thru upper and lower ball joints. That line goes down one axis of the u-joint so the shaft needs to bend on the top and bottom cup of the u-joint.

Let's say that the top and bottom cups are full of grease and not seized. In this case, the shaft will bend with ease and cause no ill-effects with steering.

Now, if the shaft happens to be on the other plane (shaft spun 90 degrees) and the other two cups are now at the top and bottom and those cups are dried up and seized, the shaft won't bend so easy when you steer. You'll get binding, snapping, popping sounds as the shaft is trying pivot. This is where you get the wonky steering. It will also put extra strain on the steering pump (can cause the pump to whine).

If you happened to get weird steering (not returning to center or stiff) all the time. Then you would consider the possibility of seized ball joints. And in this case (I'm sure yours are just u-joints), if a person had to replace their ball joints, I always recommend they change the u-joints at the same time as there isn't much more labor involved to go that extra step. I also recommend using greaseable u-joints and ball joints so they can be maintained at regular intervals.

I hopes this helps more...other than showing you in person that's as good as I can explain it on "paper".
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