Date: Mon, 8 Jun 1998 10:56:10 -0500
From: "Hershey, Mark"
Subject: DML: Sticky Steering

In response to Rod, who wrote...
"I've owned my Delorean for about 4 months now and I love it. I've never had any problems. The only complaint I have is that the Steering seems too "sticky" ( that's only way I can discibe it) When you go to turn it's not smooth. It's a real pain going down the freeway because you have to keep correcting yourself.

Has anyone else had this problem?"
Rod, I just reworked the steering system on my VIN 2790 (45K miles) for exactly the reason you described. Now it's smooth as a gravy sandwich. Here's what I found:

1) The plastic grommet Joe at DeLorean Services ( I like that guy!) mentioned does indeed dry out and will grab a little. The grommet is located where the steering column passes through the steel plate at the firewall ( I guess you'd still call it a firewall) and the easiest way to tell is to give it a shot of WD-40 and see if it helps. Mine squeaked a little and grabbed more than I would have thought, but it wasn't the main culprit. By the time I got around to replacement it had dried out completely and cracked/broke, so the steering shaft rattled around in the metal hole. If this has already happened to you, replace it soon to avoid having the steering shaft waller-out ( a Texas term for "enlarge") the hole. Not particularly easy to replace (involves pulling the steering shaft). Believe it or not, removing the steering rack was actually easier!

2) The steering rack: I went ahead and removed mine because both boots had been open to the weather for years, most if not all of the oil was gone and I figured it was a rust-laden goner. Surprised to find that it was fine inside- not much oil, slight rust at the far end of the rack where it doesn't travel into the housing, but otherwise OK. No road grit, which probably would have eaten it alive...Cleaned it up, flushed it with new oil (gravity, just lean it up against the fence with both boots off and one end in a bucket) , replaced the boots, and filled with clean oil before clamping the driver's side boot. Smooth as silk before and after, so it wasn't the "sticking" source, which turned out to be...

3) Tie rod ends. The dust boots had long since deteriorated and the ends were cosmetically a mess. Figuring they, too, were likely bad I decided to replace 'em even before pulling the rack. One was fine, the other caused all the sticking problem. On a new one you should be able to hold the outer housing in one hand and move the ball/shaft around smoothly. It should offer resistance, but smooth, continuous resistance. Old ones should, too. One of mine didn't. You could move it, but you had to overcome some (much, actually) resistance (I'd call it "sticktion") each time you moved it- the exact symptom I felt when steering.

Here's what I recommend:

1) Put the front of the car on jack stands and remove both front tires.

2) Remove the nuts securing the tie rod ends to the wheel casting and rent/buy a tie rod end puller. Don't use the so-called pickle fork method to remove them (unless you plan to replace both anyway) since they will almost always damage the tie rod end. At about $85 each, you probably don't want to replace the ends if you don't have to! The correct puller looks like a cross between a nut cracker and a one of those two-lever wine bottle openers... it clamps around the wheel casting just above the dust boot and a screw handle exerts downward pressure on the tie rod end's shaft where you just removed the nut. Tie rod end shafts are tapered where they contact the wheel casting hole walls so turn the screw handle just until the tie rod end is released from the wheel casting. This taper, by the way, is what makes some otherwise identical-looking tie rod ends differ so make sure you replace it with the right one for a DeLorean. Rather than take the nut off completely you may want to just back it off about 10 turns. This would help protect the threads in case the puller wants to move around a little when you are turning the screw.

3) Grasp the shaft you just separated from the wheel casting and see if it moves freely. Again, you should have some resistance, but it should not be sticky. If it is loose/floppy, replace it! To get a feel for what it should be like go play with any new one at an auto parts store. Might have a little trouble explaining why, but they'll get over it! :-)

If you do reuse the old ones replace the rubber dust boot to help keep water and assorted grime out of it. Universal boots from NAPA and others will probably work fine. Also, use new Nylock nuts-- don't want these things falling out when you drive!

4) If you have gotten this far, might as well take a close look at the rack boots. Easy to see with the wheels flopped to one side. Not all that hard to remove the whole rack- four nuts on the bottom of the car screw on to U-bolts that clamp the rack to the car's frame. A bit tricky to slide out the driver's side wheel well because it wants to grab everything in its path. Carefully note the positions of the rubber mounting blocks and clamp parts as you remove the rack. Have a friend help. If you do pull the rack you will have to disconnect the steering shaft- remove the DeLorean's access hatches( the one above the brake fluid reservoir and the vertical one under the gas filler- leave the one under the spare tire alone) for easy access. Might as well remove the other end of the steering shaft flex-link to check out its U-joints. Should be floppy but no play ore other "looseness".

5) Now that you have gone this far, might as well pull the whole steering shaft and replace that plastic grommet. Look under the dash and remove the two bolts holding the steering shaft to the bottom of the dash. You'll have to disconnect the wiring harnesses to get the whole steering column out of the car.

With all this apart, greasing the upper ball joints is easy! Do it now...

You will want to have the front end aligned after you get all this back together. You will also have to play with getting the steering wheel straight whan driving down the road. I used a bottle of typing correction fluid to mark where everything was as I went along.

Got the steering boots and tie rod ends from DMC Houston. Machined a new steering shaft grommet out of engineering grade Teflon on my Shopsmith wood lathe (hey, I was up late one night and wanted it now!) but I'm sure you can get one from DMC as well. Spent most of a saturday on the project but I am rather slow at this stuff....or at least I want my wife to think so, she mowed the lawn!

Mark Hershey
Plano (Dallas), TX.

> For Question 2, I don't know what would be causing the erratic stiff
> turning. Are any of the boots torn on the steering rack or appear to
> be wet with gear oil? In order to fill the gear rack you have to
> remove it from the car, take one of the boots off (I forgot which
> one,


    You don't need to remove the steering rack from the car to fill it with fluid. If you jack the car up and remove the drivers side front wheel, you can get at the cover plate on the front of the steering box which holds the nylon guide and spring assembly. Just remove the cover plate, spring and nylon guide, add the specified amount and type of lube, and re-install everything. When you remove the cover plate you may find some real thin shims which space the plate and steering box. Again, just re-install them the same as they come off.