Originally Posted by ssnyder
I have a 97' 1500, 4X4 with 95.5K miles on it and it has the clunk and wandering steering issue. I checked the lower column and yes it has a huge amount of slop between the column and the bushing. I will definitely be interested in correcting this but one question. How difficult is it to remove the steering column?
Refer to your Factory service manual for the exact procedure - we'll include those pages with the kit, too. Our instructions are very detailed and have color photos showing the rebuild procedure.
This is mechanically challenging, but no big deal for those of us who 'wrench our Rams' for most projects. As you're working in the cab more than the engine compartment, it's kinda like installing a new stereo - you're pulling off the covers around the column, carefully disconnecting the wiring harness and pulling out the column.
You don't mess with pulling the steering wheel or airbag - they stay attached to the column the entire time. Just disconnect the battery negative cables to de-energize the system, then pull the column.
Once out, you rebuld it by gutting the stock retainer spring & lower bearing / bushing assembly and replacing with our new Delrin lower bushing. It will reduce your slop by about 95 %.
Now I can reach in, grab my lower column shaft, and vigorously shake the front end of the whole truck and feel about zero play.
Also kinda neat: My Ram is a 4 by, with semi truck tires - (19.5's ) & 2" lift - quite tall ! I use my steering wheel to 'pull' myself into the truck - now when I do that, it feels like the steering wheel is bolted into the engine block & frame - total stability.
Not until this was done did I realize how much slop & deflection was occuring in the lower column as I grabbed the steering wheel to use as a 'pulling point'.
You can usually identify if the clunk, rattle or groaning is coming from this area by doing this: grab the stock spring assembly on your lower coumn, (just as it comes through the firewall.) Shake back & forth to discern excessive play - should feel quite a bit of play. Now, twist this spring around the shaft - you can also spray lubricant on it.
Now drive your truck, if you notice that your moving it, or lubricating it has changed your noise issues (ie clunk, rattle, pop or groaning), this is probably where it is originating.
On ball joints / tie rod ends: jack up your front end. Grab each tire, lift up & down & side to side as helper attempts to hold the other side still. Any appreciable wear or looseness in either ball joints or tie rod ends should produce a clunky or noise indication.
(If no helper, just jack up one side at a time, doing the same test)
You can also just look carefully at the joints & rod ends as a helper moves the tires side to side slowly.
In my case, I'd done all this, plus the all the normal Ram 4x4 upgrades on my '97 and still had the clunk / rattle.
Had to read about a thousand posts / threads to begin to suspect this 'lower steering column' bushing was the issue.
So many, many Ram owners have this complaint, but so very few are willing to do 'exploratory dissasembly', especially with the numerous front end parts that can also cause clunking or steering vagueness, plus the fact that the steering column is perceived to be 'seviceable' soley by the Dodge dealer......
If you check with Dodge, you'll discover they only offer entire column assemblies, that have the same exact weakeness, for about $ 650 +, (depending on tilt/ non tilt or auto or manual trans column specs), + $ 300 labor to R & R it.
They don't offer a new OEM lower steering column bearing / bushing asembly - separately.
Even if they did, who'd want the same bad design that is going to exhibit the same objectionable noise & wander issues & ?!?
Ergo, the motiviation for my Dad & I to persue this fix - and to help others to fix it, too.
Love my Ram now, I gotta pinch myself - the steering now is as precise as my old Toyota truck was, [considering that Toyota was rack & pinion and the Ram is recirculating ball] ---
Hope this is of help - pics give a clue to this, too !