Winnie Wanders: EASY steering adjustment & other things to cure loose steering

Started by MSN Member, January 16, 2009, 07:11 AM

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Sent: 10/1/2002

Hi all,

I'm completely new to motorhomes but always thought the old Winnebagos were the coolest looking things.  I got this one off of eBay and picked it up in Essex Junction, VT.  The previous owners apparently called him "Ernie".  We think it fits, so the name will stay.  Anyway, about 5 hours into our 8 hour trip home to south Jersey, we couldn't handle fighting the steering wheel to keep it on the road any longer and dropped Ernie off at an RV repair center in Orange County, NY.  George (the proprietor) suggested changing to radial tires all around (since the bias plys were beginning to dry rot) and aligning the front end.  This helped tremendously, but it's still a bit of a wild ride. Supposedly everything else in the front end is sound.

Does anyone have any suggestions or is this just the way these old MH's drive?  We love Ernie, but we'd love him more if he'd stay in one lane!



Sent: 10/1/2002



Sent: 10/1/2002

      On a decent road and with no crosswind, they should steer very similar to a sedan.  Over roads with things like railroad tracks or longwise pavement joints, they will track with more unevenness than a car.  And, with a gusty crosswind ,they will need corrective steering more than a car.  When an 18 wheeler passes you, it can take an inch or two of "steering toward the truck" to compensate for the his bow-wave.  But on a good road, with no wind and towing nothing, you should be able to forget about steering and enjoy the view.  My 20 year old daughter drove our Winny this summer and remarked that it was easier to steer than her car - and her car is also fine.  The limiting factor on how long I can happily drive my winny is due to empty fuel tanks or a full bladder.

    I will wait and see if better tech types advise before I go on guessing.  I haven't added a steering stabilizer to my Winny, but they are definitely worthwhile and, if I drove much in the mountains, I would add one.


Sent: 10/1/2002

If the kingpins, bearings and other frontend parts are sound, I would have the steering box reconditioned.  It will cost @ $250 from Steer&Gear [800-253-4327] with about a 10 day turnaround.  Chip.


Sent: 10/1/2002

I have heard that worn king pins will make it wander. I was also told that you must jack the front end up and take the weight off the wheels to do a good job of greasing the king pins.
My 69 D-22 drives fine, but it has less than 20,000 original miles. AC-Craig



Sent: 10/2/2002

My rig drives great with a steering stabilizer, except in high winds and on bad roads.  So, as the previous responses mentioned, i'ts likely something is still wrong in the front end.  I would have it checked again before buying any type of stabilizer.  Actually, you can check lots of things yourself by 1st looking at all the front end components while someone turns the steering wheel from side to side. Then jacking 1 wheel up and attempting to wiggle the tire up and down and side to side while you watch for movement.  Repeat the process for the other wheel.  At least you may find something wrong and possibly fix it yourself or someone can't rip you off by wanting to replace something that you feel is good.  Also, use a bright flashlight for visibility.  Good luck !


Sent: 7/31/2004

Hi Guys,

  Just to add something I have noticed, when driving down a motorway with an asphalt surface (as opposed to concrete) you can sometimes see "tramlines" made by all the 18 wheelers, sort of grooves in the surface.  When my winnie hits these grooves the ride can get quite exciting to say the least.  On a recent trip I could see some of these grooves up ahead which were followed by black lines which indicated a car and caravan leaving the road unintentionally.  I think the problem is that the distance between the front wheels on winnie is just that bit narrower than the grooves left by the big rigs.  Those truckers amongst us should be able to tell us if that is correct.

Cheers Ian...


Sent: 8/1/2004

Dave Denison walked me through a "field" version of the Saginaw Steering box adjustment found in the manual.  The saginaw is equipped on all models after... well, from '73 on until the Chevy chassis, I know for sure.  This took about 90% of the wander out of the Winnie.  The book shows the procedure done on the bench but, that's not necessary.

You can do this with the engine turned-off.  You'll only need to turn the steering wheel a little bit to check your adjustments.

  • You can take the front wheel off to make it easier, but I found it wasn't a problem to simply reach in there and do it.  It took me about 1/2 hour but it would only take about 15 minutes now after having doine it once.

  • Take two fingers of one hand and rotate the steering shaft just above where it goes into the steering box.  If it rotates freely with no resistance, it needs adjusted. 

  • At the lower end of the steering box, facing you,  is a set screw and lock nut (the set screw should take a box end wrench).  Put the wrench in it and hold the set screw stationary as you loosen the locknut one full turn.  There's a very imporant reason for this but, I'm not one to wonder why you do it, just tell me how to fix it!  Anyway, hold the locknut in place while backing the set screw out 1/2 turn and then 1/2 turn again (you can't go a whole turn on the first try because there's not enough room).

  • At the top of the box is a locking collar with a raised rim and notches which needs to be loosened.  Spray it generously with WD 40.  It has to rotate freely from the screw threads on the piece it's attached to.  A single pin spanner or hook end spanner is best for this but, you can use a small piece of solid metal (like a 3/8" ratchet extension) placed in a notch and coaxed loose with a hammer (counter-clockwise).  It should be easy to turn once it's freed.  Spin that around a couple of times so you can see the threads under it.

  • Those threads belong to the piece you are going to adjust.  It's like a plug that has two small holes in it for a 2 pin spanner.  Good luck finding one... use a punch with an end which is 3/8" diameter or a little smaller to place in whichever hole you can get at and coax it clockwise 1/4 turn with your hammer.

  • Check the free-play of the steering shaft again.  Keep doing this until you feel some resistance and you see the steering arm move as you turn the shaft, then stop.  You've just taken out around 30 years or more of play.

  • Re-tighten the locking collar so it is good and snug.  Don't over-tighten.

  • Place your wrench on the locknut and rotate the set screw clockwise 1/4 turn.  Go into the cab and move the steering wheel a little from side to side.  Keep doing this until you like the feel of the resistance.  Not too tight... not too loose...ahhh just right.

  • Now tighten the locknut while holding the set screw in place.

    FINISHED!  How easy was that?!   I guarantee that this is something which hasn't ever been done on most of our Winnies before when we got them and it makes a world of difference.

    Of course, this is just one part of the big picture.  A combination of other worn steering components all add to the white-knuckle (and unsafe) driving experience of a wandering Winnie but, in my case, after making this simple adjustment, the difference was immediately noticeable and confident control was improved by at least 200%.  And, my driving stress dropped at least 80% (the other 20% is due to everyone else driving on my road ). 

    After a few trips, you may find the need to do this again as, just like getting re-married to another divorcee, the components will take a little time to re-seat themselves to the new setting and will need a little re-adjustment.
    Thanks Dave... this is for you!  I hope I did your in-field tutorial justice.
1969 D22, 2 x 1974 D24 Indians, 1977 27' Itasca


Sent: 8/3/2004



  I have just followed Daves instructions as posted by you and I don't know what to do.  Nominate you for the most useful post added this year to to question Dave as to why he has been holding out on this little gem.

  As you may have realised I have just returned home having made the adjustments.  Instead of running round and getting in Winnie to check the steering wheel I just kept moving the steering column by hand to make sure it didn't pinch up/ get too tight.  When I was finally all done I then got into winnie and just moved the steering wheel, It was just soo good I laughed to myself.  Such a simple adjustment has made such a difference I wouldn't have believed it unless I had done it myself.

Before on motorways when tracking the tramlines I guess I would have been turning the steering wheel a 1/4 turn to and fro just to stay in lane.  I resembled some old actor in a B/W film with back projection pretending to drive.  Now having taken winnie round the block I just sit there with the steering wheel not moving, even when hitting drains, bumps you name it she just goes straight.

I must recommend that anyone who hasn't done this adjustment or had it done for them, should do it or get it done.

Many many thanks for the instructions.  I have even told the other half (Sue) that she should be OK to drive Winnie herself now, but that may have been a mistake!.

Cheers Ian...


Sent: 8/3/2004

As I have mentioned before on this site, if anyone wants it, I can email them my several page write-up that describes how to combat shimmy, adjust the steering box, and find happiness driving through the highway work zones.
Ian: If the steering box had never been adjusted before, I would also check to ensure your toe-in was correct; it might not have been adjusted periodically either.


Sent: 8/4/2004


  I have previously checked the tracking, that's easy and two years ago I had to replace the king pins to get through vehicle inspection.  The kings pins got rid of what I would call shimmy.  What the wheels were doing was to wobble left to right quickly, setting up a nasty vibration in the steering. This shimmy was so quick that you couldn't possibly try correcting it with the steering.

  The problem with tramlines would be to effectively throw winnie sideways in such a way that correcting the steering was very possible but was the reason I wouldn't let Sue drive.  I just thought this was a problem with the road surface and not with Winnie.  I now realise this was a silly thought.

I had a bad experience with a power steering box in the past, where after I had rebuilt it I was reversing out of the drive and all of a sudden the "power" took the wheel out of my hand nearly breaking my fingers.  The result being the "power held the steering on full lock. That cost me big bucks to get anothet steering box from the salvage yard.  You try finding Australian car parts in the UK!.

What Sob has shown is that it's very useful to have a drive of a Winnie that is in tip top condition.  It's only when you realise how it should be, that you realise you have a problem.

Cheers Ian...


Sent: 8/6/2004

I orderd the steering stabilizer from JC Whitney, but it isn't for motor homes - its for vans. So I  went to the RV store to see if they had one.  It's $600. and its huge!


Sent: 8/7/2004

Sorry to say this but ole Ernie might need some expensive front suspension help !! ...just a quick Q - with the engine running - and someone turning the steering wheel - how far do you turn the wheel before the tires start to move ?? 

ACTUALLY - radials will "make" the MH "wander" a little bit MORE than say a nylon tire......since the radial tire has a less stiff sidewall.


Sent: 8/7/2004 5:00 PM

Engine running or not - if my wife turns the steering wheel from rest, I can feel the tire move about the time she has turned the steering wheel rim an inch and a half. Its not easy to tell - the motion being very slight. I hold a wooden stick against the tread of the tire, its other end against the frame. Then with my fingertips I can feel the relative movement between the tire tread and the stick. This is before I am able to see the movement by eyeball. I have also had my wife turn the wheel about 60 degrees back and forth, while I lay under the motorhome, looking for and feeling for, any motion between the drag-link or the tie rod, and the ball joints in them. 
1969 D22, 2 x 1974 D24 Indians, 1977 27' Itasca


Sent: 11/29/2004

You guys be very careful doing this and don't overdo it. Too much "slack" taken out will result in the steering box locking up unexpectedly. If it does lock up, no amount of yanking on the wheel will unlock it, that winnie will just continue going in whatever direction it was going in to begin with. 


Sent: 11/15/2004

How would I know if I over tightened the set-srew adjustment?
I could not tell from the limited info from the previous post I was able to loosen
the notched ring on the top of the steering box but mine did not have the two holes for the punch to go into mine had a four ears at 12 oclock 3, 6 , and 9 I did my best to tighten this but it hardly moved. I did adjust the set-screw over one full turn and this did help but I am not sure I over did it, I have not test drove it yet still installing the new cooling system should be ready by Saturday.


Sent: 11/15/2004

By set screw I presume you mean the adjustment on the side of the steering box, where an allen wrench goes into the head of a screw, and a locknut holds it from moving? This would be opposite where the pitman shaft comes out of the lower part of the steering box.
The way you would know that was too tight would be if the steering was sort of stiff, or seemed to -stick-, instead of responding nicely to small movements of the steering wheel.
Its a little tricky to adjust, since you cant tell by the way it feels when you turn the allen wrench to tighten it in. It will feel about the same if it is too loose or too tight. You would only be able to tell by driving it, or by measuring the force needed to turn the rim of the steering wheel, as you rotated it from left to right - with both front wheels in the air.
I will be sending out my email having the attachment with the adjustment instructions tonight. About 4 folks asked for it, but I was away from the internet for a few days. It was awful!! 


Sent: 5/22/2005

Ours did the same thing until we replaced the kingpins.


Sent: 5/26/2005

Is checking/adjusting the toe-in something you can do easily?  How is it done?



Sent: 5/26/2005

Its not hard to do, the worst part being the rust falling into your eyes when you go to free up the adjustment - which might not have been moved in 10 or 20 years. The tie rod running between the wheels behind and below the axle is what you adjust - by rotating it. It has left hand threads on one side, right hand threads on the other side, where the tie rod ends thread into it. You have to loosen up the clamps on each side, and use plenty of penetrating oil.
The toe-in you measure either from tire center line to tire centerline (but my tires dont have a centerline) OR from the left to right tire inner sidewall, behind the axle versus ahead of the axle. If you dont have the service manual, I can send you an email where I describe how I do it. let me know if you want it, and I could email it to you.


Sent: 11/25/2008

Thanks Dave and Sob!  Its so easy, even a cave(old)man can do it.  Followed the instructions.  Had a problem with the locking collar.  It came loose with the adjustment piece.  Took a 3" C clamp and secured it.  Using a punch and hammer, I broke loose the adjustment mechanism from the collar.  Adjusted the mechanism until all the play was out, then tightened the collar.  Turned the hex nut 1/4 turn & checked play... very, very little.  Tightened retaining nut.  Took the wheel off to have lots of room for an old man.  EASY.

Thanks again for the site and information that's here.

Tumble Bug Soon to be Rolling!

Tumble Bug "Rollin in MO" (JD)


Can a 1968 Ford (p350) steering box be adjusted in the same way ?  From what I can find in the manual (3-37 &38) vol 1, the steering gear is a Gemmer Steering gear. Manual steering not Power.   i??
Tumble Bug "Rollin in MO" (JD)


Yes, the Ford P 350 steering gear box has a adjuster on the side.  You should be able to find the adjustment procedure in the chassis manual.  I've never seen a P-350 with power steering.   Always looked forward to driving a P-350 chassis because the steering has great road feel and is nice and tight.


This is a great tip! I hope it really works and doesnt mess anything up. Anyone have issues with this? my rig only has 30k miles so i cant imagine that the king pins would be out, but maybe...hate to spend so much money at a truck center to figure out all this appreciated.

1973 Winnebago Indian D-24 M400 Chassis