'97 LC80 Steering Slow Return To Center (1 Viewer)

Joined
Oct 16, 2015
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Pennsylvania
I'm looking for a little help trying to diagnose an LC80 with steering that seems a bit lazy to me. Steering effort is certainly a bit heavier than our Tundra and 4Runner, but not terrible. I attribute the heavier effort to the full-time 4wd. The steering doesn't wander, and honestly it performs really well rolling down the highway. The power steering doesn't howl or squeal, the assistance seems consistent from lock-to-lock, and nothing else really jumps out to me as out of the ordinary.

What is a bit annoying is a lazy return to center. Whether left or right, from full lock, it begins to return to normal like it should. However, from about the 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock when approaching dead center, it gets REALLY lazy and at times, needs a boost to get it back to 12 o'clock.

When I bought the rig, it had newly installed 2850/2863 OME springs, which I switched back to the original stock springs in hopes of baselining this problem. I figured it was the OME causing the issue. It does have the OME caster blocks still installed, and I can't put the originals back in because they were damaged being removed. With the 3"ish inch lift wiht the OME springs, the steering was also lazy. I figured when I put it back to stock, the steering characteristics would changed. However....they haven't. It seems about the same amount of LAZY with or without the lift springs.

So, I could totally drive it like this without issue, but I want it to be 100% correct. I pulled the steering stabilizer off to see if that changed anything, and it didn't. I also checked out the power steering fluid, and although full, it is yellow, so I'm guessing it may be hydraulic fluid rather than ATF. I've read hydro fluid is also ok. Again, no noise, so I assume the pump is happy with the fluid.

Also...the linkages all look to be ok and the P.O. also had the berfs rebuild within the last few hundred miles by a reputable mechanic. So....I don't think they are the culprit. Front wheel bearings also seem to be ok.

You guys here seem to know these things inside and out, so I'm hoping with my observations we can maybe pinpoint a few things for me to check out. Thanks!
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2007
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222
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Fort Worth, TX
Did it ever return fully to center on it's own? I don't think my 92 FJ80 ever did. Certainly doesn't now. These trucks may not have enough caster build in to come all the way back to center like that. I'm no expert.
 
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691
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Eastern Washington
Too much positive caster causes heavy steering feel and slow return to center. With stock height springs and caster correction block/bushing installed that's your issue. It's possible that before the blocks where installed incorrectly or are possibly for a taller lift so you had the same sluggish feel.

I have a 3" lift and use the DVS Radius arms which are supposedly for a 4" lift to correct caster. Steering is a little more sluggish than it was before the lift but nothing I am concerned about. I just do more 12oz curls to build up arm strength to compensate :)
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2015
Messages
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Location
Pennsylvania
Did it ever return fully to center on it's own? I don't think my 92 FJ80 ever did. Certainly doesn't now. These trucks may not have enough caster build in to come all the way back to center like that. I'm no expert.
I can't answer that for sure because I've only owned it for a few months. The lift was put on mostly because the previous owner wanted to replace the shocks, which were worn out. For the price, he just decided to do the whole OME kit. Caster blocks were put in the factory arms to correct the caster. I'm pretty particular and want the handling as good as I can get it, so I put the springs back to stock tracking down a small vibration and this steering issue. The vibes went away, the steering hasn't changed. I'm wondering if an alignment shop can tell me exactly how much caster it has now. What would the perfect caster angle be to shoot for on this?
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2015
Messages
19
Location
Pennsylvania
Too much positive caster causes heavy steering feel and slow return to center. With stock height springs and caster correction block/bushing installed that's your issue. It's possible that before the blocks where installed incorrectly or are possibly for a taller lift so you had the same sluggish feel.

I have a 3" lift and use the DVS Radius arms which are supposedly for a 4" lift to correct caster. Steering is a little more sluggish than it was before the lift but nothing I am concerned about. I just do more 12oz curls to build up arm strength to compensate :)


So...a few questions. Do the OME caster blocks add + or - caster? What's the sweet spot? With the OME kit, the idea of the caster blocks is to provide 2 additional degrees of caster....so the fact that I can't tell the difference in the steering with/without the lift has me a bit confused.
 

baldilocks

Battle Ground, WA
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Not sure what you are referring to as “castor blocks”? There are castor correction bushings that can be installed into the radius arms and there are metal correction plates that are attached to the axle housing. All castor correction methods increase positive castor, or rather, bring castor angle back to what it was before the lift kit was installed.

My rig has been from .5 degrees positive castor to a little over 5 degrees as it sits now and I don’t remember the steering wheel ever snapping back to center. It’s a truck not a Tercel, enjoy it for what it is.
 
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Eastern Washington
So I paid attention to my steering on my way to work today. When the wheel is between the about 10 and 2 positions it kind of stops moving back on its own. The vehicle is going mostly straight at that point but requires a little bump of the steering wheel to get it in perfect alignment. Sound similar to your concern but until now I never noticed it and it doesn't bothered me. Couldn't tell you how long it's been like that and I've replaced everything on the steering and suspension system within the past 3 months.

Yes an alignment shop should be able to give you a caster number to reference from.

Like I said it's possible the correction "blocks" (sounds like they are bushings that are pressed into the factory arms) are installed incorrectly or were for a taller lift than was installed so you had too much positive caster to begin with, hence no difference when the lift was removed. I don't recall the ideal range.

Another factor not being considered here is tires. Wider tires than stock, more aggressive treads or lower air pressure can all cause a sluggish steering feel. I like to run my tires at about 35 psi for ride comfort but they steer much better if I keep them 40 or higher.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2015
Messages
19
Location
Pennsylvania
Not sure what you are referring to as “castor blocks”? There are castor correction bushings that can be installed into the radius arms and there are metal correction plates that are attached to the axle housing. All castor correction methods increase positive castor, or rather, bring castor angle back to what it was before the lift kit was installed.

My rig has been from .5 degrees positive castor to a little over 5 degrees as it sits now and I don’t remember the steering wheel ever snapping back to center. It’s a truck not a Tercel, enjoy it for what it is.

Thats my bad...I meant to type "castor bushings". As far as "snapping back", that's not what I'm looking for. I have to turn it back to center, which doesn't seem right. I have a 2015 Tundra and a 2018 TRD Pro 4Runner as well and the steering comparison between the LC80 and either of those is night and day. I scored a set of front radius arms with stock bushings in them for a decent price, which should make switching to a totally stock setup to baseline everything fairly simple. I
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2015
Messages
19
Location
Pennsylvania
So I paid attention to my steering on my way to work today. When the wheel is between the about 10 and 2 positions it kind of stops moving back on its own. The vehicle is going mostly straight at that point but requires a little bump of the steering wheel to get it in perfect alignment. Sound similar to your concern but until now I never noticed it and it doesn't bothered me. Couldn't tell you how long it's been like that and I've replaced everything on the steering and suspension system within the past 3 months.

Yes an alignment shop should be able to give you a caster number to reference from.

Like I said it's possible the correction "blocks" (sounds like they are bushings that are pressed into the factory arms) are installed incorrectly or were for a taller lift than was installed so you had too much positive caster to begin with, hence no difference when the lift was removed. I don't recall the ideal range.

Another factor not being considered here is tires. Wider tires than stock, more aggressive treads or lower air pressure can all cause a sluggish steering feel. I like to run my tires at about 35 psi for ride comfort but they steer much better if I keep them 40 or higher.

I have a stock set of radius arms coming so I'll try everything stock. Truth be told, I test off-road products for a living so I feel pretty much everything. It's a blessing and a curse....
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2017
Messages
118
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Redding, CA
The knuckle trunnion bearings may be worn...they can form pockets in their races and cause the steering to have a distinct (and unnerving) "index" that prevents a free return-to-center. These bearings are easy to inspect during a front axle rebuild, and are relatively cheap and easy to replace if suspect.
 

baldilocks

Battle Ground, WA
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Thats my bad...I meant to type "castor bushings". As far as "snapping back", that's not what I'm looking for. I have to turn it back to center, which doesn't seem right. I have a 2015 Tundra and a 2018 TRD Pro 4Runner as well and the steering comparison between the LC80 and either of those is night and day. I scored a set of front radius arms with stock bushings in them for a decent price, which should make switching to a totally stock setup to baseline everything fairly simple. I
Dont both of vehicles you named have rack and pinion steering? Are you saying that the 80 steering wheel stays at the turning angle and won’t begin to return without your help? Or, it comes back something like half way and you have to help it finish returning to center?

We know that it has excess castor right now for sure and that doesn’t help with your complaint. The stock arms/bushings should help. Remember that even thought he 80 was sold to pavement pounders and socker moms in the USA, it was actually built as a crappy third world country road pounder and all around off road machine unlike the other vehicles you mentioned. It’s imperfect, ruggedized nature lends to its reliability and general performance within its intended target environment which is not pavement.
 
Joined
Oct 16, 2015
Messages
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Location
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The knuckle trunnion bearings may be worn...they can form pockets in their races and cause the steering to have a distinct (and unnerving) "index" that prevents a free return-to-center. These bearings are easy to inspect during a front axle rebuild, and are relatively cheap and easy to replace if suspect.

When you say trunnion bearings, are you referring to the bearings on the top and bottom of the knuckle that are accessible when disassembling the berfs?
 
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Dont both of vehicles you named have rack and pinion steering? Are you saying that the 80 steering wheel stays at the turning angle and won’t begin to return without your help? Or, it comes back something like half way and you have to help it finish returning to center?

We know that it has excess castor right now for sure and that doesn’t help with your complaint. The stock arms/bushings should help. Remember that even thought he 80 was sold to pavement pounders and socker moms in the USA, it was actually built as a crappy third world country road pounder and all around off road machine unlike the other vehicles you mentioned. It’s imperfect, ruggedized nature lends to its reliability and general performance within its intended target environment which is not pavement.

I get what you're saying. Maybe my expectations are unreasonable comparing it to the Tundra and 4Runner. I'm going to start by swapping out the radius arms and see where that puts us. My hope is that dials it in much better! Thanks for the suggestions and I'll report once I swap out the radius arms.
 
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When you say trunnion bearings, are you referring to the bearings on the top and bottom of the knuckle that are accessible when disassembling the berfs?
Yup, that be them. Mine were horribly indexed the first time I did a full front end rebuild, to the point of being scary in turns.

Easy check...you can jack the front axle up and slowly rotate the steering wheel lock-to-lock with engine OFF. If the trunnion bearings have this issue, you'll feel it.
 
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Yup, that be them. Mine were horribly indexed the first time I did a full front end rebuild, to the point of being scary in turns.

Easy check...you can jack the front axle up and slowly rotate the steering wheel lock-to-lock with engine OFF. If the trunnion bearings have this issue, you'll feel it.

Can you speak to this process a bit more? What will I feel? A spot somewhere in the articulation where the wheels stick or feel harder to turn/. Now I'm curious if I'll feel it, as you say, more in that 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock area just on either side of dead straight? I'm fairly positive they were never replaced.

If I'm going to pull the front knuckles apart, I'll just replace all of the bearings and seals and be done with it. Any kit better than the rest?
 
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When you say trunnion bearings, are you referring to the bearings on the top and bottom of the knuckle that are accessible when disassembling the berfs?
Yeah that's the trunnion bearings.
Can you speak to this process a bit more? What will I feel? A spot somewhere in the articulation where the wheels stick or feel harder to turn/. Now I'm curious if I'll feel it, as you say, more in that 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock area just on either side of dead straight? I'm fairly positive they were never replaced.

If I'm going to pull the front knuckles apart, I'll just replace all of the bearings and seals and be done with it. Any kit better than the rest?

Any kit with OEM parts is the way to go. Avoid the Marlin kit unless you plan to put aftermarket axels shafts in. The inner seals tend to leak with stock and/or worn shafts. Mine did and now I need to change them again... wish I would have done more research before buying. The rest of his kit is great, but for whatever reason those seals don't work well.
 
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Messages
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Can you speak to this process a bit more? What will I feel? A spot somewhere in the articulation where the wheels stick or feel harder to turn/. Now I'm curious if I'll feel it, as you say, more in that 9 o'clock to 3 o'clock area just on either side of dead straight? I'm fairly positive they were never replaced.

If I'm going to pull the front knuckles apart, I'll just replace all of the bearings and seals and be done with it. Any kit better than the rest?
Yes...on mine I could feel the turning resistance climb then fall when passing thru where the bearings were hanging up. It was distinct and repeatable.

Agree 100% on your replacement approach. Cheap-ish parts, but a fair bit of labor.

Several great comprehensive parts kit sources out there. I usually go thru Trail Tailor, but have also ordered thru Cruiser Outfitters.
 
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Messages
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Yes...on mine I could feel the turning resistance climb then fall when passing thru where the bearings were hanging up. It was distinct and repeatable.

Agree 100% on your replacement approach. Cheap-ish parts, but a fair bit of labor.

Several great comprehensive parts kit sources out there. I usually go thru Trail Tailor, but have also ordered thru Cruiser Outfitters.

Either I'm looking at the wrong parts or both of those vendors are either out of stock or no longer selling the kit.
 
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Either I'm looking at the wrong parts or both of those vendors are either out of stock or no longer selling the kit.
I don't think Jason at Trail Tailor lists the kits on his site...may have to call or email him.

For Cruiser Outfitters, it's good to just give 'em a call - they'll set you up right.
 
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When my 96 model developed very stiff steering I pulled the front axle apart and found the trunnion bearings were falling apart, broken bits along with very rough/worn/pitted roller bearings. They had been reinstalled incorrectly by the PO which led to their early demise. New trunnion bearings fixed that issue.
FWIW.
 

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