Scraping noise from behind steering wheel? Could be steering angle sensor...DIY fix.

Joined
May 16, 2017
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85
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SE Michigan
My '05 LX 470 has been plagued by a scraping / scratching noise coming from behind steering wheel. It was mostly when turning left (CCW direction) and most prevalent at cold temps before cabin heated up.

Fix attempt #1: Use syringe to inject silicone grease (Sil-Glyde) at all accessible rotating surfaces between steering wheel, spiral cable and steering column.
=> Result: No improvement in noise.

Fix attempt #2: Replace spiral cable (clock spring) with aftermarket version. Noticed that original OEM part seemed smooth, replaced anyway.
=> Result: No improvement in noise. In fact, the connectors on the aftermarket part were defective and my airbag light came on. Reinstalled the OEM spiral cable.

Fix attempt #3: OK, time for methodical analysis. No rubbing of column cover, no noise from spiral cable, no noise from column bushings/bearing. I spun the retaining holding the steering angle sensing ring and, lo and behold, a scraping sound when turning left.
=> Analysis: A 1mm gap between the retainer and the ring had developed, likely due to lack of grease and wear. The ring was now "floating" in the gap and when spun quickly (like during parking maneuvers) would chatter against the steering angle sensor.
=> The Fix: I removed the turn/wiper switch bracket, along with steering angle sensor & ring, from the steering column. On the workbench I used wooden toothpicks to carefully wedge the bracket switch tabs inward and separated ring retainer. Using a butane hot air torch I softened the retainer flanges and gently bent them downward to eliminate the gap to the ring. **WARNING: Using open flame on this part will scorch the resin and weaken/damage the flange.** I also squeezed together the slot on the retainer which mates with the sensing ring tab; this reduced the amount of rotational gap/slop between the two parts. Photos below show the key points... sorry for not taking during the procedure but this was an experimental process. Also sorry for all the grease present!
=> Result: Scraping noise GONE! I'm sure the grease had a lot to do with it, but the adjustments to the retainer eliminated nearly all free play in the ring yet it still rotated smoothly.

overall diagram.jpg


ring gap diagram.jpg


retainer removal diagram.jpg


butane torch.jpg
 
Joined
Aug 15, 2017
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seattle, wa
@vishmuzty -

Thanks for the great write up, I'm experiencing the identical issue, was excited to see this in the search results. Wanted to ask - do you think that adding fresh grease/lube could fix the problem alone? Always trying to find the shortcut here...
 
Joined
May 16, 2017
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SE Michigan
Yes it would probably work temporarily to mitigate sensor ring rattle. But pulling the steering wheel is 50% if the effort to access the ring.
 

YardPig

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Wondering if this could be intermittent VSC actuation....A pickup plate with varying gap to the sensor.... The manual does mention checking this steering angle sensor pickup wheel for clear windows (debris). I could see a bent pickup wheel having intermittent signal, do you have an air gap specification between the wheel and the steering angle sensor? Thanks for posting!
 
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Yeah I suppose too much free play of the sensing ring could result in an intermittent signal.

I assume it’s a Hall effect sensor that reads magnetic N-S pulse edge counts as the slots in the ring rotate. Any rotational slop in the ring could result in a double edge count. Axial movement - either wobble from excessive gap or shimming per my technique - would change sensing distance. Hall sensor gaps are more critical at extreme temps, so I’ll monitor for any errors as it gets colder here in MI.

There is no ring x sensor clearance spec in the FSM. Hopefully my “fix” doesn’t cause a secondary sensing issue!
 

YardPig

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Great information! This is the hardcore info that brings solutions to these complex systems. As you know VSC is staring at a half dozen components looking for input, this is just one variable. The manual does state to check the reluctor ring for open windows, I could see forign material being lodged in one of the windows and breaking the transition.

Do you know if it is a reluctor style window or is it an open/close magnetic style?

I'm not an engineer but know that a open/closed window would suffer from debris far more then a magnetic style....
 
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I would guess it’s a Hall effect sensor since there is a power input and output is a digital square wave. The edges of the opened/closed windows on the ring output a digital on/off signal for the ECU to count pulse edges and thus steering angle.
Similar concept to a reluctance sensor, except usually a reluctor only has two wires since the internal magnetic coil generates a comparatively analog voltage output.
I think. I is an engineer but one of them dumb mechanical kind :)
 
Joined
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Chelmsford, MA
Excellent write up! I'm having this issue as well and noticing it more now that the cold weather is here. Can you describe the pre-steps to get access to the steering ring?

You mentioned removing the steering wheel takes half the time - is that simply remove the air bag, and one bolt to remove the steering wheel or is it more complicated than that? Once the wheel is removed, do you have clear access to the retainer and sensor ring?
 
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Joined
May 16, 2017
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85
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SE Michigan
From memory...
1) Disconnect battery negative cable, wait at least 2 minutes.
2) Remove access covers on back of steering wheel (4 & 8 o'clock positions).
3) Use torx driver to unscrew airbag bolts, one on each side.
4) Pull off airbag and disconnect two plugs, using small flathead to gently pry up retaining tabs. Horn connector has a small locking tab, use a small pick to release.
5) Disconnect slip ring harness plugs. Yellow airbag connector releases by sliding tab.
6) Use a paint marker to index steering wheel to column shaft. Use a puller with 8mm bolts to remove steering wheel from tapered shaft.
7) Remove column cover clamshells: 2 screws on top + 1 bolt underneath then carefully separate.
8) Remove 4 screws securing slip ring, disconnect harness plugs. Yellow airbag connector releases by sliding tab.

Now you should have full access to the turn signal bracket & steering sensor.
 
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YardPig

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I would guess it’s a Hall effect sensor since there is a power input and output is a digital square wave. The edges of the opened/closed windows on the ring output a digital on/off signal for the ECU to count pulse edges and thus steering angle.
Similar concept to a reluctance sensor, except usually a reluctor only has two wires since the internal magnetic coil generates a comparatively analog voltage output.
I think. I is an engineer but one of them dumb mechanical kind :)
Great write up and explanation. Thanks!
 
Joined
Nov 26, 2017
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Charleston, SC
I have the same issue and I have a new spiral cable on the way, so that will be the perfect time to tear into this too! Does anyone know of any issues or different steps to doing this on an LX, since they have VGRS?
 
Joined
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Yorktown, VA
I think I will try the grease before I take a torch to it. I uploaded a video of the noise I am hearing. Will you confirm this is what you heard before you started the repair process?

I also get a squeak from lower on the steering column, near where it penetrates the firewall. Any suggestions for that?


 
Joined
May 16, 2017
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SE Michigan
No, that's much more severe than what I was hearing on my LX. I was hearing a grinding or scraping sound, like dragging a fingernail over rough plastic. Take the column covers off and try to isolate. Might want to pickup a mechanic stethoscope to help pinpoint the source. Your noise might be a bearing or rubber shield dragging.
 
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Atlanta, GA
I think I will try the grease before I take a torch to it. I uploaded a video of the noise I am hearing. Will you confirm this is what you heard before you started the repair process?

I also get a squeak from lower on the steering column, near where it penetrates the firewall. Any suggestions for that?
Hey, just wondering if you ever figured out the cause of this noise. I'm getting the exact same noise in my GX. Heard for the first time about a month ago when the temps dropped below 40 for the first time down here in GA.
 
Joined
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Atlanta, GA
Gotcha. I'm probably gonna try some lubricant this weekend, and see if it goes away. Yours is the first video I've seen where the noise is the exact same that I'm hearing. All the clock spring stuff I've found sounds different, and it seems like cruise control and other components fail when the spring goes. Really hoping it isn't that spring, cause it's a $390 part for the GX =|
 
Joined
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Gotcha. I'm probably gonna try some lubricant this weekend, and see if it goes away. Yours is the first video I've seen where the noise is the exact same that I'm hearing. All the clock spring stuff I've found sounds different, and it seems like cruise control and other components fail when the spring goes. Really hoping it isn't that spring, cause it's a $390 part for the GX =|
Also, don't pay more than ~$200. Clock Spring - Toyota (84306-07040) | Toyota Parts
 
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