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GMT400 Steering Repair

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by: Nubuilder

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This was all done on my 1998 K1500.
Please be sure to double check that the part numbers match your application!

I will also TRY to explain the stuff we did, but it was a long day.

We worked on the truck from 9am until 11pm (14hrs) so I'm tired.

**Sorry, no pics (my hands were black all day long and I wouldn't have wanted to touch the camera even if I had it with me).**

Alignment
I forgot to mention that my buddy is taking it to school and doing the alignment as part of their class (they just happen to be doing it right now). It'll get done Tues/Wed. For now, my truck is sitting at his house. No sense driving 6mi home, 6mi back to his house, and then to school.

If you do this yourself you will need an alignment, I would suggest taking it to your favorite local shop that can perform it if you don't do it yourself.

Tips

CV Shaft
If you plan on removing the spindle or CV shaft, leave the wheels on and on the ground. A large 35mm socket is needed to remove the nut. Once this is off, jack up the truck. I had jack stands under the lower control arms just inside of the ball joint.

Ball Joint Nuts
Both nuts are 1 1/16" (I think; definitely bigger than 1"). The lower ball joint you can get a socket on, but the upper you have to use either a box end (recommended) or open end wrench on.

Remove Spindle/Separate From Ball Joints

Turn the spindle all the way so that the front is accessible (so turn so that the rear is as far in as possible). Insert pickle fork and beat it with a hammer (possibly two or more depending upon size of hammer). I thought we hit something/bottomed out the pickle, but it was just being stubborn. It if helps, remove the pickle and re-insert it to start over again (from the same side). The lowers were more difficult. You pill puncture/ruin the boots, but that doesn't matter.

Before Pitman Arm
Lock the steering wheel in place. I also tied it off inside the truck to be safe. Loosen the 10mm bolt holding the steering shaft to the steering box. I never fully removed the steering shaft from the box. I guess there was enough play in the joint on it.

Pitman Arm
There are 3 bolts holding the steering box to the frame. 2 are easily accessible (use an impact gun and completely remove them), but the 3rd requires bending (yes I know, I didn't want to, but I had to) the corner of the inner fender. I took out almost a dozen bolts that hold the inner fender in place so I could move the entire fender and make a larger, more gradual bend to it). For some reason 13/16" fit really tight, but was the closest I had (might have been 21mm, but the wrench kept falling off and I didn't have a socket. On this 3rd bolt, I used a shallow (standard) 13/16" and a 1/2" breaker bar. All you have to do is loosen this bolt. My socket ended up stuck on the bolt. I just left it there until I tightened it back up. Once you've done all this, push up on the pitman arm to pivot the steering box up. Then slide the lower of the two bolts you took out back in to hold it up. All this work will give you the room you need to get a pitman arm puller on the pitman arm. Mine took a combination of heat (regular torch; not the little blue can ones) and vibration (I used an air chisel and beat up the old pitman arm a little). Mine finally came off after heat, vibration, tighten puller and repeating for 5min (or so).

Idler Arm
There are three bolts holding the Idler Arm Bracket to the frame. Again, 2 are easy to get to, but one is a little tricky. I got at it without bending the inner fender, just pushing it out of the way a little. Be careful not to loose your socket in the frame! I can't tell you what size it was, but it is a regular size in any impact set. For this, someone will need a combination wrench to hold the nuts on the inside of the frame. An impact gun, deep socket, and 6" extension were used to go through the frame. I just left the bolts in the frame. They seemed to stay there on their own. With the Idler Arm Bracket and Idler Arm assembly out, place in a vice to get the nut off (we couldn't get the nut off with this unit in the truck). I re-used the Idler Arm Bracket (didn't know I could/should replace it) and the shaft coming out of it turned on its own. To get around this, wipe off the shaft with something that will take the grease off. Put the new Idler Arm on, pull/push down on it, and use an impact gun to get the nut on. Pushing down helps keep the shaft from spinning. This worked for me anyways.

Upper Ball Joint
Factory upper's are riveted in (3 rivets and 1 bolt that holds a bracket to support the wheel speed sensor). I ended up chiseling off the heads of the rivets, using an air-powered cutoff wheel to cut part way through the outer two ears (there are 4). Then used an air chisel to punch the rest of the way through (or something like that). Hopefully by now the ball joint is out, but the rivets probably sheered off. I used an air drill and impact hammer to get these out of the upper control arm.

Lower Ball Joint
Major PITA....at least the first time (too bad there's only 2, I was getting the hang of it after the first one ). You'll need to support the lower control arm as close to the ball joint as you can without touching it. I used a bottle jack and some scrap steel laying around to spread the load out. This will keep the arm from bouncing and absorbing the shock. Now, take a hammer and beat the piss out of the top of the ball joint. If this doesn't work, heat may be need to be applied to the to the area holding the ball joint, but not too much. I needed to do apply heat to only one. Congrats, you've got it out....one anyways. Now, you'll need a press. I tried renting one from AutoZone and it didn't work. The C-clamp thing seemed to be made out of aluminum and it was bent before I even tried. So I got a different one from my buddy's work (I got lucky). I do know that Advance Auto has one, but didn't see it in person. When pressing the ball joint back in, MAKE SURE IT GOES IN SQUARE!!! I used a breaker bar and did it all by hand. There's no way an impact gun would do it (I tried). Alternate the C-clamp between the front side of the ball joint and the rear side of the ball joint. This will help insure that is goes in square. It also sort of makes it go in slightly, very slightly easier. It took all I had to get these things in. The first one took well over 1hr (didn't really look), but the second took maybe 20min to get back in .

Tie Rod Ends (both/all 4)
Remove the nut holding them on, place pickle fork, beat it with a hammer. End of process. I removed the inner tie rod, tie rod sleeve, and outer tie rod as one assembly. Then I matched up the new stuff as close as possible to the same length as the old so it wouldn't be quite so badly out of alignment.

Sway Bar
I cut the sway bar links because I was replacing them and didn't want to deal with them. The brackets holding the sway bar in have 4 10mm bolts (2 on each side).


Tools Used (specialty)
Torch
Impact Gun
Impact Hammer
Air Chisel
Air Cut-off wheel
Larger than 1", smaller than 1 1/2" sockets/wrenches
Pickle Fork
Pitman Arm puller (rented)
Ball Joint Press (rented)


I think that covers most of the stuff I remember that we did/used.


Putting It All Back Together


Obviously, install ball joints, Pitman Arm, and Idler Arm before anything else. Next, install the center link. The "bends/steps" in it go towards the rear (you'll know what I mean). Bolt it too the Pitman and Idler Arms. Next, install the spindles. Get it on the Lower Ball Joint first, then start the CV axle in. To get it in, you have to lift up REALLY far on the spindle otherwise it is crooked and the axle won't go into the splines. It takes some wiggling to get the CV axle back in the splines. With the axle back in, get the spindle on the upper ball joint. Now install the nuts on the ball joints. Once all this is done, its time to install the tie rod assembly (inner tie rod, tie rod link, and outer tie rod). Get the tie rods in the spindle and center link, then put the nuts on them.

I think that's it for steering parts.

With all this in place, you can still get the sway bar back in. It takes some wiggling and a couple tries, but the sway bar will fit through between the center link and frame. Get the bushings on it a and lined up. Bolt it up, but do not tighten all the way yet. Now you need to get the Sway Bar Links installed. These are a bit tricky. The bolt goes from the top down. Get the upper bushings, the sleeve, and the top lower bushing installed. You'll need to figure a way to get the lower control arm pushed up otherwise the bolt will not line up. This was probably the hardest part of re-assembling everything.


Parts List


This is my list. I have STAMPED lower control arms and the 1 1/4" sway bar. I think that's all that you need to know when figuring out the parts you need.

Duralast ES2836 Outer Tie Rod End -- 2 -- AutoZone -- bought over a year ago
Moog ES2838RL Inner Tie Rod End ----------- $35.99 -- 2 -- RockAuto
Moog ES2004S Tie Rod Sleeve --------------- $10.57 -- 2 -- RockAuto
Moog K6292 Upper Ball Joint ----------------- $27.99 -- 2 -- RockAuto
Moog K6477 Lower Ball Joint (stamped arm) -- $36.79 -- 2 -- RockAuto
Moog K6335 Pitman Arm --------------------- $38.79 -- 1 -- RockAuto
Moog K6447 Idler Arm ----------------------- $56.79 -- 1 -- RockAuto
Moog K6455 Sway Bar Bushing Kit ------------ $11.64 -- 1 -- RockAuto
Moog K80631 Sway Bar Link Kit -------------- $14.60 -- 2 -- RockAuto

Parts total (had a 5% off coupon) = $372.47 (plus tax and shipping) plus the outer tie rods ($50-$60 total)


Had I done this all over again, and at one time, I would have bough all Moog parts and added the Idler Arm Mount/Bracket to the list.

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