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Heavy steering with no centering


Sevins7
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I have just received my newly purchased 1995 Caterham (1600 X-Flow, solid axle) and the steering is super heavy with zero centering.

I have owned a Caterham BV Twin Cam before and the steering on that one was normal.

This one has an 8% rack I believe.

While it's quite heavy driving the country roads around here the main problem is keeping it straight on the highway.

The car just wants to hold whatever line i set and getting it straight requires a huge effort and constant nudging of the wheel.

It is really unpleasant and feels a bit dangerous. I cannot relax for one second. And after a short 40 mile drive into town and back my arms and hands are toast.

The seller insists the wheels were correctly aligned. Its running 13x5 rims and 185 tires so not much issue there.

I jacked it up and there is a bit of friction. It also feels a tiny bit heavy when standing still but this is down to the small steering wheel i think.

It all goes wrong as soon as it's moving.

Any help would be gratefully received. The seller thinks it is just down to the 8% rack and wants me to buy a new standard version from Caterham. I am not sure i agree with this at all.

I need to get it registered in the next 10 days so any help will be gratefully received.

Many thanks.

Aloha!

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Congratulations on your new Caterham!   Don't be discouraged -this is where you start to personalize it to your desired specification and feel.

 

An 8% steering rack was standard road fitment for many cars.  The 22% steering rack was more for the race cars.  The turns lock to lock are 1.9 and 1.7 respectively.  There was a 5% (I think that was the %) rack fitted at one point but that was 2.5 turns lock to lock.  You could look for that rack but its only half a turn different lock to lock.  Not much difference in all 3 types.  I don't think that is your primary problem although it could be a contributor.  

 

The steering wheel is tiny on a Caterham.  Not sure what size you have but going from a 10 inch steering wheel to a 12 inch wheel makes a huge difference in lessening steering effort.   That will not solve your directional issue though.  

 

Tires can make a big difference.  ACB10s are notorious for tram-lining but the photo shows another brand - Yokohamas I think?   What pressure are you running?  Should be around 18psi (cold) to allow the sidewalls to flex properly given the tires were designed for a much bigger heavier car and they are mounted to a flyweight Caterham.  If you were running one of the Avon tires you could lift the pressures to 22psi (front cold) and 20psi (rear cold) but that feels too high for the Yokohamas.  Maybe try experimenting within that range of pressures to see if you get a better front feel.  You don't say about any unusual tire wear evident on the tread but that would be a pointer to the next topic - suspension alignment. 

 

So then we get to front suspension alignment.  The three settings to consider - toe in, camber and caster.  All 3 could be contributing to what you are experiencing - a reluctance to change direction.    Picking the assembly manual from the downloads section of this site and going to Section 14/page 6 [also page 124 of the PDF page reference it shows the initial alignment settings and how to do it.  

 

Use those settings to baseline what you have either by adjusting yourself or try a professional shop to set it up for you.  Then drive again off those settings to see what it feels like.  

 

Its going to be a process of elimination to narrow down what is causing the issue but it should be one or a mix of the factors listed.

 

 

 

 

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Not sure on 7s but I think it is caster that has a huge effect on tracking in a straight line. For steering effort it may be worth looking into a removable steering wheel hub and larger wheel. That allows a little more comfortable entry and seems essential with a roll cage anyway. Hope you have some luck with it.

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It sounds like a sticky or seized ball joint/rod end or that the lube in the rack lube had dried up and gotten sticky. In any case it sounds like a friction issue.

 

dave

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Does the car keep going at whatever the steering wheel is set at or does it "hunt" around for a path as it goes over road features and bumps?

 

Do you have a removable steering wheel?

 

 

My car, as I recall on the highway I do need a death grip as it won't just track dead straight on it's own and will dart in a direction as I go over bumps. Never given it much thought personally. It can track pretty well on slower speeds but it's not a car I'd ever trust without having hands on the wheel. 

 

My dilemma is that that I can't get the steering wheel to be centered. It's off to one side or the other depending on which spline it is. 

 

Edit: With that said, I wouldn't say that the steering wheel is heavy per se. No idea which rack I have. 

Edited by Vovchandr
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I'd start with the easy stuff.  Do a visual check on the caster washers to see if a previous owner set that up with a lot of negative caster.  Also closely examine the various ball joint rubber boots for tears.  Next, with the front end jacked up, grab a front wheel and move it back and forth to get a sense for what the friction feels like with the system intact.  Movement should be pretty smooth.  Next remove the steering shaft from the rack.  Rotate the steering wheel and confirm there isn't friction in that assembly and it rotates smoothly.  Now try moving the wheels again and reconfirm smoothness.  If something doesn't feel right there, reattach the steering shaft, remove the tie rod ends from the uprights and check steering rack and both wheel assemblies to see where the problem resides.

 

Positive caster creates more self-centering and increases steering effort.  Negative caster, just the opposite.  Given your symptoms are heavy steering (positive caster) and lack of self centering (negative caster) I suspect stiction in the ball joints, steering rack, or steering shaft assemblies is at least part of the problem.  One caveat to all this is that what you consider heavy, others may consider normal. However, given you've owned a Seven before, it does sound like something is amiss.

 

-John

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@Vovchandrit goes wherever I set the wheel. Small turn or large it just locks in place. There is zero self centering or any feel of where center is.

staying straight on a highway is a test of skill and strength as it always wants to stray with the wind, road camber, whatever. Just making small changes is so hard as I over correct due to the stiffness so always need to then correct the other way. It’s a constant clicking at the wheel to attempt getting it to track along a road.

 

Anyway…….Big mahalo to you all. Some great advise and suggestions. I will go through all of them and see what it reveals.

aloha !

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4 hours ago, Davemk1 said:

It sounds like a sticky or seized ball joint/rod end or that the lube in the rack lube had dried up and gotten sticky. In any case it sounds like a friction issue.

 

dave

I'm with Dave on this, given that it stays pointed wherever you leave the steering.  Jack it up, disconnect the tie rods, and move everything separately. I think you'll find a tie rod end or ball joint seizing up. If the steering is still hard to turn when apart, the rack is tight

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On 11/23/2021 at 4:15 AM, Davemk1 said:

It sounds like a sticky or seized ball joint/rod end or that the lube in the rack lube had dried up and gotten sticky. In any case it sounds like a friction issue.

 

dave

I jacked the car up and there is some binding going on especially in the center where it sticks quite hard and requires more effort to get it past that point

The car is a 1995 with just 950 miles on the clock and I’m wondering if the rack has dried out as you are suggesting, if so how can I deal with this?

I have bought some 140 EP gear oil which I believe is appropriate for this application.

mahalo

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Update:

I disconnected the rod ends. The hubs rotate freely. No binding at all.

The steering still feels heavy and notchy. Virtually no difference from when the rods were connected.

Removed the steering UJ at the rack and the column is free with no binding or rubbing.

Ergo....steering box or alignment.

I think kit must be the rack. When it is attached to the steering column there is some serious binding and rubbing going on even with the rods ends disconnected.

So what next?

As mentioned above, this is supposedly a 950 mile car and it has obviously been sitting for years. 

Could the grease have been lost or hardened? Is it time for a new rack? Would the adjusting nut make any difference?

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That’s an interesting thought and one that I will try. Especially as there may be some chassis issues and it’s easy to do.

mahalo!

I think I might try pumping some 140EP into the rack too. Why not eh? 

 

Edited by Sevins7
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I am wondering why I cannot turn the set screw on the rack. I have removed the big nut but the allen screw will not budge in either direction. I had read somewhere that this is a good place to add some oil/grease. Or can I add some by removing the gaiter zip ties?

Meanwhile after I disconnected and reconnected the steering column the horn comes on when i push on the steering wheel :classic_blush:

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On 11/24/2021 at 9:49 PM, Sevins7 said:

That's interesting as I can see a bend in the front cross member where the horns are.

The seller said it probably happened when it was towed out of wherever it sat for years!

The rack looks OK from the outside.

Many thanks.

 

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The explanation for the cross-member damage due to a tow strap appears sketchy to me. I would hazard a guess those notches were made by a more robust collision. It may be worthwhile getting the frame checked out to see if it's square or deformed in some way.

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