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  #1  
Old 12-14-2008, 11:18 AM
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 6
Default steering locks up when turning left

I drive a 2001 T&C Limited minivan. Only in cold weather, my steering will lock up tight while trying to make a left turn. I can move the wheel slightly to the left but then it gets impossible to turn. If I quickly turn the wheel slightly to the right, it will release whatever'sholding it.

In past years, this hasn't been a huge deal because it would only happen once, within a minute of starting the car and starting my trip. Once I made that slight right turn of the wheel, it would release and not be an issue for the remainder of the trip. If the car was turned off and left to get cold, I would have to do the process over again upon starting out.

I don't think it's the steering wheel itself, it feels more like a hydraulic feel and down with the tires. I know that's a pretty amatuer statement, but I don't think it's in the steering mechanism. Sometimes I get a warning that it's about to happen because theturning will gradually (a 2-3 second timeframe) start to get tough to move. Then I'm not strong enough to get it to turn any further.

This winter though, the problem has happened more than once on my trip.In the past,I could rely on the fact that once I went through the "release" procedure, it wouldn't happen again. The other day, it happened twice. Now I'm worried about it.

Any thoughts on what this could be? Is this an expensive fix? I know the answer to that is "yes". There's nothing on this van that's not expensive to fix.

I appreciate any replies on this. Also, any suggestions on finding a reputable mechanic in North Metro Denver?

edit: after posting this, I realized I had posted a similar message in the early part of 2008. I received one reply on it but none of the suggestions panned out. If a moderator would like to move this message over with the other one, that would be great. Sorry for the trouble.
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  #2  
Old 12-14-2008, 12:22 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location:
Posts: 43
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

Start with a power steering fluid replacement. If you hear a groaning noise when turning, you may have a clogged screen in the plastic reservoir for the PS. (Reservoir replacement is the best fix for that, and the part costs $35) Ask the shop to install Chrysler ATF+4 fluid only.



You problem does sound like "morning sickness" due to a worn rack. If it comes to that, buying a rebuilt rack from the aftermarket might be preferable to buying a new piece from the dealer, because the worn area will have been re-sleeved with a stronger material.

There were also some Chrysler TSBs about P/S hoses and pumps but I don't think you would be seeing these problems.


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Atwell Haines
2002 Dodge Grand Caravan ES
3.8L, Autostick
NJ
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  #3  
Old 12-14-2008, 12:24 PM
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 149
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

i would 1, check fluid level, 2 check to make sure the power steering fluid looks like it is flowing fast if both those look ok i would have to say theres something wrong with your steering gear.
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  #4  
Old 12-14-2008, 12:46 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 6
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

Thanks dodgetech1 and carbuff2, after I posted this back in Feb., I did just that - had the power steering fluid replaced. No help. And there's no grindingnoise, no noise whatsoever. I also had a visual check done on the steering gear.

Thesad emoticon after the "rack" reference must mean rack & pinion is a pretty bad thing, and probably pretty expensive. ugh.How does one go about finding a mechanic that uses aftermarket parts? I'm guessing a chrysler dealership wouldn't do that.

If it's the "rack" (which I assume means "rack & pinion"), would it make sense that this problem only occurs when the temperature outside is cold?

Oh, and is there a way for a mechanic to test the rack & pinion before fixing/replacing it? Or does it just have to be replaced and then wait to see if the problem happens again?

As you can probably tell, I know nothing about cars. Thanks for speaking in layman's terms in your replies.
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  #5  
Old 12-14-2008, 01:06 PM
 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location:
Posts: 43
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

Quote:
ORIGINAL: paakraat

How does one go about finding a mechanic that uses aftermarket parts? I'm guessing a chrysler dealership wouldn't do that.

If it's the "rack" (which I assume means "rack & pinion"), would it make sense that this problem only occurs when the temperature outside is cold?

Oh, and is there a way for a mechanic to test the rack & pinion before fixing/replacing it? Or does it just have to be replaced and then wait to see if the problem happens again?
An independent shop would be most likely to install a rebuilt rack. Check prices at Rockauto.com and your local Chrysler dealer's website to see the $$ difference. Ask acquaintances with Chrysler Corp vehicles who they use, and if they are happy with them.


Yes, a "cold" failure (binding) is typical. GM Racks were famous for this failure. It also happened on some Ford products. So it's not just a Chrysler issue.

How many miles on your T&C? Might you be eligible for the warranty? There HAVE been some mention of premature failure of steering rack & pinions in the forums I subscribe to.

As for testing them, I'm not sure...that's why we suggested the cheap stuff first. But, since you have already done those things, it may be time to face the music, as Dodgetech1 says...



PS Just as an afterthought, here are steering system preservation tips:

It's not a good idea to hold the steering wheel at "full-lock" (as sharp as it can go) because that builds up excess pressure in the system.

Also, if you can, always have the car rolling as you turn the wheel...again this lessens the strain on the hydraulics, they don't have to work as hard.

Post back with your outcome!




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2002 Dodge Grand Caravan ES
3.8L, Autostick
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  #6  
Old 12-14-2008, 01:25 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 6
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

Thanks again carbuff2.Sounds like I'll be taking it in fora rack replacement. I've got over 100K miles so I'm sure there's no warranty on it. Thanks for the tips on steering system preservation. Now, to find a mechanic...
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  #7  
Old 12-15-2008, 01:47 AM
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 149
Default RE: steering locks up when turning left

You can always ask you dealer if they would install an aftermarket part on it too. The only way that i know of testing the system would be hooking up pressure gauges to the power steering lines and seeing if they are in spec.

Visual inspections are ok but they only give you half the story. you might be leaking in between the seals inside the rack and would never know.
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  #8  
Old 02-22-2009, 04:34 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 6
Default Rack replaced (twice), now it shudders when turning right

I'm sorry, this is going to be a long post... I've had a bunch of things done to my van all since the last time I posted. I found a Ford mechanic who would put a Rack and Pinion in for me as a side job.

Prior to the work, there were NO noticeable problems on the van other than not being able to turn left in extreme cold temps. The wheel would lock up until a quick, slight turn to the right would unbind whatever was holding it. Carbuff2 called it "morning sickness".

On the drive home after the Rack was finished, I immediately noticed two new problems. 1) a repetitive noise that I could only hear while moving at lower speeds and 2) an extremely noticeable hard downshift while decelerating when the van hit about 30mph. The mechanic said neither could be related to the work he did on the Rack. He did say the noise I was hearing could be related to the fact that now I needed to have an alignment done.

So I took the van to a transmission shop. He said the harsh downshift wasn't related to the Rack and said I needed $2100 worth of transmission repairs (ugh!). Got that done and that particular problem seemed to go away.

The next day, I took the van to Big-O for the alignment. They said the noise was actually that the rear rotors were badly warped and needed replaced. Interestingly, I never noticed the noise prior to the Rack being replaced and it was a VERY noticeable noise. I said ok, fix them. Then they said the left front hub was loose and they couldn't do the alignment without fixing that first. What could I say, except to fix it. A $69 alignment wound up costing $679.

As I was leaving Big-O, and driving very slowly from their parking lot, the van made a horrible shuddering vibration and noise as I would turn the wheel. It feels like it's down in the wheels, almost like they're stuck to the ground and don't want to move on the ground. I know that's a pretty amateurish description but I don't know how else to describe it. I immediately called the mechanic out even though it was closing time. He drove it around their lot, came back and declared "it's the Rack & Pinion". It was obvious he was ready to go home. I'm actually not even sure he heard or felt it because it didn't do it when I left again. However, it's doing it all of the time now - at low speeds (under 20mph) and while turning either direction, but significantly worse while turning right. It's extremely annoying. Occasionally, I also hear a single knock (clunk) which sounds like it's coming from under my feet when I accelerate from a stop.

This surely isn't related, but I thought I'd better include it... about 2 days after I picked the van up from Big-O, I was sitting in a parking lot with the van idling on a very cold day. All of a sudden, I heard a very faint, "rrrr-ing" noise that lasted about 5-10 seconds. I didn't think much about it until I was ready to leave the parking spot and couldn't turn my wheel either direction. Later that day, when I finally got the van back to Big-O, they said the power steering hose had burst. They replaced that and all seemed fine, except for the fact that this shuddering still seems to be just as bad.

One suggestion I got from an ASE certified technician on another forum was this:
Depending on whether or not you bought a new or reman rack, the noise could be the new rack unit. Try putting a very small amount of motor oil (2-3 tbsp) in the p/s pump resevoir and driving it. Sometimes the seals are a little sticky and need some more lubrication, it will also help out the pump if it is having a problem.

Yesterday, I took the van back to the mechanic who replaced the Rack. He went and got another one from NAPA and replaced the Rack again. However, the shudder is still there and he's out of ideas.

He listed a ton of things that he tried but here are the things I can remember - he made sure there was no air in the lines, he took the tires off and checked the assemblies well, he even moved the front tires to the back and vice versa to see if it was a tire problem. He added some power steering conditioner (rather than motor oil as suggested on the other forum) but it made no difference. He called the guy who worked on the transmission and made sure everything related to those repairs were tight and in good order. He also replaced the hoses that Big-O had put on when the power steering hose had burst (after the shuddering had started) because he said they were too small and were swelling to more than twice their normal size.

He did note that the shudder is significantly worse when turning the wheel to the right than to the left (no difference from the first new Rack). He also noticed that when you're driving straight down the road, at any speed, that there's no shudder noticeable at all. It's only when you even slightly turn the wheel at very slow speeds (like when you're trying to park). Another thing he noted is that when he lifted the van and took the weight off of the suspension that the shudder goes away.

Do you have any other thoughts on this? Do you think it's a good idea to try the motor oil in the power steering pump or is power steering conditioner just as good? What else could it possibly be?
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Old 02-22-2009, 04:34 PM
 
 
 
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2001, 2002, caravan, cold, cost, cruiser, free, install, lock, pinion, power, pt, pump, rack, shudder, steering, sticky, turning

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