Pulled out of driveway and suddenly had no steering.wheel turned freely both ways (several times) but wouldn't engage. Was in drive and would go forward and back but not turn.
Tow truck driver shows, crawls under, has me slightly turn wheel, and re-attaches what he called the 'drivetrain'. It worked enough to get truck back to driveway, but he said it needed further tightening and I could do it with a hammer.
Any idea what name of part I'm supposed to hammer?
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It might possibly be the ignition switch, or the linkage to it.
They reason I suspect this is your statement, "I bumped the key forward and it will engage the starter but still wont shut off"
The part where you insert the key is really a "cylinder lock", that then transfers the turning motion to the actual "ignition switch"
My wife had a Pontiac (also a GM product) that the cylinder lock had a linkage that went to the ignition switch (similar to a sliding electric switch, with the 4 positions, ACC, OFF, RUN, START), which was bolted on further down the steering column, underneath the plastic covering on the column.
Another person here had a similar problem, and after suggesting this, he wrote back that he removed his steering column cover and found a screw opposite the cylinder lock that had loosened and fallen out.
So you could try removing the steering column cover and see if all is ok.
Also, when you have it opened up, observe the action as you turn the key, as the problem could be the cylinder lock itself.
You likely have a bad power steering pump or a hose that is leaking. Do not put any fluid other than power steering fluid in the power steering reservoir. if you do you will wreck the hoses and pump. Better not drive it till you get it repaired or you may ruin something else or have an accident.
A Dodge Dakota with 4-wheel steer? Do you happen to mean 4-wheel drive?
If so, you should not operate the vehicle in 4-wheel drive when you are traveling on a hard, high-traction surface. When in 4x4, the transfer case connects the front and rear axles, and does not allow for differentiation of wheel speeds necessary when turning. This is compensated for when driving over low-traction terrain because the tires slip easier.
Basically, the jerking, bucking and locking of the truck is due to the binding. This will eventually lead to damage in the driveline. If the roadway isn't covered in snow, there is no need for the 4 wheel drive to be engaged.
You probably have some parts inside your column that are binding and just not working properly anymore. Their however a few things to remedy this:
Expensive: Buy a new/used steering lock/column, different manufacturers sell these seperately or as one piece.
Cheap: Dismantle the steering column to get the lock out, see if you can get it to retract properly again by greasing, or just grind about half of it off, so it will still engage with the key removed but will clear the column. You can test this without having to put it all back in the car each time.
You may also want to check the steering shaft underneath the hood. It will have a u-joint somewhere along the shaft and overtime these things need to be greased to continue to operate smoothly and not bind. I would spray liberal amounts of wd-40 on the u-joint if I were you. I doubt this is the cause of your problem because you say you have a hard time turning your key as well. By you saying that it tells me your problems definetly lie inside your steering column.
Its not very hard to dismantle the column just take your time and remember where things go.
I hope this helps and good luck!
If I've helped you get your car turning properly again please give me a fixya vote, I'd be much obliged,
I doubt it's your 4x4. Most transfer case will start turning the front driveshaft, meaning that BOTH front wheels would try to turn.
Could be a brake pad/caliper locking up on your left wheel. That'll make that wheel turn slower resulting in the veering left.
Could also be a wheel bearing. However usually you'll hear a grinding noise to go along with that. And it'll pull rather consistently in that direction rather than suddenly.
Or, what first comes to mind is that your steering box is loose, or the gear inside the steering box is stripped in one spot. Or your front tie rods could be shifting or possibly ball joints. These would cause a sudden shifting/veering.
All of these things are front end related. And also very dangerous. Take it down to any alignment shop, have them put it on a lift, and diagnose immediately.
Worse case scenerio is that a front end part breaks and sends you out of control and into someone else. Please get it checked. A diesel Suburban could do a lot of damage.
It sounds like the spring loaded pin that the plunger activates is stuck or broken. If its not to cold tap on the housing and see if it kicks in. If not consult the book for an exploded view. If your manual does not have the view go to the nearest dealers parts department and ask them to print you one.