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Re: play between the steering wheel and power steering...
There are 2 sources of play.
There is always a universal in the shaft. It is often just a rubber disk, with crossed T adapters. And the rubber cracks.
The other is in the steering box, and there is a nut over a stud with a screwdriver slot in it.
It is best to adjust this with the wheels off the ground, pointing straight.
You loosen the nut, turn the screwdriver slot in the stud inward until there is a feeling of bottoming out. Then ever so slightly back enough to release any pressure. Tighten the nut without allowing the stud to turn.
If you do it in any other position then straight, it will be too tight when you are straight, because the steering box is intended to loosen up when not straight, to reduce wear.
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Most power steering units have two adjusters--one one the lower end for main bearing adjustment, but the one on top (just like manual steering boxes) is all you usually need to adjust. With front end jacked up and engine running adjust screw inward until drag is felt in steering wheel with wheels pointing straight ahead, then loosen just a touch until no bind is felt as steering is turned back and forth through center of steering.
If there are no wheel controls there probably isn't a wiring harness in the vehicle. If you have controls and are wanting to use them there is a special interface required and the radio has to support this feature.
Could be a bad tire ( or bent rim Have balance checked), ball joint, idler arm, wheel bearing, steering tie rod end or defective rack and pinion unit. Lift vehicle about 1 inch off ground ( do each side independently) Use a pry bar and pry from ground up and down on wheel. Much play? bad ball joint. With both hands, try to move wheel side to side. Much play? could be a tie rod end or bad wheel bearing. Visually check play of steering arm into rack and pinion unit, more than about a half inch play, bad rack and pinion unit. Try to move back and forth with hands top and bottom. Much play? Bad ball joint or wheel bearing, verify visually that it is ball joint moving, else it is the wheel bearing. Manually check for play in each joint in steering control rods from steering knuckle all the way through each rod where there is a joint. Replace the one you find excessive play in. Check mounting studs for sway bar for loose fit, deteriorated rubber bushings or a crack / break in the sway bar. Replace if needed. That's about all I can think of unless it only happens when applying brakes, in which case it could be a warped rotor.
Could be loose lugs/ not torqued to spec. , bad wheel bearing, bad ball joint(s), bad steering arm joint, bad rack and pinion power steering unit, or other steering components. Check lugs first, loosen and retighten while slightly jacked up to take some pressure off of the wheel use a torque wrench set to 100 ft lbs. Then raise wheel about and inch off the floor, use a crowbar to pry up on the wheel several times while observing your ball joints for excessive movement. Very much play at all, replace ball joints, works better to replace them as a pair, top and bottom. If OK, raise wheel a bit further, and grab the top and bottom of the wheel and push/pull in and out to check for play in the wheel bearing. Pretty much any play, replace wheel bearing. If ok, do the same with a side to side motion while observing the steering control arm. Look for play. Play in the joint, replace joint. Play in other steering components, replace suspect component. That's about all the stuff could make the wheel wobble unless the rim itself is bent.
The most common of all problems in a steering system is excessive steering wheel play. Steering wheel play is normally caused by worn ball sockets, worn idler arm, or too much clearance in the steering gearbox. Typically, you shou Id not be able to turn the steering wheel more than 1 1/ 2 inches without causing the front wheels to move. If the steering wheel rotates excessively, a serious steering problem exists.
An effective way to check for play in the steering linkage or rack-and-pinion mechanism is by the dry-park test. With the full weight of the vehicle on the front wheels, have someone move the steering wheel from side to side while you examine the steering system for looseness. Start your inspection at the steering column shaft and work your way to the tie-rod ends. Ensure that the movement of one component causes an equal amount of movement of the adjoining component.
Watch for ball studs that wiggle in their sockets. With a rack-and-pinion steering system, squeeze the rubber boots and feel the inner tie rod to detect wear. If the tie rod moves sideways in relation to the rack, the socket is worn and should be replaced.
Another way of inspecting the steering system involves moving the steering components and front wheel BY HAND. With the steering wheel locked, raise the vehicle and place it on jack stands. Then force the front wheels right and left while checking for component looseness.
Welcome to the wonderful world or old-school steering systems. What you mention is very common in older GM vehicles. The gearbox gets sloppy, and with the additional issue of the drag link and idler arm, you eventually get what we old-timers call "mystery steering". It reminds you of the old movies where they have a person in the car driving with the scenery projected behind them and they are constantly moving the wheel left and right. There may be something that is really needing repair, but more than likely, you are spoiled by later model vehicles with power rack-and -pinion steering. These are very tight compared to the older vehicles and when you change from one to the other, the difference is more noticeable than ever.,
Well the only thing that can make the steering wheel hard is a broken power steering pump belt, or if you ran out of fluid, this happens only if you have a hydraulic power steering,But if you have an (EPS) which means Electronic Power Steering. Then that could be an electronic problem that you should talk to your dealer about because your car seems to be under warranty still and you don't wanna play with it until you see what they say about that. Good luck
Getting the front wheels up and off the ground should let you check for play; try rocking the wheels left-right & back an forth. If you have excessive wear, it should be evident.
If you still like your vehicle, I would consider giving it what it needs since a new vehicle will lose 20-30% in value just driving it away from the dealer.
BTW, why do you think you may need a new engine?
Problems associated with low power steering fluid… Hard Vehicle Steering A low power steering fluid level can often times cause a vehicle's steering to become hard and labored. Adequate amounts of power steering fluid are necessary to enable a vehicle's power steering system to function and operate at optimum levels. A lack of power steering fluid in a vehicle's power steering system reduces the amount of hydraulic fluid pressure necessary to efficiently operating the various parts of the entire power steering system. Power steering fluid supplies the fluid force needed to operate the power steering gears and to enable power steering gearbox operation. Low power steering fluid levels reduce this hydraulic pressure, which commonly results in hard vehicle steering. Pump Noise It is very common for a low power steering fluid level to cause significant power steering pump noise. An adequate amount of power steering fluid is required to ensure the proper function and longevity of a power steering pump unit, which is a belt-driven pump responsible for housing and circulating power steering pump fluid. A low level of power steering fluid results in increased power steering pump friction, heat, and wear, all of which can significantly reduce the operational life of the power steering pump while at the same time cause excessive power steering pump noise. Fluid Boiling
Many times a low power steering fluid level can result in excessive heating of power steering fluid, a condition that can seriously degrade the fluid and cause it to boil. A low power steering fluid level results in less available fluid to both lubricate and cool a power steering pump unit. A lack of power steering pump lubrication and cooling leads to excessive heat being generated within the power steering pump unit itself, a condition that translates into the available level of power steering fluid becoming super-heated and degraded. When this happens it is common for the power steering fluid to boil and lose all of its lubricating and heat-reducing capabilities.
The power steering gearbox is a set of gears within a vehicle's power steering system designed to facilitate movement of a vehicle's front wheels. The power steering gearbox is connected to the power steering pump by hydraulic fluid lines that deliver a constant supply of power steering fluid to the power steering gearbox. A low power steering fluid level, especially a chronic and severe low power steering fluid level, can lead to increased friction and wear within the power steering gearbox assembly, a condition that can significantly shorten the operational life of the power steering gearbox and negatively affect its operation