Newbie looking for Steering Advice

Discussion in 'The whoa and the sway.' started by Phil Bellot, May 19, 2019.

  1. Phil Bellot

    Phil Bellot PhilB

    Hi Everyone. My name is Phil. About 8 months ago I sold my 1970 El Camino and purchased a 1970 Buick GS455 from site member Rob696. So I am a newbie to this site

    While I am enjoying the car and have already made a couple upgrades like adding a modern stereo and GSX spoilers its still a pretty original 50 year old car. While I can deal with the fuel gauge not working or the speedometer cable binding up, the steering in this car is driving me nuts. I cannot stand the sloppiness and vagueness of the steering.

    The steering seems to have a mind of its own and wants to wander all over the road. I know the roads in Southern California are not the best and the power steering in GM A bodies were not designed with cornering in mind but i never had to work this hard with my El Camino to keep it in a straight line. There is
    just no steering response in the GS between 10 & 2 on the steering wheel. Only when I get past 10 & 2 does the car start turning. Likewise, when I hit an uneven road I'm constantly fighting with the steering to keep it straight

    I need some direction as to where with the steering and/or suspension I should focus my attention next.

    The previous owner replaced the tie rods and added a Hotchkis 1 inch rear sway bar while I have added KYB gas shocks all around but as far as I know those are the only things different than stock.

    I 'm not looking to do autocrossing any time soon. I'd just like a more modern steering feel to enjoy my driving experience when taking a leisurely drive through the back canyons of Southern California.

    Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.
  2. stab6902

    stab6902 Active Member

    Sounds like you have some worn out front end parts. It's just a matter of diagnosing which one(s). As you know, the issues you're seeing certainly aren't "normal," even for an old car.

    Some commonly worn out parts to check for slop/play include:
    • Idler arm
    • Center link
    • Tie rod ends (should be ok since they're new)
    • Ball joints
    • Upper/lower control arm bushings
    • Pitman arm
    • Steering box (could be worn out internally)
    The good news is all of these parts are relatively cheap and readily available. The way I like to check for slop is jack up one front corner at a time, and manually work the tire back and forth (i.e. left and right) while looking/feeling for unwanted movement in the steering or suspension components. It helps to have 2 people - one to forcefully wiggle the tire back and forth (it takes some effort) and another to look under the car. Remember to use a jackstand whenever laying under a car. Once you get the play out of the system, you can have a good alignment done with some more modern specs if desired.
    Houmark likes this.
  3. Dr. Roger

    Dr. Roger Stock enthusiast

    When I restored the steering on my GS, every component listed above ended up having to be replaced as every one of them was shot. Also the a-arm bushings. Even after I replaced all of that the steering was still funky until I replaced the body mount bushings.
  4. Phil Bellot

    Phil Bellot PhilB

    Thank you both for the advice. What manufacturer would you recommend for these parts?
  5. stab6902

    stab6902 Active Member

    I like Proforged or Moog. Stay away from the cheap offshore stuff. I usually get my front end/suspension parts from; it's tough to beat their prices.
  6. LARRY70GS

    LARRY70GS a.k.a. "THE WIZARD"

    Are you running radials or Bias Ply reproduction tires? A lack of toe would make the car wander, but it sure sounds like you have some wear in the centerlink or idler arm. If you take the car in for an alignment, they will do a front end inspection and tell you what needs replacing.

    after you get everything squared away, a fast ratio steering box and bigger sway bars will make a huge difference.
  7. knucklebusted

    knucklebusted Well-Known Member

    It works just like your old El Camino so there's nothing mysterious about it. If your steering gear box is worn, you can get a quicker ratio one pretty easily. That tightens up the steering nicely once everything else is tight.

    Also, if you need upper ball joints, consider the longer ProForged ones. They will give you a better camber curve. That and if you have power steering, put as much positive caster in as you can manage and a bit of negative camber. It will handle like a modern car.
  8. Phil Bellot

    Phil Bellot PhilB

    Thank you again everyone for all the advice.

    Just to answer a prior question about my tires. I have BFG Radial TAs all around. 245-60R15 upfront and 275-60R15 on Rears.

    Last week I had a mechanic look over the steering and suspension components and he said they all looked good. In fact, he said they looked like they were brand new. So now our focus is replacing the Steering box.

    I was considering a new CPP 500 series steering box (I live just a couple miles from their facility) but I was told by CPP that they are on back order until middle of July. I started reading up on the box and it seems to get mixed reviews. What are your opinions of the CPP steering box?

    If not favorable, what other steering box options would you recommend? Lee? Turn One?

    What technical features should I consider? stock ratio or quick ratio? 12.7 to 1 or 14 to 1? How many turns lock to lock should I be looking for?

    Again, I'm not looking to autocross the thing I just want a more modern, stable steering feel so I can enjoy the canyon backroads here in So Cal.

    Sorry for all the questions and thanks in advance for helping me figure this all out.
  9. DauntlessSB92

    DauntlessSB92 Addicted to Buick

    Hector Carrillo (carhex) does a great job rebuilding quick ratio steering boxes. It feels a world away from a worn 50 year old box.

    As mentioned above, your alignment will play a big role in steering feel as well. I remember rebuilding the front end of my 72 a number of years ago and driving it before I had the alignment done.

    Driving in the left lane of the old tappan-zee bridge was a terrifying experience, the car wanted to wander and was not very responsive to steering inputs.

    After having the car aligned to slightly more modern specs and dialing in a much positive caster as possible, it felt like a whole new car.

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