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Submitted By: GlennS
Date: February 10, 2009, 09:45:39 AM
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Dodge Steering Coupler Repair - Glenn Stanfield (GlennS)


This document explains how I repaired my steering coupler. I was unable to find a procedure in my repair manual for it, so I took some pictures as I did the work and wrote this up hoping it would help others. This applies to both 2 and 4 wheel drive vehicles. This took me about 2 1/2 hours to complete, this included the time required to take pics/notes for this page.


Background: A very common cause of "loose" steering on older Dodge trucks is the steering coupler. Over time the parts in it wear out. Large tires/suspension modifications can accelerate this wear, and there are aftermarket shafts/couplers that address this problem. Since my RamCharger is basically stock, I opted to rebuild my coupler because of the cost-an aftermarket shaft is approximately $200 U.S. as opposed to the $6.70 (this was including taxes) I paid for the parts kit at the dealer to repair my coupler.


Diagnosis: This problem is easy to diagnose. Locate the steering coupler (see Photo 3). Then simply grab the lower steering shaft with one hand, the coupler housing with the other hand, and try to twist them against each other. It may be necessary to unlock the steering wheel. If there is any play, then this rebuild will benefit you.


Parts required: One rebuild kit available from your local Mopar/Dodge dealer, Part# 04443436AC. When I purchased my kit, I was lucky and had a GOOD knowledgable parts person. From what he told me, this kit is not in their catalog-it's one of those things that "I know the bin location, but it's impossible to look up the part#". I would advise writing the part# down and taking it to the dealer "just in case...".



Procedure: The steering coupler is located on the input shaft of the steering gear (box) at the bottom of the steering shaft the comes from the steering wheel. This is all under the front left fenderwell-it may be necessary to remove the front left tire to gain access.


Hint: Make alignment marks on the lower shaft, coupling housing and steering column shaft so your steering wheel isn't upside down when you reassemble everything.

To remove the coupler, first remove the top two bolts holding the Rag Joint (in the engine bay). Separate the lower shaft (and rag joint) from the steering column shaft (Photo 4). On my '88 RC, this required a 3/8" 12-point socket.


Note: My coupler came apart at this point, so the shaft is separated from the coupler housing in the following photos-normally they would still be assembled.

Drive out the retaining Roll Pin from the coupler with a hammer and appropriate sized punch (Photo 5). After the pin is removed, the coupler should slide off the splined shaft (it might require a little bit of "help" via penetrating oil, prybar etc...).


Now that the coupler is off the vehicle, disassemble it. The top cap just clips on, holding the rubber seal. There is also a small pin that holds the shaft/assembly in the housing. Locate the small pin (Photo 6) and drive it INTO the housing with a punch, then it should come apart.


Degrease/Clean the shaft and coupler housing. All other parts will be replaced, so there is no need to clean them.

Remove the cross pin (Photo 7). This was the toughest step of this whole job! I'm sure the proper way to do this is with a press and possibly even some heat. I have neither, but I do have a nice small sledge so I broke it out and commenced to wailing on it. I don't recommend this hammer method-if you choose to hammer on yours then you are taking a chance of ruining it and possibly injuring yourself - you have been warned. Look closely at the picture and you'll notice that one end is missing a chunk of metal (blue arrow). This pin is hardened steel and is brittle (shatters). WEAR SAFETY GLASSES!!! After the pin is out, deburr/clean up the hole as necessary. Remove the old rubber seal/cap if it's still on the shaft.


Note: Pin is already partially driven out.


Photo 8: Install the top cap and rubber seal (#1) on the shaft. Install the new SOLID bearing/pin in the end of the shaft. This pin should be centered in the shaft, so that it has equal amounts protruding from each side. Install the spring clip (#2) over this pin, then the other parts (I have no clue of what to call them; #3) over the pins, fitting them into the spring clip as shown.


I applied a GENEROUS amount of grease to the housing (filled it about 1/2 to 2/3 full), and put plenty on the assembly shown in Photo 8, then put it all together. This amount of grease literally filled it up, with a little squeezing out. My reasoning for filling it this full was this: It is a slow moving part, so the extra grease won't hurt. With it full of grease, it doesn't have room to hold much, if any, water. Also if it happens to get some sand/dirt in it, the grease on top will hopefully catch it and keep it out of the moving parts.


Next I put the cap on. It has tabs that need to be set/bent to fit the housing. I used some of my F-Clamps (woodworking clamps) to hold the cap tight while I set the tabs with a center punch and hammer. A vise or c-clamps should work fine for this also. Take your time on this-the better seal you get will help it last longer.


Install the new small retaining pin. Just drive it in until the top is flush with the outside of the housing. Note the center punch marks on the tabs from the previous step-I think a small cold chisel would also work well for setting these tabs.


All that is left is to re-install the coupler/shaft on the vehicle, which is the reversal of the dissasembly steps. I did take the time to clean the splines on the steering gear and put some anti-seize on them so next time it will be easier to remove.
 
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