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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 1990 Ramcharger with 8 inch skyjacker springs and 40" tires that I am having steering issues with. After installing the lift springs drop pitman and raised steering arm  I had it on the interstate with speeds up to 70mph with no steering issues. I only had it out a few times but didn't notice any major steering issues. Over about 2 years I swapped the motor from a tbi 318 to a big block 440. Now when I am going down the road it wonders all over. Since the motor swap I have tried putting on dual steering stabilizers and an adjustable drag. I tried replacing a ball joint that was worn out thinking it might help but none of these have made a difference.

It still has the stock axles and I'm eventually going to swap them out and go with hydro steering but would like to be able to drive it before then. It had a borgeson style steering shaft installed on it by the previous owner that appears to be in good shape. When I barely turn the wheel the tires move so it doesn't seem like play in the steering box.

I don't know if I should try to replace the steering box or not. It is just weird that it started after doing the motor swap. Anyone have any ideas.
 

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Thats a whole lotta weight on a whole lotta tire mounted to a Dana 44.  The general consensus is 35s are the biggest you would want to stick on a Dana 44.  I'd bet your ball joints are much worse than you think they are.  You might also just be getting weird frame flex that isn't as apparent without the motor applying torque. 




 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I had the lift and tires on with the 318 and had no issues. I know the big block weighs more and can effect it some but its hard to believe that the weight difference would cause it to be so wild on the road. Its drivable but will wonder all over the road. It has some body flex that you can feel in the steering but only when making fast sharp turns. I replaced all the ball joints. They were bad when I got it, I had just been putting off replacing them  I've been looking for a deal dana 60 with 4.10s for the front. Just wanting it to be less crazy on the road for the time being so it doesn't have to set so much while I'm waiting to do the axles.

I didn't know if just because the response from my steering box was so good (I can barley turn the wheel and the tire will move) could it still be the issue. I appreciate the help

 

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Pick up the front end and have a buddy shove on the front and back of the tires.  Since you haven't done crossover steering shoving on the driver side tire will show you if you have slop in the steering box/pitman arm rod ends, and shoving on the passenger side will show if you have slop in the tie rod ends.  All of these things could end up causing some wandering. 

Also just generally having giant wide tires can cause tramlining.  I have a mazdaspeed 3 and I swapped out the 215 wide tires for 255s and it grips amazing... but pulls itself into any tiny ruts in the road.  It's really exhausting.
 

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Tire selection can make a big difference as well, especially with weight. I swapped from 33x12.50x16.5 Cooper LT's in LR D to 305/70/16 BFG KM2's in LR D and the wandering all over the road, really sluggish steering response, all the issues I had went away, no other changes to the truck.

Running higher pressures in the Coopers helped at the expense of ride and treadwear. I don't need to bump the BFG's up unless I am loaded heavy or towing.
 

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How much has the suspension squatted with the heavier engine?

If the truck has a rake now, you've actually lost a bit of caster.

Same tire pressure with more weight changes the tire contact patch and will have a different grip on the road. If your front tires aren't at max psi, try pressing them up more.

Do you have stock offset wheels, or are they offset outboard more?
 

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you changed nothing BUT the motor ? same wheels/tires ? what is the angle of your drag link now compared to before ?  check all the normal stuff , bj's / tie rod ends/drag link ends/ and reset the Toe in , I'm betting its off one way or the other . bad toe adjustment with offset rims THEN added weight  could make the diff I suppose .
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The wheels I am running do have more offset than the stock wheels and stick out. I have checked all the steering parts for slop and they all appear to be tight. I will try messing with the tire pressure to see if that helps. As for rake goes it sets pretty level. The big block did not appear to squat the truck any lower that the small block did.

I have decided to go ahead and look for better axles. Anyone know of anybody selling a Dodge Dana 60 front axle with 4:10 or 4:56 gears. I am located in WV.


 

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My advice , first understand why the truck has "steering issues "  and perhaps repair / correct that . the d60 axle still steers  the same way as your d44 does , so unless the d44 is bent or ball joints shot , the problem will follow you .    do a simple toe in/out check / adjustment ... remember when ever the rims move outward the effect of a slight miss alinement is magnified by that , the factory gives a "toe"spec of this much TO that much , which means that tires , rims , weight , road type  ( many factors matter ) and each truck may need to be adjusted within those specs according to steering response and tire wear .  what you describe in the first post sounds to me like either too much toe IN or too much toe out .  ( adjust center link length at tie rods = toe in/out  ) 
 

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tshelton1 said:
The wheels I am running do have more offset than the stock wheels and stick out. I have checked all the steering parts for slop and they all appear to be tight. I will try messing with the tire pressure to see if that helps. As for rake goes it sets pretty level. The big block did not appear to squat the truck any lower that the small block did.

I have decided to go ahead and look for better axles...
In general, more offset (i.e. sticking out) with lift helps stabilize the steering.

My guess is you need more caster angle. Try some 2-3* shims with your leaf packs, or a longer shackle to rotate the pinion down a touch. Changing the axle likely won't solve anything.
 

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All that was said above . How much did it squat , throwing off your caster could only be a half inch an inch and you didn't realize it? Might have to make up the difference in Spring rate per side  318 compared to 440 weight .plus one more thing. Did possibly some of the rivets in your frame come loose and now your frame is scissoring. Happened to me once. Leveled and squared the frame and welded most of the rivets.
 

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Initially, I would think that an engine swap wouldn't cause a significant change to an untouched suspension. But you may have not noticed impending problems and the weight of the new engine might have caused those problems to surface.

Let me address the knowns first. You have 8" of lift and 40" tires on a Dana 44. And the mentioned steering mods were a dropped pitman arm, raised steering arm, and an adjustable drag link.

Off the bat, your steering is wrong. The push/pull set up is prone to wander with significant lift. More importantly, that drag link must be parallel to the road surface, otherwise the steering geometry is off and you might be experiencing bump-steer. To correct this, you need to do a cross over steering conversion, and like before, the drag link should be as parallel to the road surface as possible.

Next, the steering in these trucks wasn't that advanced and now it's almost 30 yrs old. Check the steering box for slop, also the steering column (from the box to the firewall) was pretty weak. Sometimes the rag joint goes bad and slop develops. A common upgrade on these trucks is to go with a Borgeson steering shaft.
Check other common wear items. Ball joints, wheel bearings, bad leaf spring bushings, cracked springs, loose or missing frame rivets, and cracks around the steering box or on the bracket the box is mounted to.

While you're at it, check the tires and rims. Make sure theres no mud hidden on the rim that can imbalance a tire or look for a damaged rim or tire which could also cause an imbalance. Take it a step further and swap the fronts for the rears and see if it makes any difference.

Ed
 

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Also Dodge Dana 44 usually have a negative Camber built into them. Meaning the tire sits in at the top .The bigger the tires the worse it is. You won't physically know what it is till you have all new ball joints top and bottom.              Chevy Dana 44 usually have a positive camber built-in. Which is much better in my opinion. I believe I setup my DODGE  Dana 44 to have a 3 degree positive camber. One thing always affects another camber, caster, toe.
 

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Sorry that 3 degree positive camber should read 3/4 of a degree positive camber😎
 

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Most bigger lifts really need a cut & turn done on the front diff in order to have both good caster and a workable pinion angle...
http://www.cutandturn.com
 

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Cut n turn nice link!
 
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