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4-Corners Moderator
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Well gang here is one I really could use some advice about so I don't waste money in all the wrong places. So my FJ in about the past year or so has lost the charm and beautiful tight feeling in the steering that it once had. Just the other day I drove my cousin's FJ and it has that nice, tight steering that feels like new while mine is really a sloppy mess. See what you think...

I think I first noticed the issue while driving off-road on uneven surfaces from dirt roads to more bumpy off-road situations. But now I can feel it day to day on-road when coming to a stop, reversing, driving over bumps or rough roads, or even just sitting in park. When off-roading though, the steering wheel has almost a rattling sound to it as if it were loose if I am quickly driving down a dirt road let's say. It seems to have slight turning play left and right and even almost front to back play. Just really sloppy and unsafe feeling when off-road.

One fool proof way I can make the noise on demand is definitely driving on a dirt road or uneven surface but on pavement when driving quick, if I brake and I jiggle the steering wheel I can hear the loose clicking sound and it almost seems louder the closer and closer I come to stopping, and I can feel the looseness but when I accelerate quick it temporarily disappears until I let off the accelerator.

So if I jiggle the steering wheel left and right quickly, a clunky sound becomes apparent, and it is a sound you can hear both in the cab and out of the cab. When I put my hand on the steering shaft under the dash and I jiggle the steering wheel I can feel a slight jolt that matches the clunk/clicking sound that rapidly occurs, especially if I put my hand on that u joint in the cab. But I can also feel the same kind of sensation and hear sounds when putting my hand on the steering shaft in the engine bay and having someone else turn and shake the wheel. It is super difficult to tell where exactly the sound and looseness is coming from.

I've posted videos onto the FJ Cruiser Facebook page, here is a link to it so you can hopefully listen to the sound I'm talking about.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/fj.cruiser.love/permalink/1408375742555366/

Below I will include a parts diagram with number labels so the parts I discuss below will be clear.

Many, many, many people have suggested it has to be the lower steering shaft (6) as many have had this wear out and fail but I'm just not too sure that is what my problem is. I took it to Toyota and they spotted that my steering rack (rack and pinion) has leaks from both sides out of the bellow boots that protect the inner tie rods. Toyota suggested replacing the entire rack but didn't guarantee that that is where the sound is coming from. Another shop thinks it could be the intermediate steering shaft (4) since the sound and looseness can be felt and heard in the cab almost better that out of the cab. And today I took apart the steering wheel shroud (9) to look for the sound since it sounded like it could be coming from far up by the steering wheel. Upon doingthis it sounds and feels like there is looseness in the upper steering shaft (3) joint as well! And to top it all off the FJ definitely is making a bit of creaking and popping in the suspension. I hope by installing my new rear links from RESZ Fab that that eliminates some noises coming from the rear end but I wonder if some of the sounds I hear are related to my sloppy steering. No shop or alignment tech has said there is any looseness in my inner or outer tie rods but I'm still personally suspicious of my inners...

I'm thinking of probably getting work done on my FJ in this order, if one item doesn't solve the issue then I'd move onto the next option:

1. Replace my Rack and Pinion/Steering Rack complete with inner tie rods with an OEM replacement since that seems like the only solid option vs a refurbished or aftermarket one. This way my leaky steering rack problem and the possibility of the inner tie rods being worn can both be eliminated as possible issues.

2. Replace the lower steering shaft (6) since it is in the elements and can be worn out from being exposed in the engine bay. The u-joint on this component commonly wears out first of all the steering shafts.

3. Replace the intermediate steering shaft (4). It isn't as prone to wearing out but it does seem to be making noise and has that loose feel to both me and the tech who looked at it.

4. Replace the upper steering shaft (3) since the sound could basically only be coming from this part at that point.

What do you guys think of this order of work? Any suggestions or personal experience is gladly accepted. I just want driving my FJ to be fun again since I sort of dread the shaky, loose steering every time I get in. I've heard of folks who get their problems solved and they say it is like driving it for the first time all over again and they fall in love with the FJ once again. I want that!! I want my FJ to FEEL just as good as it looks. So I will take your suggestions!

Thanks all!
 

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The route planned looks good, troubleshoot as you go to see if the problem is solved. I would maybe start with no2 though, that part is cheap and easy to do ( i fixed my problem temporally with that joint by spraying a can of lub on it , so far so good ) , the rack and pinion not so if you go the OEM route.
 
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MOAB SUPERSTAR
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Wow that’s quite a list! I just replaced my steering rack due to leaking seals as well, and feels great now (also feels great to not be worried about failure that would necessitate towing :frown), so it’s a good starting place. Pretty tight fit getting it in there and had to remove one of the pre-installed inner tie rods to do so. I can hope, though find it somehow doubtful, that it’ll clear up your other steering issues. Report back after the rack is in, and good luck! :rocker:
 

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Forum Beer Miester
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You can bet that if you’ve got problems in the rack and steering shafts you also have bad LCA bushings and this can cause low knocking sensation in floor pan at low speeds over uneven surfaces.
 

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4-Corners Moderator
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Discussion Starter #5
You can bet that if you’ve got problems in the rack and steering shafts you also have bad LCA bushings and this can cause low knocking sensation in floor pan at low speeds over uneven surfaces.
Just replaced the LCAs last fall, so that can't be the issue. It has been there before and after LCA replacement.
 

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Just replaced the LCAs last fall, so that can't be the issue. It has been there before and after LCA replacement.

Check them out still, i've seen some go bad unusually fast.
 

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I didn't see video but if it's like the way mine has been for So looooonnnnnggggg
it's probably TIE RODS get someone to shake wheel while you grab them you will probably feel it clunking more there then anywhere else. best with stethoscope the closer you are the louder it is

Also when I went to the steelership and asked about parts steering shafts and all that stuff in your pick they wanted just as much $$$ for the shaft if not more
THEN FOR THE WHOLE STEERING WHEEL ASSEMBLY with new ignition

Me and the parts person had a good laugh about that
 

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Hey there, not sure if you already came across this thread but I keep it bookmarked as it seems like a bunch of us are plagued with this issue... post #57 on page 6 is when the OP found a fix. For FJC_MIKE, the fix included parts (1) and (2) from your diagram picture.

http://www.fjcruiserforums.com/foru...g-rack-noise-when-turning-hitting-bump-6.html

On a side note, and I know this will sound stupid, but check your bump stops at the corners under the hood. Mine were not backed out enough and the hood would rattle and the vibration traveled directly thru the steering wheel. I know your problem stems past this most likely but it's another call-out. Also, when I switched out from ICON Billet UCAs with uniballs and heims to my current SPC UCAs I reduced a majority of the NVH that traveled up thru the wheel causing the "bobble" feel.

Good luck and let us know what the solution is on your end.

John
 

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4-Corners Moderator
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Discussion Starter #10
I never came back to add to this thread, but I DID fix my issue. That's right, I was successful at fixing the issues I was having. Turns out I'm pretty sure I was having the same issue that Mike Boresz was having on his FJ way back in the day from this thread: https://www.fjcruiserforums.com/forums/suspension-steering-tech/144567-steering-rack-noise-when-turning-hitting-bump.html

It turned out to not be an issue with the steering links, the rack & pinion, or the intermediate steering shaft as most people tent to have issues with. Rather my issue was due to the "main steering column" being loose, that is the one your steering wheel directly attaches to. You see it has a special u-joint in it so that way you can adjust the height of the steering wheel, and though I'm sure it is rare, that is where my looseness was coming from. Therefor I had to find an inexpensive way to replace said part since Toyota incorrectly diagnosed the issue to the steering rack (what a waste of money) and just the part for the actual column is over $300. What I ended up doing was just replacing the whole steering column assembly which I bought from the following website, TLC Auto Recycling. https://www.tlsautorecycling.com/search/2007/toyota/fj-cruisr/398656.html

I made them an offer and only ended up paying $100 or something for a column from a scrapped FJ Cruiser. It worked out great! (After some trial and error). The first column assembly they sent be had the same issue I had with my current FJ, so I messaged them since they had a guarantee and sent me a replacement for free. The replacement was in better condition and didn't have the looseness but unfortunately didn't have the key with it. And because I wanted to be able to use my FJ's original keys, I looked up how to remove the ignition lock cylinder (which is easy) and found a way around not having the key so I could remove it!

Then I put my own ignition cylinder in the new steering column assembly and installed it in my FJ.

More details and pictures in the future but here is hope for those who may have this same issue! Just remember to look at all other options that could cause looseness before you tackle this one! The steering links are an easy fix, this steering column replacement is like medium difficulty and so is replacing the intermediate steering shaft, and then having to replace the steering rack is like the maximum difficulty of steering issues. Haha.
 

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Mine was making a ton of noises. But having replaced the steering wheel, I didn't see any signs of the column having an issue. My serpentine belt looked in good condition but I believe there was some dragging in the bearing due to some sounds during idle. It seemed to worsen on warmer days, suspecting the column, kept checking that out. Eventually I decided on replacing the belt and pulleys first and any dragging and sluggish steering went away. Not quite the loosened you're describing though.
 

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4-Corners Moderator
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Discussion Starter #12
Okay here we go, so to replace your steering column you'll need your standard sockets and wrenches and screwdrivers and whatnot. I don't remember the sizes or anything but the only real special tool you'll need is a steering wheel puller.

And as stated earlier, I bought my new steering column from TLS Auto Recycling: https://www.tlsautorecycling.com/toyota/fj-cruisr.html

Specifically a part like this: https://www.tlsautorecycling.com/search/2007/toyota/fj-cruisr/398656.html



What I did is I first is made sure the steering wheel was centered and then I disconnected the battery. With everything you'll be unplugging, especially the steering wheel airbag, this is a good idea. Then I took the dash apart by removing all the plastic pieces around the steering wheel. Some just pull off as they are held on by clips but others have 2 or more screws/bolts holding them is as well as the clips, so just find some the the guides here on the forum if you don't know how to remove particular pieces of the dash board. Also be sure to remove the metal cover underneath the steering wheel which is behind the plastic trim that you'll remove.

It is at this point where you will remove the plastic trim on the steering wheel column if you haven't already and then remove the on the steering wheel cover/airbag itself. The best guide I found for this in general was actually here: https://www.purefjcruiser.com/docs/2007%20Toyota%20FJ%20Cruiser%20Repair%20Manual/Steering%20Column/Steering%20Column%20Assembly/031000.pdf

Thanks Pure FJ Cruiser! I followed steps 1 thru 24 of the Removal and then step 4 of Disassembly to replace the key. Then you just have to do the reverse of the steps 1 - 24 of Removal to reinstall the column.

This is what the underneath of my steering column/dash looked like after removal of the necessary plastic and metal pieces.



And this is what it looks like as I removed the airbag/steering wheel cover. Those orange and black wire connections to the airbag are the ones you definitely wont want to tamper with until you're car has been disconnected from your battery for a little while (like 10 minutes or something).



This photo shows the plastic cover on the side of the steering wheel that you pop off to access that star shaped screw which will need to be undone to remove the airbag. There is one of these covers on either side that you'll have to undo.



After you go ahead and unplug and undo all the wires and connections on your steering column, go ahead and access the connection between your steering main column and intermediate steering shaft in the engine bay at the rear of the driver's side wheel well. You'll remove the dust cover back here for easy access. I made white marks on the shafts for alignment purposes. Not sure it helped too much in the end but maybe it will come in handy for you. Then you can go ahead and loosen up the bolts holding the shafts together.



Go ahead and use that steering wheel puller at this point to remove the steering wheel and the result should look like this.



Then if you follow the pdf guide given earlier, and undo the 4 or so nuts and bolts that hold the column in, it should drop down and easily be able to be pulled out!



Then came the tricky part, replacing the ignition switch lock cylinder without having the key. The column that I bought as my replacement didn't have an accompanying key, and without the key you cannot follow the normal protocol of inserting the key, turning it to ACC, and then pressing the little metal peg down in the hole at the top of the cylinder allowing the complete cylinder assembly to be pulled out by the key itself.

I determined that the only thing holding the cylinder in place was that peg (or stop pin), and at first I thought it was plastic and could easily be drilled out. But no, it is metal, and if you try drilling it then the whole pin just spins. Solution: use a strong but small punch and hammer to completely destroy and flatten the stop pin to the point of being able to pull out the ignition cylinder!



Make sure before you install the desired ignition switch lock cylinder in the place of the one you just removed that you turn the Popsicle-stick-like-peg at the back of the assembly so it will line up with the slot at the back of the ignition cylinder to be installed.



Now go ahead and transfer over all the necessary electronics and controls to your new steering column before you go ahead and reinstall it into your vehicle.



For me I tried installing the steering column as the complete unit as you see above, but I really struggled, but when I removed that lower segment with the u-joint in it and installed that first and then installed the rest of the steering column assembly I found it to be remarkably easier.

The rest of the install is pretty straight forward, just be sure you re-plug in everything. I personally forgot a plug behind the airbag so my cruise control didn't work. I had to take apart the steering wheel cover AGAIN to get it plugged in, silly me! The pdf from Pure FJ will really help with certain technical jargon but maybe this writeup will help you visualize it a little better.

I hope this helps any of you out there that have tried everything else or are able to isolate your issue to your main steering column being loose like it was for me.

I have been driving now for a couple months since doing the swap and immediately i noticed my problem go away and it was wonderful, now 3 months later I actually am starting to feel looseness again if we're being honest, but not nearly as bad as before. I may try disconnecting the steering column from the intermediate steering shaft in the engine bay and re tightening it againwhile ensuring the steering column is fully extended in case that is where the looseness is coming from. It could also be from my steering links too though if we're being honest since I've been offroading a few times since this install, including a really rough trail here in northern Utah and the FJ Summit.

So there you go, enjoy!
 
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