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Early Bronco Knowledge Base Explore more early Bronco tech and history articles in the WILD HORSES Early Bronco Knowledge Base. Return to Base How to Fix Early Bronco Lean Early Bronco Knowledge Base Excessive Steering Play: Tighten It Up Problem: My early Bronco has excessive steering play at the steering wheel.

After 50+ years of use, it's not uncommon to have excessive play in your early Bronco's steering wheel. If you are concerned your steering wheel may be taking too long to respond when you turn the wheel, follow these tips to diagnose and correct the problem:

How much steering play is excessive?

Typically, you should not be able to turn the steering wheel more than 1-1/2" without causing teh front wheels to move. If the steering wheel rotates more than this before engaging the wheels, a serious steering problem may exist and should be fixed right away.

Diagnose the cause of excessive steering play

The first step in correcting excessive steering play in your early Bronco is to identify the root cause. There are several potential causes for a classic Ford Bronco to have excessive steering play.

Physically inspect the steering system. With the Bronco sitting on the ground and the weight of the Bronco on the wheels, have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth while you inspect the steering system for loose connections. Start your examination at the steering column shaft and work your way to the tie rod ends. Watch each component's movement in relation to the next component to ensure that both have an equal amount of movement. If you see anything loose, tighten it up.

  • Look for sloppy u-joints or flex joints in the steering shafts. Grab the upper and lower shaft and see if there is play when you try to twist them in opposite directions. If there is much play at all, the joints are bad and should be replaced.

  • Make sure the steeering box is fastened tight to the frame. If it's not, it can move on the frame and cause the steering box to feel loose. The frame takes a great deal of pressure where the steering box mounts to it, and can become weak or even begin to crack. Watch for the frame to flex as the steering system turns. We recommend welding in additional supports to strengthen the frame as a preventative measure.

  • Watch the steering box input and output to see if they are turning in sync. If there is an excessive amount of turn on the input before the output starts to turn, the steering box should be rebuilt or replaced.
  • Watch for tie rods or drag link ends that are worn or loose. If necessary, disconnect the tie rods and drag link and feel for slop in the rod ends. If the rod ends have little to no resistance when you try to move them, they should be replaced. Make sure all tie rods and drag link are properly torqued and have cotter pins securing the castle nuts.

  • Look at the ball joints to see if they wiggle in their sockets. If possible, lift the front end of the Bronco (using appropriate safety measures). Grab the top and bottom of each front tire and try to rock it back and forth. If the tire rocks, the ball joints should be replaced.

  • If no other problem is found, have an alignment shop check the caster. You may need new C-bushings.

  • Never adjust the so-called "Play Adjusting Screw" on the top of the steering box more than one turn in. All this does is jam the sector shaft into the piston and that will cause damage to the box.

    NOTE: Adjusting this screw at all will typically void the warranty on a new or rebuilt early Bronco power steering box.
Steve Long of Oklahoma flexing his early Bronco. Shop Early Bronco Steering