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Old 03-15-2016, 08:24 PM   #1
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Wheel Spacers and/or Steering Stabilizer

Hey All, I am trying to troubleshoot some problems with my 1995 Dodge 3500 SMB with PH. I have specific questions regarding how much my van sways on the hwy. It is scary how much it gets blown around.

The steering box is bad and will be replaced. Tires are new and tire pressure is good. Shocks were replaced in 2006/50K miles ago. Going to investigate those.

Has anyone installed a steering stabilizer on a Dodge? Seems easy to install, but does it help?

What about wheel spacers for the back tires?

I want to do it all at once prior to the alignment.

I have been doing lots of reading on the forum, and drooling over some of the camping pics. Seems like a great community. Thanks from Florida.
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Old 03-15-2016, 10:24 PM   #2
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Verify rear end height at factory specs and correct as needed without using airbag ad ons. Then verify all front end parts on spec. Align in shop used to working on heavier vehicles. Make sure they use 3500 RV alignment settings.


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Old 03-15-2016, 10:27 PM   #3
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Save money on stabilizer and spacers. Check and adjust tire pressures using the help of someone with some brains. Make sure tires are capable of load requirements. You have to believe this rig drove down the road okay as new. Set it up as such and no problems. Have you driven a full size van in the wind before? Ain't no little econo box.


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Old 03-15-2016, 11:06 PM   #4
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Signlanglady, can I ask what's turned your interest towards wheel spacers?

There's some amount of occasional debate (seemingly) over whether or not adding them to a rear axle improves stability. I happen to believe that they *can* make an improvement - specifically (but not necessarily only) in instances where the rear track width starts out considerably narrower than the front, whereby adding spacers in the rear "equalizes" the effective track width front/rear.

If your van already has a rear track width that's pretty close to the front track width, I would agree with Pntyrmvr that a set of rear wheel spacers are likely an unnecessary expense.

A steering stabilizer (in the case of the Ford vans) was specifically factory-engineered to correct the kind of instability and sway that you're describing. A good number of people died in extended-length Ford vans (usually the long/four-rows-of-seats versions often used as church vans) that lost control due to an inherent stability problem --- before Ford finally stepped up and developed the steering stabilizer (and a redesign of some other suspension/steering components, I believe) to remedy it. I'm not educated/informed with respect to whether or not a steering stabilizer will be a cure-all for your Dodge.

In my Ford's case, the addition of the steering stabilizer (which is a Ford-engineered component) absolutely corrected the nervous steering and took the sway out of the van. But in your case, I'd be inclined 100% as Pntyrmvr intoned to chase and properly address your underlying steering box/front end issues first (and verify the shocks effectiveness!) before even considering a stabilizer. (I wouldn't rule a stabilizer out as a possible last item (if still struggling to get the van to behave) that might be "the final ingredient"' that brings your van's overall handling formula into line.

**** Respectfully -- as an aside bit of philosophy -- I do gotta point out that just because something left the factory a certain way in 1995, it doesn't mean that there wasn't any room left after that for added improvement (and safety). Suspension and chassis dynamics are better understood (and controlled/fine-tuned!) by automakers and aftermarket alike today, than they were 21 years ago when your van was born. Always gotta be open to the high likelihood that there probably does exist a better solution, somewhere...someone has probably already solved the same problem (or improved upon the factory solution) for what you're dealing with.

Again good luck and keep us posted!!!
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Old 03-15-2016, 11:27 PM   #5
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Just found this --- intriguing!!

Dodge Ram Steering Gear Box Stabilizer

(*** By sharing it I am not recommending for OR against this item --- I just find it interesting as heck, and worth learning more about/entertaining discussion. Anyone out there a seasoned Dodge Van person that can comment on this?

Looks like a smartly-engineered piece of kit that bolts in to "shore up" the supposedly weak link areas in the Dodge Van steering box/shaft.

Curious to see if anyone has knowledge relative to this.
Neato.
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Old 03-16-2016, 12:00 AM   #6
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[QUOTE=Anyone out there a seasoned Dodge Van person that can comment on this?[/QUOTE]


I posted earlier that once the vehicle has every bushing and connection, along with ride height, restored to factory specs such band aids will be unnecessary.

500,000 miles in Dodge vans makes me both seasoned and stupid. My advice worth the price you pay.





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Old 03-18-2016, 04:52 PM   #7
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MountainBikerRoamer - that link to the steering stabilizer is the exact one I was looking at. $140 saved would be great; $140 to help more than just a little bit would be great.

To answer two questions: I admittedly have minimal experience driving large vehicles despite having extensive and varied driving experience.

A colleague of my husband's has a 1993 Roadtrek (Dodge or Ford, not sure), with the same problems. He mentioned the wheel spacers as a potential fix based on his research.

I will probably do what everyone here suggests and fix what I know is wrong, and then see how it goes before doing anything else. It is just that stabilizer, if I thought it would really help I would do it at the same time as the steering box due to needing an alignment afterwards.
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Old 03-18-2016, 11:53 PM   #8
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Signlanglady --

If after you chase the underlying basic fixes, it would indeed be great if it turns out that the $140 for a stabilizer doesn't need to be spent. I can see how you'd like to incorporate a number of steering/front end repairs at the same time. But can't this stabilizer be added at any point afterward easily? Installation looks pretty straightforward, like "do-it-yourself pretty easily" straightforward, and does not appear to involve removing or "un-doing" any other repairs or alignment.

What's interesting/unique about that Dodge van-and-pickup-truck-specific stabilizer is that it's not the usual "sideways-mounted shock absorber" style stabilizer, it's actually a well-engineered frame-and-pitman-arm-shaft reinforcement component.

Since it purports to both add rigidity to the frame AND take load/stress off the pitman arm shaft, it sounds like adding it after a steering-box replacement is relatively-cheap insurance that the new steering box won't quickly develop the same issues.

I did a quick google/YouTube search for that stabilizer and found a good number of reviews of that stabilizer (and installation videos) from both Dodge van and pickup owners alike who've installed it (and who demonstrate on video the "before the repair" clunking/wiggling pitman-arm shaft that can develop and cause steering instability.)

(Again - I keep feeling the need to throw in these disclaimers, but this IS my last such one: I'm no Dodge van expert, having never owned one (yet!).....but I do love their look --- and am an incurable Mopar addict/owner otherwise for the last 25 years
(Had a long string of early 1970's Darts, Coronets, Polaras....had a 2000 4.7L Dakota Quad-Cab 4WD for many years....and just recently picked up a nice/well-cared-for '06 Magnum SRT8, mmmmm-yum, modern Dodge v8 awesomeness....!)

The pursuit of a better solution for a machine is often as satisfying as the enjoyment of the ultimate result. Hope you're enjoying the journey
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Old 03-19-2016, 09:07 PM   #9
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If your van wanders all over the road, the first two things I would suggest are:

- Replace the known bad steering box

- Double check the toe. Too little toe-in (or toe-out) will make any vehicle unable to stay in a straight line.

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Old 03-20-2016, 05:50 PM   #10
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Getting "blown around" could be a clue. Especially if the van doesn't exhibit the problem at all or as much when not blown around.

Loose steering, the sensation that a steering input doesn't do anything until the steering wheel turns too far, could be the steering box. But also check the ball joints (pretty easy with wheels off the ground); that can produce a similar feeling. Both can exacerbate wandering and instability in wind because you tend to overcorrect due to the loose steering and hence make the wind effect worse.

But the wind effect itself is symptomatic of a related problem, which may be inadequate anti-sway bars. Essentially the wind is like a big hand hitting the van, which presses down one side and lifts the other, which, depending on the other suspension components, can cause wandering. It's sorta the opposite of what you induce when you turn too sharp.

Anti-sway bars counteract this by shifting that pressing down/lifting up to the opposite sides of the van, thus negating it. It also helps in turning at speed, making any vehicle more balanced (it's not just a van thing).

Not only that, but your shocks and springs affect that lean as well. Too soft, or not enough dampening, and it will squish over too far, and then rebound too far; the antisway bars can only counteract so much of that.

Often the suspension (esp sway bars, springs, shocks, and even tire pressures) produce effects drivers try to counteract with just steering changes. That may not solve the problem, but just mask it. At the end of the day your van really isn't different than a NASCAR racer, and behaves accordingly.
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