1994 Chevrolet Silverado play in steering

I have just bought a 1994 Chevrolet Silverado pickup from a family friend who I’ve known for many years. He upgraded to a new truck so I bought it. It has 196,000 miles and 350 motor/auto trans…reg cab/long bed 2wd. The truck drives great and transmission is great. Only negative is there is play in the steering wheel. He said if I got the truck an alignment, it could be fixed with an alignment. I wasn’t sure about that so I wanted to ask on this forum. I would figure to be a half inch to 3/4 inch play in the steering to keep the truck straight. Other than that, the truck is great. Thanks for your advice.

Edit::: now that I think about it, it may be more of 2-3 inches of playing in the steering.

I’m surprised that you noticed the play when it’s almost nothing but there may be something that’s worn out. Mostly it’s tie rod ends or just one of them. Sometimes it’s the center link which is about 30" long and is the easiest part to change. If you’re unlucky it could be a ball joint or two but that’s not too unlucky.

Recirculating ball steering sometimes has worn out ball bearings which circulate through the ball nut. It’s just one possibility that’s only slightly out of the ordinary and they can be replaced. Loose wheel bearings are one other possibility. A good shop that does front end alignment will be able to find the problem.

Any shop should be able to check it so I almost recommend that you go to that one first because I’ve had front end shops that couldn’t find those things. You don’t want to do an alignment and then find problems.

I second pleasedodgevan2. Something is worn; maybe more than one something.

How hard would it be to replace the tie rod ends? Something that can be DIY?

No, you need a shop to do this for you.

While replacing a tie rod end isn’t difficult it would likely result in the toe angle being incorrect.

If you get under the front of the truck and feel for play at each link of the steering while someone sweeps the wheel back and forth it should be easy to identify the weak link. Post the results.

Get the front end (indeed, the entire chassis) checked out by a reputable chassis shop, whatever needs doing done, and the whole thing realigned. It’s a '94. Getting everything checked out and put back in shape is the smart move here anyway.

I might turn out that you only need an alignment. But you might also have a few parts that are worn out.

My feeling is that there is likely more than one problem in the front end. The truck is 20 years old and has going on 200k miles.

I agree with mountainbike that the entire suspension and steering should be checked out. I would also hope that if expensive bad news comes your way that it does not drive a wedge into the relationship between you and the family friend.

If this family friend is not a mechanic then any recommendation they’ve made about an alignment curing this problem is ill-advised. If an alignment is allegedly all it needs (not IMO) then tell the seller to get it aligned first and THEN the truck purchase will happen if the truck is cured.

My brother in law has owned a number of these trucks and right around the 200k miles mark they’ve generally needed ball joints, tie rods, and/or tie rod ends at a minimum.
Maybe the environment is cleaner there and the road surfaces smoother than it is here and you will luck out. Around here the operative phrase would be “tain’t likely”.

I assume the OP bought the truck at a really good price and being a 1994 most likely does not have full coverage insurance. The money spent at a good frontend shop will guarantee he does not crash and lose his investment and possibly injure someone and himself.

After the steering linkage has been checked for worn parts, the steering box itself can be adjusted to remove excessive play in the steering wheel if that’s the problem. An alignment shop should be able to do the whole job. Inspect for worn parts, do the alignment and adjust the steering box…


Have the tie rod ends, end links, center link, idler arm, and pitman arm inspected.

I’m sure one or more of these components are worn.


I would start with an alignment, and let them see what else is wrong.

Here’s something simple to do. Make sure all the tires are properly inflated and at the correct pressure.

I forgot to say idler arm in earlier post.

Thanks everyone. I have already went with the purchase of the truck. This will be my second vehicle to my 2011 Hyundai sonata I already have but I’ll have this checked out asap. Thanks for the advice and I’ll be back with an update soon.

The joints on the intermediate shaft could also be sloppy from wear.
I bought my Dakota with a bad intermediate shaft and replaced it the next day. If a joint on this goes all steering is lost.


The steering shaft from the column to the steer box could be worn. If it is the same design as I am thinking of it has u joints on either end and the joints could be worn.

If it is the design with the thick rubber grommets, those could be rotted.

Update…I took it to an alignment shop to have it checked out. They said everything looked good such as tie rod ends, ball joints, etc. What they found was a bad steering gear box. They said it was making noise and there was so much play in the box it couldn’t be adjusted. Does that make sense?


Very plausible that the steering gearbox is a goner, given the age

However . . . I have a hard time believing ALL those other parts are all in great shape. It’s one thing to say they look good, but do they have any play? I’m inclined to believe they do, especially the pitman and idler, since those 2 items tend to wear out a much faster rate than the steering gearbox