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Bad steering column

hopped in my '98 gc after school as usual and started it up with no issues. as i’m turning the steering wheel, audible clunking is heard. once the wheels are completely turned to the right, i hear a loud bonk (snap, clunk, not sure how to describe the noise, it was loud though). at this point, i still have a marginal amount of steering but something is completely wrong. there is a large area where i can turn the steering wheel and nothing happens. not only that, but it is completely off-centered (i should make a point of mentioning that the steering wheel is never perfectly aligned, maybe this has something to do with it?). i pull up to a light, and turn the wheels completely again to see if there’s anything left. i hear another clunk, and my steering is busted. no steering at all now, wheel rotates freely with clunking sounds. the pitman arm is loose, along with the steering column. apologies if i’m using any terms wrong, i’m new to cars.

my question is, will i need to replace the column completely, and is there anything else it could be?

Just get the car towed to a competent repair shop. Do not drive it. They will tell you what needs to be replaced.

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Yep, shop time.
Pitman arm is bolted to steering box.
Arm is not attached to box now?
Pretty rare.
Did the Pittman arm nut fall off?

It is not the steering column… I’d guess it is the stuff under the car that just fell off.

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Make mine another vote for a towtruck and a reputable shop.

You could have broken the u-joint at the base of the steering column but more likely you have broken some steering parts. Unless you have someone knowledgeable to look at it, tow it to a shop/


is what first comes to mind for me.

I think the vehicle needs a new steering gear.

The splined shaft on the steering gear is the pitman shaft.

The pitman arm requires a pitman arm removal tool to remove it from the steering gear shaft.

Pitman arms don’t just become loose.


I have never seen a post WW II automobile steering gear totally fail to the level of the OP’s post @Tester. But those donuts have often failed somewhat suddenly according to customers descriptions. But we must all throw our best judgement based on past experience and hopefully the repair will be posted so we know who gets the BIG CHECK this week. I’m still waiting for my prize from my last lucky guess back in 2011. But when it comes it’ll be party time and the Key Stone will be on me. And I just finished putting a fresh coat of stain on my deck. Can’t wait.


Then why does RockAuto, or for that matter any parts store sell a replacement steering gear if they never fail?


As rod Knox, I too was thinking it might be the rag joint.IMG_0489

Those rubber steering shaft couplings that were used in the 1960’s and '70’s were never used on the ZJ series Grand Cherokee, I don’t recall seeing any vehicle in the’90’s with that type of joint.

Like everyone else with an enquiring mind :thinking:, I too enjoy guessing, but the most important point IMHO to take from the thread is that the vehicle is unsafe to drive until it gets diagnosed and repaired. I’d hate to see that point get lost in the chaos. :scream_cat: This really is a safety issue.

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The steering gears that I have replaced most often failed when the hydraulic seal failed and fluid leaked from the sector shaft @Tester. A few had worn sectors. But none that I dealt with ever failed to the point of being undriveable as the OP’s appears to be.

Do you think people need to be advised not to drive a vehicle that has no steering?

It sounds like one of the joints broke on the intermediate shaft, the OP will have to take a minute to inspect the steering, nobody can see it on the internet.

I was surprised to find out that you can no longer buy the u-joint at the bottom separately but have to buy a new column. The only one I ever replaced was in my Plymouth Duster and I had no trouble getting one.

The universal joints are normally included in the intermediate steering shaft.

Late model steering columns can cost $2,000 or more as they can contain the electric power steering unit but don’t include the universal joints, that is included in the intermediate shaft.

BTW, take a look at the rack and pinion on your Camry, you won’t see any power steering parts.

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Aren’t there a few businesses out there that specialize in rebuilding steering columns? Kind of a niche market. I believe it’s not an exchange service. Meaning they rebuild the very steering column that you bring them, or maybe you bring them the whole car

I vote for item #12
he did say the pitman arm was hanging down so he must know a little about cars. maybe he meant the thing that is attached to the pitman arm?

I thought Jeeps had a u joint. Some people mod the Chevy rag joint with a Jeep steering column.