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Fiat - steering idler

Had my 1984 fiat (pininfarina actually) in for yearly inspection and the mechanic tells me I can’t drive my car - because the steering idler is broken and I could lose all steering - suddenly - and die. So I go to order one from a fiat parts place, and the tech guy says the idler is supposed to be loose, and that if they go bad the symptom is that you can’t turn the wheel except with extreme difficulty, but that it’s not particularly dangerous. I have them talk to each other, and they get into a disagreement. I am now torn between spending a couple of hundred dollars to save my life, or wasting the money on a part I don’t need. Anybody know what’s up with that?

This is too easy. Spend a couple of hundred dollars to possibly keep from killing yourself or someone, of course do it you silly rabbit.

Well there is loose and there is loose. What are the odds that a 30 year old Fiat control arm is not worn?

An 84 Fiat and that’s all they found? You need to thank all you find Holy and just install a new one. Maybe buy a lottery ticket while you are at it!

Specifically what Fiat do you have. Pininfarina is not the name of the model, it is the design company that designed the car, most Fiat sports cars were designed by Pininfarina. It seams to me that some models started using rack and pinion steering around then so it wouldn’t even have an idler.

If your idler was actually broken, it would be very difficult to steer the car and your front tires would last about 20 miles total (not 20k but only 20) and the tires would squeal a lot when you go around corners.

It could be loose allowing a lot of play in the steering and excessive tire wear. You would see a lot of wear at the inner and outer edges of the front tires even though the air pressure is up to specs.

Lay down in front of the car and have someone turn the steering wheel back and forth a few inches. If the idler is bad, you will see it move up and down quite a bit. A little up and down is OK.

On an 84, I’d be surprised if it isn’t bad.

I’m thinkin’ you must have the 124 Spider? Great ride.

Articulating joints should freely rotate, but should not present sloppiness in operation or when “shaken” in axis that they’re not designed to move in. You need to get this fixed ASAP. Find a foreign sports car specialist I your area and take it in. This system is not “rocket science” and should not present any problems for any qualified tech.

They changed the name of the 124 to the Pininfarina for it’s last year(s). Here’s the convoluted naming history:

“The 124 Sport Spider is a 2+2 convertible sports car marketed by Fiat from 1966 to 1980 – having debuted at the November 1966 Turin Auto Show. Designed and manufactured by Italian carrozzeria Pininfarina, Fiat and Pininfarina continued to market the monocoque-bodied car as the 2000 Spider from 1979 to 1982. Pininfarina itself assumed the car’s marketing from 1983 to the end of its production in 1985 – as the Pininfarina Spider Azzura.”

Wow. Loved the car, but the history is confusing as heck. Typical for Italian cars of the era. The concept would come from one place, the body from another, and often the engine from still another.

I actually saw a Fiat 124 today, RUNNING down the street. First one I’d seen outside of an antique car swap meet in several years. I’d guess it had to belong to the OP, but we don’t believe in safety here, and have no inspections.

It would be interesting to know how many accidents are caused by unsafe cars.

“It would be interesting to know how many accidents are caused by unsafe cars.”

I have no idea but I would wager a great amount that the number of accidents caused by unsafe cars are inconsequential when measured against the accidents caused by unsafe drivers.

Since this Fiat is a fairly rare car your mechanic may just be following state guidelines as he is required to do. There may be something different about your steering gear that makes something seem not safe, or within state guidelines, when compared to your average family sedan.

Ask your mechanic to show the specification for wear in steering joints that is causing him to fail your car. Alternately, get your hands on a Fiat service manual that shows how to check the steering components and the service limits for this item.

Amazing to me that the 124 didn’t have a rack & pinion like my lowly '76 128 did.

There are 33 states with no periodic safety inspection, and their accident data is indistinguishable from those with safety inspections except as directly attributable to other variables unrelated to vehicle safety. A few states have even discontinued their safety inspection programs over the years without impact on accident statistics.

Re: the 124 Spider; my dad had one when I was in HS I the late '60s. Loved driving that car. I test drove one a few years back, considering buying it as a weekend toy, but I chickened out.

@insightful So does my 1961 MGA and many of its much older brothers. In the words of a boss I had at a foreign car shop many years ago, “The Fiat 124 was designed by an Italian Marquis de Sade with two years of study toward an engineering. degree”.

It was the little things like the need for a stock pile of different thickness shims to adjust the valves. IIRC the camshaft had to be removed, shims installed, and then rechecked after the cam was reinstalled. If you got one wrong, you started over.