Loose steering on Ford E450 Class "C" motor home

On my Ford E450 Class"C" motor home the steering wheel has approximately a one inch play in it so when I am driving the vehicle tends to wander and constant correction to the steering is required…
I tried turning the steering wheel without the power steering engaged, engine off and with it running, engine on, and the vehicle not moving.
In both situations there was the approximate one inch play, and as far as I could tell, without the wheels moving.
I had a Ford F350 truck which had the same problem and my local Ford service dealer said that there was nothing wrong.
Is this a condition with all Ford steering?
Can you suggest what may be causing this and maybe a remedy for this problem?

You may have to tighten the nut that holds the steering wheel. :wink:

(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) But seriously, you could have a mechanic take a look at the tie rod ends, etc. and inspect all steering components. But one inch of play doesn’t sound out of bounds. I have an '89 Dodge B250 camper van that probably has that much play in the wheel. It keeps you on your toes.

The main problem is it gives my wife a nervous breakdown when she has to drive.

From what I can find, the E450 uses an older style steering box with a pitman arm rather than rack and pinion. That will give you the play you’re experiencing. If you’re both used to rack and pinion only, then yes, it will seem loose to you.

Look at older films of people driving, and you’ll see constant motion of the steering wheel. You can’t just hold the wheel steady like you can with rack and pinion.

Bottom line, the play is probably quite normal for a vehicle like this. But I can imagine that if you’re not used to it, it can be a little disconcerting.

Well, you may have to resort to drastic measures like not letting your wife drive it. Which means you get to have all the fun. :wink:

1" of play is quite acceptable for your vehicle

Now, if you had 2" or 3" of play, it would be a different story

Are you new to this vehicle?

Are you new to vehicles that have a steering gearbox, versus rack and pinion steering?

If your wife gets nervous driving it, there are only 2 solutions

  1. Have her drive it more often, so that she gains confidence

  2. Take one for the team . . . you do all the driving

Isn’t there an allen type bolt on the steering box that can be tightened to take the slack out?

Steering wheel play is easily adjusted if you have a steering box. A good independent alignment shop can do this for you in a matter of minutes.

You can adjust a steering gear box

But 1" of play is normal

@db4690…1" of play may be normal but wandering and constant correction of the steering wheel is not. I think a good independent alignment shop needs to take a look at this motor home.

Yeah, I was concentrating on the 1" of play

I missed the part about the wandering

The car clearly needs an alignment

But BEFORE doing that, check the steering linkages for play (pitman arm, idler arm, tie rods, drag link, etc.)

I have had the steering aligned by a company here who does heavy equipment maintenance. They did not find anything when they did it.
I must admit I do not know if they road tested the vehicle after the alignment.

The vehicle is a 2001 model. I read that it may have the recirculating ball type steering unit.
If it is, it is supposed to have an adjustment on it to help take up slack.
Is there a good way to check it it has the recirculating ball steering?


I 100% guarantee your vehicle has a recirculating ball steering gearbox

Ford SuperDuty vans, trucks and RVs do NOT have rack and pinion steering

If the slop in the steering is noticeable with the lightest of touch with the engine off then I might suspect excessive play in the steering gearbox or possibly a sloppy steering column rag joint if not fitted with a universal joint connection.

The gearbox should be adjustable if that is the case but should be adjusted properly. Adjusting it too tightly could lead to the steering not wanting to return to center after cornering.

If all of your steering gear components including the steering box are tight, it simply may be how your motorhome drives as it is designed.

You might want to look into installing a caster kit, if applicable for an E450, to give the steering a little more caster. I bought one for our sloppy steering (constant correction required) motorhome based on a Ford E350 chassis that we bought new but never got around to installing the kit; became accustomed to the steering and then later sold the motorhome several years ago. I still have the kit that cost about 22 bucks about 15 or 20 years ago. It states that it can increase caster by 4 degrees. The kit is a flanged bushing with an off-center hole for the lower end “A” frame mounting bolt and also comes with a large flat washer for each of the two bushings. The kit also came with a round metal hole saw to enlarge the hole in the lower “A” frame to accommodate the bushing. Talk to mfr. of a kit to make sure that it will give you more steering stability as you may want. I hope that I am recalling the part names correctly, can’t check; no motorhome.

I installed a hydraulic steering damper similar to a shock absorber for our older Dodge chassis motorhome that also had sloppy steering. The damper did not help in the least.

A long time ago I test drove a Class A motorhome based on a GM chassis. The steering was just as I liked it; very stable like a good German car. I was impressed with how much better it drove than our Dodge at that time and later our Ford too.

Adding positive caster can often result in improved handling. It might be worthwhile to shop around for a “seasoned” front end man with a great deal of experience on Ford truck suspensions. I have added shims to twin-I-beam and 4x4 Fords to push the positive caster beyond factory specs and the owners were pleased. The ‘vagueness’ of the steering on Ford trucks has been a problem for decades.

@EgroegBmal…my wife and I just went through this almost identical problem in early October. It was a Chevy Blazer that my wife just bought. The first alignment shop we went to really has no business being in the alignment business at all. They did two separate alignments and the Blazer still wandered and would not return to center.

We got lucky and went to a real alignment shop a couple of days later. The technician was proficient, courteous and professional. Best of all…he fixed the problem without replacing a single part. He has 40 years experience in the alignment business and I’m guessing the first technician needed to go back to alignment school. He obviously never learned a thing when he went the first time.

There are quite a few front end mechanics who don’t understand the geometry and physics of wheel alignment, @missileman. Those mechanics just plug in the machinery and enter the make and model, then they follow the directions to move dots on a screen. I am amazed that there are front end “experts” who don’t recognize the difference in a “Big Wheel” and a tricycle.

@RodKnox…Thanks. I watched the technician and he probably only loosened one or two bolts and was completely absorbed in the computer screens in front of him. Everything looked good to me as well but alignment is something I never learned. I know the difference between a “Big Wheel” and a tricycle because my then 5 year old son burned the front wheel off of several Big Wheels. He did it by sliding down the inclined sidewalk in front of our house.