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Passing inspection for a loose steering wheel lock?

Recently replaced both lower ball joints, inner & outer tie rods on my vehicle since at least one of the tie rod ends was shot and a ball joint were leaking grease/spun in place and needed replacement. Made the mistake of torqueing the LBJs and tie rod nuts on the vehicle with the front end jacked up. Torque wrench cause the steering rack to move to the locked position, but appeared to put too much stress (60 ft-lbs on tied rods and 100 ft-lbs on LJBs) as now there is a small amount of play in both tires (previously just one) and the steering wheel moves left and right 2" when grabbing tires on both sides and shaking. Holding steering wheel prevents movement of tires.

Problem is that no shop will allow it to pass inspection when it’s not a safety issue as it relates to the steering wheel lock. Mechanic stated he’d have to pull apart steering column to confirm.

Why is this an issue when it’s just common sense as to what is causing the problem for any mechanic who’s knowledgeable?

Lawyers…That’s why.

I’m not sure by your post exactly WHAT is allowing this free play. The steering wheel lock when you remove the key? Or something in-between the lock and the rack? Or something IN the rack? And how do you actually KNOW the play is in the lock and not the rack or the column?

Its the lock when you remove the key. You can hear the play of it knocking side to side by putting your ear up to the steering column when the front end is jacked up and you move the wheels. What else could it be if the wheels don’t move if you hold the steering wheel?

For this one I’d suggest legislators… and lobbyists… since the problem is that it won’t pass the safety inspection. :smile:

However, Play in the steering system should, as mustang suggested, be thoroughly diagnosed before assuming it’s safe. 2" of play is a lot. Assuming you’re correct and it’s in the lock, how do you know the wheel won’t suddenly lock up while you’re driving, or while you’re taking a turn? If the steering wheel lock has been overstressed, I’d assume it’s dangerous unless I pulled it apart and verified otherwise.

Do you mean that you can rotate the steering wheel and the tires move correspondingly when the key is out of the ignition and so the steering wheel should be actually be locked in place by the steering lock mechanism? If so I’d have to concur that that doesn’t seem like it would be a safety issue. It seems more like a potential theft issue. That’s what the steering wheel lock is for, isn’t it, an anti-theft device?

Maybe that’s just the rules issued by the state that the shop is required to obey. But I think you are right on principle at least, if a shop proves that there’s only the expected amount of play in the steering during driving (key in the ignition and engine idling) then you’d think that would be all they’d need to prove about the steering safety.

Wellll… legislators and lobbyists… A majority are lawyers, right? :wink:

Even people that claim to hate lawyers, like their own… Curiously, much like we think of our legislators.

OK, by that additional description, I’d say you are right. If you hold the wheel and nothing slops then the lock mechanism is the culprit. That extra slop may indicate an imminent failure of the lock stops that could lock up the steering as @the_same_mountainbik suggested. But as @GeorgeSanJose posts, it may also be a case of “Rules are the Rules” that the shop has no discretion to interpret any other way.

Yeah, I’m thinking of taking to another shop and suggesting if I show them the cause (pull apart steering column covers and cut off the ignition housing bolts that clamp it to the steering column, then temporarily holding it together with standard bolts), I could easily pull it apart and they could visually inspect it and pass it provided it’s in acceptable condition.

@GeorgeSanJose That’s what I thought originally. Guess it’s not that simple.

Why not simply fix it properly?

How did the shop even know this was a problem? Did you tell them? Do they really inspect the steering wheel lock function in your state? Is it really regulated by the state system or is the shop BSing you?

California does not safety check cars and light trucks. Pollution checks every 2 years, and that’s it.

Generally, when they drive it onto the lift they pick up things like this.
Honestly, if I were inspecting it I’d consider this a possible safety issue. If that lock or the circuitry in the column has/have been forced and the lock activates while driving, or if the steering “play” is a result of a bad steering component, the results could be disastrous. I have to agree with the inspector on this one.

Well, I found another garage that was willing to do a preliminary safety inspection before entering it into the state computer system to see if there was an issue and they didn’t find any, so they continued with an official inspection and it passed and I’m good to go. I still plan on removing the ignition housing to inspect the steering wheel lock and see what kind of damage was done and if it needs replacement. At least the pressure is off to get it fixed by the end of the month. Not sure how it could’ve tightened up as I watched him check for play in the wheels.

@wentwest Normally, they would just check for wheel play and automatically fail it if they found something, but if you can make a valid argument and show them the true nature of what’s causing it and show that it isn’t a safety issue, an experienced mechanic should be able to let it go. The downside is if they’re wrong and you get in an accident as a result, the garage can be fined $10K. That can be hard to prove sometimes, but it’s still a deterrent to get them to agree on anything. I bring up my concern since if they did the inspection and it failed, you get a bright red failed sticker where a cop could easily see it, pull you over, write you a ticket, get you points for a moving violation and tow your vehicle on the spot. Not to mention it shows up in carfax report (supposedly from what I’m told) which could make it harder to trade it in for a decent price. At least if the inspection sticker is expired, it’s less likely to get noticed and you can sometimes get off with a warning saying you forgot if your pulled over. Quite a few garages will do a preliminary inspection of something your concerned about failing for safety to avoid the hassle of a failed inspection sticker which has no grace period to get things fixed (only emission fails give you 60 days to repair).

Sounds like CA is much better than here in MA for inspections. Hell, if your exhaust is louder than stock, they can fail you here. There was a shop near me that would use a mirror to check for performance exhaust systems if you vehicle sounded louder than normal and fail you.

@the_same_mountainbik “Why not simply fix it properly?”

Normally, if it’s just the ignition housing and the locking mechanism I would, but if the hole in the steering column housing opened up or if the steering column shaft was worn, I’d probably just want to trade it in considering I’ve got other issues that aren’t inspection related that would make me want to get a new vehicle.

Here in Virginia there is no such things as a preliminary inspection.As Soon as the inspector drives the car into the inspection bay the old sticker comes off no questions asked.

In NH, you could have the vehicle inspected and not get a sticker, but they cannot then enter it into the state database and give you a sticker if it passes. You’re either having a checkup to find out if it needs work in preparation for inspection or you’re having an inspection. There’s no middle ground. A shop caught doing this would lose their license to do state inspections. If you’re just getting a checkup, they’ll leave the sticker on, if you’re getting an inspection the first step is to remove the existing sticker.

NOTE: inspection fees are regulated; checkup fees are not. Typically, you should expect to be charged for an hour’s shop time.

@the_same_mountainbik I guess what I had you could call a “checkup” done at no charge prior to inspection. Some places will charge for a checkup while other’s won’t. It wasn’t for everything, just what I was concerned about.

I’ve lived in both MA and NH and in both states, gone to an inspection station and asked about a specific scenario. The test technician came out, looked at the vehicle and told me if they would pass or fail for that issue. I’ll pass that- then let’s start the process of inspection!

I’ve also driven around with a Repair sticker for two weeks in MA before getting it fixed and retested. Yes, you’re taking a chance on getting pulled over but for the most part, the cops have more important things to mess around with. Heck, I got pulled over once for speeding and, unbeknownst to me, also had an expired sticker and all the cop said was, you need to get that renewed…

Be careful what you wish for … lol … there’s lots of car owners in Calif that would be happy to swap emissions testing for safety testing.

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