140K: Steering Box Replacement?

98 'Burb K1500.
At 60k, I had tie rods, engine mounts and a few other things replaced to recover that "new car" feel. IMHO it was a total success and well worth the money.
Now I'm at 140k and it feels like it's time again.
But I wonder if there's one more joker in the deck: the steering gearbox.
I had it tightened at around 130k and that took some of the looseness out of the system, but immediately afterwards it just felt weird - like it was binding a little bit. Dunno if I'm just used to it now or it loosened up with a few weeks use, but I don't notice it anymore.
What I do notice is that the vehicle's steering just doesn't feel acceptably precise. It's also much worse in crosswinds than it was when new.
Does anybody have an opinion on steering gear boxes once they've worn to the point where they need tightening? Is tightening one up the same as replacing it with a new one function-wise - or is there some loss there - maybe from changed geometry within the workings of it?
I'm thinking of replacing the thing when I get the tie rods/pitman arms/whatever done soon, but I don't want to throw my money away if there's no diff between a tightened up box with 140k on it and a new box.
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PeteCresswell

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wrote:

They do wear out and "tightening them basically reset preload but it do not make them good as new. The life of one depends on how you drive and where. If it is stock with stock tires and a commuter it should go 200K and more but if it is lifted or has bigger tires it will have a shorter life span. Hard to say where you are at without feeling it. ----------------- TheSnoMan.com
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Per SnoMan:

Then I guess I'll do the pitman arms/tie rods/whatever and see if it still doesn't feel right - then replace the box if it does not.
--
PeteCresswell

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Pete, if the box is even a little too tight it will " hunt" thus the feeling of constant correcting, I'd back it off and start from scratch till the play is just out, then drive it and make sure you have returnability when making slight corrections from straight say at 40 mph. This assume, of course, there is no steering linkage looseness.

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Per Shep:

Thanks. That's exactly the symptom I had in mind.
Plenty steering linkage looseness right now, so I'll put that off until I get the other pieces replaced.
I'm guessing that once somebody shows me the adjustment nut that this is something that even I can do.... Back off a half turn, try it, back off another half turn..... tighten up a quarter turn.... loop until satisfied.....
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PeteCresswell

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wrote:

The sector preload is pretty touchy and 1/2 turn it a lot to turn it. Make adjustments to it in a about 1/8 inch incraments and test it. Like someone else said you do not want it too tight because you will loose road feel and it will tend to wander ----------------- TheSnoMan.com
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Pete you might also check the steering coupler, aka "rag joint", for play. I've got a '95 S-10 and found it didn't take much play in the steering coupler to give the imprecise feeling you describe. I'll also second the advise on over-adjusting the steering box. I had to incrementally back off mine when adjusted too tight. What I found on the S-10 was the steering coupler was part of the lower steering shaft and had to be replaced as a unit....at the tune of around $200. I took the joint apart and replaced the shouldered rivets with 3/8th bolts and nylok bolts so I could retighen the unit joint. Over time the flexible material relaxes and the bolts allowed me to retighten the joint. Here's a link to how the joint looked:
http://img443.imageshack.us/my.php?image=modifiedragjointbs7.jpg
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Thanks.
The design of that thing looks/sounds a little scary. Those rivets or bolts come loose and somebody's in a whole world of hurt...
Does the list below cover all the players in steering tightness/control? --------------------------------------------------------------- - Pitman Arms - Steering Box - Steering Coupler - Steering Idler Arm - Front Shock Absorbers - Front Stabilizer Bushings - (whatever that thing on the steering column that regulates the amount of effort needed to turn the wheel depending on speed is called)
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PeteCresswell

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