April 11

2005 Toyota 4Runner, Steering Column U-Joint



Mark: Hi it’s Mark, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Show and Podcast. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well Mark.

Mark: So we’re talking about cars with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 38 years of servicing and maintaining cars, trucks, vehicles in Vancouver and 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and today we’re going to talk about a 2005 Toyota 4Runner. What was going on with this vehicle Bernie?

Bernie: So the vehicle came to our shop, a regular client of ours, and the steering was stiff, especially in one certain direction when you turned the steering wheel there was a stiff, tight spot to the steering.

Mark: Ok, so what did you find that was going on?

Bernie: What we found, we did an inspection on the steering and suspension system and what we found was the universal joint, the U-joint at the end of the steering column, down to the steering rack and pinion was worn out, basically it was just seized in one direction and that was causing the issue. Basically what happened the U-joint allows a twisting motion to occur and when it seized in one direction, it just becomes very stiff to turn the wheel in that one area. 

Mark: So why do you need a U-joint in the steering column?

Bernie: Well I’ll just talk a little history on the steering column. In the olden days, when cars were well, even up into probably right into 1950’s and 60’s, the steering column is just pretty much a straight, long shaft and it would run from the steering wheel down to the steering box. And actually here’s a scary thought, I mean, steering columns used to actually be just a big, huge steel rod and you can imagine what happens when you get in a head on collision and that front of the vehicle gets pushed back a foot or two, basically that steering column just got shoved right into your chest and a lot of people died from that. So one of the first things, one of those sort of safety things, well I say first things, I mean they didn’t really do it probably til the 50’s or 60’s, 60’s for sure, it was mandatory to have a collapsible steering column. So the shaft could actually compress, the steering column would actually be like an accordion type thing where it would actually fold on impact. So that’s a good feature for staying alive in a collision. But anyways, the universal joint, it sort of came after that when steering columns, the vehicles started getting shorter, not such long hoods, they would perhaps go, hey let’s put the steering box, the steering rack and pinion further back in the vehicle and so there’s the universal joint allowed the shaft to go straight and then downward and that allowed the flexibility in the steering column.

Mark: Ok, so back to the worn U-joint in this truck, what was causing the, what would cause that to happen, what would cause it to just wear on one side?

Bernie: Well what happens, this one here wore from rust corrosion. These, we’ve replaced them on some vehicles and sometimes they just wear out just because, you know they just get moved and turned a lot. But this one here suffered kind of a hard life. The vehicle spent a lot of time out, I would assume on salty roads and basically it was corroded. So at this point we can go into a couple pictures. Toyota 4runner, really nice shape at least it is on the top side and well talk about this in a minute. But anyways, you know beautiful 2005 Toyota 4Runner. This is our steering column U-joint. So this is the universal joint right here. This is the actual part that we replaced. You can see from the picture it’s extremely rusty and corroded and this is the U-joint. So it’s basically a cross piece with bearings and it’ll flex in two different directions but this one basically you could only move it in one direction. So that’s what was causing our issue.

2005 Toyota 4Runner, Steering Column U-Joint
2005 Toyota 4Runner, Steering Column U-Joint

Steering Column U-Joint

Mark: Alright, so rust isn’t something we’ve talked a lot other than in brakes and cars don’t seemingly rust like they used to, how often do you see vehicles like this?

Bernie: Not that often around here but it’s surprising. actually this is sort of the second part of this story. So the steering column U-joint is one, the second is the owner of this vehicle bought this vehicle about six months ago, maybe a little longer. He didn’t get an inspection on it because it was a great deal, it only had 114,000 kilometres which is very low mileage for a vehicle like this. Looks beautiful on the outside. He drove it, he goes yeah it drives great, the price was right, he bought it. He brought it to our shop, I’m not going to say how much money he spent, but let’s put it this way, it’s thousands and thousands of dollars on things like rusted out exhaust, this is another issue now the steering column U-joint. So it’s really important to have a vehicle inspected before you buy it and we’ve said this before. You never know, you look on the outside, you look at the mileage, you go, hey it’s a great deal based on those factors but the one factor that wasn’t in there is where’s the vehicle been driven. We live in Vancouver, it’s a pretty, we don’t get a lot of snow here, we get a bit, there’s a bit of salt that maybe goes on for a couple weeks or a month a year, but in other climates, you get a lot of salt. We recently did an inspection on a 2015 Subaru, only 60,000 kilometres, 3 year old vehicle, looked underneath it, there was a lot of rust corrosion already starting to develop. Nothing debilitating but given time that vehicle would definitely have a lot more repairs needed. Now it’s a local car, but the people, they buy these vehicles because they go skiing a lot to Whistler which is nearby. A lot of snow on that road, a lot of salt is used. So those are the kind of things you really got to look fo when you buy a vehicle. but yeah, rust is not as bad. Vehicles are really much better built than they used to be. But salt still takes it’s toll. Once the vehicle gets ten years old, then you really start to see the problems

Mark: Haven bought one of those kind vehicles in my past of vehicle history, I am familiar with this. 

Bernie: Me too, you know, I’ve bought vehicles like that to and it’s like it just reinforced my conviction, have it inspected, really take a second look at it, don’t get too attached to anything just because the price is right or you like the vehicle. You know, you’ve got to look for the right one, otherwise you’re going to end up paying a lot of money to get it set straight later.

Mark: So any final thoughts on this repair and Toyota 4Runners?

Bernie:  Well just final thoughts, pre purchase inspection. Whenever you buy a used vehicle, don’t just assume the deal’s great. Really have it looked at and 4Runners, I mean they’re great vehicles. Besides the issues with this thing, it’s still an incredibly reliable vehicle, really nice driving, definitely, probably the best SUV of its type on the road.

Mark: So there you go. If you’re looking for service and you’re in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Or check out our blog at pawlikautomotive.com, hundreds of videos on there and articles as well as our YouTube channel and as you’re probably enjoying this on iTunes. Welcome to iTunes for the Podcast of Pawlik Automotive. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

About the author 

Bernie Pawlik

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