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Steering Box Adjustment
The Steering box is adjustable and may need tightened up from time to time (don't over tighten it or you'll ruin parts inside it - parts that are irreplaceable on a right-hand-drive).
"Make sure the steering box is full of oil. It has an in-built transporter which beams the oil to Solaris 7 in the Orion system. Slacken the lock nut on the adjuster and turn the adjuster until it just nips up then re-tighten the adjuster. Have a friend move the steering wheel vigorously to and fro while you're doing this. That should sort most of the woolyness out." -GadgetBoy
If your steering feels peculiar, start by looking at the steering joints and the top and bottom balljoints for looseness or seizure. Additionally, the steering idler (in the mirror position to the steering-box) may need lubrication and readjustment. With the steering rods disconnected, it should have no play but present only very slight resistance to turning. Finally, scrutinise the steering-box.
Steering boxes require little maintenance. Periodically check the oil level. Fill just short of the filler hole or to any vent provided (often a slot in the adjusting-screw) whichever is the lower. If the box is leaking oil from its seals, this can be countered by topping-up - but if it runs low or empty it'll vastly increase wear. It also allows subsequent water ingress to start corroding the bearing surfaces of both shafts - which effectively writes-off the unit. Adjust the box annually or every 6,000 miles. The adjuster screw in the top plate raises and lowers the (vertical) drop-shaft to alter the tightness of the mesh of the steering shaft's worm and the drop-shaft's roller.
Adjustment on the car: rock the steering around the straight-ahead while watching the wheel rims (not tyres) for movement. Tighten the adjusting-screw on top of the box until there's no lost movement around the straight-ahead.
It's more precise, though, to disconnect the steering rods from the Pitman arm (the arm attached to the bottom of the drop-shaft). Centre the steering by counting turns of the steering wheel. Now turn the steering wheel 30° and just eliminate any play in the arm. This will give the box a very slight over-tightness at dead centre. Play increases towards full lock at each side - this is designed-in. It's vital to the correct adjustment that the actual centre position of the steering shaft (and worm-gear) corresponds to the straight-ahead position of the road wheels. If not, adjust the track rods equally on each side until it does then reposition the steering wheel on the shaft if necessary.
-Ed Hughes, Practical Classics June 2017
Off roading can frequently put your wheel alignment out, and my Niva can be an absolute pig to steer if its wheel alignment is out by much. It can be done yourself, but you'll never get it as good as a good technician with laser equipment. Ideally make sure the castor, camber and the rear axle alignment are checked and set as well as just the steering tracking.
Handy tip: The settings in the mannual are for a Niva with weight in it (about 3 people iirc), ignoring this will likely mean the settings are wrong.
If there's play in the steering or suspension joints or wheel-bearings, or if the steering-box is loose - or indeed if the chassis ripping at the steering-box mount - your steering will be horribile as the alignment will be constantly altering as you drive. Fix or replace.
Many owners run tyres at a higher pressure than the factory settings to lighten the steering (which with wider than standard tyres, not only makes it nicer to drive, but is kinder on the steering system components), especially if they're running wider than standard tyres. However, if you go too high your will risk loosing steering grip dramatically, and will overly wear your tyre in the centre.
I run my front 205-16 road tyres at around 38psi and the steering feels good and doesn't seem to have tyre wear associated with too higher pressure. Many others run their at between 32 and 40psi and report good steering etc.
Right-hand drive Niva?
Steering parts specific to right-hand drive Nivas are no longer available new! So never throw away an old right-hand drive steering-box, Pitman arm, or connecting rod.
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