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Discussion Starter #1
Hey guys, I have a 1996 4.6L thunderbird with ABS.

My steering wheel has felt loose for the longest time and it's starting to feel looser-- as in it has several inches of play left and right before it'll start steering, and you can rock the steering wheel forwards and backwards too.

I want to tighten whatever it is that is holding the steering wheel on-- which I think requires removing the airbag to do;

How do I remove the airbag safely and what do I need to tighten the nut or whatever that connects the wheel to the column?

Last, I know all the play in the steering is at the wheel-- the car has a new R&P and there is no play in the shaft or the u-joint under the dash.

Please help.

Best,
Ghost
 

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Do you have new tie rod ends along w/ that new rack?

Jay
 

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Discussion Starter #3
yes; it is the steering wheel that is loose, TRUST ME
 

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It's not that I don't trust you, I'm just not ready to believe you yet. :)

It would be VERY unusual for the steering wheel to come loose from the shaft. It is generally impossible to remove a steering wheel without a puller, and, the shaft is splined, so if the wheel was rotating on the shaft, it would be spinning cleanly, not moving a little ways and then catching. If you are certain the problem is not the column, then check the bearing/column support bracket that is bolted to the underside of the dash. I'd believe that coming loose or being cracked before the wheel coming off the shaft.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Well here's the thing-- I think it's the steering wheel because I can move the wheel and the shaft under the dash does NOT move until the wheel hits a certain point-- I don't know what's been done to the car as far as that is concerned; are you SURE it isn't the wheel being loose? because it PHYSICALLY feels loose and will rock up and down (on axis' it is not supposed to move!!)...

when steering, I steer 2-3 inches before it catches and then will start steering, and it'll do that whenever I change directions

it's probably dangerous, actually.

best,
Ghost
 

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I don't know how the tilt column is built on these but if is similar to my '87 Grand Marquis it could be where the column pivots. I would go ahead and take it apart to see what is going on. Unplug the battery like Matt said and remove the airbag. There are four screws that you can get to from the back of the wheel, that is all that holds it on. If it is the wheel itself I think you will be able to see the problem at this point. Otherwise, you will have to get a steering wheel puller and delve farther.
 

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FWIW, you might want to wait a little longer than 10 minutes before you work on the airbag just to be safe. If you can. Also, set it down someplace safe and away from people, and always with the bag / pad side up. (If it fires from static electricity and the bag is facing down, it becomes a rocket.)
 

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also check the steel ujoint on the upper part of the steering shaft, the tack welds had broke on mine and had a 1/8 inch of play in the upper column beacuse of it
 

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FWIW, you might want to wait a little longer than 10 minutes before you work on the airbag just to be safe. If you can. Also, set it down someplace safe and away from people, and always with the bag / pad side up. (If it fires from static electricity and the bag is facing down, it becomes a rocket.)
Wow, I never knew air bags were this sensitive. I've taken quite a few off cars at the junkyard and never had a problem. I'll definitely be more careful from now on.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
also check the steel ujoint on the upper part of the steering shaft, the tack welds had broke on mine and had a 1/8 inch of play in the upper column beacuse of it

that sounds suspiciously like what I might have; where is that located?
 

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up under the dash where the column bolts to the dash
 

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I've never come across a Ford yet that I've had to get a steering wheel puller for. For me, it's quicker to grab the wheel (after removing the bolt and wiring connectors of course) and just yank it off with brute force. Lock the column and rock the wheel side to side a bit while pulling it off. After a few seconds of this, it will break loose.
 
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