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Topic: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild (Read 987 times) previous topic - next topic

Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Our Sheppard steering gear was showing no signs of leaking.  I have been debating and waffling between the “if it is not broke, do not fix camp” and the “preventative maintenance camp”.  After continuing to read about failures happening at in-opportune times, I finally decided to pull it and get it rebuilt as it seems like age is a big contributing factor.  Besides, there is a lot of play and hoping this will tighten that up too.  Before removing it, the DW rocked the steering wheel in the “dead” zone while I observed the pitman arm.  The pitman arm was not moving at all, so while there may be other components which also need replacing, it seems the steering gear has a lot of play.

As others have indicated the generator enclosure has a access panel.  Pulling out the generator and removing the panel really improves access to the steering gear.

Gary sent me David’s puller.  Using it, the pitman arm popped off pretty quickly.  I still have it so if anyone needs it, just PM me.

The lower steering column yoke bolt was very, very, very tight and hard to access.  I removed the upper bolt which also took a ½ pull bar and a lot of muscle to break free with the bolt head held by a wrench wedged against the floor.  I used a long extension and braced it against the generator access cable support to get the leverage needed to break it free.

Like others suggested I cut more of the  side panel to make more room to slide the gear out.  I used a 4” angle grinder which made quick work of it. 

I am working alone, so no helper to pull up on the steering column.  I cut several cable ties under the dash to free up lots of extra cable which allowed me to pull the steering column up and lay it against the seat.  I was going to separate the wiring connectors to allow moving the steering column out of the way, but those things have a tendency to get brittle and there was plenty of slack cable so I left it connected.

After pulling the steering column I threaded rope down the hole and through the yoke still attached to the steering gear.  Wrapped the rope around a 2x4 to hold it in place ….sort of a safety measure to prevent it from falling on me when removing the bolts in case it slipped off the jack extension.

Fabricated an “extension” for the floor jack and used it to hold the weight while removing the final two bolts, then lowered the jack a small amount, loosened rope, repeated several times until I had it out.  I read others removed the generator radiator fan and took it out the side, but I just dropped it straight down the front.  I did remove the headlight bulbs (still have the original down low lights) and tied them out of the way to prevent smashing them during the process.  It took a little wrangling, but got it down safely.

I was prepared for oil dripping from the hoses, but forgot the reservoir is located higher so it just kept draining.  Wished I had planned ahead with plugs.  Likewise caps for the gear fittings would have prevented oil drips during the removal and transport process, protected the fittings and kept foreign matter out of the gear.  For those contemplating the job, #8 JIC plugs for the hoses or a male by male union to connect them would keep you from having to drain the oil reservoir…which is what I ended up doing and would prevent introducing a lot of air into the system.  #8 JIC caps for the gear side fittings, or remove the fittings and install a plug. 

I removed the male hose fitting from the gear to take to the hose shop since I was not 100% sure of the size.  Glad I did because I noticed the fittings use an o-ring, so will replace them before re-installing. 

Dropped the Sheppard off at Power Steer in Dallas around 10:00 Thursday morning.  He said he probably had a rebuilt on the shelf, but I asked him to just rebuild mine.  He said it should be ready around noon Friday and it was.  Picked it up just after lunch on Friday.

Getting it out as a one man job was not too difficult.  Getting it back in is going to be a challenge.

Many thanks to all those who did this job and posted about it as it made it much easier for me.
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #1
Getting mine out we just twist and turn and it will come out without removing a bunch of stuff (02 U320)... The hard part will be getting it off the ground to where you can man handle it up and in.. Get a second person.. Not going to say its impossible but ..Its impossible.. 1 person job? NO no no.. It will also help to have someone lifting and trying to get the bolts lined up..

Stick the box on a floor jack to start then man handle it.
2002 U320 Build #5974
Motorcade 17802
2010 Enclave



Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #4
Getting mine out we just twist and turn and it will come out without removing a bunch of stuff (02 U320)... The hard part will be getting it off the ground to where you can man handle it up and in.. Get a second person.. Not going to say its impossible but ..Its impossible.. 1 person job? NO no no.. It will also help to have someone lifting and trying to get the bolts lined up..

Stick the box on a floor jack to start then man handle it.
I certainly would prefer having help re-installing and if I still worked in an industrial plant environment I would have been able to ask several folks for help, but I now work in an office environment and am probably one of the few folks who shows up to work with oil, dirt and grease under my fingernails.  LOL.  The coach is stored 30 minutes from the house, so asking a neighbor to drop over is not an option, so I typically find a way to work solo.  My backup option for re-installing the Sheppard was to hire somebody at the “day labor” corner.

Happy to report the hard part of getting the steering gear in place and bolted up is done.  Used a floor jack to lift it up, used a ratchet strap to hold it in case it fell off the jack.  Took lots or praying, cajoling, prying, raising, lowering, etc, etc to get it into place.  Took me about 3 hours to get it lifted and bolted into place solo.  With two people, probably could have been done in under an hour, but got it done.

Still need to torque the pitman arm retaining bolt, bleed air out of the lines, set the cut angle, re-install the steering wheel, re-install the generator lower cover and reinstall the generator side access panel, so still some work to do, but think I am on the downhill side of this job.
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #5
I dont believe you need to bleed the air out.. The pump will push the fluid through and air out as it runs
2002 U320 Build #5974
Motorcade 17802
2010 Enclave

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #6
I dont believe you need to bleed the air out.. The pump will push the fluid through and air out as it runs
That is my understanding too.  The tech at the rebuild shop suggesting raising the front wheels off the ground and turning the steering wheel stop to stop several times to help remove air before starting the engine.  Said removing some of the air before starting the pump would reducing the amount of foaming....of course, I presume his context was a typical truck, not a motorhome with 40ft of hose running to a reservoir at the rear of the coach.

Since I did not have caps for the hoses, I had to drain the reservoir so I assume there is 40ft of hose filled with air.  
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #7
We will be pulling out of Puerto Penasco on Saturday, so will see how well this R&R went with the steering box.  Will be heading to Mesa, AZ and find a UPS to drop off this box and send back to Red Head!  Having watched the mechanic work on getting the pitman arm off for well over 3 hours, glad it wasn't me.  Have never seen one that difficult to remove and hope I never will again.  Glad you got yours off okay and back on by yourself.  Working here at the beach didn't help!
Joe & Dottie Allen
2000 U320; build # 5645
Our coach, Maxine
Motorcade #  15922;  Escapee 150950; FMCA F495795; Boondockers Welcome
'98 U320 from 2000-'06

"the difference between stupidity and genius?  Genius has it's limits!"

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #8
As mentioned previously, be sure you have set the plungers so you don't have contact with the hard stops.
Brett Wolfe
EX: 1993 U240
Moderator, ForeForum 2001-
Moderator Diesel RV Club 2002-
Moderator, FMCA Forum 2009-2020
Chairman FMCA Technical Advisory Committee 2011-2020

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #9
That is my understanding too.  The tech at the rebuild shop suggesting raising the front wheels off the ground and turning the steering wheel stop to stop several times to help remove air before starting the engine.  Said removing some of the air before starting the pump would reducing the amount of foaming....of course, I presume his context was a typical truck, not a motorhome with 40ft of hose running to a reservoir at the rear of the coach.

Since I did not have caps for the hoses, I had to drain the reservoir so I assume there is 40ft of hose filled with air. 

Personally, I would drain the fluid, lightly blow the lines, and change the reservoir filters (wipe out inside reservoir with clean rags). But that is just me, I'm anal about oil and service.

I did this when I did my engine. Everything at zero. No issue with air in the lines.Just started up, and let it idle.

Many people change transmissions in trucks and cars, forgetting to blow out cooler, and if the trans is bad, have converter rebuilt.

Chris
Chris and Tammy White  CDA Idaho
1997 U295 36' 3126 Cat 300 HP Build # 4998 
Former Foretravel tech & RVIA certified tech
Former owner Custom Satellite home/RV satellites 
Former owner Vans LTD  van conversions
Unemployed, panhandler, drag racer NHRA #6348

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #10
Personally, I would drain the fluid, lightly blow the lines, and change the reservoir filters (wipe out inside reservoir with clean rags). But that is just me, I'm anal about oil and service.

I did this when I did my engine. Everything at zero. No issue with air in the lines.Just started up, and let it idle.

Many people change transmissions in trucks and cars, forgetting to blow out cooler, and if the trans is bad, have converter rebuilt.

Chris
I changed the oil and filters a couple months back....before I decided to rebuild the steering gear.  I should have planned a little better.
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #11
As long as the fluid lines were sealed off when they were working I dont see a problem.. It will push into the filters and catch it..

I would bet there is more garbage falls in just by taking the lid off (Ive seen some of your pictures of your engines and engine bays (no one in particular)  :-X

Now if you hadnt changed them so soon I would include it in the work being done.
2002 U320 Build #5974
Motorcade 17802
2010 Enclave

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #12


I would bet there is more garbage falls in just by taking the lid off (Ive seen some of your pictures of your engines and engine bays (no one in particular)  :-X


I agree.  Wipe the lid of the reservist REALLY well. Tape a hefty bag/plastic over the roof over the reservoir, so nothing can fall in while being serviced.  EASY to do properly.
Brett Wolfe
EX: 1993 U240
Moderator, ForeForum 2001-
Moderator Diesel RV Club 2002-
Moderator, FMCA Forum 2009-2020
Chairman FMCA Technical Advisory Committee 2011-2020

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #13
No worries here getting anything in the oil reservoir......right at 13K miles on rebuild.

And this is before I cleaned it up after last 2800 mile trip

Chris
Chris and Tammy White  CDA Idaho
1997 U295 36' 3126 Cat 300 HP Build # 4998 
Former Foretravel tech & RVIA certified tech
Former owner Custom Satellite home/RV satellites 
Former owner Vans LTD  van conversions
Unemployed, panhandler, drag racer NHRA #6348

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #14
Marking this job done!

Torqued the retaining bolt, replaced access panels, inserted and bolted up the steering column, idled engine for several minutes and turned stop to stop several times.  Checked stop clearance and for leaks.  Had a small drip from one of the hoses.  Tightened it up a bit and it stopped

Topped off reservoir.  There was some foaming, but not excessive. 

Putting the steering column back in took a few tries.  Definitely would have been much easier with a second set of hands, but this job can be accomplished solo if needed.
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #15
No worries here getting anything in the oil reservoir......right at 13K miles on rebuild.

And this is before I cleaned it up after last 2800 mile trip

Chris

I'm jealous Chris!  Looks clean as a whistle!
Joe & Dottie Allen
2000 U320; build # 5645
Our coach, Maxine
Motorcade #  15922;  Escapee 150950; FMCA F495795; Boondockers Welcome
'98 U320 from 2000-'06

"the difference between stupidity and genius?  Genius has it's limits!"

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #16
I'm jealous Chris!  Looks clean as a whistle!
Thanks
Chris and Tammy White  CDA Idaho
1997 U295 36' 3126 Cat 300 HP Build # 4998 
Former Foretravel tech & RVIA certified tech
Former owner Custom Satellite home/RV satellites 
Former owner Vans LTD  van conversions
Unemployed, panhandler, drag racer NHRA #6348

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #17
Marking this job done!

Torqued the retaining bolt, replaced access panels, inserted and bolted up the steering column, idled engine for several minutes and turned stop to stop several times.  Checked stop clearance and for leaks.  Had a small drip from one of the hoses.  Tightened it up a bit and it stopped

Topped off reservoir.  There was some foaming, but not excessive. 

Putting the steering column back in took a few tries.  Definitely would have been much easier with a second set of hands, but this job can be accomplished solo if needed.
Picked up my newly rebuilt redhead steering box today at the gas track in lukesville Arizona.
The guy that installed juice squeezers box was supposed to come by today if possible or at least call but did not. If he's not available on Monday either then I'm going to have to do this myself or hire a local mechanic to help. I don't have any qualms about attempting to do it myself even though I'm not quite comfortable with it. one of the nice things on my coach is my headlights are completely out so those holes are open and I can work through there on some of it maybe. So it sounds to me like the procedure for changing this bad boy out is to first disconnect the steering wheel from the Shepherd box. With the steering center of course. Next cut a hole in the generator box that accesses the pitman nut. Next been the two tabs that locked the nut on and bend them back. Next I have to put an allen wrench into the nut and remove that. After that fit the removing tool over the pitman arm and tighten up the bolt until the arm is released. If the arm doesn't release easily apply hammering to the side of the arm to help free that up. If that doesn't work he may be necessary although Shepherd says do not apply heat in their video. Once the pitman arm is off lower that and then remove the nuts that hold the steering box to the backing plate. Then lower the box to the floor, after the hydraulic lines were removed from the box. And then it's just a matter of reversing the process. Torquing the retaining bolt to 300 ft lb which I don't have a torque wrench that will go that high but my three quarter inch impact driver will.
Then it's lifting the wheels off the ground, turning it from side to side with the engine off while adding more fluid until all the air is out and then topping off the fluid. And that should be it correct other than setting the stop limits. I may have to do this myself. While I'm not crazy about the idea I'm also not crazy about the idea of sitting in this paint Bay for any longer than I have to. I do have new filters for the hydraulic reservoir which I have yet to put on. Does anybody know how much fluid that reservoir holds so if I drain it all how much do I need to buy to replace it?
Hopefully the mechanic will have some time on Monday but his worker did not look to enthusiastic about doing this job again which tells me a lot about the job itself LOL.
Thanks
Bob
'99 U320 40 WTFE
Build #5462,
1500 Watts Solar 600 amp Victron lithium
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Hemi
Instagram bobfnbw
Retired

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #18
Bob,

I think you pretty well covered the steps.  I  recommend noting if your pitman arm has indexing marks relative to the sector shaft and take a picture of it.  Of course, since you are not putting your back in, it might not be relevant.

If you are changing your hydraulic fluid as part of this job, drain the reservoir first to prevent having to deal with the hoses continuing to drain unless you have temporary plugs for the hose ends.  I used an milk jug to catch the draining fluid.

Double check that your generator box does not have an access panel.  Our 1997 had one that was held in place by four screws accessible from the exterior of the box.  After removing it, I cut out the insulation following outline of the hole.

I do not recall the exact volume in the reservoir, but I believe it is a little over three gallons.

I did not find it necessary to raise the front end after re-installing to bleed the air.  Others suggested just letting it run a while which seemed to work.  You will want to check the poppet adjustments after you complete the re-install to ensure the relieve valves open before hitting the stops.

You already know how heavy the box is, so try to have somebody available to help.  You can do it by alone, but will be much harder and take a lot longer.  I used a floor jack to lower the old box and raise the new one.  I used a strap around the yoke to gently lower and to help control and hold it in place during re-install.  If you can have somebody helping by holding it via a strap, it would be easier.

I also cut several cable ties under the dash to get more slack to allow setting the steering column aside.

You will have some oil drip from both the box and hoses, so you might want to put down old cardboard or something to make clean up easier.  I normally use old cardboard or cheap vinyl tablecloth from the dollar store.
40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #19
First off I am probably 10yrs younger than most on here if not more. You will not be able to put back in yourself (to many parts need lined up).. Unless you bench 300 lb .. then maybe you will. Raising the box to line up the bolt holes in impossible without help (I feel it is) ....

On the removal tool (depending which one is used ( the one i made ) you loosen the pitman arm bolt and remove the parts under it and then reinstall it but do not tighten it.. then put the tool over the pitman arm and then the allen head goes through the hole and you back the bolt out and it pushes on the tool which in turn pulls the pitman arm off.. Wait for the mechanic.. If so inclined you can help him but You might get it out but not sure you can get it in .. lay on the ground and bench that steering box and then think about the twisting and turning to get it where it needs to be.... then lift it again and line the bolts up?  I dont think so.

Just saying you might create a bigger mess but that is just me..

Good luck with whichever way you choose... Let us know how it goes.
2002 U320 Build #5974
Motorcade 17802
2010 Enclave

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #20
Thanks guys and all good advice. David I agree that one could not do it alone if one was trying to do it by muscle power alone. But of course I would use a jack to raise it and I like the idea of running a strap through the floor up into the driver's area. Then all you would have to do is fine tune it until you can get one bolt in. Once you get one Bolt in , the other ones are sure to follow.
Daydreamer I appreciate that. Again I think I can do this but I also have access to a second mechanic if needed. the only thing I don't have is torque wrench that will go to foot pounds. I have one in my eBay shopping carpet ain't going to do me any good in Mexico. I think changing the filter and fluid is a good idea at the same time the boxes replaced. I won't be able to get all of the fluid replaced of course due to the fans but I might be able to get most of it.
I'll let y'all know how it goes.
'99 U320 40 WTFE
Build #5462,
1500 Watts Solar 600 amp Victron lithium
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Hemi
Instagram bobfnbw
Retired

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #21
I think changing the filter and fluid is a good idea at the same time the boxes replaced. I won't be able to get all of the fluid replaced of course due to the fans but I might be able to get most of it.
I would not be concerned with the small amount of  residual oil in the hoses and fans motors as the hydraulic system is not subjected to combustion by products like the engine oil. 

I agree with David S, trying to "bench press" it into place, line it up and inserting bolts would be impossible.  Getting it off the ground and on the jack was a challenge.  It is not near as difficult to "pull it" up from the driver's area via strap and makes it much safer for the guy under to coach too.

If using a floor jack, you will have to fabricate an extension unless the jack has an exceptionally max height.  I used a jack  to lower during removal and lift for re-install.  Once the max high was reached, I suspended the gearbox via the strap to lower the jack and insert the extension block.  Furthermore, the gear box does not balance steadily on the jack or extension, so the strap kept the gearbox from toppling off and doing a lot of ancillary damage....to me and the coach.

40ft 1997 U320

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #22
One thing I will add.. this is not the engine bay where you readily reach everything. There are multiple things in the way on the way down with the box and on the way up.. You will need to lift and twist the box at the same time. You cant just lift it in or out. Also once you are able to get the box past the headlights and everything else it will need turned. The guy that is doing the heavy lifting wont be able to just see whats needed.. 2nd person help direct as a team.

This is the second time I took mine out and I am sure this can be done is less than 4 hrs if you have the replacement box sitting.. Its not difficult but the is a Jinga Effect gong on... You say can can fall off and topple? Well I have a blood blister under my nail to show what can fall. Box twisted and the other guy lifted and got me..

Again No need to risk life and limb in trying it solo. I think its more more fun to have a guy that speaks only english and a guy that speaks only spanish play tag.. lol... ^.^d  :))
2002 U320 Build #5974
Motorcade 17802
2010 Enclave

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #23
Two of us pulled the steering box out through the adjacent compartment door.  I cut a 3/4" piece of plywood to protect the floor of the compartment after I removed the squirrel cage fan and radiator.

Re: Sheppard Steering Gear Rebuild

Reply #24
Because I had to do it alone the only safe way was out the side. I was able to slide it back in on the plywood then turn it to get one bolt started then the muscle work to get the rest of the bolts. The pictures below show how I did it. Too bad I didn't know the focus on the camera was acting up.

Steering box info
1999 40 ft. U-320 wtfe build 5563 Chuck & Lynda's "Rollin' Inn"  2030 watts solar
prev. mh's 71 GMC 5 yrs. 73 Pace Setter 1 yr. 78 Vogue 5 yrs 81 FTX 40ft all electric 18 yrs. 1996 Monaco Signature 3 yrs.
2014 Grand Cherokee Overland
Dream as if you will live forever. Live as if you will die today.  James Dean