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How To: Replace the intermediate steering shaft to solve the "clunk" problem

Our good friend anchorman over at the UK Toyota Owner's Club has kindly provided this tutorial that shows how to change out the intermediate steering shaft on the 4.3. This shaft causes a clunk at low speeds that can be heard and/or felt in the steering wheel. Although this is a Euro-spec RHD RAV4, the procedure should be about the same:

Difficulty - Medium
Time - about 90 minutes
Tools required - 12mm socket and spanner (various extensions etc). Flat blade screwdriver. Pliers. It is easier done off ramps or over a pit and the rest of the text assumes that the sump tray has been removed.

Parts (supplied by parts-king);

45221-42080 - £143.60 inc VAT and delivery

You may also need a new clip for the bottom of the steering column boot;

90460-64003 - £6 inc VAT and delivery

These prices are of August 2012 and could change with time but it will give you a feel for the cost.

Introduction

Some RAVs suffer with a clunk when turning the steering wheel. The US guys refer to it as a "popping noise" but the ones I have come across have a definite clunk that can be heard more at low speed and curiously sometimes more going backwards. At the same time as the clunk you get the feel of it in the steering wheel. This is the car we worked on. A European diesel engined variant belonging to Bramley (access underneath may be different on the US gasoline engined variants);



The problem was identified some time ago as the "steering intermediate shaft" and this called for No 1 and No 2 shaft to be replaced. These are precision parts and are not cheap. However, the latest instructions call for only the No 1 shaft to be replaced. This image shows the parts we are talking about. Here is the new shaft alongside the old;



This is the clip;



In the UK there have been two bulletins on this subject but the latest shows that the part number has been changed once again following a slight change to the internal dimensions of No 1 shaft. Here is that bulletin;

New steering TSB.pdf 36.27K 1 downloads

You can see that the changes are shown as a reduced internal diameter and swing range. Quite what the swing range is, I'm not sure but it could be something that is lost in translation between Japanese and English. I can tell you that visually there is very little difference between the two parts but there is no doubt that it cures the problem. The steering on our donor car is "as quiet as the grave" with the new part fitted.

If you have already fitted one of the earlier revisions, don't feel that you have to replace it with this new part. My 2010 RAV is actually fitted with an earlier version and is not a problem. It is worth remembering that if you get a clunk within the warranty period that TGB will change the part FOC. There is no recall because the fault does not represent a safety issue. If you have the clunk but are broke or it doesn't bother you then simply leave it for another day.

Procedure

I did this off ramps out in the sunshine. There is a bit of preparation necessary before you start. It is vital that the steering wheel isn't turned while the shaft is disconnected. This is to avoid damaging the so called "clock spring" connection to the steering wheel air bag. I achieved this by using one of my big woodworking clamps fixed gently to the steering wheel and it rested under nothing more than its own weight onto the centre console (US guys will obviously be working backwards);



For fine alignment the steering wheel hub was lined up with the switch cowl as shown here;



OK, now ready to start proper. Inside the car, peel back the carpet to gain access to the lower column cover. It is held on with 2 finger tight plastic nuts;



The cover is split to pull back over the shaft. With that removed you can see the clamp bolt that holds No 2 shaft to No 1. Use a 12mm socket to remove the bolt. The shaft can now be slid upwards. If it is stuck, just tap a stubby screwdriver or small chisel into the slot then wriggle it up. Move the shaft to one side;



The boot (described as the steering column hole cover in the bulletin) needs unclipping next. Just ease the clip in the direction of the green arrow to release the bottom then slide it in the direction of the orange arrow to unhook it from the bulkhead;



Now from under the car, reach up to remove the clip from the rubber boot. I will show you more about the clip later but to remove it, just use a screwdriver to gently ease the outer coil outwards. It will click and relax as the tension comes off;



Now push the boot upwards, all the time bending and twisting it to ease it over the No 1 shaft;



I used a dab of paint to just mark the position of the shaft. I used silver when red would have been better for you to see as the flash has bleached it out. It isn't vital that you get it back on exactly the same spline but it wants to be near to line the bolts up properly;

I had trouble getting a socket to the bottom bolt but was able to get a spanner in to undo it. You can get your hand around the side of the sub-frame to help get a bit of force on it;



With the bolt out you can push the shaft off the steering rack. Now we can look at the parts. The only damage I could see to the shaft was some corrosion and fretting of the spline. This doesn't tally with the TSB which talks about the inner spline but as far as I could see, it looked OK in there;



Moving on to the stainless steel clip, you must fit a new one if the original is damaged. Do not be tempted to use a tie wrap or a hose clip for the sake of £6. This clip will stop water from entering the cabin if you wade the car to anywhere near the maximum of 500mm (20 inches). This special clip exerts even pressure over the whole circumference. I have seen in the past that it has outwitted some "techy's" and has been left off. Just to show you how it works I have shown how to set it. Using a pair of pliers, squeeze the clip gently on the two protrusions as shown by my trust assistant;



The sections will slide in and click as you can see on this comparison. If you can't resist fiddling and set it in error just use a small screwdriver to unlatch it and then put it down before you do any more damage!!! What is important is that you fit it over the boot now as you will be really fed up if you fit the new shaft and then find you have forgotten it - it can't go on after.



Start building it up. Put the No 1 shaft onto the steering rack making sure the spline is aligned with the paint mark and tighten the bolt. Next feed the boot complete with the clip over the shaft and manoeuvre down until it engages the boss. There is a hole to help you align it. Set the clip with pliers as shown above. Go inside the car and fit the top of the boot. It hooks onto the body at the top then just pull it back until it clicks at the bottom. Now wriggle the No 2 shaft back down onto the No 1 shaft. As soon as it engages, check that the steering wheel hasn't moved. Push the shaft right don until you can feed the bolt into the hole and tighten it up. The torque for both clamp bolts is 35 Nm (25 ft/lbs). There is no way that I could get a torque wrench to the bottom one but you might if you have suitable universal socket joints. Feed the cover over the shaft and fix it finger tight with the two plastic nuts. Put the carpet back and remove the clamp from the steering wheel. Go underneath and replace the sump shield.
 

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It doesn't surprise me you can get the part so much cheaper. We are pushing $9 a US gallon for diesel.

The price you have found is less than half of ours.
 

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yes....very good write up. Mine doesn't do it but if it does, I'm good now I think.
When I looked at the pictures , I thought I was looking in a mirror and was surprised how much room there was on the drivers side.....lol..... right sided vehicle! lol
 

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Great write up and very nicely detailed. My 07 has the clunk which only does it when I back out of the drive way the go forward. The first time it did it i thought I hit something. Now I know how to fix it.
 

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Very good write-up. Mine has the clunk and I will eventually have to do something about it.
since so far as i can tell (or research) there's no safety risk with the (admittedly irritating) clunking steering what's the harm in simply 'living with it?'...(and i'm the first to admit it bugs me everytime i drive the car)...but not to the point of shelling out x dollars purely for psychological value...
 

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Great fix

Txs for the step by step on removing the intermediate drive shaft. I was able to remove it, clean it, apply grease to it and sound is gone. Steering feels crisper. Took less 1hr. Helped to jack the car up and remove driver side wheel. Saved over $800. :thumbs_up:
 

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Thanks for the write up and pics. I have this clunk in my 07. Good to know it's not a safety issue and I can repair it when I please.
 

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Thanks for the post. I do have the same problem with my RAV4 sport 2007. I already reported the problem to NHTSA but i did not get a reply. I will do it mines maybe on spring time or summer time. I really appreciate this post.
 

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Great Thread!

Very helpful. Thanks for the pictures and details! I have to do my 07 and this will be a big help! :thumbs_up::thumbs_up::thumbs_up:
 

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If you can live with the clunk then I suppose there is no need to do it. However, those that have done it report that the car feels altogether smoother. I suppose the steering wheel is your main connection with the car.

As for greasing the shaft, I'm not sure what is having the greatest effect. The TSB says that they have changed the internal diameter so maybe removing the shaft and just nipping it up tighter is clamping the splined stub tighter. No doubt that grease will dampen it to some extent but I would expect that to have a limited life.

I fitted the one in the above post dry as the instructions dictate.
 

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I have a clunking sound in my 2008 RAV4 Sport V6. However, when I have the car on jack stands and try turning the steering wheel (very slowly or very rapidly) to try and reproduce the clunk, nothing happens. The steering feels smooth. The only time I hear the clunk is when the wheels are on the ground and the forces of the road cause the clunk. Is this consistent with everybody else that has the clunking issue due to this particular problem with the steering shaft?

Thanks,

Dave
 

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I have clunking when driving over minor bumps in the road. I also seem to have bottoming out of the strut. So I am thinking it is either the sway bar bushings. These are non stock items by Auto zone and Advance although they list them for somewhere around $18.00, they do not stock them. I called local dealer and they say the left bushing is different from right- and around $66.00 for the pair! Fortunately though - I gave my VIN# and they say there is a "campaign" for rear suspension control arm - just came out in December 2012.
 

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Someone posted here somewhere about taking a hyperdermic needle and pumping some kind of lithium grease down the intermediate shaft.

I did this with WD40, as I didn't have the grease recommended. 60 seconds to do this job and bump is gone. Firestone wanted $600 bucks to do the labor, part, and warranty.
 
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