I first noticed stiff steering when I was driving down the interstate, trying to make small adjustments in steering, and I felt resistance to turning the steering wheel. Steering should be smooth and easy but at certain points I found that there was resistance to turning the steering wheel–not good. I always could turn the wheel but it just wasn’t smooth and easy like it should be. After a couple drives the condition persisted and I decided to get to the bottom of it. What I learned was that this is an issue that you may be able to remedy with not that much effort. It turns out that the issue is that the u-joint on the steering link shaft, on the outside of the firewall, is exposed to water and salt and the u-joint gets stiff. This stiff steering knuckle is something you can fix it yourself. Read along so I show you how to fix Toyota Sienna stiff steering.
After performing this “patch” multiple times (since it only lasts for a month or two, I have now fixed the problem permanently, and you can too with my help. Please see my article: Toyota Sienna Steering Intermediate Shaft Replacement.
How to Fix Toyota Sienna Stiff Steering
Step 1: Check your power steering fluid level.
The first thing I did was verify that my power steering fluid was full. Park your van on level ground and then pop the hood. The location of the power steering fluid reservoir can be seen here:
The reservoir is made of translucent and the level indicator is built into the plastic container. There are two sets of lines, one for reading the level when the vehicle has been running and is hot and one for if the vehicle has been sitting and is cold.
My van’s power steering fluid was nearly full to the max so I figured the issue had to be something else. I also was not hearing the power steering pump “whine” when I turned the steering wheel. If your power steering fluid is full and are still experiencing stiff steering then read on…
Step 2: Drive your van up on ramps.
Having the van up in the air a bit makes this repair so much easier.
Step 2a: Place the ramps directly in line with the front wheels.
Step 2b: Look out your driver-side window to guide yourself as you drive up on the ramps.
One tip is that you should not turn your wheels as you are driving up the ramps because when you turn the wheels the ramps will turn with the wheels. You need to be lined up straight and then carefully drives straight up on the ramps.
Once the van is up on the ramps I put a piece of cardboard down to lay on:
Step 3: Locate the u-joint on the steering shaft u-joint.
A word of caution: You should wait for your van to cool off before crawling under your van. The Sienna’s exhaust system is near the area where we will be working and you could seriously burn yourself if not careful.
This u-joint is located on the shaft that leads from the steering wheel column, through the firewall, and down to the steering rack. I have highlighted the u-joint on the diagram below:
You cannot see this shaft from the top side of the van. You can take off the left wheel or you can look under the van–I chose the latter. Here is the path you must look through, to the inside of the beam, just behind the oil pan:
Shine a flashlight up in that hole to see the u-joint:
Close up you can see that this u-joint is immediately on the external side of the van’s firewall and that this is a rather sharp angle:
Step 4: Soak the u-joint with Liquid Wrench Penetrating Oil.
Install the straw on the spray nozzle and be careful not to get dripped on.
Soak the u-joint thoroughly.
Step 5: Remove the van from the ramps and turn the steering wheel.
Carefully back straight down off the ramps and then drive the van in a safe location where you can spend some time turning the steering wheel to allow the penetrating oil to soak into the u-joint. Be intentional to turn the steering wheel all the way to the right and left. When I did this I did not experience the hard steering at all anymore.
Step 5: Repeat Steps 2-5.
I doused my u-joint twice with penetrating oil, while I had the ramps out, to try to really get the oil down into the joint. I plan on repeating these steps in the future if we experience any sort of difficult steering on the van as this is a temporary repair.
Successful with this repair? Do you have a tip to add? Please leave a comment!
If this works for you, you have likely saved over $500 in repairs or at least put it off till the next owner!?! Please leave a comment if you were able to fix your van using this article and encourage others to do it themselves too. If you learned a shortcut or have any other relevant tip please share that as well in the comments. Please note: if you do not have any approved comments on this site then your comment must be personally approved by me before it will appear. I do this to keep my site 100% free of spam comments. I read them all and almost always review and respond to all comments within a day. I look forward to hearing from you.