Bent Power Steering Shaft

HydraulicArmQuite some time ago, we bent the hydraulic power steering shaft on the tractor- a New Holland TC30. I’m not sure how or when. But, it compromised the seal, so the thing has been leaking power steering fluid like crazy. We’ve been procrastinating on fixing it (we never want to stop using the tractor!), and were just topping off the fluid all the time.

But, I couldn’t ignore it any longer, knowing how much use the tractor will get during the summer. The shaft was not covered under warranty (though I think it should be because it’s a crummy design), and was over $500 with tax. Ouch! You can see the old and new shafts in the picture on the left.

Fortunately, it was fairly straightforward to replace- just two bolts held it in there, and we had to detach the hydraulic hoses in two places to get it out of there. One thing I learned is that a tractor is not like a car: I would¬†have assumed that when the power steering is “out” it would revert to manual steering, so you could still operate it, albeit with difficulty.

Not so: on this tractor, if the hydraulic power steering has lost pressure, the steering is completely out, you can turn the wheel infinitely like a digital stereo dial, and nothing happens. This is good to know, because if you¬†blow a hose in an inconvenient place, you’re going to have¬†to repair¬†the tractor right where it sits. Which is what happened five minutes later!¬†

When I had put the power steering arm back together, I noticed another crummy design: the hoses run right past the fan belt pulley, which has no cage around it. The hoses had a little plastic clamp to hold them together and out of the way, but I was suspicious of how well it was going to work, it was kind of a weeny little part.


And well I should have been. Delighted to have the tractor back after a week of it being down waiting for the part, Kirk fired it right up, drove for five minutes, and kablouey, steering went out, fluid everywhere. The little clamp had already sprung off the hoses (and was nowhere to be found) and the fan belt had worn a quick hole in one of the hoses. Nice!

The tractor was in the pasture, in the¬†mud and a bunch of ruts, with the wheels cocked at an odd angle. So thus was where we had to repair it, with these hoses being in a hard-to-reach spot too. <groan> This was a Sunday, to boot, but thankfully, Napa has a short window of open time, and they were able to make us a new hose of the same dimensions. This time, Kirk strapped the hoses down to the frame with two huge zip ties- so that’s not going to happen again!


15 thoughts on “Bent Power Steering Shaft

  1. Norm Olsen says:

    I guess this manufacturer has no concept of a fail safe design and leaving the hydraulic cylinder exposed is really asking for a lawsuit if someone got seriously hurt or killed with the complete loss of steering.

  2. Ross says:

    I have had the same thing happen to the Power Steering cylinder assembly on my 2004 TC30. I order a new cylinder and plan to replace it. However I need to know how to bleed the hydraulic system when I replace it? Thanks for thte inform about the hoses running by the fan belt. I’ll take a look at it when I replace and add zip ties if necessary.

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Ross, I don’t think we did anything special to bleed the hydraulics, as they’re sort of “bleeding” already while you hook them up just due to gravity :-(, I think it just pressurizes the new cylinder, you top off any lost fluid and you’re good to go. At least it seemed to have worked for us, and this was 5 years ago!

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Though new Holland has their specified brand fluid types, we just use the kind of generic hydraulic fluid you can buy by 5 gallon bottles at the feed store- for our tractor, the same fluid goes into multiple systems.

  3. John Holland says:

    Interesting! I have the same issue. I lost a hydraulic line from the steering control six months ago due to a hairline fatigue crack. When I fixed it, I noticed that the steering cylinder was bent, but it did not appear to cause any trouble. Now the seal has blown and I am going to have to replace it.

    I have gotten great service from my TC30, but was rather shocked at the steering design. Especially the fact that my steering went hard left at the time of failure!

    • Michelle Canfield says:

      Johh, indeed, it doesn’t seem like a great design. We hadn’t had many problems with it subsequent, as our property is mostly tamed now and we are just doing benign mowing. But then we bought an adjacent piece of property that needs clearing, and sure enough, my husband ripped out that hydraulic line again- it’s just a little vulnerable where it is in the front, if you drive over stuff or any really rough terrain.

      This last year, our PTO clutch went out, and that was a very costly repair. But, we do use it pretty heavy, so I guess it’s not surprising…

  4. John Holland says:

    I have the same problem and am currently trying to remove the old cylinder. The wheel end is no problem, but on the tractor end it has a small rectangular plate held in by a short 1/2″ bolt. The other end of this plate appears to hold the bottom of the pivot shaft, but it won’t come off. Any suggestions?

    I have had good service out of my TC30, but the steering seems to be less than a rugged design. I previously had a fatigue crack in one of the metal lines.

  5. Michelle Canfield says:

    John, I had to go out and look at ours to remind myself, and then I also looked at the exploded parts diagram on CNH’s website to confirm. That arm attaches to the tractor side with a clevis-style pin and some kind clip a the bottom- not a cotter pin, but I think one of those compression clips (I dunno what they are called, and I didn’t crawl all the way under there to see exactly what was holding the pin in place). So I think you can un-pin it using some needle-nose pliers or something similar to get that thing off the bottom of the pin.

    See if this links work, or navigate the CNH parts website, search for the TC30, then drill down to the main tractor section, then steering, linkage etc. Then at least you can visualize a bit how it goes together.

  6. John Holland says:

    Thanks Michelle! I had found the diagram but it looked like the pin and rectangular bracket were one piece. It is possible that you are right about it being a compression clip, though it looked more like the two pieces were mechanically crimped together. I am going to be working on it tomorrow and will tell you what I find.

  7. John Holland says:

    OK, I have my TC30 steering cylinder replaced and I will pass along a few tips for any other poor soul who may have found their way here for help.

    They wanted about $800 for a new one, and I got a used one for $350.

    When removing the old cylinder, I detached the bottom nut on the wheel end of the cylinder first, then removed the small screw holding the rectangular plate under the body end of the cylinder. In the drawings this is shown as one piece with the pivot pin, and indeed it is a welded combination. The screw through the plate is the only thing holding the pin in. The pin has no threads.

    The problem was that the plate would not budge, even with a hammer and a screwdriver. I found out that this is a common issue. So I removed the grease fitting on that end of the steering cylinder and shot loads of WD40 into the hole and around the plate. You need one of those WD40 cans that comes with a straw to get it in good.

    After a few days, and a session with an acetylene torch, I finally got the plate to twist around the pin. By working it back and forth, the pin finally came out!

    One other suggestion: You should mark the connections of one line with tape on the line and on the matching fitting. I thought I could remember and ended up with the steering acting backward! Also, you will need to remove at least one of the flexible lines from its adapter that is mounted through the frame. That way, you can twirl the cylinder for the remaining line and twist the free line to unscrew and screw it back.

    And don’t forget to tie the lines away from the moving drive shaft as mentioned above.

  8. Michelle Canfield says:

    Wow, John, great tips! I don’t remember ours giving us nearly that much trouble, for which I’m thankful, because I think we’ve always found ourselves repairing it in the middle of a muddy field, or some other awkward spot!

    • John Holland says:

      Any time I googled “TC30 steering cylinder”, your site popped up. So maybe we can help a few people. Most farmers are do-it-yourself types, to say nothing of the cost of hauling a tractor to a dealer. Given that, I wish New Holland had more helpful maintenance suggestions on line, but they seem to be hoping you will use their service departments. On the other hand, I have found their dealers very helpful.

      Thanks for having this place for us to compare notes.

  9. Michelle Canfield says:

    John, indeed, it’s amazing how blog posts get ranked high by Google in searches, and I also often find the answers I’m looking for that way!

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