Unregistered users may browse the website, but in order to participate in the forums a user account is required.  Click HERE to email the webmaster and request an account.  The National DeSoto Club uses real names rather than pseudonyms.  Notify the webmaster of your user name preference (Johnathon Doe, John Doe, etc) and password request.


Wheel Alignment Issue  

Estimable Member

Anyone with a 1949 or 1950 ever have a problem with wheel alignment? My '49 has never been correct, it is not centering itself coming out of a turn. I had a shop do the alignment that "knows old cars" but I am wondering...

I know of another shop but at $150/ hour here in San Francisco my buddy who did is Chrysler T&C cost him $500!

I may just go spend $750 and buy the tools and do it myself.  But, I wanted to know if there are any known issues with the 1940 & 1950 front ends that I should know about.

I can tell you one thing, the guy who did the alignment did not get both the tie rods the same length which the book says should be 22-31/32 inches. By the way, the service bulletin (3-15-1949) says the tie-rods should be 22-3/4 inches. The later manuals show it as 22-31/32 inch.

He was off by 3/8 of an inch. I suspect that one wheel has too much toe in and the other is at zero or negative.

Thanks if anyone has an insight. My long wheelbase 1947 Desoto drives like a dream out on the road.


Posted : June 11, 2019 6:28 pm
Estimable Member

Did you check your Toe in/out ? I would check that first and that is easy and can be done with a tape measure. Seems like a LOT of money just for an alignment. Then again... I haven't had one done in YEARS!


Posted : June 12, 2019 1:04 pm
Estimable Member


I purchased everything one needs to do a wheel alignment on one of these old cars. Three of us checked the alignment and it is within specifications and still drives like crap.

In the service book, on the imperial site, it specifically describes what I am experiencing. It says that binding in the king pins can cause this.  It may well be that the thrust washers are too thick and once the car load is on the king pins it is binding.

In a couple of weeks, I will check that.

What I wanted to know is does anyone have a S-13 1949 coupe or convertible that is apart? I would like and exact measurement of the length of the drag link. Everything is set great, the tie rod's both exactly 22-31/32 and both turned the same amount to get the 1/16 toe in.  But, the steering wheel is at 10 O'clock and not horizontal. The most likely culprit on that is the drag link. I have found multiple specifications in books at to the length. That is why I want to check someone else's to see what they have.



Posted : July 14, 2019 12:35 am
Member Admin

My convertible is not disassembled exactly, but I might be able to get a measurement for you without a lot of trouble.  Not til next week though, after the insanity of this convention week is over.  And I might need reminded.....

It's supposed to be fun!
1949 De Soto Custom Convertible (project)

Posted : July 15, 2019 6:57 pm
Reputable Member

When was your front end last rebuilt ? 

When I rebuilt mine (55 Desoto with king pins), I found that the bearings were frozen up with old grease. Also, upon disassembling the steering linkages, all the 'ball' ends on the center link and tie rods were loose to very loose. So everything was rebuilt or replaced. 


Posted : July 17, 2019 11:09 pm
Estimable Member

Hi James,

I had a 1949 sedan for some time, and own a 1952 now.  They are almost identical, except that the 1952 has the Gemmer Hydra guide power steering gear.

Setting up the front suspension in these cars is quite an adventure!  Most alignment shops have never dealt with a "Center Point" linkage, so they probably wouldn't know how to set one up.  One thing I have found is that you can never assume that anything on an old car is correct when you get it.  The first thing I would check is the steering wheel installation on the steering shaft.  Make sure your gear is centered (midpoint of lock-to-lock) and then check the wheel for center with that.  I am amazed at the number of steering wheels that have been removed and then reinstalled off-center.  With the wheel and gear centered, the pitman arm should be roughly vertical. 

You are wise to check the drag link.  There were two parts used on 1949-1954 DeSotos.  The first, used prior to 1952 is P/N 1141074.  A longer one was used in 1952 and later cars when power steering was introduced, and the gear was moved back on the frame to clear the V-8 engine.  If you try to use the later one (P/N/1407983) on an earlier car or vice-versa, you will never get decent alignment. 

Another thing to look at is the intermediate arm itself.  That part is removeable and serviceable.  It has two tapered roller bearings in it that are adjustable for tension via a sleeve and shims (see the manual cut below).  Proper function of that part has a huge impact on steering friction and/or slop.  When you are done; your wheel is centered, and the gear is centered with the right drag link, your center link should also be centered.

Lastly, I would have a look at the upper king pins.  On manual gear cars, those were not a bushing, but were actually needle bearings (see the manual cut below).  Those needles are key to low steering friction and low steering efforts. The needles are not serviceable, they are part of the knuckle assembly- R/H is 1311428, L/H is 1311429.

I hope this helps!

1949 1954 King Pin Needle Bearings
1949 1954 Intermediate Link


This post was modified 7 months ago 4 times by BrentJacobsen

Brent Jacobsen
Owner of a 1952 Desoto Firedome

Posted : August 11, 2019 7:38 pm
Estimable Member

Hi All,

Everything is new. After checking everything the car still is not steering correct. Wander and no caster effect.

I found a 1954 tech note that said the factory installation notes to shim the king pin end play until all play is gone is not correct. That the king pins need 0.008 end play or it will bind and wonder. Mine was .002 to .003. 

I also ran a new reamer and got some material off the new bushings as you could see galling on the new pins. We had honed them on a sunnen honing machine. It was TOO good a job and the grease could not get into the pin to bushing space.

I will be putting it back tomorrow and will see what I get.


Another issue came up when we set the tie rods to exactly the same length before we set the toe.  The steering wheel spokes are at 10 and 4 not 9 and 3.  The drag link measures 26 and 13/16 inch.  The parts book and Rare Parts tell me is should be 26-5/16 and 26-1/4 respectively.

WTF!  Anyone out there with their 1949 in the air or with the steering out? I would love to hear what someone else has for the ball to ball center length of their tie rod.



This post was modified 7 months ago 2 times by James_SF_Douglas
Posted : August 12, 2019 11:43 pm
Estimable Member


I don't know if this helps or not- but here is the parts book blow-ups of the 1949-1954 steering linkage as well as the parts list for the drag link part.  This is from the Chrysler dealer "All-Cars" parts book issued in 1949 and updated through 1954.


Parts Catalog Cut  Drag Link 1949 1954
1949 1954 Steering Blow Up

I'm not sure how you are measuring the ball-to-ball distance, since the studs are in different planes and the rear ball has an angled offset.

I sold my 1949 sedan in 1997. but I know that when I had the steering linkage repaired and alignment set back in the 1970's, I had a hard time getting the front-end shop to put needles in the top of the steering knuckles- they wanted to use bushings. They didn't want to replace the thrust bearings on top of the lower bushing either.  I had a hard time getting them to set the 1 lb preload on the center link bearings too, it was loose, and they didn't  know it could be adjusted.  Like you, the steering wheel was off center with equal length tie rods.  That turned out to be the wheel two splines off center on the steering shaft. 

Brent Jacobsen
Owner of a 1952 Desoto Firedome

Posted : August 21, 2019 11:46 pm
New Member

Great Info in this thread!  Thanks to everyone who posted here.

Posted : December 23, 2019 7:02 pm