Mechanics

STEERING WHEEL OFF CENTER AFTER FRONT WHEEL BEARING HUB REPLACEMENT?

2001 Pontiac Sunfire • 4 cylinder FWD Manual • 202,000 miles

Hey guys, hopefully you can give me some insight on a problem that has me racking my brain. I just replaced the driver side hub on my girlfriends Sunfire over the weekend, and after reassembly the steering wheel is now off center (clockwise)approximately 20 degrees with the wheels straight. It does not pull to either side at all while driving which confuses me. The old wheel bearing was growling, but not excessively sloppy. It was just brought in for an alignment less than a month ago after I replaced the front struts. Ball joints and tie rod ends feel okay. I should also mention that I did unbolt the bottom of the strut from the spindle in order to install the rear seal in the spindle, but I don't think that there is enough play in the bolt holes to change anything in the front end that drastically. I also moved front tires to rear due to excessive inside wear from the previous bad struts. I'm trying to avoid having to pay another hundred bucks for an alignment if it does not need it, which I don't think it does.
Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you in advance,
Chris
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ChrisD74
July 12, 2011.




Removal and installation of knuckle steering components can at times affect the alignment.

If you believe an alignment is not necessary, you can try centralising the steering wheel.

When steering wheel isin straight ahead position now, it should be veering to the left. That mean the left wheel has toe-out whereas the right has toe-in. Use the steering tie-rod adjustment to get it centralised without affecting the alignment.

Whatever amount of adjustment you make to have the left wheel toe-in, counter with toe-out for the left wheel.
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KHLow2008
Jul 12, 2011.
Let me butt in and add some notes of value. I've done the tie rod trick on my own stuff, but that only works when you're starting with correct total toe and you adjust both sides equally and in opposite directions like KHLow2008 suggested. In this case, since the alignment was done recently, we know the right toe is correct. It's the left toe only that is wrong and that makes total toe incorrect. That will lead to excessive tire wear. Adjusting toe on both sides might straighten the steering wheel but total toe will still be incorrect.

Since the only thing that changed was the left strut, that is the only thing that should be readjusted. Most replacement struts have a slotted hole in the bottom to allow for "camber" adjustment. That's the inward or outward tilt to the wheel. Due to the geometry of the steering system, the outer tie rod attaches to the spindle higher off the ground than the lower ball joint. That means that as you tilt the tire out more on top, the spindle also moves out but the tie rod end doesn't move so it turns the spindle. You can see this very easily if you loosen the two strut bolts and move the top of the tire in and out. As you do that you'll also see it turning left and right, ... A lot.

You need to loosen those strut bolts and tip the tire in or out to get the camber back where it was. That will put the toe back where it was and the steering wheel will be straight again. If the steering wheel is to the right, tip the left wheel in a little which will also turn it to the right to match the steering wheel.

Even when you adjust camber this way and get a perfectly straight steering wheel, keep an eye on the tire wear because you are still only going to be close to the perfect settings. Camber is set on the alignment computer to hundredths of a degree and toe is set to hundredths of an inch. You'll never get that kind of accuracy with your eyeballs.

Caradiodoc
Jul 12, 2011.

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