That's called "memory steer" and is common on pickup trucks. It is usually caused on cars by a tight ball joint or more commonly by a binding upper strut mount. The mount is not a safety issue in itself other than the poor handling, but if a worn ball joint separates, that will allow that wheel to squirt out, tear into the fender, and send you into the ditch or oncoming traffic.
Another cause that we don't see much of anymore has to do with one of the three main alignment angles. That's called "caster". Before the early '70s caster was set to make for real easy steering on heavy cars and trucks without power steering. When higher speeds on the highway became common in the late '60s, caster was set differently to provide much more directional stability and road feel, but it made it real hard to turn the steering wheel, especially at lower speeds. We added power steering to overcome that hard steering.
Caster played a big role in directional stability, pulling to one side, and, ... Steering wheel return after cornering, on rear-wheel-drive cars. It has almost no affect on front-wheel-drive cars, so most manufacturers don't even have an adjustment for it. If caster is wrong on your car, it is almost certainly due to crash damage that wasn't repaired properly. The clue is you would have had this problem all along. If the poor steering return just started, it's not due to crash damage.
To identify a binding upper strut mount, reach over the top of a front tire and wrap your fingertips around part of the coil spring, then have a helper slowly turn the steering wheel. The spring should rotate smoothly with the tire. If the upper mount is binding, you feel the spring wind up and build pressure as the tire turns, then suddenly pop free and turn. Do that on both front wheels.
Friday, September 5th, 2014 AT 7:47 PM