Hi rmcauley61. Welcome to the forum. This is something that will have to be inspected by a mechanic. Some tire shops offer free inspections to get you into their shop. Sears used to do this. Don't know if they still do.
You already made a dandy observation about the off-center steering wheel. Many people wouldn't notice that. For that to occur, the relationship between the steering linkage and the upper and lower ball joints on one side had to change. Since steering linkages are adjusted as part of an alignment, and they don't magically loosen their locknuts and readjust themselves later, that just leaves the two ball joints shifting position. From the GM trucks I remember aligning, the steering linkage is directly behind the lower ball joint, (they are both the same height off the ground), so if the upper ball joint was worn and sloppy, the tire could tilt but the steering wheel position would not be affected. But, if the lower ball joint moved and the steering linkage can't, the change in relationship will cause the steering wheel to shif position.
What all of that means is you can suspect a worn part that put the lower ball joint in a new position. Unless something got bent, suspect the lower ball joint itself or the two lower control arm bushings. These parts hold the wheel in proper alignment so if a sloppy / worn one put the wheel in a new position, you will usually also notice tire wear on one edge of the tread and / or a pull to one side when you let go of the steering wheel.
This doesn't totally rule out a worn and sloppy upper ball joint, but to cause enough movement to shift the steering wheel, it would be more likely the upper control arm is moving at the bushings. Those bushings are moved in and out to make two different alignment adjustments, but the holes are not slotted from the factory. A special tool is used to elongate one or both holes on each side when an adjustment must be made. If any of those holes have been modified during a previous alignment, a loose pivot bolt can allow the bushing to move in and out making a knocking noise.
Sunday, June 27th, 2010 AT 4:27 AM