From your description, I would expect to find binding upper strut mounts. You might find one possible clue by placing your fingertips around one of the upper loops of the right front coil spring while someone turns the steering wheel back and forth. The mount at the top of the spring supports the weight of the vehicle and has a ball bearing assembly in it to allow easier turning. It's common to feel a little roughness or minor jerking. Now do the same thing on the left side and compare how it feels. Chances are you will find much more binding and stiffness than on the right side.
It's not dangerous to drive but you should understand what "memory steer" is. The binding mount will release and turn easier while driving due to the car bouncing up and down over bumps in the road. As the binding gets worse, it will cause the steering system to want to stay where it is placed by the driver. After turning, the steering wheel will lose its tendency to want to return all the way to center by itself.
It's also helpful to understand that the upper mounts can be defective without presenting any unusual symptoms. They can allow the strut to wobble which affects tire wear and life, and the bearings can fall apart during normal strut replacement. It is common to find bad mounts when the assembly is removed for strut replacement. The result is you will be asked to spend more money than you expected for strut replacement and alignment. Service advisors hate approaching customers with the need for additional unexpected work and cost, so often they will quote the mounts in the strut replacement repair estimate. They would rather surprise you with a final bill significantly less than the estimate so they can earn your repeat business. The downside to this is that to be safe, one shop may quote you a higher price than the guys down the road, so you should be sure to ask what parts and labor the entire repair includes.
With the mileage on your vehicle, this would be a good time to consider replacing the struts if the upper mounts do indeed need to be replaced. Anytime the strut assemblies are removed, the vehicle will need a four-wheel alignment. You will save pennies by not replacing the struts at the same time as the mounts, but you'll spend dollars later to replace the struts and have a second alignment.
Saturday, April 11th, 2009 AT 10:52 PM