Hit curb and damaged steering

Tiny
ALABASTER
  • MEMBER
  • 2008 VOLKSWAGEN POLO
  • 2.0L
  • 3 CYL
  • FWD
  • MANUAL
  • 50,000 MILES
Hi,

I was driving my wife's car this morning and I skidded on some ice and smacked into the curb with the off side front wheel. I was probably doing about fifteen mph, but it was a big whack. Now the wheels are not aligned and to drive straight I have to have the steering wheel at a ninety degree turn. The offside wheel looks a bit wonky too.

Does anyone have any idea how bad this might be?

Thanks
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Friday, December 30th, 2016 AT 1:26 PM

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Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Nope. You need a live person to inspect what is bent. "Wonky" does not tell me anything useful. Depending on what is bent, that wheel will be leaning in or out on top, or it will be turned left or right when the steering wheel is straight. It is important to understand that due to the interrelated geometry of the steering and suspension parts, a single bent part that causes the wheel to tip on top will usually also cause that wheel to turn left or right. When anything causes the wheel to turn left, you have to compensate while driving by turning the steering wheel to the right. That brings both wheels to where they are turned an equal amount so the car goes straight. The car will tend to follow the tire with the most weight on it, and that will vary as you drive. That makes for a miserable car to drive, as you have already observed.

The place to start is by visiting a tire and alignment shop for an inspection. Many will do that for free if you have them do the repairs. An alignment will be needed when the parts have been replaced. That should be included in the estimate.

There are three things to look at to verify the repairs were done properly. The steering wheel must be straight when driving on a straight road, and when you let go of the steering wheel, the car should not pull to one side. A little drift is to be expected, and will vary depending on the road you are on. Also, roads lean to the right so rainwater runs off. That makes cars drift to the right. To compensate for that "road crown", alignment specialists adjust in a slight pull to the left. Many VW's do not have those adjustments for "camber", so you may have to put up with a little drift, but it should not be so bad that your arms get tired on a long drive.

The third thing to look for is proper tire wear patterns, but this is one thing that takes months to show up. You will have a hard time blaming the mechanic for this unless you have a printout from the alignment, and you have a genius like me to interpret the numbers for you! If you find a pull or off-center steering wheel, those are conditions that warrant a return for a recheck of the alignment. Some pulls to one side can be eliminated by switching the two front tires side-to-side.
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Friday, December 30th, 2016 AT 2:23 PM

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