2CarPro Jack is correct, but didn't go far enough. It is IMPOSSIBLE to keep the camber in alignment when changing struts. Any professional would have sold you an alignment with the job. Even if you had the old-style cam bolts holding the bottoms of the struts to the knuckles, marking their orientation is worthless because there is so much movement available without even turning the adjustments.
Most new struts already have the lower mounting bolt holes slotted to allow camber adjustment. Camber is the inward and outward tilt of the wheel as viewed from the front of the car. Due to the geometry designed into the steering knuckle, changing camber also changes toe on that wheel. Toe is the direction the tire is steering. That means one or both tires are not steering in the correct direction now. You have to make the tires equally screwed up to go straight down the road. You do that by turning the steering wheel. An off-center steering wheel is proof the struts are in a different position than before and the vehicle must be aligned.
Up to the late 1980s, on rear wheel drive cars, if camber difference side-to-side was more than 1/4 degree out of specs, the car might have had a pull. Many cars wouldn't have a noticeable problem. You can not see 1/2 degree difference by eye. Today, with light front wheel drive cars, camber being incorrect by 5 hundredths of a degree will cause a pull. The settings are much more critical. After the alignment, you will get a printout showing the "before" and "after" values. Those numbers will show you how far off camber and toe were after you replaced the struts.
Don't delay on the alignment. Every mile you drive you're scrubbing rubber off the tires. Be sure to tell the mechanic you replaced the struts. Sometimes they look for one front wheel that is reasonably close to "good enough", then adjust the other wheel to match it. That saves time. If you didn't properly tighten the bolts on the strut he didn't have to adjust, it could slip when hitting a pothole resulting in the need for another alignment. Of course, the typical do-it-yourselfer will blame it on the alignment technician. To prevent that possibility, the mechanic will double-check the strut installation and bolt tightness. If he has no reason to suspect you replaced parts, there would be no reason to think a strut that hasn't shifted before is going to shift in the future.
Did you align the spring in the strut's mounting plate and the upper mount? If either are not aligned properly, the ride height will change and there could be excessive pressure on one side of the spring because the upper mount sits at a severe angle.
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 AT 1:02 PM