1997 Saturn SL1 Car Jerks

Tiny
STEADYHAND
  • MEMBER
  • 1997 SATURN SL1
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 130,000 MILES
My 97 Saturn SL1 jerks to the left and right. I've replaced the lower ball joints, outer tie rod ends, both struts and strut mounts. There is no wobble or give to the tires so I didn't think it was a wheel bearing. I already know my CV shaft is bad and plan on replacing that soon.

My question is, can a CV shaft cause a car to jerk to both sides?

When driving down the road the steering wheel will be perfectly straight but when I hit a good sized bump in the road the steering wheel is suddenly 4 inches off center in either direction. There is no way this is safe and I don't want to keep driving the car and end up with someone getting hurt.

What else could the problem be?

Is there some type of steering gear box with a worn gear that perhaps I don't know about?
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Thursday, December 31st, 2009 AT 9:13 PM

6 Replies

Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
The only thing that makes sense is ur rack and pion gear is some how worn so that it allows the wheels to move without moving the steering wheel.I have seen racks get a worn spot in them try putting the front wheels off the ground lock the steering wheel mark the postion of it grab one of the front wheels turn it till u feel the steering wheel lock then see if the wheels will turn any further that's about the only way I can think of check that gear also u can unlock the steering wheel an turn the wheels left and right slowly and feel for bad spots in the rack. Let me know what u find.
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Friday, January 1st, 2010 AT 1:45 PM
Tiny
STEADYHAND
  • MEMBER
The only parts on the front end that remain and that I haven't replaced with new parts are the passenger side CV shaft and the rack and pinion. I just changed the inner tie rods rather than the whole rack.

I haven't noticed any further jerking to one side, so I'm guessing the inner tie rods fixed that problem.

However, I'm still noticing a creaking sound from the front end. Just so I'm clear it is not a squeek like a high pitch noise but rather it sounds like someone stepping on a wooden board and it is about to snap in half. Like someone walking up the steps of a really old house.

It occurs when the car first starts rolling or is about to come to a complete stop and somtimes when I turn the wheel. Obviously it seems something is making noise from the torque of the car moving back and forth.

I can put the car in gear and as soon as I let off the brake real slow you'll hear what sounds like something is having torque applied to it and once the car is in a free roll the noise will quit. I can apply the breaks and once the car is about to come to a complete stop you can hear it again until it does fullly stop. Before I replaced the inner tie rods you could hear the creaking torque sound and then a really loud POP but now that the inners are replaced I only hear the creaking sound.

Any ideas? I've replaced so many parts and this car still sounds like something is very wrong. I haven't replaced the CV shaft on the passenger side but will probably do that since I've replaced just about everything else.

I'm out of ideas. I figured once I replaced so many parts I would eventually find the culprit. Though I have noticed several improvements from changing parts I am still hearing a noise that sounds real bad.

I would appreciate any thoughts. Thanks.
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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 AT 7:34 PM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
I would check all sub frame bolts the four big 18mm bolts make sure there tight. Also check the bolts for the lower control arms etc. Let me know what u find.
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Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 AT 12:38 AM
Tiny
STEADYHAND
  • MEMBER
I checked all bolts and they appear tight. I was also listening to the noise again today trying to narrow down where the noise is originating from and I kept hearing the noise either in the center area, behind the motor where the rack and pinion is at or it was coming from the driver side area.

The pop happens most often when backing and turning at the same time. Part of me keeps thinking a CV joint but I've heard CV joints many times in the past and they were more of a pop but they weren't like this. This is a loud bang and can be felt inside the car through the floor board.

That is why I keep wondering if I'm missing something with the frame because the recoil or concussion of this bang sends a bad vibration right through the floor board to the drivers feet.

The back of the sub frame on the driver side is mounted to the body right under the driver side floor board. If it isn't the frame then the subframe is certainly channeling this noise recoil to the body.

I haven't seen any problems thus far with the frame so if you have any other ideas I would appreciate it. As I continue to search for what the problem may be, I'll be taking another look again at the frame and other parts.

I hope to get this figured out soon as I have to get the car inspected. Right now it wouldn't pass. The front tires are showing wire badly because it needs an alignment and I don't want to do that and put the new tires on that I bought until this is fixed. By the way, thanks for your help. :)
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Thursday, February 25th, 2010 AT 1:45 AM
Tiny
SATURNTECH9
  • EXPERT
If ur subframe is good and tight and u mostly hear the pop when backing up and turning one thing comes to mind the lower control arm bolts that hold it to the frame they loosen up and pop when back up and turning have seen it happen alot and they always pop the worst when backing up and turning get a couple of long wrenchs and really tighten them up they need to be really tight. Also if thats not it check ur lower ball joint nuts. Let me know what u find.
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Thursday, February 25th, 2010 AT 12:03 PM
Tiny
STEADYHAND
  • MEMBER
Problem is fixed. You were right it was the sub frame. I checked it before by cranking it down with a breaking bar to ensure it was tight, but apparently that wasn't tight enough. Just to be sure, I took a gamble on breaking them or rounding off the head on the bolts by hooking up a impact wrench. Then I attached my breaking bar with a 4 ft pipe for a cheater bar. It had to put several hundred pounds of torque but either way it did fix the problem.

Without attaching a impact wrench and torquing it even more with a long pipe, I could never have gotten them that tight. I'm actually surprised it took that much torque to stop that frame from twisting.

Nonetheless, the whole steering feels so much better now. I feel confident I can get the alignment done and put some new tires on.

I really appreciate the time you have given to help out with this issue. Thanks!
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Thursday, February 25th, 2010 AT 6:11 PM

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