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Home >   How To >   How to Repair Steering >   How To Troubleshoot Steering

How To Troubleshoot Steering


 




Troubleshooting Steering & Suspension Problems

From about.com;
The steering and suspension systems of the car are fairly robust and generally not too much goes wrong with them. With the advent of rack and pinion steering and the use of MacPherson strut suspensions, a lot of moving parts have been eliminated. Things still can go wrong and cause a vehicle to become hard to control. When something is wrong the very least that will happen is your tires will wear out very quickly and at most, lead to an accident.

As with any car problem, the causes can range from a mere inconvenience to major repair. Here are some things to look for when you have a car that doesn't handle or respond properly.

You should note that these are the most likely causes of a particular problem, but not necessarily the cause of the problem you are experiencing. Some of the possible causes listed may not even apply to your vehicle.

 

  • Car seems to bounce too much :
    When you are driving down the road and hit a bump the vehicle keeps bouncing for a while. This will gradually get worse as time goes by.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. The shock absorbers are worn or leaking: Replace shock absorbers.

    2. The shock mounts for the shock absorbers are broken or bent: Repair or replace mounts as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • Steering wheel is hard to turn :
    You find that it is getting more difficult to turn the steering wheel. It feels like something is binding or dragging. This may or may not happen suddenly or is getting worse over time.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Low tire pressure: Check and adjust tire pressures.

    2. The wheels are out of alignment: Have the wheels aligned.

    3. The power steering box or rack or power steering pump is bad: Repair or replace steering gear or pump as required.

    4. The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low: Fill fluid to proper level.

    5. The power steering drive belt is damaged or broken: Replace power steering drive belt.

    6. The steering gear needs to be lubricated or repaired: Lubricate or replace steering gear parts as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • Hard steering:
    You notice it takes much more strength to turn the steering wheel. This is especially noticed when you are trying to park. The problem seems to be getting worse.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Low tire pressure: Check and adjust tire pressures.

    2. The steering gear needs to be lubricated: Lubricate steering gear parts as required.

    3. The wheels are out of alignment: Have the wheels aligned.

    4. A part of the steering linkage is damaged and doesn't not move freely: Replace steering gear parts as required.

    5. Your steering box needs to be adjusted: Adjust steering box as required.

    6. You have a problem with the power steering pump: Repair or replace power steering pump as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • Loose steering:
    You notice that the steering wheel is very easy to move and actually feels quite sloppy. It creates an uneasy feeling on the highway because it seems you have no control of your car. The problem seems to be getting worse.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Steering linkage is worn and parts need to be replaced: Replace affected parts.

    2. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    3. Your steering box needs to be adjusted: Adjust steering box as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • Power steering doesn't seem to be working:
    I
    t takes a lot of effort to turn the steering wheel. In fact, at low speeds you can hardly turn it. The problem is less obvious at high speeds simply because you need to move the steering wheel less at those speeds. The problem may have occurred suddenly.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. No fluid in the power steering reservoir: Fill fluid to proper level.

    2. You have a bad power steering pump: Repair or replace power steering pump.

    3. The power steering drive belt is broken: Replace power steering drive belt.

    4. The fluid in the system is contaminated: Flush power steering out power steering fluid and replace with fresh clean fluid.

    5. You have a steering linkage problem: Repair or replace linkage parts as required.
    6. There is a leak in the power steering lines: Replace power steering lines as required.

    7. Low tire pressure: Check and adjust tire pressures.

    8.  

  • Car pulls to one side while moving:
    As you drive the car tends to pull to one side or the other. You need to constantly hold the wheel firmly to keep the car going straight. This will have happened over time. When the problem is slight, it often is dismissed and only severe pulling is noticed.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Tire pressures are not equal: Check and adjust tire pressures.

    2. The wheels are out of alignment: Have the wheels aligned.

    3. One brake is dragging or isn't releasing: Check brakes and repair as required.

    4. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    5. The car's tires are not worn evenly: Replace tires as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • The car seems to wander down the road:
    As you are driving, you notice that you must constantly correct the direction of the car by turning the steering wheel. The problem seems to increase, the faster you travel. This problem may occur gradually and get worse over time or it may appear suddenly.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. The car is overloaded, or the weight is unevenly distributed: Lighten the load or equalize weight distribution.

    2. The wheels are out of alignment: Have the wheels aligned.

    3. The car's springs are weak: Replace springs.

    4. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    5. The front wheel bearings are out of adjustment or are severely worn: Adjust wheel bearings or replace as required.

    6.  

  • Steering wheel jerks:
    When you are driving slowly or at an idle the steering wheel jumps or jerks. You don't see any other problems as far as steering and handling go. As time goes by it seems to be getting worse.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. The power steering drive belt is damaged or loose: Tighten or replace power steering drive belt as required.

    2. The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low: Fill fluid to proper level.

    3. The engine is idling too low: Adjust idle speed.

    4. You have a problem with the power steering pump: Repair or replace power steering pump as required.

    5. The steering linkage is rubbing against something: Inspect steering gear and repair the interference.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

     

  • Steering wheel vibrates:
    At about 45 to 60 miles per hour the steering wheel begins to vibrate. You also notice that the car is also vibrating or twitching. This can be very dangerous. If you notice the problem only occurs when you step on the brakes, it will make diagnosis simpler.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Warped or damaged brake rotors and/or drums: Resurface or replace brake rotors and/or drums as required.

    2. Loose wheel lug nuts: Tighten wheel lug nuts.

    3. Out-of-balance wheel and tire assemblies: Balance wheels.

    4. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    5. Bent or damaged wheels: Replace bent or damaged wheels.

    6. Severely worn or damaged tires: Replace tires.

    7.  

  • Wheel shimmy:
    You notice a side-to-side wobble in the steering wheel when traveling at steady speeds. The vibration gets worse when you are on an uneven road surface or after going over a pot hole.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Tire pressures are not equal: Check and adjust tire pressures.

    2. Out-of-balance wheel and tire assemblies: Balance wheels.

    3. Worn or damaged tires: Replace tires.

    4. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    5. You have worn suspension parts: Replace suspension parts as required.

    ~~~~~~~~~~

  • Noises while turning a corner:
    You notice a knocking, clunking, and/or squeaking noise while you turn a corner. Everything else seems to be fine except for the noise. The problem seems to be getting worse over time.

     

    Possible causes:
    1. Something is rubbing against or hitting the steering column: Locate the interference and repair.

    2. The steering gear needs to be lubricated or repaired: Lubricate or replace steering gear parts as required.

    3. Parts of the steering linkage are loose and need to be tightened: Tighten or replace loose parts as required.

    4. Your tires are hitting or rubbing against something: Locate the interference and repair.

    5. You have worn suspension parts: Replace suspension parts as required.

    6.  

  • Noises from the power steering unit:
    You notice a whining or moaning from the steering when you turn the steering wheel all of the way in one direction. Everything else seems to be fine except for the noise. The problem seems to be getting worse over time.

    Possible causes:
    1. The power steering drive belt is damaged or loose: Tighten or replace power steering drive belt as required.

    2. The fluid in the system has air in it: Bleed power steering system.

    3. The fluid level in the power steering reservoir is low: Fill fluid to proper level.

    4. The mount for the power steering pump is loose or damaged: Repair or replace power steering pump mounts as required.

    5.  

© By Vince Ciulla, March 26, 2001. (www.autorepair.about.com) licensed to About.com, Inc.  Used by permission of About.com, Inc., which can be found on the web at www.about.com.  all rights reserved.

 

If leaking:
- Determine the location of the leak.
- Were all hoses checked for leakage there.
(to determine that there it is not a hose leaking on to the part)
For *domestic cars only, was tracing powder used to determine?
  Now verify the location of leak.

- If leaking at boots of rack:
-Are there are any cuts or tears on the boot. (if yes, could be from road hazard or mis alignment—ask if the boots are twisted.)
-Is the boot full of fluid.
  (if yes, have fluid left in boot)
-If fluid is coming out of the boots, where? (there may actually just be something leaking onto the boots)
-if the rack is leaking at the seals, the seals are under the boot, How do you know (if fluid is coming out of the boots-from the seals, then the boots should be full of fluid)

 

If binding:
- When it is binding?
-When turning (which side?).
-If binding to one side, then it usually is a rack/gear problem
-If binding on both sides, it is usually something else. (Is pump pressure okay, no restrictions/air in lines, etc.)
  
-Has it been binding from the start (right after installation)--find out when it started. 
-Is it binding when engine is cold and/or warmed up?
-If bmw/toyota w/ servotronics, ask if servotronic unit (usually black box on gear/rack) has been checked.
  A bad servotronic unit can affect the gear/rack.

 

If no assist:
- Determine if no assist to one side or both. (usually a rack/gear problem if no assist on one side, but if no assist to both directions, then it is usually not a rack/gear problem).  See below.
- Make sure pump is not actually the problem.
- Has the pump pressure been checked.
  What are the readings?
- Make sure there is no restriction in any of the lines which may be affecting the gear.
- Has anything else has been changed/replaced in the system recently? pump, hoses, etc
- What specifically makes you believe the gear has failed internally (if everything else is okay).

 

If noisy: 
-Describe the noise it is making (popping, clicking, grinding, whining, etc.) 
-rack:
-if making a clunking noise when turning, have tech check the mounting.
  Make sure the  bushings/linkage is okay.  Bushings should not be worn.  With the car on a rack, if you turn the wheel, the rack should not shift/move from side to side. (if it does, the mounting is usually loose.)
-If making a whining noise (on a pump), make sure the pressure has been checked, may be restriction in lines, etc.-where is the noise coming from?
-when is it making the noise?
-if popping/clicking (on a axle), it usually is an axle problem, but make sure boots aren’t cut/torn/twisted etc.

 

If wrong part: 
-Verify part # on box (correct as ordered?)
-Make sure application of vehicle is correct (to verify the correct part was sent originally).
-Determine what is different (how do know it is wrong).
-Get specs of wrong part and core.
-What are the visual differences. 
-Get as specific as possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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