Alignment and mechanic question

Hazel52October 23, 2005

Thanks for reading this post and double thanks for posting a reply.

I brought my 2000 Buick Century to my mechanic for an inspection last month and he said that while the car was sound, the front struts were worn and probably should be replaced before the next inspection. I agreed to have the work done then and there and picked up the car the next day.

After driving the car on a straight road with no traffic lights, I noticed my wheel was cocked to the right slightly for the car to drive straight. It also felt like the steering was a little looser than before. I called the mechanic and he told me to bring it in. I picked it up and drove it home and I don't see any improvement in the wheel positioning or the loosnes that I noted. I'll have a chance soon to bring it to someone and wonder if I should go back to this mechanic and ask him to drive it for himself and hopefully fix the problems.

I'm also noticing that when I go over a bump at 30mph or more, the front wheels take it well but the back wheels shift a little, like a slight fish-tail. I wonder if I'm just more sensitive to the car's suspension because the front struts are new and the rear's are original.

So, am I being picky about my wheel alignment; it being noticibly cocked for a straight run? When I bought the car 2 years ago, the tie rods were shot and the steering was super sloppy. Does the mechanic do anything to the tie rods when replacing the struts? I'm wondering if that is causing the looseness in the wheel.

Again, thanks for reading and posting.


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The mechanic should have road tested the car before he signed off on the repair. Perhaps his shop has an insurance policy that prohibits road testing of customer's vehicles.

I'm not surprised that the steering wheel position is slightly changed, from where it was previously. That is not a defect in itself, but if the car tends to wander or pull to the left or right, you do have a problem that needs to be addressed.

There are other parts in the front suspension that wear and loosen with age, including bushings. The bushings themselves are not expensive, but the labor charge for replacing them is considerable.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2005 at 9:37PM
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In my opinion and maybe I am more critical and perticular than others. But a frontend mechanics/techs that don't align the frontend with the steering wheel being centered shouldn't be aligning vehicles. That is one of the most important part of the alignment. The first thing you do when you pull the car/truck on to the alignment rack is to center the steering wheel. And the second thing is to check the tires. Make sure they are the same and adjust the air pressure to the correct amount. A difference of a couple of pound of air can change the alignment. The next thing he should check is if there is anything heavy in the trunk or back seat that would effect the alignment. And if so ask the owner if the item is there all the time. If not get it removed until he is done with the alignment.(This happens a lot when people are at the mall shopping and want the car aligned while they are there). And then start your alignment. And another thing a lot of them will do is they will try and make all the toe end adjustments on just the one tie rod instead of both to keep the steering wheel centered.

Also some steering rack have a pressure switch/sensor that sends a signal to the computer. It tells the computer that you are making a turn and will kick up the rpms to compensate. If the steering wheel is not centered the rack is not centered. I am not sure if your rack uses one or not. This is food for thought when you are searching for a frontend person.

Now did he do anything to make something loose in the fron end? I can't say he did or not. But to change a strut when it is on a lift. You should support the lower control arm. Remove 2 bolts that hold the strut to the spindle and the 3 nuts that secure it to the strut tower.(sometimes there are brake line brackets and ABS wire clips and etc.) That wouldn't cause anything to be loose. Unless the nuts and bolts aren't tight. Now what else he did in between who knows. This is where you want a mechanic/tech that you can trust and know he is GOOD.


    Bookmark   October 24, 2005 at 10:57AM
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Thank you both for replying. This mechanic came recommended from 2 co-workers so I'm giving him a chance. I don't think the car is pulling to the right, but I am dissapointed that the wheel is no longer straight when driving staight.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 11:25AM
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Bob K and Eric are correct - the wheel must be centered, and this is part of the alignment..
Was a 4 wheel job done ??
Other than disconnection and inspection, the mechanic does nothing to the tie rods when the struts are repaired..
Nor should the steering feel "looser"..

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 12:46PM
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The only other work I asked him to do was rotate the tires. I may be imagining the looser wheel but it is definitely not set perfectly at 12 o'clock. It's slightly off center.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2005 at 8:09PM
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If you noticed this after a tire rotation you probably have a tire belt pull. It will do two things. Straighten out or the tire will get worse and blow. It's called a
" belt set " after bad alignment that took too long to fix.
Change the rotation back and see if it goes away. Is your
rack sticking or starting to seize ?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2005 at 5:31PM
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Thanks for writing.

I haven't noticed any seizing or sticking with the steering and I haven't been able to bring the car to a garage. Maybe I'll bring it for an oil change and have the tires rotated back by the same mechanic.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2005 at 7:41PM
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So I brought the car to an allignment specialist (recommended from a family member) and he said the allignment was way off (toe end adjustments were lose); that the car was practically driving sideways. Car needed a manual allignment before the computer could read it. So I paid for a manual and computer allignment but the car is running much better; the wheel is straight and it doesn't fish tail when I hit a bump.

I'll still go back to the other garage but not for front end work. I told their mechanic my experience and I negotiated a free oil change and filter.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2005 at 5:17PM
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Hazel, Glad to hear you got your alignment corrected. That is good news. It kind of leaves me wondering why you would be willing to go back to the previous mechanic. I am sure you have your reasons. But I can't understand how a mechanic/tech that would let a car go out the door like that. A couple of reasons come to mind. He doesn't know what he is doing or he doesn't care about the quality of work he does for the customer, as in your case. And probably several others. Anyway that was good news to hear your all set.

Good Luck
Happy Holidays


    Bookmark   December 5, 2005 at 9:59AM
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This mechanic has done good work for me in the past (new tie rods and spindle replacement). He sent my car to another garage down the street (because his machine was down) for the allignment. That's no excuse for poor workmanship, as you said.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2005 at 3:57PM
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