Driving with the steering pulling is hard on the driver and on the tires.
Problems like this need to be dealt with before the problem gets worse and causes bigger problems. There are many types of steering pull. Here the Columbia, SC Auto Repair Pro talks about memory steer and an off-center steering wheel. Coming articles will include even more common steering pull types, like steady pull, steering wander and more.
A pull that only occurs after turning is known as memory steer. The wheels and steering wheel seem to want to return to a position other than dead center. Memory steer will cause your vehicle to pull or drift to one side after turning. There are many components that could be to blame, but here are some of the most common causes for memory steer.
Upper Strut Mounts – You may be having a problem with binding in the upper strut mounts. Raise the wheels and test how hard it is to turn your steering from side to side. If it takes a lot, try disconnecting the tie rod ends from the steering arms. Now try turning each wheel by hand to see how the resistance is. If the upper strut mount is either binding or loose, your strut will need to be removed and replaced or rebuilt by replacing the upper bearing plate assembly.
Steering Gear or Linkage – You may be experiencing binding in the steering gear or linkage. Examine your tie rod ends and the sockets. You also need to inspect the rack yoke adjustment (steering play in the steering box). The idler arm bushing is another area to check. Replace or adjust any of these components as needed.
Unbalanced Power Assist – If you have leaks in the control valve they need to be sealed. Check this by raising the wheels with the engine still running. Off-center steering could route the hydraulic pressure to one side over the other of your boost cylinder piston. This will cause your steering to turn more to one side or the other by itself. If this is your problem, the steering gear or control valve assembly should be replaced.
Ball joints – You may have binding in the ball joints. Unload them by raising your suspension. With the suspension hanging free with MacPherson struts, turn the wheels side to side checking the steering effort. If it is hard to turn, try disconnecting your tie rod ends and give it another try. If your ball joint is binding it will need to be replaced.
Dealing With an Off-Center Steering Wheel
An off-center steering wheel may come along with memory steer (and steady pull, which will be addressed in our next article.) There are a couple of possibilities when it comes to repairing off-center steering that is NOT accompanied by pull to one side or the other.
Steering linkage – The steering linkage may not have been centered when the toe was adjusted. This can be repaired by re-centering the steering wheel. You will have to equalize the lengths of both of your tie rods and then readjust the toe to the recommended specifications.
Steering arm or linkage – You may have a bent steering arm or bent linkage. You will need to check the turning angle in both directions. If the arm is bent you will have to either have the knuckle replaced or the strut arm if the arm is attached to a strut.