Your automobile suspension system is a complex network.  The components must be in perfect sync to give you the smooth, stable ride that it is designed for. The suspension gets a lot of road abuse, causing its parts to wear out or fail entirely. If your car doesn’t seem to be riding as smoothly as it used to, or as smoothly as you know it should, your suspension may be the problem.

To properly diagnose steering or suspension problems you need to work systematically. The Columbia, SC Auto Repair Pro is here to examine a few of the symptoms you may be experiencing and what your probable causes could be.  Here are five symptoms you may be experiencing.

Mechanic Tip: Before you replace anything you should always check your nuts and bolts.  You should be sure to check to see that all of your mounting nuts and bolts are tight enough.

Symptom 1: The Vehicle Pulls to One Side While Driving

Possible causes of this type of problem may be:

  • Low or uneven tire pressure could be to blame.  You should check every tire to see that it is inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications
  • Uneven wear in your tires could be another possibility. Be sure to check your front tires to see that they are evenly worn. If not, you need to replace both of your front tires.
  • You may be having a bad alignment issue.  Check your wheel alignment and adjust it if necessary.
  • Bad or faulty steering components can also be a culprit in these circumstances.  Take a good look at your tie rods and steering rack.
  • If your brake caliper is sticking, it too could be your problem. You should inspect the brakes for poor condition, uneven wear or excessive heat.  If you find signs of trouble, head to an auto repair shop for assistance.

Symptom 2: Wheel Shimmy, Shake or Wandering

When the wheel seems to wander, shake or begin rapidly shaking, you may be dealing with one of the following areas of auto repair:

  • Again, low or uneven tire pressure could be to blame. Check that pressure and get them up to the recommended pressure.
  • Your wheels could be out of balance. You may have one or even more of your wheels out of balance.  You need to head in to an auto repair shop to have the wheels balanced.
  • Uneven or excessive tire wear can also be to blame.  You should inspect all tires and it is recommended that you replace in pairs as well.
  • Your vehicle may be out of alignment or has been misaligned.  You will need to check and adjust your wheel alignment if this is your issue.
  • Worn out steering components could also be a problem.  Be sure to inspect the tie rods and steering rack.  If you find too much play, seek and auto repair shop to get you repaired and ready to go.

Symptom 3: Bouncing Over Bumps or on Uneven Roads.

When your car just keeps bouncing up and down while driving over bumps or on uneven roads, you might be looking at:

  • Badly worn shocks or struts can make that baby bounce.  If you find that the struts or shocks are too badly worn, you will need to replace them.
  • A slipped or broken leaf spring may also be your source of trouble. A good inspection of your leaf springs is in order.  After inspection, find a reputable mechanic or car repair shop to repair or replace.

Symptom 4: Steering Feels Like It Is Slipping

When you hold the steering wheel in a turned position or as you are turning and it feels as if it is slightly slipping back and forth, your best places to look for reason are:

  • A low power steering fluid level may be all that is to blame.  This is pretty easy to fix.  Simply add enough power steering fluid to bring it to the proper level.
  • You may have a loose or badly worn power steering belt. In some cases you may be able to tighten the power steering belt, but damage beyond a certain point will like warrant fully replacing the belt.
  • You may have a faulty or failing power steering pump. You should have the power steering pump checked for pressure.  If it tests poorly you will need to replace it.
  • A leaking power steering rack could be to blame.  You need to inspect your power steering rack for any signs of leakage.  You may need to replace the rack.
  • Broken steering rack mounts can also cause this symptom.  You can check your steering mounts to see if you detect excessive play. If so, you will need to repair or replace the troubled part.

Symptom 5: Hard to Steer the Vehicle

If your steering wheel is really hard to turn, especially when you are driving at slow speed, you need to check the following possible problems.

  • A low power steering fluid level could definitely be the cause.  Again, a simple fix.  Just add enough power steering fluid to get it to an adequate level.
  • If your power steering belt is too loose or has become badly worn, it may make the vehicle hard to steer.  You may be able to tighten the belt, but if the damage is beyond that, you will need to replace your power steering belt.
  • A failing power steering pump can also be an issue. You need to have your power steering pump checked for pressure and determine if it needs to be replaced.
  • If you have a leaking power steering rack, steering may be affected in this way. Do an inspection of the power steering rack for visual leaks or signs of leakage. You may need to have the power steering rack replaced.

Be sure to check back in a few days for Part 2 of Troubleshooting Steering and Suspension Problems with the Columbia SC Auto Repair Pro, where our ASE Certified Master Mechanic will look at a few more symptoms you may be dealing with and what those symptoms may indicate.  If you are in need of a professional mechanic with a great reputation and great prices, head on over to Sanford’s Automotive Service at 7917 Wilson Blvd. in Columbia, SC.  Our auto repair shop has been serving the drivers of the greater Columbia area since 1989.