Takes the smooth with the rough, Land Rover famously used to say. Given the deterioration of roads in Florida due to the heavy traffic that they have to deal with, it is surprising that more of us petrolheads don’t own the new Porsche Cayenne or Lamborghini’s new Urus. While SUVs usually have much beefier steering a suspension system, hitting a particularly nasty pothole with them can also lead to alignment issues.
What Exactly is Steering Alignment?
Very briefly, most vehicle steering systems consist of three main components:
This is responsible for converting the circular movement of the steering wheel to a linear movement to turn the wheels.
The Rack and Tie Rod Ends
A set of jointed rods that transmit the linear movement of the rack to the pivots on the road wheels.
The Strut and Ball Joints
A spring/damper system connected to upper and lower joints that handles the shocks generated by the road surface and allows the wheels to pivot according to the steering direction.
Alignment involves the setting of the lengths of the tie rods and the angle of the strut and ball joints. This ensures that under speed in ideal conditions the vehicle tracks in a straight line. So, how do you know whether your alignment is out?
- The vehicle may pull heavily to one side of the road. This becomes especially noticeable at speeds above 50 mph.
- Steering ‘wander’. This one is more difficult to describe. It’s as though your auto can’t decide quite where it’s going. One moment it might be heading left, then suddenly it changes tack for right instead. If you’ve seen a very drunk person walking, you’ll know what we mean.
If you feel a steady vibration through the steering wheel at certain speeds, this isn’t actually an alignment issue, but one that is linked to wheel balancing. If your tires are unbalanced (or mixed brands) you may experience this. Simply pop into your favorite auto mechanic and ask for wheel balancing.
Okay. So, now we have a good idea of how the steering system works and what it feels like if your alignment is out. We’re sure that you’re asking yourself, what makes alignment go out? If so, you’re right on the money!
Let’s wrap up by looking at five things that can affect your wheel alignment and what to do about them:
Parking Too Close to the Curb
We’ve all done it. Sometimes gotten just too close for comfort and smacked the curb a good one. Heavy rains can often obscure the pavement and the next thing you’re painfully aware that it still exists. Aside from scratching your wheels, this is a surefire way to upset the carefully calibrated rods and make your alignment go out.
Wear and Tear
If you’re into older performance vehicles, it may be just that your steering system is worn. Excessive play in the wheel is often a good indicator of this. The gears and rods in a steering rack wear out over time and may need replacing. Why not pop in for a quote?
Believe it or not, your tires are very important. Running good quality rubber not only keeps you safe but also is easier on your steering. Make sure you replace tires two at a time and don’t mix manufacturers unless you absolutely have to. Unsure
Obstacles in the Road
Some of us feel as though we’re in a SUV even though we’re actually driving a miata. So contain your inner beast and stick to the policy of; if in doubt, dodge. We’ve seen some folks bend their steering gear by forgetting that their Mercedes actually isn’t a hovercraft.
Possibly the biggest enemy of your steering system are these suckers. The kind of impulse force that they transmit through the steering system really knocks it for a six. Some potholes are absolutely unavoidable, but if so, rather choose to hit them with one wheel instead of both and as much as possible steer to the edge of the pothole.
Get Your Alignment Checked in Pompano Beach
Resetting your alignment isn’t a long job (provided that no steering components have been damaged). If you feel that it’s gone out, pop into our Pompano Beach shop and we’ll sort it out. We’ve been South Florida’s premier luxury vehicle mechanic and racing facility for 44 years and counting.