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Old 03-07-2012, 06:55 PM   #1
Mezmiro
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Default 01 SL1 Steering Issues

I've recently replaced the sub frame on my Saturn after a pretty bad curb wreck, and got an alignment done at a Chevy dealership yesterday. Since then, I have an odd issue with the steering.

When I'm pulling away on any surface (flat or otherwise) the steering wheel must be pointed about 45 degrees to the left to drive straight. If I hit a bump on the road, or hit the brakes, the front tires steer to the left and suddenly the steering wheel and the front wheels come into alignment. This lasts for at most a few minutes, after which point the steering wheel naturally veers to the left while the car is driving straight.

Any ideas? I didn't notice this issue at all after the alignment, which confuses me. When I replaced the subframe, I torqued the steering rack bolts pretty hard, so could something else have come loose when it was on the rack during the alignment?

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Old 03-08-2012, 06:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

Look over the entire steering system carefully and see what broke. Tie rods, linkages, etc.. Put the car up on jack stands. If something broke or is loose and not bolted down to cause a large steering issue, it becomes a danger to you and where you point the car if it doesn't go in the direction you point it to.
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Old 03-08-2012, 04:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

Thanks for the advice! I think I found where the issue lies, but I'm not sure exactly what to do about it..

The 18mm bolt extending from the outer portion of the LCA to the hub was loose and it had a bit of play in it. So I tightened it, which fixed the issue by maybe 80%, but not fully. As it is, the bolt is probably 3-4 threads below where the cotter pin would be keeping the bolt in place.

It seems like the more I tighten it, the more the rubber grommet below it compresses.. which can't be a good thing. Do I need to torque the other side equally, or do you think the grommet itself is worn down to allow more play in the bolt?

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Old 03-08-2012, 04:41 PM   #4
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

If I understand your description correctly, you are tightening the outer tie rod end nut and it is not bottoming out and the nut is now well below its normal position relative to the cotter pin hole. This would indicate that the steering knuckle may be cracked where the tie rod end passes through it. Take a good look all around that joint. Others here may have a better explanation, but regardless of what the problem is, it is unsafe to drive until you get it sorted out.

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Old 03-08-2012, 04:42 PM   #5
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

The control arm doesn't attach to the hub. It attaches to the knuckle, but with a ball joint, not a bolt and nut. Are you sure you have everything assembled right? If the ball joint is in place, have you checked it for wear/looseness?

Of course, the dealership should have detected anything like that; it's impossible to get a meaningful alignment with worn/loose ball joints. That should stop a reputable shop from taking your money for it, but that doesn't always happen.

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Old 03-08-2012, 04:46 PM   #6
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

After reading the above, if you are tightening the ball joint nut and it goes well below the cotter pin hole, then perhaps the knuckle is cracked at the ball joint hole. Did you replace the LCA on the side that hit the curb???

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Old 03-08-2012, 09:56 PM   #7
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

Those knuckles are awful hard, but there's been at least one report told here on SF of one being bent in a curb crunch. So such damage isn't impossible. The ball joint stud may also be shot; it's a taper fit. In any event, the alignment tech should have caught it.

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Old 03-09-2012, 11:58 AM   #8
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Default Re: 01 SL1 Steering Issues

Exactly my point. The tapered fit limits how far the nut can draw the ball joint upward, after which the nut gets tight. If the OP is able to draw the ball joint so far through the knuckle that the boot gets crushed and the castle part of the nut is below the cotter pin hole, the either the LCA is wrong (ball joint stud too small in diameter) or the knuckle hole is too big, which it would be if it had a vertical crack in it.

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