Pulling car... Again.

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
So my car was steering perfectly straight, needed new tires, so i bought some cheap-ish BF goodrichs. Car still steered perfectly straight, but I didn't like their handling, so I returned them and bought some Michelin Premier A/S instead. As soon as I drove off, the steering wheel was off center.

Switched tires sides (both front and rear), thinking it might be radial pull, but that didn't change anything. Any idea what could be going on here?

They did say one of my rims was slightly bent, and that tire couldn't be balanced properly, but I feel like if that was causing a pull switching it sides would switch the pull direction as well.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis (where it's safe)
TDI
There are just too many to list....
Well the Capt. Obvious in me says put the car on an alignment rack and see what it looks like. No idea why tires would cause the steering wheel to be off center.
 

Diesel Fumes

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 30, 2008
Location
Creston, bc
TDI
2003 alh tdi 5 speed
I run questionable, bent and/or out of balance tires all the time (I don't recommend this) and my cars usually track straight even there's like 4 different tires on it haha. I currently have a tracking problem that Ive narrowed down to bad ball joint and or bad sway bar bushings.

Its strange when things happen right when you get a car back from the shop but who knows what they did and won't admit to. Check for play in the front end to rule that out. Jack up and check wheels for play at 12 and 6 and 9 and 3 and pry bars in various spots to see if anything has play. Rule that out I guess. Hopefully it's only something simple

And yes alignments are cheap and simple on mk4s. No reason to not have that checked as well.
 

KrashDH

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
So my car was steering perfectly straight, needed new tires, so i bought some cheap-ish BF goodrichs. Car still steered perfectly straight, but I didn't like their handling, so I returned them and bought some Michelin Premier A/S instead. As soon as I drove off, the steering wheel was off center.

Switched tires sides (both front and rear), thinking it might be radial pull, but that didn't change anything. Any idea what could be going on here?

They did say one of my rims was slightly bent, and that tire couldn't be balanced properly, but I feel like if that was causing a pull switching it sides would switch the pull direction as well.
Does the car track straight but the steering wheel isn't on center? If so that should just be a TRE adjustment. Both sides equally to bring the wheel back to center. If it's pulling, now that's a different scenario
 

PakProtector

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2014
Location
AnnArbor, MI
TDI
Mk.4 and the Cummins-es
One can get really close with a long, straight stick. You pull up on something straight and flat, and the with the stick on the front tires and the remainder running down the side and check how it lines up against the body. It won't be perfect, but the last time I did this, it was within spec, and the alignment rack pointed to a small adjustment to reduce discrepancy( I complained and said to align it so I must know for some reason it is bad ).

The only thing that usually gets done is to set the toe anyway, with the adjustment on the tie rod ends... :)
cheers,
Douglas
 

benshaw

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 8, 2004
Location
51
TDI
a4 130pd bew
theres clearly been a chimps tea party at the fitters with your car.

maybe they lifted it not on the jack point, they screwed something to make you spend on a alignment.
 

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
Does the car track straight but the steering wheel isn't on center? If so that should just be a TRE adjustment. Both sides equally to bring the wheel back to center. If it's pulling, now that's a different scenario
Hard to tell. Doesn't seem to pull, I just hold the steering wheel off center. I guess I'll need to get an alignment, but this is starting to be expensive as I'm also planning on getting rear beam bushings, so that'll cost another alignment. And i don't know why I keep hearing alignments on these cars are cheap. In my experience yes, they're simple, just toe adjustment, but also yes, they will ask you $100 for it.

I inspected the front end and found nothing wrong other than a stripped FR lower caliper pin. I don't know how that happened in its own...
 

JETaah

Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Location
mi 48836
TDI
96 B4V, 1999.5 jettaIV,2005 BEW Beetle
Hard to tell. Doesn't seem to pull, I just hold the steering wheel off center. I guess I'll need to get an alignment, but this is starting to be expensive as I'm also planning on getting rear beam bushings, so that'll cost another alignment. And i don't know why I keep hearing alignments on these cars are cheap. In my experience yes, they're simple, just toe adjustment, but also yes, they will ask you $100 for it.

I inspected the front end and found nothing wrong other than a stripped FR lower caliper pin. I don't know how that happened in its own...
Boy, I have learned that $100 is not a lot of money anymore...Not when slinging french fries gets you $15/hr. An average house costs a quarter million dollars. Just tack another zero on the end of everything. :🤷:

If all they have capacity to do is front toe adjustment then look for another place that is bold enough to loosen the subframe/axle beam and shift it around to split the difference in camber between sides. There isn't a lot of room for adjustment but often enough there is just enough to make a difference. Worn upper strut mounts tend to make the strut tops cave inward. That will make a new tire ride more on the fresh edge that the old tire might not have had.
Anyway, are you sure that you don't have a brake dragging? Front or rear? Are your rear axle beam bushings worn?
 

PakProtector

Veteran Member
Joined
Jan 5, 2014
Location
AnnArbor, MI
TDI
Mk.4 and the Cummins-es
hey snakeye, why do you suspect you'll need an alignment after messing with the rear? One new bolt( for when you cut the head of the original so as not to disturb the mount-to-body interface should let you get away without.
cheers,
Douglas
 

KrashDH

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 22, 2013
Location
Washington
TDI
2002 Golf
@snakeye, before you go and spend more money...

If you replace the rear axle beams, you do not need to go get an alignment.

Second, if it's just getting the steering wheel back on center, you can do that at home. Put the car on jack stands. Mark the TREs with an ink marker. The goal is to rotate the TREs the same number of turns on each side. Of you do this, your alignment will still be the same and it will bring your steering wheel back to center.

Just make sure the axle doesn't spin while you're doing that or your number is skewed.
For example, if you need to push the wheels to the right, you'll want to lengthen the driver side, which pushes the rear of the wheel outwards (to the left if sitting in driver's seat) and the front of the wheel towards the passenger side. Then on the passenger side, you'll want to "pull" the rear wheel towards the driver side by shortening , which in turn makes the front of the tire point to the right.

If you do 3 full revolutions of the TRE on the driver side adjustment, do 3 full revolutions on the passenger side TRE. This way it keeps your alignment all good.
 

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
hey snakeye, why do you suspect you'll need an alignment after messing with the rear? One new bolt( for when you cut the head of the original so as not to disturb the mount-to-body interface should let you get away without.
cheers,
Douglas
Oh I didn't know that. Thanks for the info!

Guys I'd definitely tinker with the TREs if my car was never aligned to begin with. Thing is the alignment was perfect, and then all of a sudden it no longer seems to be, and I'm trying to figure out why.
 
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snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp


Anything suspicious on here? Seems to me that there's a spot on both control arms where the dust was rubbed off right near the sway bar links. One of my jacking points is shot, so maybe they decided to jack my car up there, slightly bending the arms?

There appears to be no play whatsoever in the front end (except for the normal and slightly annoying play in the strut mounts...), and no sign of damage.
 

JETaah

Vendor , w/Business number
Joined
Jan 18, 2001
Location
mi 48836
TDI
96 B4V, 1999.5 jettaIV,2005 BEW Beetle
Does the car track straight but the steering wheel isn't on center? If so that should just be a TRE adjustment. Both sides equally to bring the wheel back to center. If it's pulling, now that's a different scenario
A car that has too much toe-in can still drive perfectly straight (equal force from both sides) but will scrub and wear the tires out more quickly.
The rear wheels are permanently positioned with negative camber built in and ride more heavily on the inner edges of the tires. New tires can reveal inconsistencies between the Left and Right camber angles. So rather than the front steering being off it is the rear axle dog tracking the rear and you have to correct this by tipping the steering wheel to one side.
Check around and see if there are places that will be willing to shift the subframe and rear axle beam around to correct it as best as can be done with the given situation. Maybe there is a place that won't charge $100 just to tell you what does not come within specs.
I am fortunate enough to have a shop in town that has such technicians and a latest and greatest Hunter alignment rack. They give a print out with the angles of everything within fractions of a degree.
 

Zak99b5

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2021
Location
Albany NY
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI
If all you had done was new tires mounted to rims, the only reason the steering wheel might be in a different spot going straight that I can think of is your old tires were badly and unevenly worn.

I like to get an alignment whenever I get new tires or replace worn suspension bits with new (not including sway bar links). When I bought my car, the front struts were shot and the mounts were collapsed. Steering wheel was cocked to about 10:30 going straight. Put all new strut components in, and the steering wheel was only cocked a little, say 11:30.
 

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
I mentioned in my first post that my car was steering/tracking perfectly straight with new tires. It's only when i returned those tires and bought a different set that the problem appeared.
 

Andyinchville1

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2016
Location
Virginia
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI wagon, 5 sp, 226K miles
Hard to tell. Doesn't seem to pull, I just hold the steering wheel off center. I guess I'll need to get an alignment, but this is starting to be expensive as I'm also planning on getting rear beam bushings, so that'll cost another alignment. And i don't know why I keep hearing alignments on these cars are cheap. In my experience yes, they're simple, just toe adjustment, but also yes, they will ask you $100 for it.

I inspected the front end and found nothing wrong other than a stripped FR lower caliper pin. I don't know how that happened in its own...
HI,

I don't know if you have a Firestone service center where you are (I have to drive 60 miles one way to get to ours) BUT they offer a lifetime alignment for $175.... My TDI guru told me about it or I would not have known about it.

Since I keep my vehicles for along time and drive alot it pays for itself (normal shops charge over $100 for a single alignment so by the first free alignment you save about $25 .... after that at least around here I would be saving $100 each additional alignment thereafter).... in my case technically I don't save the full amount because it costs about 2.4 or so gallons of fuel and time BUT the mall is down the street so we kill some time there while the car gets aligned and make a day of it in another town.

Andrew
 

snakeye

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
Montreal, Canada
TDI
2003 Jetta and Wagon, GLS 5sp
HI,

I don't know if you have a Firestone service center where you are (I have to drive 60 miles one way to get to ours) BUT they offer a lifetime alignment for $175.... My TDI guru told me about it or I would not have known about it.

Since I keep my vehicles for along time and drive alot it pays for itself (normal shops charge over $100 for a single alignment so by the first free alignment you save about $25 .... after that at least around here I would be saving $100 each additional alignment thereafter).... in my case technically I don't save the full amount because it costs about 2.4 or so gallons of fuel and time BUT the mall is down the street so we kill some time there while the car gets aligned and make a day of it in another town.

Andrew
Thanks, but unfortunately I don't have a Firestone anywhere nearby.

My steering wheel is still off, and I noticed while driving across Canada the last few days that the car needs constant steering input in order to not veer off the road, as if the toes are out.

I jacked my car up and checked the obvious things. There's no play anywhere. Loosened the front axle bushings to make sure the nuts inside the subframe didn't come loose, which they didn't. Everything looks to be in perfect order, yet the car was perfect until I got it back from Costco and now it's not, so I'm convinced there's something wrong and am determined to find the problem. Any suggesting what else to check? What else could possibly shift/bend /break? :unsure:
 

afterthisnap

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 24, 2012
Location
Mountain West
TDI
Jetta wagon ALH
Check your alignment on a calibrated rack. You'll be way ahead in data per dollar.

I don't know if you have a Firestone service center where you are (I have to drive 60 miles one way to get to ours) BUT they offer a lifetime alignment for $175....
PepBoys has a similar offer, with an occasional $30 off coupon for service you can find online or in local ads. People online talk trash about the quality of Pepboys service, but I'm satisfied that I get an accurate alignment printout from a calibrated Hunter laser alignment machine everytime I change tires, change steering components, hit a pothole, the wind blows east, the moon is half-full, etc.

I can cruise for 1/4 a mile on a arrow-straight flat stretch of road before I need to correct the wheel. It's money well spent.
 
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Andyinchville1

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2016
Location
Virginia
TDI
2003 Jetta TDI wagon, 5 sp, 226K miles
HI,

While I am not ruling out that something could have happened at Costco (maybe they bumped something hard when driving the car , maybe the jacking of the car at the wrong point could have bent something etc), Maybe a tire defect of some sort could be causing the issue ?

I know they are new and you even tried switching tire positions but maybe try (and I know this would be hard) to locate 4 known good tires and rims , put them on the car and see it that changes anything.

Check tire pressures , maybe sticking brakes .

Other than tires, brakes, then maybe about the only thing to look at is suspension / alignment.

It really sucks when something like that happens but I guess in checking out each possibility you'll (hopefully) be able to find the root cause and be able to fix it / get it fixed.

Andrew
 
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