Jim Grant's Tech Tips
Dodge Intrepid, Steering Problems
Q: My '97 Dodge Intrepid (3.5L) is recently behaving strangely, when
turning to either side the wheel will not return to the center by itself.
The steering seems to be normal except not returning to the center by
itself. (wheels are new and alignment and balance have been done recently)
What can I do to fix the problem ? (It has 80,000 miles on the meter)....Mickey
a vehicles steering will not return to center it is usually due
to binding front suspension parts. The most common cause seen for this
type of problem is because of bad ball joints or strut mount bearings.
To diagnose this problem we start by disconnecting the tie rod end of
the steering from the front steering arms at the wheels. Then with the
front tires of the vehicle setting on the alignment machine turn plates
or a couple of plastic bags (its amazing how slippery 2 plastic
trash bags are) we see how easily the front wheel turns back and forth.
This is done at the tire by hand. The tire will turn with equal difficulty
to the left and right and should return to center on its own due to suspension
geometry. This check is also performed with the vehicle jacked up and
the wheels hanging. By comparing the two sides it can be determined which
side of the vehicle is in need of service. If both sides of the vehicle
check out good then the steering rack itself becomes suspect.