Bad Strut Causing Bad Alignment?


cougar214
05-22-2010, 09:10 AM
Hey Guys.I took my car in yesterday to have the 4 wheel alignment done.3 and a half hours later the guy tells me he can't do it properly because the camber on my rear drivers tire won't go into place because I have a bad strut.

Being the grinch that I am I like to stand there and watch whenever someone is working on my car to make sure they are not screwing me over and charging for parts they don't put in.

The guy never got to my front and rear passenger side because he spent most of this time working on the rear drivers wheel.They are telling me they have to oval out the holes in the bottom strut mount because over time ware can cause the strut to not let them get the camber right so they have to be able to move the strut slightly.

I said "o'k" and let him oval out the mount holes.After another 30 minutes he tells me it still wont go into alignment and the manager came over and took a look and said I have a bad strut.

The alignment on the passengers side wasn't bad.It was only off by .08 degrees.The drivers side however was way off.Front was at 2.8 and the rear he was fighting with was at 3.5.

Are these guys telling me the truth or are they trying to take me for a ride?I'm not going to buy 4 new struts if i don't have to.The last time I checked into it a wheel alignment was supposed to be a simple task for them to handle.Could there be something else stopping the alignment or are these guys jerkin me around?Thanks guys for any info.

busboy4
05-22-2010, 07:03 PM
I'm no expert and I can't refute their measurements. But, I just changed out my LR strut and as tight as things are I cant imagine that boring out the holes at the base of the strut would do much for long. I can see how more play would allow more in/out movement of the knuckle, and that would allow a bit of camber adjustment, but the only thing that would hold it there then would be the flanges of the two through bolts/nuts pinching the strut mount against the knuckle. I would guess that you could easily load that area up and create some movement. Again, just thinking out loud. There are adjustable arms attached to the base of the knuckle on the rear but I guess those can only change toe?

I have a couple of local retailers that advertise a free alignment check. I think I might get a second measurement and opinion and see how that goes. I did have a Ford van for a long time that always measured a bit out on caster. They always wanted to drill out and shim the strut mounts in front. I always declined. Never ruined a set of tires. Sometimes had a bit of pull but I just didn't like the sound of it all.

Good luck with the decision. And let us know what you learn.

pfofit
05-22-2010, 07:20 PM
The camber should be, I believe without checking, between -0.5 and -1.5. You can get more by ovaling out the holes in the lower strut hole, not the steering knuckle, or trying to shift the strut mount by playing with the three nuts on top.

Perhaps what is wrong is the upper strut mounts, Those ones on the rear consist of a metal collar about an 1 1/2" tall embedded in the rubber mount, they are notorious for letting go and I've seen them tear out a hole in the rubber that was 1/4 inch bigger in diameter than that metal collar. The front is similar but has an additional large bearing the the spring rests against for turning.

This problem usually shows up by a clunking/thud sound when going over bumps at slow speeds. If the strut goes it will beat the crap out of the mount, but the strut does not have to be bad for the mount to go south.

You can kinda check them by reaching in through the trunk, rip out the rubber boot over the strut nut and put one hand over the nut and big cup shaped washer while bouncing the car up and down with the other. If there real bad watch that your fingers are not under the nut or washer or you'll get a nasty pinch in your finger. If there is any tapping, thuds, clunking or excessive vertical play then that's your ticket.

Another thing to do is beam a flashlight in there and look at the cupped washer in relation to the rubber mounts little triangular teeth sticking up. the washer should be centered to these teeth, like in a picture below and the teeth should be just touching under the washer, not sticking up beyond. If they are offset then the metal collar in the mount has let go and is giving you that excessive camber.

The first image is my spare mount, I can't throw anything out :headshake. You can see it is just staring to let go when coerced. Believe it, this was causing a little thud when going over speed bumps etc going slow. The others show the top side of the mount with and without the washer. This mount is on luminas and many other w-bodys

good luck

busboy4
05-22-2010, 07:45 PM
Excellent post!

cougar214
05-22-2010, 09:11 PM
So the answer is yes.This is possible.Thanks pfofit.I know when i go over speed bumps slowly i hear the struts making that kinda squeaking noise of the spring compressing and decompressing.But I don't hear any thuds or knocks.

I do hear a kind of creaking when I turn the wheels left or right when I'm just starting off.I'm also assuming thats the same thing(the springs).I will do your bounce test and see or feel what I can feel.One other thing,When I look over the tires,All 4,I noticed the spring seats on all 4 tires are only about 3 inches above the tires.Is that enough clearance?

pfofit
05-22-2010, 10:41 PM
I do hear a kind of creaking when I turn the wheels left or right when I'm just starting off.I'm also assuming thats the same thing(the springs)......snip.....I noticed the spring seats on all 4 tires are only about 3 inches above the tires.Is that enough clearance?

Plenty as the spring seat is fixed in relation to the tire. Some cars have just enough to slide your fingers between the tire and seat.

Creaking springs don't sound right although it can be hard to describe a sound.
The alignment buddies should have checked but get to a level surface, measure your ride height and post it here. IE the distance from the ground to the wheel well fender. Tire pressure must be the same. Also have a look see at the springs themselves and compare the spacing between the coils from side to side for a difference. Run your fingers slowly around and down the coils feeling to see if one has crack/broke. If so then the ride heights will be different, unless they're both broke in the same way and spot.:evillol: Sometimes the spring may break on the last half coil.

Also in the front, with the wheels straight grab each side of a spring coil near the top and try to rotate the spring. If the bearing is not seized then you should be able to rotate the upper part of the spring a bit, maybe 1/4" or so and the little bit it moves should be smooth. If it wants to move but jumps or it is gritty or stiff, it may be drying out. Another way is to watch the spring while a buddy slowing turns the steering wheel. The spring should just pivot with the mount bearing and not jump or wind up/down the spring or turn without the bearing turning. However, with this you cannot feel for the effort required to rotate the spring/bearing, and you should be able to a bit.

As well have a look under the hood to see if the strut/nut/washer is center to the rubber mount.

cheers

pfofit
05-22-2010, 10:56 PM
What is the year and mileage/klics. and have any suspension components ever been changed.

cougar214
05-23-2010, 10:46 AM
It is a 1998 Intreque GL with the 3800 seriesII.It has 128,000 miles on it.As far as I know there hasn't been any work done on it other than common stuff.(oil change,tune-up,)The woman I bought the car from 4 months ago claimed to have all the maintenance records for the car.She neglected to tell me the records went back 3 years.

She did however tell me it was in a,what she called,a "minor" accident and had everything repaired but didn't tell me what exactly was repaired.Just that the front passenger side was hit.She claimed to have new brakes put in before she parked the car almost a year ago but the pads were so worn I knew she lied about that also.

I know every used car is gonna need work and for the most part the old girl runs and drives nice.I have put a far amount of work and money into her already(tune-up,radiator flush,new heater blower motor,brakes,tires,MAP sensor,tranny service,)

Now I just spent 70 bucks for an alignment that didn't go so well.Now the possibility of having to put new struts in her.All in all I would have to say the woman DIDN'T take good care of her.I bought it because of the low miles figuring I wouldn't have any major issues.I was wrong...lol.

As far as the springs go I do make it a habit to visually inspect my struts and springs whenever I go under my car for the first time.I didn't "see" anything out of the ordinary so i will perform your tests.

cougar214
05-23-2010, 11:47 AM
O'k pfofit.I did your tests and the only thing I noticed was there is some movement in the rear drivers side strut at the top.Not allot,maybe 1/8 to 1/4 inch.when I bounce it the metal washer moves up and down on one side.

The washers and rubber are as you show it in your pics.not crushing in or split that I can see.And all is pretty centered.Just the movement.I tried to move the spring but they wouldn't move.I'm not sure 100% though cause you didn't tell me if I had to do this with the car jacked up or not.There are also no cracks or broken spots and there is 2 1/2 inches between the coils all the way around.All the measurements with it on the ground.

And I was wrong about the clearance of the spring seats.I didn't take into consideration they are on an angle.From the bottom lowest portion of the seat to the inner edge of the tire I have about 1 3/4 inch clearance in the front and 3/4 inch in the rear.

Oh and my ride hight is 27 1/2 inches in the front and 26 1/2 in the rear(If i did it right)

pfofit
05-23-2010, 01:01 PM
there is some movement in the rear drivers side strut at the top.Not allot,maybe 1/8 to 1/4 inch.when I bounce it the metal washer moves up and down on one side.

I tried to move the spring but they wouldn't move.I'm not sure 100% though cause you didn't tell me if I had to do this with the car jacked up or not.

Oh and my ride hight is 27 1/2 inches in the front and 26 1/2 in the rear(If i did it right) To much movement I would say. Pic 1 below shows mine on the ground with only slight feel of flex in the rubber while bouncing. Try jacking up the car for that wheel and let the wheel hang down and if the collar has let go then the spring should try and pull it down through the mount and crush the fingers.

You should be able to move it, second pic I am using one hand and was able to move it 1/4" while taking the pic. Takes a bit but doable.

My 01 with PCS quicky measurements are all around 28" +/- 1/4" on un level gravel road but I remember last check they were the same/close enough on garage floor. Note in pic 3 that I should be measuring up through the center of the hub for consistency.:grinno:

If I guess from earlier posts that mount is the one with the bad camber in the rear.

As to the fronts, they could also be out due to bad ball joints or weak control arm bushings allowing the lower part of the wheel to push out. Do you know how to check them?

However, an alignment shop should have checked for this when running into troubles?

Added:
For the fun of it I jack up the frame and let the tire hang and pic'd the mount again under weight pic #4

cougar214
05-24-2010, 09:14 AM
Yes I did the whole 9-3 o'clock shake and 12-6 o'clock shake and there is no movement up and down or left to right so my tie rod ends and ball joints are in good order.

The only thing I noticed in the front is on both left and right sides the lower control arm that is connected to the body just in front of the tires.The bushings in them are torn.They are not falling out or mangled.Just torn around half the edge.

I will dig up my camera and take pics of them.It is something that is only noticeable with the car jacked up and the arms hang down.And yes the strut that is moving is the same drivers rear that can't get the camber right.

pfofit
05-24-2010, 02:47 PM
Yes I did the whole 9-3 o'clock shake and 12-6 o'clock shake and there is no movement up and down or left to right so my tie rod ends and ball joints are in good order. The 9-3 test for the tie rod ends is sufficient but I wouldn't trust the 12-6 for a ball joint. Only a really bad one.

For the true test:
With the car jacked on the frame and the wheel hanging freely, place a 18"+ pry between the control arm and where the BJ stud fits into the knuckle and push down and check for any vertical play. Watch your pry bar does not contact the BJ grease boot

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