Alignment Question

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Hi I have a 2007 Malibu with what I think has an alignment problem. First of of all, holding the wheel perfectly straight the car drifts to the right. To go straight I have to hold the wheel slightly to the left. Funny thing is the wheels look straight when the steering wheel is centered. Also, sometimes from a stop, if you let go of the steering wheel and hit the gas the steering wheel will go turn left slightly (very noticeable though) and then return to center as speed increases. It also doesn't seem very consistent. Rarely when holding the steering wheel straight the car goes straight and other times it want to drift right like mentioned. Does this sound like a regular alignment problem? I have been under the car and everything looked tight. Last time I looked though [it may have been in my head] but I think the drivers side tie rod may have been been bent VERY slightly. Is this a possible cause?
 
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The drift problem may be tire related, but I still think you should get the alignment checked and adjusted. I had the same problem with my Saturn. I put in 4 new struts and two front strut mounts, got an alignment, and the problem is solved. Also, if you drive on the slow lane a lot, you can align the car with 0.25 deg more positive caster and an additional 0.25 degree of negative camber on the RF. This will prevent the car from drifting to the right. It worked great for my Saturn.
 

RoGuE

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Well this stock tires are quite awful so I wouldn't put it past them to be the culprit. I'll make an appointment. For past cars I have gotten the Firestone lifetime alignment but the price has gone up to $150 and I have a coupon at the dealer for $55 so I'll go to the dealer instead.
 
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It isn't unusual to get a pull to the right from the crown of the road. Before you have the alignment checked, drive in the exact center of the road and see if it does the same thing. I have a radial tire that makes my car pull to one side a little-when it is rotated to the front, anyway.
 

RoGuE

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I'm pretty sure it isn't from the crown of the road because it happens on all roads. I just made an appointment at the dealer to get it aligned so I'll let you know what the sheet shows. Besides, I trust the dealer more than the people at Firestone to do it correctly.
 
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If you have a laser level put it at 4 and 8 oclock on your front tires when they're "straight" and aim the laser at the rear tires. Should barely miss (by the amount of space between the diode and edge of the level) at zero degrees toe. If nothing else, take this measurement then do it again after the alignment to see if they did anything. You can also use the bubble part, at 1 and 5 oclock, to check your camber, the bubble should be about level or at least off the same on both sides. (need a perfectly flat surface for this test)
 
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So far, it may just be that the steering wheel is not centered. You state that you have to hold the wheel to make it turn, not that the car drifts by itself.
 

RoGuE

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I'm sorry, it does do it by itself, but holding the wheel straight just makes it drift to the right even more. I stayed in the center of street for a couple seconds and ti still seemed to do it. We'll see tomorrow.
 
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I need Paul Harvey to say: "And now you know the rest of the story!". Bad toe wears tires, but pulls are generally camber problems. One wheel is leaning more than the other. It will go where that tire is leaning. Also, rear alignment is critical on FWD cars. They steer, too. But front end alignment camber is probably what you need to look into. Bent or worn parts cause a camber change.
 

RoGuE

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Got it done this morning. It needed it according to this. It fixed my issue. Actually I think it may be pulling to the left now [very slightly, can barely notice it] when holding the wheel straight. I may go back and have them try to re-center the steering wheel. Here is the before and after sheets. Before After
 
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Amazing they fixed your problem. Either that alignment machine is faulty or the tech doesn't know how to operate it. No SAI measurement (critical measurement for diagnosis) and didn't even measure the caster! that's alignment 101. Looks like all they did was adjust the front toe slightly. Hope you didn't pay much...
 

RoGuE

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After driving it for another day it isn't completely fixed. Holding the steering wheel perfectly straight, it seems that it drifts slightly to the left now. Very slight. I got my dad to drive it and he said he doesn't notice it, but then again I drive it everyday. I was going to call and ask for it to be redone. I honestly didn't even notice caster wasn't measured. I also notice on the left rear tire, the camber is very borderline with the specified range at -1.3 degrees. I think they could have at least moved it a bit. Also, the camber on the right rear changes from -0.5 to -0.4 which is actually worse by being closer to the specified range. With an alignment is it normal practice to try and center the wheels in the middle of the range or if it is within then leave it alone? I was looking through old spec sheets on old cars [usually done at Firestone or similar] and I notice that none of them show SAI being checked but all of the show caster. And here is the kicker. If you notice the times on the sheets, the difference from the before and after only 8 minutes... This was done at a Chevrolet [it used to be a Bill Heard dealer but another local dealer opened a second location at the same place when all the Bill Heards closed up] So would you say I have a case to go back and have it redone?
 
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RoGuE

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I just called and he said I can bring it back and he will ask the alignment guy why the caster wasn't checked...
 
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I think the toe can be a bit better. Your problem is probably with the cross-camber. I think the amount of cross-camber you have, especially in the rear, isn't helping your problem. I have struts with elongated mounting holes, so I'm able to perfect my camber adjustments. Here's what my alignment looks like. It was done on a fairly new Hunter rack:
 

RoGuE

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Would it be unreasonable of me to ask them to try and center all the values close to the center of the ranges? And I will ask them if it is possible for them to check the SAI and included angle, even though I don't recall ever seeing those filled out on alignment sheets before.
 
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 Originally Posted By: RoGuE
Would it be unreasonable of me to ask them to try and center all the values close to the center of the ranges? And I will ask them if it is possible for them to check the SAI and included angle, even though I don't recall ever seeing those filled out on alignment sheets before.
SAI and Included Angle can be checked with the newer Hunter racks. You can ask him to please align the toe to the "preferred settings." As far as the camber goes, you may need an aftermarket camber kit in order to make any adjustments. I am not familiar with the Malibu, but on my Saturn you can adjust the camber by elongating the strut mounting holes. Alternatively, you can install camber bolts. I would research your car and see what parts you may need to adjust the camber. Either way, I'm not even sure if it's really necessary to adjust the camber in this case. Your pulling problem may be caused by something else.
 
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Even a cheap 20 year old alignment machine can measure SAI and Included angle. It's just an extra step in the initial setup. It only takes and extra minute (at most) to do. I always used to measured it. You never know when you'll find some bent parts that were missed previously.
 

RoGuE

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Okay, I'll be sure to mention that I would like all those checked. Thanks everyone, I'll let you know how it goes.
 

RoGuE

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Got it realigned and it now is a good as possible for me. They did not check the caster because they claim it is not adjustable...Either way the car goes straight now, so I'm happy. They did adjust toe a bit on all 4 wheels, as well as camber.
 
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