Loose steering, scary as hell. - GM Forum - Buick, Cadillac, Chev, Olds, GMC & Pontiac chat


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Old 07-10-2006, 07:57 PM   #1
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Default Loose steering, scary as hell.

Though I'm pretty sure already what the problem is I'd like to get some more opinions. When I'm on the highway at normal speeds, especially above 70, my steering seems really loose. If I'm doing say 70mph and punch the gas, my wheels wiggle loose as if I was having torque steer. The front end just seems VERY floaty and today was one of the worst days in how it was handling. I was even holding steady at 77 and I felt like I had to hold the wheel or my life to keep the car straight. The steering is not fighting me, i.e. the car drives straight and the wheel does not PULL to one side or the other when my hands are off it, the wheels just seems loose.

My question is what exactly can cause this? I'm guessing my ball joints need changing, but what else can cause this besides tie rod ends? I really don't have the tools to change the ball joints myself, and was hoping someone had an idea of what I should expect to pay at a shop to replace them? Any other advice on what to replace to be safe would be nice. I'm planning on driving to TO in a month and I don't know if I'd trust the car without doing something. Thanks.
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Old 07-10-2006, 08:26 PM   #2
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Any unusual wear on the front tires?
When was the last time the tires were rotated?
Have you checked the tire pressures?
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Old 07-10-2006, 08:33 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Technical Ted
Any unusual wear on the front tires?
When was the last time the tires were rotated?
Have you checked the tire pressures?
I haven't checked the pressure in a while. But they don't look too low. But it'* possible they are a little below 35psi. I did rotate the tires maybe a month ago, and they tread did look a bit worn on the driver'* side front, on the edge of the tire. I threw that tire on the back. Right now the two front tires have more tread, and even tread.

If it even is relevant, I swapped rims with another member and after installing them, I got a bumpy ride at high speeds, which I assumed was unbalanced wheels. I wish I kept the original wheels/tires since they seemed better, BUT I did notice these same symptoms with the last wheels/tires too, but VERY VERY mild, nowhere near as bad as they are now, more evident in the rain/slippery roads.
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Old 07-10-2006, 08:36 PM   #4
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Default Re: Loose steering, scary as H***.

Well, If the tie rod ends/bushings/balljoints are worn out, you tend to get a front end that vibrates a lot and steering feels mushy. (I'm doing a car right now with 177k on the originals and they are all shot) By "mushy" I mean you can wiggle the steering wheel back and forth going down the road and nothing happens.

To me, what you are describing sounds like over-inflated tires / poor tires / bad alignment in terms of camber (too much) and/or caster (too little). The car feels "twitchy" and is doing things on it'* own instead of tracking a straight line. Weight transfers front to rear would also change the feel.

What is your tire pressure? Try knocking off 5 lbs and see if it gets better.
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Old 07-10-2006, 09:02 PM   #5
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Default Re: Loose steering, scary as H***.

Quote:
Originally Posted by clm2112
Well, If the tie rod ends/bushings/balljoints are worn out, you tend to get a front end that vibrates a lot and steering feels mushy. (I'm doing a car right now with 177k on the originals and they are all shot) By "mushy" I mean you can wiggle the steering wheel back and forth going down the road and nothing happens.

To me, what you are describing sounds like over-inflated tires / poor tires / bad alignment in terms of camber (too much) and/or caster (too little). The car feels "twitchy" and is doing things on it'* own instead of tracking a straight line. Weight transfers front to rear would also change the feel.

What is your tire pressure? Try knocking off 5 lbs and see if it gets better.
Well my tire pressure is definitely not higher than it should be. The last time I checked (4-5 weeks...bad, I know) it was 35psi. It can't be more than that. I will check it though.

BUT, I forgot to mention, I CAN wiggle the steering wheel back and forth and nothing really happens. I only wiggle an inch or so each way at most, but my last Bonne which had more miles, steered with every wiggle of the wheel.

ALSO, based on what you said about "twitchy" and "doing things on it'* own" explains what'* happening too.

The reason I asked about this is because even though I'm only at 110,000 miles, I do think my ball joints are bad (though it seems a bit soon at my miles), but I am trying to figure out if there are MORE things wrong, and not just one.
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Old 07-10-2006, 10:04 PM   #6
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That is funny I have a 99 SSEI that does the same thing. The steering seems real loose at higher speeds. I am not sure but my Bonne has that magnasteer **** that GM put on this car. Could that be the reason?

A.J.
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Old 07-10-2006, 10:07 PM   #7
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Is it excessive steering wheel free play? Do you experience understeer? The rack & pinion may be wearing out. just my .02
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Old 07-10-2006, 10:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markwb
Is it excessive steering wheel free play? Do you experience understeer? The rack & pinion may be wearing out. just my .02
No understeer at all. I would easily consider this excessive play. I do not feel that safe or that "in control" of the car at higher speeds. I would prefer to have understeer compared to this.

I guess I'm wondering what I should do first. I doubt struts are the cause, though I need them, I want to focus on the floatiness. Should I just do the ball joints and perhaps the tie rod ends since if those completely failed it would cause the most damage? I don't have the money/time to replace things that are not failing. But if there'* really no way to hit the nail on the head, I guess I'll replace the cheapest parts first.
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Old 07-10-2006, 11:27 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bonnie94ssei
Quote:
Originally Posted by markwb
Is it excessive steering wheel free play? Do you experience understeer? The rack & pinion may be wearing out. just my .02
No understeer at all. I would easily consider this excessive play. I do not feel that safe or that "in control" of the car at higher speeds. I would prefer to have understeer compared to this.

I guess I'm wondering what I should do first. I doubt struts are the cause, though I need them, I want to focus on the floatiness. Should I just do the ball joints and perhaps the tie rod ends since if those completely failed it would cause the most damage? I don't have the money/time to replace things that are not failing. But if there'* really no way to hit the nail on the head, I guess I'll replace the cheapest parts first.
Mine does this also. It may just be air flow under the front end of the car at a higher speed.
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Old 07-10-2006, 11:28 PM   #10
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[quote="bonnie94ssei"]
Quote:
Originally Posted by markwb
I guess I'm wondering what I should do first. I doubt struts are the cause, though I need them, I want to focus on the floatiness. Should I just do the ball joints and perhaps the tie rod ends since if those completely failed it would cause the most damage? I don't have the money/time to replace things that are not failing. But if there'* really no way to hit the nail on the head, I guess I'll replace the cheapest parts first.
Ok, time to get it up on jackstands, take the wheels off, and start looking. Check the rubber boots on the ball joints and tie rods ends. Anything with a cracked or torn boot should be considered toast. Take a look at the bushings, you can see them when they are gone (rubber all cracked or torn.) You can check for play in the rack while you are under there.

The good news: Ball Joints, Tie Rods, and Bushings are cheap. And at 110k miles on the originals, they are probably due for replacement (especially if they are sealed ones without grease fittings)
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