Steering and Suspension Wheel Alignment | Statesboro, GA

Steering and Suspension

Steering and Suspension components are checked with every oil change

Suspension Components

Description:

Suspension components typically include springs, shocks, struts, bushings, control arms, strut rods, and the sway bar.

Purpose:

Suspension components are responsible for maintaining the relationship between the wheels and the frame or unibody. The suspension system interacts directly with the steering system to provide vehicle control.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Your vehicle’s suspension system should be checked regularly, at least once a year, along with a complete wheel alignment. Worn or damaged suspension system components can cause wandering, pulling, erratic steering, excessive tire wear, leaning, bottoming out, or poor ride and handling. To get professional help with your car’s suspension system, contact a qualified service technician at D and R Car Care and Lube Center.

Struts

Description:

Struts are used on the front end of almost all front-wheel-drive vehicles. Technically known as MacPherson struts, they’re much more than a shock absorber with a different name. A strut integrates numerous suspension parts into one compact assembly, including the coil spring, spring seats, shock absorber, strut bearing, and steering knuckle. The shock absorber portion of the strut is the most commonly serviced portion of the strut assembly.

Purpose:

Because it integrates different components into one assembly, a strut serves multiple purposes. With its spring, it can support the weight of the vehicle, while moving to adapt to road irregularities. The internal shock absorber dampens movement of the spring as it compresses and rebounds during vehicle travel. The strut housing serves as a structural part of the suspension system and connects the upper strut bearing to the lower ball joint so that the entire assembly can pivot when the steering wheel is turned.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Your vehicle’s struts should be checked once a year, usually in conjunction with a wheel alignment. Under normal conditions, the shock absorber portion, ”the strut cartridge”, wears out gradually and you may not notice incremental losses in ride quality, handling and control. Some signs that your vehicle may have worn struts include bottoming out, excessive bouncing, rocking back and forth, drifting or nose-diving while braking, swaying, or cupping wear on the tires. If your car needs MacPherson strut service, it may also be a good time to replace the coil springs. Since they usually need to be removed when changing struts, you can save labor costs by installing new springs at the same time. For a complete check of your vehicle’s suspension system, have it thoroughly inspected by a qualified service technician at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center.

Shocks

Description:

Shock absorbers, or “shocks” are usually used on cars and light trucks with standard suspension systems. Shocks provide resistance by forcing hydraulic fluid (oil) through valves in the piston as it moves up and down. Because the oil cannot be compressed, only a certain amount of fluid can be forced through these valves, which creates resistance to vehicle movement. Premium shocks are superior to regular hydraulic shocks because air in the shock is replaced by pressurized nitrogen gas. This prevents bubbles from forming in the hydraulic fluid. These bubbles, called foaming, reduce the ability of shocks to provide resistance and prevent bounce. Gas shocks also quicken the response of a shock’s movement, thereby increasing comfort and control.

Purpose:

Shock absorbers dampen movement of the vehicle’s springs as they compress and rebound during vehicle travel. Without shocks, a vehicle would continually bounce, making control difficult. Shock absorbers have a strong influence on vehicle control and handling and hold the tires to the road.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Your vehicle’s shocks should be checked once a year, usually in conjunction with a wheel alignment. Under normal conditions, shocks wear out gradually and you may not notice incremental losses in ride quality, handling and control. Some signs that your vehicle may have worn shocks include excessive bouncing, rocking back and forth, drifting or nose-diving while braking, swaying, or cupping wear on the tires. For a complete check of your vehicle’s suspension system, have it thoroughly inspected at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center by a qualified service technician. If an inspection reveals the need for new shocks, consider premium shocks made especially for your driving habits. If you’re a pick-up or SUV owner, upgrading your shocks can bring a big improvement in overall ride quality and handling.

Springs

Description:

Automobiles and light trucks use different types of springs, depending on the suspension design. The coil spring is most common, and may be used at both the front and rear. The leaf spring is the oldest type of spring and is most commonly used at the rear. The torsion bar, although not a traditional spring, is used on the front of some cars and light trucks. Some vehicles have air suspension systems and use air springs, which combine a coil spring and a flexible air chamber.

Purpose:

Springs support the weight of the vehicle and allow the suspension system to move and adapt to road irregularities, compressing when the wheels hit a bump and expanding when the wheels encounter a dip. Vehicles with air springs also have the ability to change ride height based on driving conditions.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Springs weaken gradually over time and may sag, causing your vehicle’s ride height to drop. Springs can also break as they age. Ride height influences steering and suspension operation, so it’s important to have it checked along with a thorough visual inspection of the springs. Have this done once a year, at the same time as a wheel alignment. Weak or damaged springs can cause “bottoming out”, abnormal tire wear, improper handling and increased wear of steering and suspension parts. You may want to consider upgrading the springs on your vehicle to increase its load-carrying abilities. These springs provide increased capacity without affecting ride quality. If your car needs its MacPherson struts replaced, it may also be a good time to replace the coil springs. Since they usually need to be removed when changing struts, you can save labor costs by installing new springs at the same time. For the best handling, ride and performance, have your vehicle’s steering and suspension system maintained by a qualified service professional at D and R Car Care and Lube Center.

Sway Bar

Description:

The sway bar, also known as a stabilizer bar, is made of spring steel and mounts to the frame or unibody. The ends of the sway bar connect to the lower control arms.

Purpose:

The sway bar helps reduce vehicle lean during cornering.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems, including the sway bar, bushings, and links, should be checked regularly, at least once a year along with a complete wheel alignment. Worn, damaged or missing bushings can cause excessive leaning on turns or a metallic rattling sound from underneath the vehicle when going over bumps. To get professional help with your vehicle’s steering and suspension problems, contact a qualified service technician at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center today!

Ball Joint

Description:

A ball joint consists of a hardened-steel, bearing stud and socket enclosed in a steel housing. The bearing stud is tapered and threaded and fits into a tapered hole in the steering knuckle. A protective boot prevents dirt from entering the joint assembly. Ball joints are used on the front end of virtually every car and light truck. Vehicles with conventional suspension systems use two ball joints per wheel: an upper and a lower ball joint. Cars with MacPherson strut suspension systems use a lower ball joint and an upper strut bearing rather than an upper ball joint.

Purpose:

Ball joints serve as the pivot points between the tires and suspension. Ball joints also support weight. On some vehicles, the ball joints may be used to make wheel alignment settings.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Many cars use “lubed for life” ball joints that can’t be lubricated. Replacement ball joints often come with lubrication fittings. If your car has lubrication fittings, the ball joints should be lubricated at every oil change. Ball joints, along with other suspension components, should be inspected annually along with a complete wheel alignment. The most common vehicle symptoms associated with worn ball joints are wandering, uneven tire wear, and erratic steering. Ball joint inspection methods and specifications vary, so have your vehicle inspected by a qualified service professional at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center today!

Steering Components

Power Steering Pump

Description:

The power steering pump is typically a vane style pump driven by a belt off the engine. A fluid reservoir may be mounted to the pump itself or the reservoir may be mounted remotely. The pump may use specialized power steering fluid or automatic transmission fluid.

Purpose:

The pump generates high pressures used to reduce steering effort, easing driver fatigue. Some cars use variable-assist power steering systems (check the owner’s manual to see if your car has this feature), which provide more assist at low speeds and reduces assist at higher speeds. This provides the most assist when needed, reduces over-steer in emergency situations and provides better on-highway feel.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

When turning the steering wheel, never hold the steering wheel in the extreme right or left position for more than a few seconds, this could damage the pump. Check the power steering fluid level at every oil change. This is also a good time to ensure that the power steering drive belt is tight. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on the type of power steering fluid to use. Fluids need to be compatible with hoses and seals and in some cases the recommended fluid may be automatic transmission fluids such Dexron. It’s possible to check the power steering fluid level when your car is cold, but it’s usually recommended to check the fluid with the car warmed up. Many cars today use a semi-transparent reservoir for power steering fluid, so look for a fluid level mark on the outside. If the reservoir has no markings, open the reservoir’s cap. There should be a small dipstick attached that provides the level reading. Use care not to run the system low on fluid; insufficient fluid level can damage the power steering pump. Some common warning signs of power steering problems may be high steering effort, erratic power steering assist, a loud whining sound from the pump, frequent “topping off” of the fluid reservoir, and a squealing pump drive belt. If your car is equipped with variable-assist power steering and the amount of effort required in steering changes while driving at a constant speed, have the system analyzed by a professional service technician at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center.

Power Steering Hoses

Description:

Power steering systems have two hoses, a high-pressure hose and a low-pressure hose. The high-pressure hose is made from a reinforced synthetic compound and the hose fittings are usually double-flared compression fittings. The low-pressure hose is similar in construction, but it may not use compression fittings due to the lower pressure in this hose.

Purpose:

The high-pressure (supply) hose carries high-pressure oil from the power steering pump to the steering gear. The low-pressure (return) hose carries oil from the steering gear back to the pump or its reservoir.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Check the power steering fluid level at every oil change and inspect the hoses regularly. When checking the hoses, look for leaks, rusted or corroded fittings, sponginess, stiffness, and cuts and abrasions. Hoses showing any of these conditions should be replaced. Refer to your car’s owner’s manual for specific recommendations on the type of power steering fluid to use. Fluids need to be compatible with hoses and seals and in some cases the recommended fluid may be automatic transmission fluids such as Dexron. It’s possible to check the power steering fluid level when your car is cold, but it’s usually recommended to check the fluid with the car warmed up. Many cars today use a semi-transparent reservoir for power steering fluid, so look for a fluid level mark on the outside. If the reservoir has no markings, open the reservoir’s cap. There should be a small dipstick attached that provides the level reading. Use care not to run the system low on fluid; insufficient fluid level can damage the power steering pump.

Steering Gear

Description:

The re-circulating ball steering gear has been traditionally used on rear-wheel-drive cars, SUVs and many light trucks. This type of steering gear uses a worm gear and ball bearings to rotate the sector shaft, which connects to the pitman arm. The rack and pinion steering gear is usually found on front-wheel-drive cars. A pinion gear moves a horizontal rack gear connected to the steering linkage. Rack and pinion steering gears are most common due to the popularity of front wheel drive. Their compact design does way with the need for an idler arm, pitman arm and center link.

Purpose:

The steering gear converts and multiplies rotational force from the steering wheel into the force required to move the steering linkage, which steers the vehicle.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Check the power steering fluid level at every oil change. This is also a good time to ensure that the power steering drive belt is tight. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for specific recommendations on the type of power steering fluid to use. Fluids need to be compatible with hoses and seals and in some cases the recommended fluid may be automatic transmission fluids such as Dexron. The steering gear should be inspected closely at least once a year, usually at the same time as a wheel alignment, or more often as needed. The steering gear should be checked for leaks, looseness, wear, and loose mounting bolts and bushings. Symptoms of a worn steering gear include wandering, excessive play in the steering wheel, no power assist when cold, and fluid loss. If your car exhibits any of these symptoms, have it checked out as soon as possible by a qualified service technician at D & R Intensive Car Care and Lube Center.

Idler Arm

Description:

The idler arm is used on vehicles with conventional suspension systems and parallelogram steering. This type of suspension and steering arrangement is used on virtually all rear-wheel-drive vehicles, SUVs and many light trucks. Essentially, the idler arm is a pivoting support for the steering linkage. The idler arm consists of a bracket, an arm that connects the bracket to the center link of the steering linkage, and an internal pivot bearing. A few vehicles use two idler arms.

Purpose:

The idler arm assists the pitman arm by supporting the steering linkage as it moves in the direction controlled by the steering gear.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

The idler arm should be lubricated at every oil change. The idler arm, along with other suspension components, should be inspected annually along with a complete wheel alignment. The most common vehicle symptoms associated with a worn idler arm include wandering, tire edge wear, and loose or erratic steering. Idler arm inspection techniques and specifications vary; have your vehicle inspected by a qualified service professional at D and R Car Care and Lube Center today!

Pitman Arm

Description:

A pitman arm is used on vehicles with conventional suspension systems and parallelogram steering. This type of suspension and steering arrangement is used on virtually all rear-wheel-drive vehicles, SUVs and many light trucks. The pitman arm consists of a splined arm that connects with the steering gear and a threaded bearing stud and seat. The lower part of the threaded bearing stud is covered with a protective dust boot that prevents dirt entry into the bearing and seat. The upper part of the bearing stud connects to the center link of the steering linkage.

Purpose:

The steering gear shaft turns in direct relation to input from the driver. The pitman arm attaches to the steering gear shaft and acts as a lever, converting torque from the steering gear to mechanical force for movement of the steering linkage.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

The pitman arm should be lubricated at every oil change. The pitman arm, along with other suspension components, should be inspected annually along with a complete wheel alignment. The most common vehicle symptoms associated with a worn pitman arm include play in the steering wheel, wandering, tire edge wear, and loose or erratic steering. Idler arm inspection techniques and specifications vary; have your vehicle inspected by a qualified service professional at D and R Car Care and Lube Center today!

Tie Rods

Description:

The tie rods connect the center link to the steering knuckle on cars with conventional suspension systems and re-circulating ball steering gears. On vehicles with MacPherson strut suspension and rack-and pinion steering gears, the tie rods connect the end of the rack to the steering knuckle. A tie rod consists of an inner and an outer end.

Purpose:

The tie rod transmits force from the steering center link or the rack gear to the steering knuckle, causing the wheels to turn. The outer tie rod end connects with an adjusting sleeve, which allows the length of the tie rod to be adjustable. This adjustment is used to set a vehicle’s “toe”, a critical alignment angle.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Your vehicle’s steering and suspension systems should be checked regularly, at least once a year along with a complete wheel alignment. A worn tie rod end can cause wandering, erratic steering, and excessive tire wear. If tie rod replacement is necessary, a wheel alignment is also required because tie rod replacement disturbs the toe setting. For best results, consult a qualified service technician at D and R Car Care and Lube Center for professional advice and service on your vehicle’s suspension and steering systems.

Knuckle

Description:

On cars with conventional suspension systems, the steering knuckle includes a spindle and connects the upper and lower ball joints. On cars with MacPherson strut suspension systems, the steering knuckle connects the strut assembly to the lower ball joint.

Purpose:

The steering knuckle is the pivot point of the steering system, which allows the wheels to turn. On cars with conventional suspension systems, the steering knuckle’s spindle locates and supports the inner and outer wheel bearings. On cars with MacPherson strut suspension systems, the steering knuckle has an opening to allow connection of the CV axle shaft to the wheel hub and bearing assembly.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Have your vehicle’s alignment checked once a year. A bent or damaged steering knuckle affects proper wheel alignment. The alignment process checks the steering knuckle angles to ensure that they meet carmaker design specifications. Most SUVs, pickups and rear-wheel-drive cars need regular front wheel bearing maintenance. This can prevent expensive damage to the steering knuckle’s spindle should a bearing seize. Have the bearings cleaned, inspected and repacked with fresh lubricant every two years or 24,000 miles. If the wheel bearings are exposed to any underwater conditions, even for a short period, the bearings need to be serviced more frequently. The wheel seals should also be replaced every time the bearings are serviced. For best results, consult a qualified service technician at D and R Car Care and Lube Center for professional advice and service on your vehicle’s suspension and steering systems.

Wheel Alignment

Description:

Wheel alignment consists of a series of interrelated measurements and adjustments that bring a vehicle’s steering, suspension and on-road driving characteristics into manufacturers’ specifications.

Purpose:

Proper wheel alignment reduces tire wear, improves fuel economy and handling, while increasing driving enjoyment and safety.

Maintenance Tips/Suggestions:

Have your vehicle’s alignment checked once a year. Normal wear and road conditions can take their toll on your vehicle’s steering and suspension system, possibly throwing the alignment settings out of specifications. Traditionally, alignments have always been associated with only the front wheels, but no longer. Consider this: The rear wheels set the direction of vehicle travel; the front wheels steer the vehicle. Having all four wheels checked ensures directional harmony as your vehicle goes down the road. Some common symptoms of your vehicle needing an alignment include uneven tire tread wear, pulling to one side, wandering, and an off-center steering wheel. Start an annual routine of alignment checks and you won’t have to experience reduced tread wear and a loss of vehicle performance. While having your vehicles alignment set, it also serves as the perfect opportunity to balance your vehicle’s tires.

Wheel alignments are not currently performed by D and R Car Care and Lube Center, however, we can handle all of your vehicle’s steering and suspension needs. Your vehicle may need to be aligned with the above listed replacement parts, and we would be glad to recommend an alignment center or have the alignment taken care of for you. At D and R Car Care and Lube Center our mission is to be the premier provider of quality car care services.