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2nd Gen Dakota 1997 - 2004 Dakota's

Alignment questions

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Old 05-18-2011, 10:13 PM
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Default Alignment questions

My Dakota is a 2 wheel drive with a V6 and 5 speed manual trans, 144,240 miles on it now.

On some roads I drive on when going straight the steering wheel is not straight, it is tilted probably 10 to 15 degrees to the left. Other roads it is not so bad, some other roads the wheel is straight as I drive down a straight section of the road. I can let go of the wheel and will get a gradual drift to the right but the wheel itself does not turn to the right when I let go of it like that. I drove in a straight line in a nice flat parking lot and the steering wheel was perfectly lined up straight as I drove in a straight line.

I replaced all 4 ball joints in January last year, and there is a very slight bit of play now when I grab hold of the tires at the 12 and 6:00 positions and push/pull in and out. The right front wheel has a little more movement than the left, but neither one moves very much at all. There is no play at all when I do that at the 3 and 9:00 positions. I replaced my front wheel bearing/hub assembles 2 months ago.

So I am wondering if the small amount of play in my ball joints is enough to whack out the alignment and/or make the steering wheel crooked? I also wonder why does my steering wheel run straight on certain roads and in the parking lot test but turn to the left on other roads? I do live in central Florida, we get a lot of rain and most of the roads as you look at them are slanted down to the right, so the rain will drain off.

I appreciate any help or ideas you might have here.

Jimmy
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Old 05-19-2011, 01:52 AM
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Theoretically, you should get an alignment after any kind of tampering with the control arm hardware. If after all those miles you haven't gotten an alignment, it may be in your best interest to get it done. How does your tire tread look? Even?
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Old 05-19-2011, 08:22 AM
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Tires are new, BFG Long Trail T/A's. They only have about 5,000 miles on them but they look good and have no abnormal wear patterns. I replaced my inner tie rods last year too and had it aligned then. The truck tracks straight and does not have any steering problems other than the slanted steering wheel. Thanks.

Jimmy
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Old 05-19-2011, 11:47 AM
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LIke Rakaric said, you could probably use an alignment if its never been done.
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Old 05-19-2011, 01:07 PM
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When the alignment gets done, the steering wheel should also get straightened. ...at least that's what the shop did when mine got whacked out in an accident. I'm not sure what it takes to go and straighten the wheel. I guess what you could do is go to a shop and ask what can be done. Who knows...maybe you won't have to pay the full price of an alignment. Rather, just fix the steering wheel.
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Old 05-19-2011, 01:24 PM
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Thanks for the replies. My truck has been aligned, twice in the last year or so. A few years ago I bought a 3 year alignment policy on it. For some reason it has always been hard to get the steering wheel straight when they do an alignment on my truck.

The ball joints I put on last year have lifetime replacement warranties. The uppers are Duralast brand from Autozone and the lowers are TRW from Advance. As long as both AZ and AAP will warranty exchange them for me I think what I will do is just replace all 4 ball joints again. Then go get another alignment done, but my 3 year alignment policy expired last November. If the ball joints get loose again after that, well I may have to drop serious money on Moog ball joints I guess. Moog are supposed to be the best but they cost about $70.00 each. I thought TRW would be OK. And I read online that TRW makes the Duralast ball joints for Autozone.

I don't like the crooked steering wheel and I sure don't want to ruin my new tires either. It's a royal pain to have to swap out the ball joints again this soon but if that's what it takes then I will do it. I doubt a shop could do a good alignment with play in the ball joints, even if it is very slight.

Thanks for the help here.

Jimmy
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Old 05-21-2011, 08:19 PM
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I checked my ball joints today, both front tires had what just felt like a slight grunt, just a little bit of give when I did the 12:00 and 6:00 push/pull test on it.

I watched the ball joints while pushing and pulling on the tires and I saw no movement at all in any of the 4 joints. I removed the wheels and the brake rotors have just a slight bit of give when I push/pull on the bottom side of the rotor. I think that is where the slight bit of movement in the tires comes from. I believe the ball joints are OK.

I rotated my tires and still have the steering wheel tilted to the left when driving straight. So that rules out a tire problem. Now I hope that all I need is just an alignment. If it needs a steering rack I'll cross that bridge if/when I come to it. There are no other problems at all with my steering, not that I can tell anyway.

Thanks for the help here.

Jimmy
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Old 05-21-2011, 10:49 PM
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If anyone is wondering, When they straighten the steering wheel in an alignment its called a 5 wheel alignment.They just put the wheel in the correct position and put a steering wheel lock on it.They then adjust the toe setting to the correct specs and your good to go.The only other way I know of to move the steering wheels position is to take the shaft lose at the steering rack and rotate it 360 degrees but more than likely that would be too much rotation and it would be off in the other direction.
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Old 05-22-2011, 02:14 PM
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I found this online, it's a DIY to straighten the wheel yourself. I don't have any abnormal wear on my tires and my truck tracks straight, doesn't pull to one side or the other. So I think I will try this first before I spend $80.00 on an alignment:

http://www.ramforumz.com/showthread.php?t=46601

If it doesn't work then I'll take it in to a tire shop and pay for alignment again.

Thanks

Jimmy
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Old 06-25-2011, 04:17 PM
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Here's an update..Just wanted to put this out there for any of us who might have this same problem. Today I finally got around to doing the procedure in that post link from Ramforumz. Just wanted to say it worked great.

I put my truck up on jack stands, had the wheels pointing straight out and used a silver Sharpie marker to make reference marks on the inner and outer tie rods. Then I used one wrench to hold the flat area on the outer tie rod end to hold it steady and cracked the jam nut loose with another wrench. I turned each inner tie rod about half an inch toward the back of my truck. Then I held the inner tie rod tight with my Knipex pliers and tightened the jam nut back down again. I went for a test drive on a couple of roads around here where the steering wheel used to be really off center by about 10 or 15 degrees to the left, even though the truck would be tracking in a straight line. The steering wheel was perfectly straight on my test drive today. I need to drive it for a few days or a week in different areas but I think I got it just about as close to perfect as I can. It seems like if I were to tweak the inner tie rods any further it might tilt the steering wheel too far to the right.

I just wanted to put this out there. If your alignment seems to be OK but the steering wheel is cocked to one side try the tie rod adjustment. As long as you turn both inners the same amount forward or backward it should not mess up the toe adjustments. I tried to check my toe with a couple of measurements between the inside of the front wheels with a tape measure, it was hard to do that by myself with no one to hold the end of the tape measure but it looked like they were all about the same measurement. My wheels don't look like they lean in or out and when the steering wheel is straight the front wheels point straight, so I think the toe is probably OK.

The inner tie rod adjustment trick saved me from spending $80.00 on another alignment. Maybe it can help someone else here too, sooner or later.

Jimmy
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Last edited by 01SilverCC; 06-25-2011 at 06:10 PM..
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Old 06-25-2011, 04:17 PM
 
 
 
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