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2005 Toyota Corolla - steering wheel cocked left

Alright, so I’m young and dumb and didnt replace my tires when I should have and during rain I hydroplaned and bounced off a guardrail, the damage was actually surprisingly minor but I did dent my rim and my steering wheel is cocked to the left very noticeably, about 25 degrees (If 90 is straight up and normal it drives straight now with the steering wheel at degree 115. I went to the junk yard and got a rim and then went to a tire shop and asked for an alignment, they said they couldnt align the tires because the strut is bent and they could replace for $350. I declined and instead decided to attempt it myself, almost everytime I go to the mechanics I feel like I’m getting played which is why I’m trying to do this stuff myself.

Doing some research I see theres also a control arm, control arm link, and sway bar in that area that could potentially be damaged

Looking up the symptoms these are the symptoms I do and dont experience

My real question is the steering wheel cocked by 25 degrees because of allignment (Which they cant do until they replace the supposedly bent strut) or is my problem with the steering wheel somewhere else?

Also I’m wondering how likely is it that the control issue is just the strut and not the control arm or sway bar?

YES

  1. Poor Control at highway speeds
  2. turning the steering wheel it feels like it yanks sometimes when I turn it all the way to one side
  3. Steering wheel cocked 25 degrees counter clockwise

NO
No Clunking Noise
Shocks are not bouncing

Maybe
Steering wander was always there, probably worse now though

I assume you only have liability insurance . If you have full coverage just make a claim . pay deductible and get it fixed properly.
By your questions I don’t think this is a job you should try. And I can almost assure you there is a lot of damage to be repaired .

Yes I’m inexperienced in struts but I dont think this is a difficult repair, I actually already went to a junk yard and removed a strut but before I start changing things out on a car that’s actually not on jacks yet I wanted to ask the forum. I have background experience tinkering on HUMVEE’s and MTVR’s in the Marines(replacing armored doors, locks, windshields, armor plates etc), but I was not a mechanic, just cross trained a bit since that’s what you do when you’re low on bodies. Plus, youtube can make anyone an amateur. I’d like to think I know more than the average person when it comes to vehicles, replaced bumpers, fenders, radiator, lights, hoods, etc
I do think I can do this repair.

Just to clarify if that’s where the confusion is,

“Doing some research I see theres also a control arm, control arm link, and sway bar in that area that could potentially be damaged”

I’m not saying that those components ARE damaged, I’m saying that they are in the general area and COULD be damaged in a similar fashion, and I’m wondering if the symptoms I show, most worrying is the control issue at high speeds and the steering wheel cock is a tell tale of those.

I’m just trying to save myself some time because I feel like this is one of the more common collision component damages and I don’t want to spend time changing out the strut just to be told when I align my tires there’s also an issue with X component and then have to then again go back to the junk yard, get X component, and then jack my car and change out X component.

Also I think it’s important that people should fix their own vehicle, I’d do anything myself as long as cost of time, parts, and tools is less then the cost to have someone else do it. Plus I gain knowledge which is very important. Knowledge is power.

And also I have an abundance of tools as I now own a renovation business.

Basically as it stands, if I do this myself I save a ton, junk yard will probably charge me ~50 for a used strut from a car with the same mileage as mine. If I get a brand new strut I’d most definitely have to replace the other side as well because this corolla is at 208,000 Miles.

I have replaced many bent lower control arms on Toyotas, they bend more often than struts.

A new lower control arm from Rock Auto is $42 to $56, a lower ball joint is $25, replace all three parts to play it safe before the alignment.

The steering wheel being off-center is an indication that parts were bent in the collision, this can’t be compensated for with adjustments, the bent parts must be replaced.

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We can-t diagnose what is bent via the internet. If you cannot see what is bent yourself, you will have to get it diagnosed by someone who can.

the junk yard I went to had a strut and sway bar in better condition(from a 2003 toyota corolla). I took the control arm as well but didnt install on my car since I thought it was kind of a pain in the ass to get one of the bolts out since the frame is in the way (Id have had to drop the underpart which is meh, didnt feel like doing that again unless I had to).
Cost me $30 in total.

After installing the strut and sway bar I took the car for a spin and the steering wheel is aligned properly now so my problem is solved. Havent taken it on the highway yet but I was going 60mph on a road and it seemed the control issue is resolved as well.

I think the original sway bar was fine as well but the hex key holes was a lil rusted and getting close to being rounded, the rubber boot thing was torn, and since I had to take it off anyway I just decided to use the one I got from the junk yard.

For anyone having a similar issue in the future, you will want a 17mm wrench(best to be ratcheting), a hex key set(for the sway bar), an extra floor jack because the brakes are heavy, 19mm wrench AND 19mm ratchet(bolt that couples them to the brakes), 14mm ratchet (Brake lines), and I think a 14mm or 12mm ratchet for the 3 top bolts(Strut tower?).

Was very easy and other then the hex key+17mm wrench thing for the sway bar, was pretty simple.

For the sway bar…
Apparently if your hex key is rounded from rust you will have to use a vice grip behind the rubber to prevent it from spinning and if that doesnt work you have to cut it off, you could probably also use a screw extractor on the hex key but this could be a REAL pain in the butt due to its location (lower hex+bolt is facing inwards and so you will have to be under the car, and since its lower its also more likely to be rusted I’d assume)

Luckily I didnt have a huge issue and my hex key hole was still serviceable

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An alignment is a good idea after a strut replacement. If you decide against an alignment, to preserve your tires carefully monitor their condition to make sure there’s no uneven tread-wear. Good for you for getting the steering wheel problem fixed :slight_smile:

Why do you recommend 2 floor jacks? Wouldn’t you first place the chassis on jackstands, then you could use the same floor jack to support the hub/brakes when it comes times to remove the strut.

The car comes with a scissor floor jack that I dont necessarily trust, especially mine as it’s completely rusted. I have 2 good floor jacks and 2 good jack stands, pumped the car up using 1 on either side, then put the jack stands in. Then I used 1 of the floor jacks for the brake and the last floor jack I put under the car as I was originally going to replace the control arm and I’d have had to drop a big metal carriage thing, but then decided against it as it’s a pain in the butt. So yea you only need 1 floor jack but if you are going to replace the control arm you will need 2 to be safe. Plus I feel more confident knowing in the unlikely scenario my jack stands were to fail, I’d still have a safety net as the floor jack under the carriage.

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