Alignment and Rack and Pinion

I have a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am SE 4cyl with 212,000 miles.

I just got new tires and I went to check my alignment and they said my front camber and rear camber are off by a little/some. Caster and toe are good. They said there’s no way to adjust the camber. So what do I do now? I asked them to check the suspension parts and they said they are all tight and good. Is it ok to keep driving without fixing the camber? Or are my tires going to wear out faster? Should I get a second opinion from another mechanic?

My steering doesn’t feel smooth. On the highway, I feel like it moves a little to the left and to the right. I have to hold the steering wheel with more force to better control the car. I don’t know how to describe it but it doesn’t feel smooth and straight, more like kind of hard to turn and crooked. Could it be the rack and pinion? This car has 212,000 miles so how long does a rack and pinion last? It looks like around 100 to 200 dollars for the part plus labor cost to change it. I forgot to ask them to check the rack and pinion. Can you tell if it is bad by checking it or the only way to know is by replacing it?

I have been using a turkey baster to remove as much old power steering fluid as possible and then I add in Bar’s Leaks Power Steering Repair or Prestone Power Steering Fluid. Not sure if it makes any difference because after I drive it for a while and check the fluid, it is dirty again. I guess the fluid must be old and dirty at the very bottom or something. Do I need to do a power steering flush to remove all old fluid?

What about power steering pump? Should I replace it because of the mileage of the car? I don’t see any power steering fluid leaks. So if there is a problem with the steering, then it is probably some worn out part that needs to be replaced?

Post a picture of the readout sheet they gave you or at least text with the numbers for each measurement.

More likely worn suspension components causing drifting or difficulty maintaining straight steering than the rack itself. If the fluid is dirty, can’t hurt to flush it out and replace with fresh fluid.

How long did your previous set of tires last? Any issues that may have caused damage to the suspension? At 212k miles and 23 years, it would be expected that there is worn out parts that need replacing…

Have them install a camber kit.



Was both right side cambers out if spec on the negative side and maybe even the left side was a tad on the positive side??

Anyway you can post your alignment sheet??

Worn out tires can be more forgiving because they do not grip the road as well as new tires, tires will make or break the ride of a vehicle, so it is possible that this is a tire issue…
If everything is tight, then the vehicle is following the road, lines in the road can be a slight raise in the payment making the vehicle have a slight pull or drift to one side or the other, total toe being close to out of spec but still in spec can cause it to follow the road even more…
On my Vibe/Matrix at high speed if the total toe is on the positive side it like to move around left to right, like a pull, but it is just strongly following the road, if the total toe is to much on the negative side then I can left go of the steering wheel at above the speed limit and it goes straight with no drifting, but it tends to oversteer at high speed… yours may differ a bit

What exactly were the alignment readings?

At 200,000+ miles the struts (or more specifically the coil springs) are certainly worn and can affect camber. And probably a number of other suspension components as well.


Well, you can’t always trust the alignment machines unless they have been recently aligned (calibrated) themselves. If you have a good old fashioned carpenters level, you can check this for yourself.

Find a parking spot that is level side to side for both the front and rear axles. Front to rear is not critical, just side to side. Use the level to verify the car is level side to side.

Then use the level against the wheel vertically to see if the wheel is tilted in or out. Out at the top is positive camber, in is negative. Be sure you don’t have the level against protruding lettering on the tire. If the bubble can be centered by pulling the level out at either the top or bottom no more than about 1/4", it should be in tolerance.

If you have to pull the bubble out at the top on one side and bottom on the other side, it may still be intolerance but could cause a noticeable pull to one side that can be annoying.

Ideally you will probably want to pull the level out at the top about an 1/8" on both sides, maybe a little more if you like to feel a little G force on corners.

BTW, in my opinion you should not add any additives to any system unless there is a specific problem, like an actual leak. Even then I would do a repair and not use an additive.

There’s no way built into the suspension system parts to adjust the camber on my Ford truck either, but the camber can still be adjusted. Special-shaped bushings are used at the control arm/axle interface.

I’d doubt either the slightly out of spec camber or the steering rack are the cause of the lack-of-smoothness of the steering. First guess is some sort of tire-wear problem; second would be wear-caused looseness at some steering/suspension part interface. Ask your shop to double-check the ball joints or strut mounts. Weird steering issues can also be cause if the rear tires are not in-line with the front tires. Even perfect wheel aligment won’t solve that problem. That’s usually the result of a prior crash repair.

I would not be too quick to put a camber kit into this because if the camber is really off, it may not help. Before resorting to this, I would look at the control arm bushings. If one or more of them has collapsed, then there could be some play in the camber and it wont measure the same every time you measure it. Putting a camber kit in would mean that every time you check the camber, you would be adjusting it.

I have installed many camber kits as well as aligned many vehicles and seen even more and if you do it right and tighten every correctly then it will not need to be corrected every time…

But before we jump to the repairs it may or may not need, we need to see the alignment sheet or the OP needs to post them one… but as already mentioned, lots of different possible reasons it could be out, including the rack not being lowered down all the way on the locks…

The rack on my 1999 Honda Civic has a machine screw at a right angle to the rack, with a thin nut right up against the rack tube. The nut holds the machine screw from turning. That screw can be tightened or loosened to let the rack move freely enough left-right, but to eliminate play which can cause the rack to rattle. If that screw is too tight, the steering feels notchy. That may be what is going on with yours.

I think you misunderstood me. What I meant was that if the control arm bushing has collapsed, then the control arm is moving in and out and constantly changing the camber. Putting a camber kit in under this circumstance would mean that no matter how often you corrected the camber, it would change every time the vehicle is moved.

Once you determine every thing is good, no worn parts or have made any necessary repairs and the camber is still not true, then a camber kit would work just fine.


One can only make recommendations by the information provided by the OP.


Given that you have 212K on the vehicle, I think your best course is to live with it. The camber might cause some irregular wear, but the important parameter is toe. Besides, something could give out on the car long before you reach that point.

Try adding 3 to 5 psi in your tires. If that solves the problem, then the problem is the tires - a property called “On-Center Feel”. Do that before you try anything else.


I’ll defer to the experts but on a 20 year old car with 200,000 miles, I don’t think I would be concerned about small issues. Just rotate tires every 5000 or so miles. Unless handling is an issue.

As far as the rack and pump go, I’ve had a new car that needed a rack at less than 100,000, but also had the original rack and pump at 500,000. No leaks, no morning sickness, no worn inner tie rods, no problem. Leave it alone.

So I went to another mechanic to get a second opinion and here’s what they said about my car. My front toe and rear toe are off by a little but my front camber and rear camber are ok. But the first mechanic said only my front and rear camber are off and there’s no way to adjust the camber. What’s going on here? Why are the alignment check results different?


Both front CV axles leaking grease from torn boots. Can I just replace the boots or should I replace both front CV axles? Is this repair even necessary? I don’t think I hear any clicking noise when turning. They quoted me about $700 to replace both front CV axles.


Rack and pinion leaking.
I figured something was wrong with the rack and pinion considering the age and mileage of the car. Can I use something like Lucas Power Steering Stop Leak to fix this? I didn’t think I had a leaking problem so usually all I did was use a turkey baster to remove old fluid and put in new power steering fluid. Should I do a flush instead where you disconnect the return line and keep adding fluid until new fluid comes out? They quoted me $770 to replace rack and pinion assembly.


These quotes seem kind of expensive. On Amazon I can find two CV axles for one hundred something. A rack and pinion for about two hundred dollars or less. Then maybe pay a mobile mechanic 1 or 2 hours of labor to replace everything?

The rack-n-pinion pays 2.8 hours including swapping or installing new outer tie rod ends…
The axles pay 1.0 hours each or 1.8 hours for doing both at the same time…

The axles seem priced about right or maybe a little high, but the rack seems priced low for a pro shop… It will require an alignment when removing a rack…

The total toe on the rear should be in spec, thrust angle is off a little, the front total toe will be close but out of spec by a little, possible the steer ahead (steering wheel level) is off to the right a little… it would have been nice to show the total toe specs also… makes my head hurt figuring out the math when the alignment shows it for you already… lol

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The axle boots are torn open (as you already said), so road grime and water etc has already mixed with the grease and damaging the internals of the cv joint, it is recommended to replace the axle as an assembly and they should come with a lifetime warranty for the part only not the labor, that is up to the shop/mechanic… but they can be rebuilt or just cleaned and greased with new boots, but no warranty and who knows how long they will last… BTW, most Pros replace the assembly in their own vehicles, and I haven’t seen a shop rebuild one in years…

Also, make sure the shop will use your parts, and ask the guy with the Trail Blazer how much fun it was to have a mechanic install the his own parts when they are defective or wrong… who pays the labor then?? You will… not all home mechanics are bad and or dishonest, but some will take your money and if something happens or it is not right will tell you to go something yourself…

Why did I get two different alignment check results from two different mechanics? I’m not too familiar with how alignment works but don’t all alignment machines check the same things…?
First mechanic: only front and rear camber are off but no way to adjust camber so can’t do alignment

Second mechanic: camber ok but front and rear toe are off by a little. quoted me $120 to do an alignment.

So do I need an alignment? Are my tires going to wear out faster if I don’t do an alignment?

If two different carpenters own the same brand of hammer, will the results always be the same?

There is a certain amount of dependence on level of experience and knowing how to use the tool. Aside from that, there is probably some worn components that will cause different results from test to test.

Based on some of the issues posted, you have bigger fish to fry than the alignment. As davesmopar noted, some of the repairs will include an alignment as part of the work…

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I can not comment on the 1st alignment spec as I have not seen the numbers on it…

If the alignment rack was not all the way down on the locks it can show the camber out, again why I was asking to see the 1st alignment specs…

As far as different specs, rack not being level or on the locks can cause camber to show incorrect specs, machine needs to be recalibrated, etc…

If you are driving straight on a level flat road is your steering wheel level??

As far as wearing the tires, you are showing toed in a little on the front which can/will wear the tires… Again, total toe spec would be nice and make more since to you… I would align it if it was mine…

I used say, green is good, red is bad… Just like running a red light, you can try to beat a yellow and it turn red on you by a second, but that is not nearly as bad as running the same red light 30 seconds into it… but both can/will give you a ticket…

This all factors on everything being tight and no wear…