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Alignment of rear wheel way off - Hyundai Santa Fe AWD

I have a couple of questions regarding my car, which I listed below. The car is a 2005 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD with 87k miles.

  1. Misaligned Rear Wheel
    Less than 2 years ago, the passenger-side (right) rear wheel looked a little tilted inward from the top. So I took it to the tire shop and they aligned all 4 wheels. At that time, they said that wheel was way out of alignment and that they couldn’t align it 100% back, but they did as much as they could. Their technician said that the knuckle of that wheel is broken. They said they didn’t have that part and that I should drive the car for a few months and bring it back to check for uneven tire wear and tear before deciding to replace the knuckle.

Sometime later, when I noticed that the car’s gas mileage dropped by around 2 miles/gallon I took it in for alignment service again. I asked them to check for a broken knuckle and they said they didn’t find anything broken and don’t know why the first technician mentioned that. Also, there was no uneven wear and tear on the tires, which was good. After they re-aligned the wheels and rotated the tires, I measured the gas mileage and found that it improved a lot and is back now at its normal value (around 21.5 miles/gal when driving freeway mostly). I included below the alignment degrees from the last service for the left and right rear wheels (the right one is the damaged one, but I included the left one too for comparison):

** Rear Right (damaged wheel)
[Camber] Actual: 0.2, Before: 0.5
[Toe] Actual: 0.05, Before: 0.22
** Rear Left
[Camber] Actual: -0.1, Before: -0.1
[Toe] Actual: 0.04, Before: 0.07
**** Specified Range (this is the acceptable range)**
[Camber] Actual: -0.5 to 0.5
[Toe] -0.08 to 0.08

After this second alignment, it looks like the rear wheel is within the specified range. The toe on it was previously 0.22, which was out of the range maximum of 0.08.

I am worried if indeed something is broken on that back wheel and that the tire shop is not diagnosing the damage properly. I mentioned this to the dealer car shop and they said not to worry because misaligned wheels in the rear don’t cause damage to the car as much as misaligned front wheels. But what if there is damage that will one day cause my rear wheel to suddenly dislocate and cause a car accident? Anyone has experience with such a misalignment? I probably should take it to another tire/car shop for another diagnosis.

  1. Louder Engine Noise
    Another issue with the car is the loud engine noise which started 2-3 years ago. It makes a tapping noise (similar to the old VW beetle cars). It didn’t make this noise before and its engine used to be quiet. I searched on this forum and saw some answers saying that something might be wrong in the valvetrain system, and the most likely cause seems to be low oil pressure due to a bad oil pump.

I did mention my concern about the loud engine to the dealer’s car shop last time, and the advisor there said that I shouldn’t worry about it. However, from what I heard from others and from my online search, it is just the opposite. Loud or unusual noise in the engine could mean that something is damaged in the engine. Now I am considering taking this car to another car shop. The only issue is that private car shops don’t always have parts for Hyundai, so I should check with them first before making an appointment.

Please let me know if you have any advice on those two issues and what you think is best to do in those cases. The timing belt is due for replacement and so I am really wondering whether it’s time for me to just sell this car and stop doing further maintenance. I wanted to keep the car for a couple more years because it has new tires and brakes (in addition to other parts I replaced recently) and it drives well, but I don’t want to worry about future problems.


Private repair shops just order what parts they need for what ever vehicle they are working on at the time. That means they can get the parts you might need.

I think you meant new tires and (brakes).


I don’t believe that you drove for two years with a broken knuckle. When that breaks, you aren’t going anywhere. If anything that attaches to it breaks, you aren’t going anywhere. You could have a bent control arm which is making it hard to align, but right now, it looks like it is close enough. You may have, or had a broken cam bolt that is used to adjust the camber, can’t tell without actually seeing it.

The engine noise could be due to excessive valve lash. Good news is that the excessive lash doesn’t hurt the engine. It makes a little noise and in a worse case, it can cut down a little on top end power. Now too little lash will damage the valves. If your valve lash is adjustable, you might get that done with the timing belt job, but it can be expensive because on some engines, it is very labor intensive. Get a quote, but if it is high, I’d leave it alone.

1 Like

If the engine noise happens during start up, the tensioner might be rattling. Ticking noise can also be caused by hydraulic lifters.

Thank you all for your replies! It’s good to hear that those issues might not necessarily mean that there are big problems with the car that pose safety hazards. My next step is to take it to an independent car shop and ask for a diagnosis.

Yep, thanks for pointing out the typo! I fixed it. :slight_smile:

The 0.22 toe would reduce your MPG’s so fixing it, as you found brought it right back…

As @keith said a broken knuckle would sideline the car and BENT knuckle would not but the based on the camber alignment you posted, if it is bent, it is a very small amount and likely isn’t bent at all. Don’t go back to the first alignment tech, doesn’t sound like he’s very good.

If you have ANY concern about oil pressure causing engine clatter, have a shop test the actual pressure readings. They will hook up an accurate pressure gauge to check it out. Low oil pressure will kill an engine over time and should be addressed.

I went to a car shop and had them look at the rear right wheel. They said they didn’t find anything broken. They looked at the upper and lower control arms and said that they found corrosion on the bolts and the control arms. The corroded bolts make it hard to fully adjust the alignment and they adjusted them at their max. They also said that there is no safety hazard for driving the car at the moment. Eventually I may have to replace the control arm but that it’s not mandatory right now (it is quite expensive too – around $1700).

I am surprised that only corrosion caused my rear wheel to be tilted inward a year ago. This is the reason I went to the tire shop to do alignment a year ago before redoing alignment again this year. Is it reasonable to expect that corroded bolts would cause a wheel to bend in?

If you could visually notice the rear wheel on one side was tilted noticeably differently than the other, that’s a problem that needs to be corrected immediately. Most wheel mis-alignments that require a new alignment job can’t be visually observed like that. At least not easily. If your observation is correct, that makes me think there is in fact a broken or cracked part somewhere in that wheel’s suspension system. And it is allowing the wheel alignment to change, probably every time you go over a bump.

Here’s a chance to use your high school geometry class. The wheel has to be in the correct plane to be correctly aligned. Three points define a plane, right? Those three points are actual parts in the car’s suspension system. If one of those points moves around b/c something is cracked, instead of staying put, the plane will wobble around too. No good.

Were I in that situation I’d mention my concern about an undiscovered broken part, go ahead and have the control arm replaced and hope that they find the cracked or broken part in the process of replacing the control arm. Going back to the shop who told you something was broken might be a good idea too, especially if you know the name of the tech who told you that. That person may be able to point out exactly where the crack in the part is.

For the loud engine noise, first thing I’d do is ask a shop to check the oil pressure using their shop gauge. Best of luck.

Corroded bolts will not cause the alignment to be out of specs although it can make it close to impossible (or even impossible) to adjust anything that requires loosening of the bolts.

In most cases, if something in the alignment is off considerably it means something is bent. That is generally due to curb strikes and so on.

Regarding the engine noise, you might consider having the valve lash checked as I believe your model uses mechanical valve lifters.
Inspection and adjustment of the the lash should be a regular maintenance procedure but is not done in most cases.
Hope that helps.