Avalon steering issues-can it really be the trim?

I have a 2008 Avalon Limited with 18,000 miles on it…at about 13,000 miles the steering became loose, mushy, and increasing difficult to handle. Also, a rhythmic thumping could be felt and heard from the front tires. I detailed the issues for the dealership on the first visit and they were unable to diagnose it. I had the tires rotated and it still didn’t resolve. They switched the front tires from left to right and it was better but not gone. From 13-18,000 miles the steering became worse; so loose and difficult to control it took two hands on the wheel at all time, particularly when driving slowly on uneven Michigan streets. And, of course when it gets cold the tires lost a tiny bit of pressure and the low pressure warning light goes on. The steering got so bad I had to inflate the front tires 5 lb’s over the recommend psi just to drive safely. When I began to hear and feel a scraping/rubbing noise on the steering column I took it in for a second dealership visit (under warranty, right?) The service department again insisted they could not replicate the problems but did find a piece of “trim” on or in the steering column that was loose. They tightened it and proclaimed it now drove like any other Avalon. I picked it up and the steering was 100% improved; all the symptoms were resolved. They also proclaimed this was not covered by the high end warranty on my vehicle so I had to pay out of pocket for the labor charge. My question is a) how could a piece of loose “trim” have affected the steering so much? b) if it wasn’t trim what could the mechanic have done when working in the steering column to have fixed it, and c) shouldn’t this have been covered under the warranty?

I wonder if the ‘‘trim’’ was a column supporting mount plate somewhere on the engine side of the firewall or similar ?
Where was this ‘‘trim’’ ? Did they show you ?
Warranties often specify, by part number, the covered items by time and mileage. Replacing a broken part may be covered, tightening it not covered. So I don’t doubt that it wasn’t coverd but…

Learn what the part is and it’s part number to invesigate. Call the warranty resolution phone number in your owner’s manual and ask if replacing it would have been covered as opposed to tightening it. Ask also if the dealer is being forthcoming with their claim that it isn’t covered.

Thank you. They removed the “trim” part (on the steering column inside the cabin), and readjusted the trim pieces so I did not see a part and there is no part # on my bill. At least this is what they told me. Your comments and suggestions are helpful; I’ll be looking at my platinum level warranty because I have a feeling this is not going to be the last time I have to deal with it. Again, thanks.

The moment the word “loose trim” came out of the service writers mouth, you should have said STOP!! Could you please SHOW ME this trim?? If they look at the floor and start mumbling about how the trim is not visible, then you need to talk to the service manager and get some straight answers…

One good way to get them to show you the part, now that it’s re-assembled, is to go into the parts department and get a parts diagram breakdown print out(s). ( the column mechanical may be one picture and the dash board actual TRIM in another etc.)
GET SERVICE TO IDENTIFY THE PART THAT WAS TIGHTENED no matter what they want to call it. If a service writer or manager won’t, or doesn’t really seem to know, go to the tech with pictures in hand and ask him/her "which item did you tighten ?"
After this get the parts depatment to tell you the part number and their name for it.

We do that all the time here at my Ford dealer where I’m a parts man on the shop counter. It helps the d.i.y. to select and re-assemble parts. It helps joe customer to understand all that’s in there even if the shop is doing the work. The foreign language of “car” can suddenly begin to make sense.