Car pulls in either direction

After I turn left from a stop my 2002 Alero pulls hard to the left for a while. Then after a while the car tracks straight. The same happens when I turn right from a stop; the car pulls to the right for a short time - then tracks straight. I checked the tie rods - they are tight. Any insight?

Sounds like the power steering is not returning to center. Is there a fluid leak somewhere?

This is a problem in the steering mechanism. The steering rack itself could be bad.

This kind of thing can also be caused by binding front strut bearing plates. If the struts have never been replaced then this wouldn’t be odd at 10yrs old and ?? miles.

In order to know why your steering system is working improperly, you’ve got to know how it works when it’s OK. First you should understand what “steering axis” is.

When you turn the steering wheel the front wheels have to pivot on some kind of “hinge”, don’t they? Like a door pivots on its hinges. An imaginary line drawn through a door’s hinges is an axis. On cars with front struts, the steering axis is a line drawn from where the top of the strut attaches to the car, down to the ball joint at the bottom. Like a door hinge, only not vertical: viewing the steering axis from the front of the car, the top of the axis is further inward than the bottom. Also, viewing the steering axis from the side, its top will usually be further back than its bottom. (You may not be able to see this line, but it exists and can be determined on an alignment rack.)

Imagine a door whose hinges are inclined ( not perfectly vertical). As you opened it, the bottom of the door would dig into the floor. Similarly, when you turn right, say, the L/F tire will “dig” into the road surface, except it can’t, so instead, there will be a tendency to lift the L/F corner of the car body. Then, letting go of the steering wheel, the weight of the L/F corner of the car will help the wheels go back to the straight ahead position. This is called steering returnabilty. Your steering system has lost its “returnability”.

The point of the above is to just give the big picture.

cigroller could be right about the bearing plates.

Though binding somewhere in the steering system would be the most likely culprit, have you hit any road hazards recently that could have bent component(s) and therefore compromised the steering axis angles?

I’d suggest you get the vehicle to a good chassis shop at your earliest opportunity. And don’t assume this is a steering system problem. A binding ball joint will manifest itself with your symptoms.

My first thought was ball joint wear so I’ll go along with mountainbike on this.

(Reply by chaissos disappeared. Here it is.)

chaissos wrote at 12:18PM

If you lift the front of the car, wheels off the ground, engine off, how easy or hard do the wheels turn? Your strut towers may be sticking, causing it not to track back to center like it’s supposed to.