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Front End Alignment problem - 1999 Toyota Avalon

My 1999 Avalon has 160K miles and is paid for. All 4 tires were recently replaced and have performed well thanx to a minimum of 2 recent FEAs at a local garage. However it began drifting to the right and the tires had not been rotated for a while so it was taken to a national tire chain for a “BAR” (balance, align and rotate) for the first of 4 visits. On visit #1 the “tech” only recommended monitoring the brakes since the pads were thin. After the “BAR” the car drifted left and shimmied which it had not done before. Visit # 2 another “tech” insisted that a new inner tie rod would correct both problems. I agreed to the replacement but now the car now pulled SHARPLY to the left. On visit #3 the service manager inspected and claimed that a power steering pump and rack & pinion were needed to correct ($940) - no replacements were made but the tires were re-rotated to their original positions. The shimmy was reduced but not completely eliminated and it continued to pull sharply to the left. On visit #4 the tires were dis-mounted, reversed and re-mounted on opposite side but the sharp pull to the left remains. What shd i do now ? Any reasonable suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Bewildered Bob

1st I’d go to another shop. Alignment machines need to be serviced and calibrated from time to time. Some shops don’t maintain their equipment. I think you are just dealing with a poor shop doing bad work. I’m not sure your car is really aligned properly.

If in doubt about the alignment of your car I’d suggest you pay a bit more and have a Toyota dealer align the car and inspect the front end parts for wear. It is also possible one of those newer tires is defective and separating internally. Such a tire is impossible to balance and can pull the car off center.

Since you have confusing symptoms is it possible you have multiple problems such as a bad tire and off alignment. Step 1 get the alignment done properly and up to Toyota specs. Step 2, then isolate the offending tires(s). This can be done by putting a known good tire on each wheel one at a time and taking a test drive. You will find the offending tire when the test drive goes smoothly. Once you know the offending tire(s) then you deal with it based on whatever tire warranty coverage may apply. Tires are purchased as a set of 2 or 4 are usually part of the same production run, if one tire goes bad, then all the other tires are suspect too.

I had a similar experience to yours with a batch of Firestone 721 tires many years ago. 3 of the 4 tires went bad. They failed about 5 to 10K miles apart, so I eventually had to replace all 4. Recently I’ve had 2 bad Continental tires. Therefore I don’t buy Continental tires anymore. I just don’t trust the brand anymore. Good Luck.

I think you need to go back to your local garage. There is a quick way to tell if the rack is causing the drift, jack the front end up and support it with jackstands or put it up on a lift, just enough to get the front wheels off the ground. Then start the engine and let go of the steering wheel. If the rack is bad, the steering wheel will turn itself in one direction. If it remains steady, on center, then it’s a tire or suspension problem.

You might want to have someone check the rear independent suspension. The problem might be with worn lateral link bushings. I had a 2000 Camry come in where the owner complained of a pull and unstable steering and it turned out the rear lateral links had worn out bushings.

Tester

Thanx to all 3 “posters” for their EXCELLENT advice. I’ve owned cars for 55 years and have never really understood alignment; the reason is now obvious - too many factors involved. The mystery apparently does create an opportunity for front-end shops to prosper.

Bewildered Bob

Very few shops can balance the Toyota aluminium rims. I had to take mine 3 places before thay got it right. These were brand new tires. The place I got them did it wrong. NTB did it wrong. Finally Pep Boys got it right. As far as alignment, I’d go some place else.