So, my buddy just bought a used Nissan Maxima (2014). It drives great, but I noticed that while test driving it last night, the steering wheel appears to tilt to the right (off center) when driving straight. The wheel tread looks evenly worn, and it appears to track straight, just the steering wheel seems to be slightly off. He is going to take it back to Nissan, but I was wondering what caused this, and how you fix it? Alignment?
I was told by someone that the new alignment machines won’t allow the alignment to be done unless the steering wheel is perfectly straight. What would cause it to be off center if it tracks straight and the tire tread wear is evenly worn?
I wanted to see what the experts thought.
If it was aligned and the wheel wasn’t held straight it will be off center.
@“Rod Knox” Senior Grease Monkey
September 2013 edited September 2013
Yes, the mechanic is lazy and/or incompetent. And the shop manager is a gutless seat warmer it would appear. For many years a tool was needed to hold the steering wheel centered while setting the toe but for several decades the column has locked with the ignition switch making it very simple to set the wheel at center and for a “professional” job the wheel must be centered.
When I get a wheel alignment…the first thing that I check before leaving the alignment shop parking lot…is to see if the steering wheel is properly centered. Most of the time it is but there have been times when it was “off kilter.” I agree with Rod Knox that the technician is either lazy or incompetent or both.
I have to wonder why a 2014 is exhibiting this condition. Perhaps the reason it’s back on the market is because of a major accident. I’d keep looking.
The reason is as already described, a bad alignment. The steering wheel should always be checked first, as this act ensures that the steering linkage will be properly balanced, centered between the two steering knuckles. To do otherwise lets the steering links from the rack to the knuckles travel different arcs than they were designed to and can affect the car’s tracking over uneven terrain and its handling in turns.
If this were a fifteen year old car I wouldn’t be so suspicious… but it isn’t.
There are a couple of possibilities. If someone has been working on the electrical components in the steering column (e.g. replacing the ignition lock), they may have pulled the steering wheel off and put it back on the wrong spline. There may be other splined connections in the steering column that could have been assembled one or more teeth off.
The other possibility is what has been suggested. Someone aligned it with the steering wheel off center. That means that one tie rod is adjusted very short and the other one very long. You can test that theory on most cars by turning the wheels lock-to lock and examine how they look in the wheel wells to see if they turn just as sharply in both directions.
Either problem is very fixable.
Have you checked the tire pressures?
A low tire pressure on either side of the front tires can cause the steering wheel to be off-center.
I would agree its a poor alignment issue and one would need to wonder why as mentioned already. Need a good inspection of the frame and front end for damage. I don’t think its possible anymore to get the wheel off on the splines at least not by much. You used to be able to put the wheel anywhere you wanted but I think now they is usually just one position, with the air bags and everything.