Looks like you are driving sideways down the road

What would make your car look like it is going sideways down the road when looking from the rear. Two people went out of their way to follow my mom into a parking lot to tell her that and they were not trying to scam her. One was an elderly man with his wife. My mom is 80 and worried. Any ideas.

What kind of vehicle is this? Have you personally seen this vehicle in action and observed this yourself?

Its a 93 Ford Taurus with brand new tires she just put on. The first guy was a mechanic at a shop so we thought he was trying to get business. My husband and son looked at it (my son has lots of car repair knowledge) and they couldnt see anything but no noone has followed it to see ourselves.

It sounds like they’re saying the car is “crabbing” down the road. If so this is a sign of something bent in the suspension or more than likely, the front end alignment is a mile off.

Any history of alignments or suspension/steering work on this car? If someone goes screwing around with the toe adjustment and goes in too much on one side and out too much on the other this crabbing effect can occur.

She had it aligned when she bought the tires. The first guy said it was the struts and this guy said it could be a spring. She is taking it in tomorrow to the place where she got the tires. It is a chain store (Jensen Tire).

Was this car purchased as a used car?

If the car previously sustained serious collision damage, that could be a reason for the crab-walking. Improper straightening of the unibody (or a unibody that was too seriously damaged to be repairable) can lead to severe crab-walking. A clue to this is if the previous tires wore very prematurely, and/or if the car veers very strongly when you take your hands off the steering wheel.

When buying a used car, it is important to have a friend drive behind you as you test-drive the car, prior to purchase. If this is not done, it is possible to wind up with a car that exhibits crab-walking.

So–was this car purchased as a used car?

I have a hard time seeing how bad front wheel alignment could cause crabbing. I have always thought that was a symptom of bad rear wheel alignment. Usually the rear axle not being square with the rest of the car.

This was especially prevalent with the Chevy Novas of the early to mid '70s. It was rare to see one of them that wasn’t crab-walking.

While I don’t know for sure why this was so common with those cars, my theory was that the “monoplate” rear springs became deformed by torque and that they were the cause of this situation. Does anyone know why so many of those Novas were crab-walkers?

Yes it was purchased used 6 or 7 years ago. It only has 40,000 miles on it. I drive it all the time and it does not veer when taking hands off steering wheel.

In the old days we called it dog-tracking.


We call it “dog tracking”. Take it to an alignment shop, somethings not right, probably in the rear end somewhere. They will need to look at it and do a 4 wheel alignment on it.


I remember at some shops you used to be able to get three different kinds of alignments. There was a 2-wheel front end alignment. There was a basic 4-wheel where all four wheel were parallel, but not necessarily along the same centerline. Then there was the 4-wheel thrust that aligned everything with the vehicle centerline. Are there any shops that still do just a basic 4-wheel? Sounds like the thrust angle could be off on this car.

I agree with the consensus here. A car that does not track straight with the road has a rear end problem, not a front end problem. May be failed bushings or collision damage. If it shifts around, doing it more some days than others, or if the steering feels loose, as though the rear tires were low on air, then it is most likely worn-out bushings.

If it is not chewing up the tires or making the steering difficult, it is probably not dangerous or a problem that absolutely must be fixed, but you should find out what it is, so you know whether it is serious or not.

It may be tough to find a mechanic who will be straight with you regarding whether it is something that really needs to be fixed. He wants the business and does not want the responsibility of having told you that it is nothing to worry about.

i had a 79 nova that did this i had bad leaf springs got them replaced was all set after that it ran straight down the road

While on the surface it may appear that a crabbing, dog tracking (or track problem as I prefer to call it) may not be caused by the front end alignment, it is very true.

I’ve also performed a lot of alignments and part of the process was to check the track and adjust as necessary; all done with the front tie rod adjustments.

While it’s always possible a track problem can be caused by a rear suspension problem it’s also equally, and probably more plausible, that it’s caused by the alignment. Since the people looking at the car claim it’s because of a bad strut or spring not much credence should be given to what they say because neither one is going to cause a track problem.

well in my case on my 79 nova it was the rear leaf springs it made the rear end shift a little

Has the car ever been in an accident? That can be a cause of crabbing, too. Did Mom have a 4-wheel alignment done when she bought the tires? If so, take it back and have them check all four wheels and give you the results. Post them and we’ll review them with you. If not, have it done (very) soon.

I have a friend who builds hot rods and sells them. He bought a totaled Cavalier with frame damage and repaired it for himself as his daily driver (go figure). It is a real sidewinder, but he has accommodated the frame bend by aligning the tires to allow for the skewed drive.

There’s a simple way to determine if whoever performed this alignment misadjusted the front tie rods. Simply look at the amount of thread showing on each tie rod and make sure it’s the same.

While I realize that most shops probably don’t consider checking the track/thrust angle/whateveryouwantocallit as part of a 2-wheel front alignment I was trained that it was, always checked it, and adjusted as necessary.

This usually is caused by the rear end alignment. Take a long, straight piece of whatever and place one end against the rear tires with the other end pointing to the front tires. Repeat on both sides. Whatever you are using should point to the same place on the front tires.

If one side points to the outside edge of the front tire and the other side points to the tread of the front tire somewhere in the middle, then one side of the rear end is damaged, probably from sliding into a curb at one time or another.

If one side points to the middle of the tread and the other side points away from the front tire to the outside, then the whole rear assembly has shifted and that could be a lot more serious. Could be that is, but it could also be as simple as a bent trailing arm.

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