Mitsubishi pulls hard to the right and has unusual tire wear after many alignments

tires
alignment

#1

I have been having trouble with my 1999 Mitsubishi Galant ES and its alignment and tire wear for more than a year now, and it remains a mystery to mechanics after several visits to the shop(s). I am desperate for answers…

Here is the history: Due to very bad tire wear I got all new tires 11 months ago. At that time I asked for an alignment because the car ALWAYS pulls hard to the right. The tire guys told me my struts were totally shot, so an alignment would be useless at the time. Due to the high cost of new struts, I waited several months to make this repair. At that time, I also got an alignment done. After I got the car back, it drove better, but the car still pulled to the right. I brought it back to another mechanic bout 2 months later, and asked for a realignment. This time I was told my tie rod was shot, and i would need a new tie rod before an alignment. So after the new tie rod, and yet another alignment, the car STILL pulls to the right. I have the print out of the alignment results, my car is supposedly in perfect alignment! So I let it go for then, and now 4 months later I bring my car in to yet another mechanic for the 120,000 mile scheduled maintenance, and another look at the alignment. This time the mechanic first noticed that my tires were wearing in a very unusual pattern, from the center out towards the outer edge. The center of the front driver side tire is particularly worn down. I was told it looks like the tire has 3 or 4 years of use on them, rather than the less than 1 year that they actually have (and less than 10,000 miles). This raised concern for him, so he brought the car into an alignment shop that has some state of the art alignment equipment. They tested the alignment for the 3rd time in 6 months, and it was still in near perfect alignment. The rear camber was off by a 1/2 degree apparently. that’s it. They rotated the tires from front to back, and still the same problem. The mechanic has now declared this a “mystery”. in the mean time the car still pulls to the right, which is just an annoyance. But, my tires are also being worn down so quickly that I will need all new tires every year if this goes on. Anyone have any idea what is going on with my car??? Other than this issue it is in very good shape, and I hate to have to get rid of it right now.


#2

Dude,

Camber off by 1/2 degree is far from perfect.

Post the actual readings and the target values and let us evaluate them.


#3

Has this car been in an accident?


#4

It was in an accident last fall. I got side swiped, while I was at a complete stop, by a large SUV. The only damage reported, and fixed, was the side door and panels (aesthetics only). Nothing mechanical appeared wrong, at the time. Other than that no accidents. And the alignment issue was going on before the accident.


#5

My gut is telling me that the traditional caster/camber/toe readings aren’t going to tell the whole story. I have this sinking feeling that a frame alignment table would show the rear axles to not be coaxial to one another when the wheels are in alignment with the longitudinal axis of the car. Like one side is trailing the other, creating two different wheelbases.

To the OP: are you the original owner?


#6

Unequal caster in the front can cause steering pull. On many cars, caster is not adjustable and your mechanic may not tell you that. Other adjustments can be done to do attempt to minimize this pull which may have been attempted but resulted in odd tire wear. My 1984 car had steering pull due to unequal caster in front from the factory which ultimately was repaired by elongating the strut mounting holes in the shock tower on one side. Your problem is that you do not have a steering mechanic that can evaluate all possibilities including rear wheel alignment causing steering pull. Go to a few shops, patiently explain the problem and lack of solutions so far and ask if they can help. After two or three visits, try to determine who has some auto alignment skills.

Not all mechanics are created equal or have equal skills to repair an unusual problem.

Of the three common alignment parameters that affect tire wear, toe is the most important, camber less so and caster the least. Caster and toe affect steering pull the most with camber less so. Correct tire inflation is also important for reasonable tire wear and minimal pull.


#7

My feeling is that you have suspension issues and the problems are caused by the specs “moving around” if you want to call it that.
It would help to know exactly what the tire wear patterns are, but here a few suggestions. One would hope that some of these alignment people would have checked this stuff, but…?

Bad struts will obviously cause tire wear problems, but some areas that have been prone to problems are the upper strut bushings which will allow the top of the strut to move around, front lower control arms/ball joints, and the rear steering knuckle/hub.
The latter is oddly named since it does not actually “steer” anything but a problem with them is the upper bushing. This is located just above the top center of the tire and a bad bushing can be easily seen without disassembling anything.
The rubber rots out and this allows the rear wheels to constantly change their caster and camber. It will eat up a set of rear tires quickly and can affect the fronts also since the car’s rear end is esentially wallowing around constantly.

This bushing, which should be about 10 bucks, is not available anywhere; even from the dealers. One must buy the entire steering knuckle for several hundred dollars.
My daughter went through this on her Galant and rather than shell out 4-500 dollars because of 2 small bushings, I machined a couple of bushings out of aircraft aluminum, drilled and tapped the steering knuckles/bushings for grease zerks, and she now has a solid car with all problems resolved.

Hope some of that helps you out anyway.


#8

UPDATE from the owner:
I have been speaking with the mechanic more today. He has found a technical service bulletin relating to this problem for my car. apparently I have not been the only person to experience this problem with the mitsubishi. The TSB stated that if the steering pull issue cannot be fixed with normal alignment corrections, and it still pulls to the right, then it is recommended to adjust the camber (?) by +1.5 degree on one side of the car, and -1.5 degree on the other side by replacing some bolts with smaller bolts. So my mechanic is doing some more research on this topic, and was going to call the Mitsubishi dealer. do I always trust TSB solutions? I’m an engineer, and I just have a hard time trusting the idea of putting in “smaller” bolts and then just driving all around town hoping that these bolts do the trick. that just might be my own stupidity though…any thoughts?

oh, and to answer another question: i am not the original owner.


#9

I hope it works. Some cars position the front suspension by using a big sway bar that connects directly to the control arm. If the bushings are worn out, the sway bar could move when you accelerate, causing the tires to try to point away from each other if the tie rod ends are good and toward each other if the tie rod ends are worn. If this is happening, you should get that kind of tire wear. I don’t believe it happens a lot.


#10

I thought the alignment was within specs through all of this? What TSB is this? After checking ALLDATA the only TSB I can find is related to steering pull and has no mention of substituting smaller bolts for bigger ones.
It does make mention of tire bias, tire pressure, and worn suspension parts.

JMHO, but there is no way in the world someone should install an 8 MM bolt in a 12 MM hole unless they have a death wish. This could lead to a bolt shearing while hitting a severe pothole, etc.
I sure don’t see any way of making a 1.5 degree variation in camber, either positive or negative, by adding a smaller bolt. The factory spec is -5 to +5 on the camber so why in the world would anyone go way outside that?

I gave you some very pertinent info in my previous post as to the cause. It’s up to you and your mechanic as to whether you even want to read it or follow it.
This should not be made more complicated by ignoring the basics.


#11

I think you are on the right track. Some cars use the swaybar to locate the fore and aft position of the lower control arm, others use a separate strut bar. Also, with front wheel drive, if the sway bar or strut bar bushings are loose or worn, the tires will toe in on acceleration and toe out on coasting and braking. I wonder if the first mechanic was referring to the strut rods and not the McPhearson Struts. The OP may have had the wrong “struts” replaced.


#12

On most cars, the camber is adjusted by turning a concentric washer on one of the strut mounting bolts.


#13

My daughter owns a Galant. Camber and caster is not adjustable.