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Off-Center Steering Wheel

My steering wheel is slightly off-center after having a front wheel bearing and sway bar replaced. My (usually reliable) mechanic says “it’s only 1 degree off” (wrong), that it is not the result of the repair, wants $82 to fix it, and says “I don’t even know if I can get it closer”. I don’t want to confront him without facts. Could this type of repair cause steering wheel misalignment? I’m almost sure it wasn’t this way before since I just had driving school and was paying attention to my steering wheel technique. Call me anal but this drives me nuts!

A wheel bearing and/or sway bar (end? link?) replacement doesn’t affect alignment. However, the only way to get to the cause is on an alignment machine. Get a 4-wheel alignment, and be sure to tell them ahead of time about the steering wheel being out of whumpus.

Not related to work done,are you on schedule in regards to alignments?

I had new tires and an alignment done in January of this year.

Are you sure that it was not off-center before the recent work? Sometimes we become hypersensitive in situations like this, and we start noticing things that were there even before. (As an example, after some major transmission work I noticed a little buzz that tracked the engine RPM. I thought it was the tranny, but it turned out to be the power steering pump. I had just not noticed it before.)

If the steering wheel is off-center AND the car tracks straight, then you would need to get the alignment re-done… or learn to live with it (it IS bothersome).

OTOH, if what you mean is that you have to constantly steer to one side just to keep the car going straight, that might require a realignment, or it might be fixed just by making sure the tires are properly inflated and/or by rotating the tires.

What kind of car are we talking about first off? Yes, it’s possible the repair could be behind this problem. Replacement of the bearing means removal of the steering knuckle which houses the bearing.

Even on vehicles in which the camber and caster alignment is not adjustable there is usually enough free play in the mounting bolts that some misalignment will occur when installing the knuckle back onto the car.
The off-center wheel is due to the toe setting being off and the toe can be knocked off because of the camber or caster being off a smidgin; and the amount involved may be so slight as to not even be noticeable to the naked eye.

This is also why it is often recommended that whenever suspension work or repairs involving diassembly of the front end to some degree that an alignment should be figured in as part of the job.

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Its in the tag VW Golf. I wonder if the mechanic would have said your car must be aligned after this work and I must add $82.00 to the repair would the OP be writing and asking if it was necessary.

Now since the mechanic did not say anything about a needed alignment he must do it for free. Why did this mechanic not require his customer allow him to align the car (for a reduced charge include in the bearing work) this would have been the smart thing. Its not like the mechanic messed up the bearing job its just that he wanted to keep the bill down.

What he did should not have affected the alignment, but if it is off just a little, perhaps. Make sure that the air pressure is the same in both tires.

If it bothers you and you believe that the alignment is good, as it was aligned recently, and you are reasonably mechanically inclined, you can correct steering wheel position. Drive the car up on ramps and adjust one tie rod to lengthen it and the other to shorten it such that the change corrects the steering wheel position. If it is off only a little, a quarter-turn on each side should do it.


All very true. It’s also possible this mechanic may not even realize that the simple act of removing and installing a knuckle could cause this and it would all be due to the tiny bit of wiggle room in the bolt holes. (likely the strut to knuckle bolts)

The mechanic says it will be 82 dollars to “fix it” and that “he don’t even know if he can get it closer”.
Wonder what this 82 dollar fix is? Alignment?