Pontiac Vibe Alignment Issue

I am a car novice and therefore am running this by the community to see if what I was told squares with reality. A few weeks back, we had recall work done on our 2009 Vibe. Recall #14139. Per the paperwork I was given, it had something to do with “driver airbag clockspring,” “necessary to replace SIR coil.” Anyway, a few days later, my wife drove the car (her first time since the recall work was done) and immediately noted that the steering wheel was about 40 degrees off center. (I had driven it as well, but didn’t notice until she pointed it out, as I am not the most observant.) It seemed obvious to us that this must have had something to do with the recall work that was done, as we are certain that the steering wheel was centered before we had the work done. However, I took it back today and they were adamant that this was not the case, that there was no way in the world that what they did during the recall could have had any impact on the centering of the steering wheel. I ended up paying about $70 for a wheel alignment, was told that my “toe” was off, due to normal wear and tear (83,000 miles), and that the timing was purely coincidental. So, my question is, does that sound suspect to anyone? Obviously there is no way to know for certain, but I’d be curious for anyone’s thoughts on the technician’s statements that nothing they would have done during the repair would have impacted the steering wheel centering. Please advise. (Trying to decide it it is worth my time to call the service manager and make some noise over this.)

Replacing the clock spring requires the wheel to be removed. Sounds like the got paid for the recall and you paid them for an unneeded alignment. Airbag Clock Spring Installation Video: http://youtu.be/NVTKiyg4mzs

Sounds suspect to me. The clock spring has the column passing through it, and they would have to either remove the steering wheel to slip it down the column, or disconnect the steering column near the floorboard and slip the spring up the column. In doing one or the other they got it off kilter.

Not only that, but id they redid the toe with the steering wheel 40 degrees off, the alignment is now improper. Centering the wheel places the articulated ends of the steering rack links equidistant from the center of the system, each to be an equal distance from the steering knuckle joint. That places each link relative to its steering knuckle in a location where its arc will move properly in relation to the arc that the steering knuckle joint moves while moving through its travel. If these are too far off, the steering rack link arc and the knuckle’s arc will not interact properly and you could have “bump steer” introduced. It can cause unstable handling.

I’d take it to a good chassis shop, explain the situation (you might even print this thread for them) , have them check it out, and if it’s improper have them document and correct it… then file a formal complaint with GM and fight for reimbursement of the cost of the work.

Good luck.

It is very easy to install a steering wheel off center when replacing a clock spring. The steering shaft has a set of splines that lock the steering wheel to it. It sounds like the tech put the wheel back on one tooth off. When I remove steering wheels I use a paint marker to put on alignment marks to prevent things like this from happening. Normal wear and tear will not have the steering wheel of by 40 degrees. Can you post a picture of you alignment print out? You should talk to the service manager, in my opinion you paid the dealer to fix their mistake. You can also check if the rack is properly centered by placing the steering wheel in the straight ahead position and counting how many times the wheel turns to lock from center it should be equal going both ways.


I’ll remain neutral on this one due to the OP stating they did not even notice the steering wheel being offset to the tune of 40 degrees. How does one not notice the equivalent of a barn door…

Maybe perusing the before and after alignment specs on the printout would clear up a few things.
If the toe or camber was off by a fair amount then I have to wonder if the vehicle has suffered a curb strike or what have you.

While I can’t speak for the Vibe, many cars have a missing spline on the column and wheel. This assures the steering wheel will only go on in one position.

Call yourself lucky. I owned a 2005 Vibe a few years ago that could not be aligned. It was never wrecked or banged into a curb. I was told that the Vibe had a peculiar front end and it was a very difficult job to get them aligned. It drove and tracked pretty good but it ate up tires.

If the steering wheel was indeed properly centered prior to taking the car to the shop for the recall fix, it’s hard to imagine any other explanation other than the recall-tech didn’t install the steering wheel correctly after the clock spring repair was finished.

The shop claimed it was impossible for the steering wheel to be installed incorrectly? If that’s the case – and it might be possible, maybe with the car’s design the wheel will only go on in one orientation – then the most likely explanation is it wasn’t centered before the repair either, and you just didn’t realize it.

Here is a quick check, turn the steering wheel from one extreme to the other. There should be a equal number of turns from center to each extreme, usually about 1 3/4 each way. If it turns significantly more in one direction than the other, the steering wheel is not centered.

Forty degrees would be significant.