SC430 Alignment

Help me with this one, so I can sleep better. This question has plagued me for way too long. About 3 years ago, when my SC430 was still UNDER WARRANTY, I took it in to service to have the alignment checked. I noted the mileage when I brought in the car. When I picked it up, the service dept of LEXUS, had logged on another 25 miles!!! I asked them why so many? No one could offer a good enough explanation. One guy said it’s because it may have taken at least 5 guys to try to find the problem. In the end, they said it was NOT out of alignment–but it still drove like it was. I think they told me a load of crap. My friends think the LEXUS service guys took turns taking it for a joy ride. Does it really require 25 miles of driving to determine if it’s out of alignment?

It depends on how aggravating or persistent the problem is. In some cases it is very easy to log that many miles; or even far more than that.

We had a guy bring a SAAB in (on 4 separate occassions with a gear noise complaint that required a progressively higher speed to hear according to the owner).
I put close to a 100 miles on that car trying to find a non-existent problem.
Another complaint involved a car that “would not start when driven as far as Dallas”. Since Dallas was 200 miles away… :slight_smile:

I can guarantee you no one was joy riding in it. The reason why is that mechanics work on flat rate commission and any test drives are part of the job that pays zero money to the mechanic. Speaking for myself and other mechanics I know, test drives are an irritation, time consuming, and costly to the paycheck.
It’s possible that 25 miles could have been accumulated on 3 or 4 drives if this was a persistent problem.

You did not state the reason why you think the car felt like it was out of alignment but if it involved a pulling to one side or the other it’s possible a tire was the cause of this if the alignment is correct. Some tires develop a bias in them (even brand new tires can do this) and the car may pull no matter what.
The only cure is to swap tires from side to side, not front to back, and see if the problem disappears.

No idea if this was the problem or not or if the shop even presented this scenario to you but it is always something that should be considered.
Hope some of that helps.

I second what OK4450 said.

Sometimes the description provided by the vehicle owner isn’t adequate to do a diagnosis. You didn’t tell us what the problem was and diagnosing THAT might require someone drive the car, if the source of the problem wasn’t obvious.

Yea, OK explained it better than I could.

Being supposedly skilled mechanics from the LEXUS Service Dept. I wonder why they did not ask me for a fuller explanation. Being a layperson, how was I to know? They should have called me for more details. Instead, they acted like they knew what they were doing.

First of all, the car has run-flat tires. Second, it did feel like it would pull to the left when I braked–and in fact, it still does. I was told by LEXUS SERVICE, that there was nothing wrong with the car when it was handed back to me. No explanation as to whether or not the run-flats had something to do with it. I’ve been living with this “pull” to the left since they told me it’s not out of alignment. And someone told me that all they have to do is drive it on a flat street to determine if it’s out of alignment. Is that true? And if so, then it still puzzles me as to why they would drive it for 25 miles.

It took five guys to find the problem because the best BBQ restaurant in the area was 12-1/2 miles away, and the car will hold five guys. It’s three years later. It’s water under the bridge.

Does it still pull to one side? Take it to a specialized alignment shop. There is no need to use the dealer. Take a look at to find a reputable one in your area.

It could easily take 25 miles of driving to diagnose the problem, then to see if the problem has been rectified. It’s called “test driving,” and sometimes it’s a necessary part of the process. Lexus dealers do not allow their technicians to joyride in customer cars.

Lexus dealers are not necessarily the final word on wheel alignment, either. To the dealer, having an alignment machine is just ONE part of what they do, and only because they have to.

I suggest you consult a wheel alignment specialist in your area, and let them take a shot at correcting the problem. These shops are the experts, because it’s how they make their living. Alignment is just a side-line for the dealer.

NO ONE can determine whether or not vehicle wheel alignment is correct simply by driving on a flat street. You have to put the vehicle on the alignment rack and MEASURE all of the angles (castor, camber, toe-in, etc) that make up wheel alignment.

Get away from the dealer and take this car to an expert.

Just to clarify is the pulling to the left while braking the only symptom?

If it pulls to the left only while braking, I’d be looking at the brakes or the strut rod bushing.

If you have an alignment problem, it should manifest itself by pulling all the time and/or abnormal wear patterns on the tires. If you think the alignment is out, then do NOT rotate your tires. Let the wear pattern develop as it will tell the alignment technician where to begin. After it is aligned, then you may want to rotate the tires, though personally on a RWD, I wouldn’t.

No. That’s one of the problems. When driving, the car just seems to have problems driving straight sometimes (and no, it ain’t the driver). In particular, certain roads are worse. A friend of mine was driving it and he thought it was out of alignment too. When you let go of the wheel while going about 15 miles-20 miles per hour on a fairly flat road, it goes left immediately. Now, that may be a wives tale to do such a layperson test, but our other cars drive straight down the same road. Go figure.

I do hear what the other person in the other post means when they say take it to an alignment specialist.

Very funny, I like that. BBQ place. Yeah, I was suspicious–but after reading these posts, I do feel better. Thanks people. Anyway, I took it to the LEXUS SERVICE dept only because the car was still under warranty.

I do have a private mechanic.

The car should track fairly straight unless there is some obvious reason for it to veer one way or the other, such as a highly-crowned road, in which case gravity pulls a car to the right. It’s unusual for a car to go left unless there is an alignment issue, crash damage (not in your case, I’m sure), or a brake or tire problem.

Are the tires inflated correctly? A low tire on the left side might make the car drift in that direction, and if the car has run-flats you wouldn’t see it. I suppose the Tire Pressure Monitoring System would alert you to a low tire, but that assumes it’s working correctly. I’d want to check the pressures manually, just to be sure.

I sure do appreciate everyone’s advice. And all of this is making my head spin. Yes, the car has a monitoring device for the tire inflation. That device seems to be working well–in fact, it will alert me even when the tires are slightly under-inflated.

I suspect my car IS out of alignment and I will have to trust it to someone soon. Thanks.

One cannot simply drive a car around the block and determine if an alignment is needed. Road surfaces vary and it would take a test drive over several road surfaces to even make a half-educated guess.

The last large multi-line dealer I worked for was located 5 miles from the Interstate. So if one had to take a vehicle on a highway speed test drive simply getting to the Interstate and back clocked 10 miles on the odometer; not counting the mileage on the four lane.

You should receive a printout with the alignment specifications on it after an alignment is performed. When you get this try to post those specs here and we’ll take a look at them.
It may seem like gibberish but everything on there should be posted including apostrophes, etc.
(Keep in mind that one good pothole or curb strike can easily put a car out of alignment and even bend a suspension component; usually a lower control arm.)

And it might not be a bad idea to buy a tire gauge and inspect the tire pressure on the offchance that the electronics could be lying to you. One tire 5-8 PSI down could cause problems.

one would assume after all of this that someone checked whether or not the steering wheel is centered…

Let me jump in again since you added more information. Have you had a 4-wheel alignment done? The rear wheel alignment can cause the car to steer off to one side even when the front wheels are pointed straight.

Have someone follow you down the road and see if the car looks like it is “dog-tracking” or “crabbing”. That is where the rear tires do not follow the front tires exactly, like the car is going slightly sideways. That could be due to rear wheel alignment.

I know the SC430 is rear wheel drive, but is it rear independent suspension? Solid axle rear ends do not usually have this problem, but they can if one of the trailing arms is bent or the trailing arm bushing is damaged or worn. Most of the time when a solid axle rear is out of alignment, its due to an accident. Independent rear ends are usually adjustable and have to be aligned before the front wheels are aligned. Most high-end RWD cars have independent rear end suspensions, and I think an SC430 qualifies as high-end.

Then why reply?

If the repair mechanic did not drive your car at all, you might wonder if he/she took the time to fully analyze the problem. Roads can be different and some days the wind is different. Feel grateful that they took the time to attempt to find the problem. Possibly different people drove the car for multiple opinions to verify a fleeting or non-existent problem.

I haven’t had anything done to my car whatsoever in regards to alignment. I took Lexus’ word that it was fine. Since then, even the salesperson told me that the crooked driving is due to my run-flat tires that feel every groove in the road.

I wish I had investigated it further while it was under warranty.

And after hearing everyone’s suggestions, it sounds like testing the car for alignment and then fixing it if that’s needed is very expensive. Is it? Does anyone know how much this will cost me?

One thing you should not do is listen to any service advice from a car salesman.
Almost every salesman on earth has automotive knowledge that is strictly limited to what’s in the brochures on the display rack.

Do not worry about expensive repairs at this point. Have an alignment done and post the specs back here for discussion. If there’s a problem in the suspension that is bad enough to cause a pull then the specs should reflect it.