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Steering that locks up in a hard turn

We have a 2001 BMW 325 with 48,000 miles. Recently had the rear brakes done. The fronts were done about six months earlier.

After the rear brake job, I thought I was feeling very light pulsing during hard braking. Very slight. I played a wait and see game. Then, a month or two later, I was driving along and, without braking, felt a very noticeable shimmy, coming from the front. Started around forty mph and got worse as speed increased. I pulled over, honestly thinking I had a flat. The car was shaking demonstrably.

No flat. All lug nuts tight, though one, surprisingly, was missing on the rear passenger side. We pulled out and the problem was gone. But not for long. On subsequent trips, it would show up, occasionally, usually around fifty mph. After continued driving, five minutes or so later the car would go smooth again.

We brought it to our local guy. Of course, he couldn’t get the car to shimmy, but he noticed wear, he said, in the control arms and bushings, and we authorized their replacement. A wheel balance was also performed.

After the repairs, we noticed a reduction in the frequency and intensity of the shimmy, but it was not gone. We also noticed a new, and disturbing phenomenon. During low speed hard turns (entering and leaving garages and parking spaces and so forth), when inching forward, the steering would lock up, as if the steering linkage would fall into a groove. After the shock of that discovery, one would have to horse the steering out of its new happy place.

Took it back to our guy. To his credit, he quickly acknowledged our problems, re-replaced the control arms and bushings, thinking perhaps the parts had been suspect. Unfortunately, we all decided nothing had been solved. He’d never seen steering lock up like ours. With apologies, he said we might need new tie rods, which he said also showed wear. He rebalanced the tires, saying a weight had been thrown from the previous alignment. He said the car was at least safe to drive.

I decided we needed to take it to a BMW joint. I have a “reservation” set up a few days from now. Party time.

I should mention that this car had been struck by an SUV, left to right across the front, two years ago, but after extensive repairs, the car has tracked and braked straight and true ever since, until now. I will also say that I am not an aggressive driver, and am surprised by the diagnosis of worn steering components at less than 50G mileage.

That is my story.

My best guess regarding the steering problem is a worn-out steering rack. In fact, it is very possible that the rack was damaged in the collision two years ago. I am surprised that your mechanic did not pursue this possibility.

I think that you are doing the right thing by taking the vehicle to the dealership because it is fairly apparent that your regular mechanic is simply “throwing parts” at a problem (or problems) that he is unable to diagnose properly.

I Was Thinking The Same Thing, About The Rack And Accident.

Thank you for your help.

And Thank You For Responding. We Sometimes Never Get A Thank You.

If you can find this discussion again ( you might have to search the Topic Index and do a “reply” ), we’d love to hear what the technicians find during your “reservation”. Let us know, if you get a chance.


Also, check the belt and pulley that drives the power steering pump. Some cars have a wear indicator on the main serpentine belt tensioner. Unless your power steering is electric. That accident could have damaged the steering rack and caused some premature wear on suspension parts. They get looser with time and wear so you don’t notice it right away.

We are back from the repair shop. As I suspected, the BMW technicians could not get the car to shimmy during a test drive. I was surprised they could not get the steering to stick in hard turns. All steering components looked good to them, although they mentioned that my local guy had used aftermarket parts, which always curls these guys’ noses up. They did say I had a bent front left rim, and swapped it out for the right rear, which also surprised me. I thought that was a BMW no no.

The car drives normally, though on occasion I get the sticky steering, possibly due to the aftermarket control arms. Still slight pulsing in hard braking, which may be the aftermarket pads and rotors installed.

Final damage, something like $450, but that included a few things not mentioned here. Their diagnostic charge of $390 was waived, I think due to fact that they took a couple days to do fairly little work. Very frustrating.

That’s the story for now. I thank everyone here who helped educate me so I didn’t show up at the dealer with that deer-in-the-headlights look.