Steering wheel not straight

I just replaced the tie rod ends and ball joints on my Jetta, and now the steering wheel is not centered when the car is going straight. It was centered and the car drove straight before the job started, so I know I did this. I took care to count the number of turns to remove the tie rod ends, and the new units received the same number when they went back on (I thought). Can I safely adjust the tie rod ends by a turn each to fix the steering wheel alignment? The car itself drives straight and fine - it’s just the steering wheel that’s off.

You need to have the alignment checked by a qualified mechanic, once that is deemed good they can recenter the steering wheel.

Yes, it needs an alignment. You can do it yourself (straighten the wheel) by lengthening one tie rod and shortening the other but the thrust angle / toe-in is surely off. Get it aligned if you want to save the transmission. Life is easier when both wheels point in about the same direction.

I took care to count the number of turns to remove the tie rod ends,

That should get you close, but it will take an alignment to get it right.


Being “close to the mark” is sufficient when hurling horseshoes or hand grenades, but it does not work with wheel alignment. This car needs to be taken to a shop that has the equipment necessary to accurately align the wheels. Doing this in your home garage is not anywhere near accurate.

Replacement parts are not manufactured accurately enough to get away with this, nor are the threads fine enough. Your alignment is way off now, and you need to get it fixed. Alignment is a pretty precise procedure, and it shouldn’t be faked in the driveway. You can heat a jam nut with a torch when it’s on the rack and watch the toe change, sometimes by as much as half a degree. At least have a shop do a toe set. Your steering wheel will be centered again and your tires won’t wear out funny with that.

Your old ball joints were worn, so when you put in new tie rods they wont match and you need to get this baby aligned to center it and save a lot wear and tear on the tires.

You would be suprised (or maybe not) how many mechanics can’t center the wheel even with “state of the art equipment”, in regards to and alignment it is the man not the equipment, amazing things can be done with a string, a tape measure and a complete understanding of what you are doing.