Steering Wheel Offset

A car backed into my 2004 Honda Accord, and hit me at the front driver-side wheel. The shop replaced the wheel and tie rods. They said the rack checked out OK. The car now drives well, it doesn’t pull anymore to the side, but the steering wheel is offset by about five degrees. The mechanics can’t explain why this is, or offer any solutions. Should I worry about the offset? Could it be a symptom of another problem?

You should worry about your mechanics. This is easy to correct (I’ve done it on my driveway) by adjusting the tie rods equally on each side until the wheel is centered.

They did align the car after replacing the parts, right? I would find a top-notch alignment shop and have them center the wheel and confirm that nothing else was damaged in the accident.

That’s a result of an improper alignment, as Texases suggested. I’d take it back and make them do the job properly.

It stretches my imagination to think that any mechanic worth 2 cents “can’t explain why this is”. Anyone who’s ever touched a tie rod knows what makes the wheel off center. I’ve seen (before airbags) shops correct it by removing and straightening the steering wheel, but even that is incorrect. If the wheel is off center, the steering system is not in the center of its travel and the geometry is off balance. You have built into the steering dynamics compensation for the fact that the inside wheel has to turn more than the outside wheel (it cuts a smaller arc) and having the system not balanced can affect this.

“Should I worry about the offset? Could it be a symptom of another problem?”

Yes. You could have a bent strut (They sometimes bend in a side impact) or something else may not be right.

"The shop replaced the wheel and tie rods."
What shop ?
Where was the car repaired ?
What kind of shop ?

As Texases and TSM have suggested, a proper wheel alignment done by a quality wheel alignment shop, should be part of the repairs. They will find any additionally damaged components if there are any (if the proper alignment can’t be achieved) and will “center” the steering wheel.


If these mechanics don’t understand something as simple as why the steering wheel is offset then their abilities should be considered suspect.

Amen. Although I suspect they really choose NOT to understand. Which is even worse.

Without a doubt. If the mechanic doesn’t understand the wheel being off center he needs to find a new career.

I’m Guessing That “The Shop” That Replaced The Wheel And Tie-Rods Is A Body Shop And The “Mechanic” Is A Body Man.

Without hearing anything more from Musujyay, I just have to imagine that when the car was “backed into” that it suffered some sort of body damage, too.

Body Men don’t always fully understand mechanical repairs (Just like Service/Repair Mechanics don’t always fully understand body repair), Body Shops often don’t have Service Mechanics and sometimes try not to sublet mechanical repairs, choosing to do it in-house ( keeping the insurance dollars for those repairs in-house, too ).

This would explain the ineptness of “The Mechanic.” A car that has both body and mechanical damage should usually go from the Body Shop to the Mechanical Service/Reapir Shop.


Thanks to all for your great input.

In order to avoid paying for the repairs myself, and being reimbursed by GEICO later, I took it to a GEICO-approved shop, a Bill Page Honda dealership. I assumed that they knew what they were doing. How can Honda-trained mechanics be so wrong? It’s amazing to me.

Given your input, I will call GEICO and tell them I’m unsatisfied with this shop, and I will take it to the Honda shop that does the scheduled checkups. I hope they are better. Maybe I should stay away from dealerships and look for an independent mechanic.

Thanks again for the advice. It’s really helpful.

Tell us if the shop did a wheel alignment after the body work. If so, did you get a print out of the alignment, with the before & after values? Specs, too. The spec is what a given alignment angle should be; the value is what it actually is. The values should be within specs.

Also, even when an alignment technician gets the toe values (toe angle affects whether steering wheel is level or not)–even when he/she gets the toe angle exactly right, the steering wheel may not be level. There are other factors, such as, minor differences between the 2 front tires, etc, that can throw the steering wheel out of level.

Don’t permit anyone to remove the steering wheel and replace it with the angle corrected. The right way to do this has been posted by others.

What’s amazing is that the people who replaced the tie rods have no answer as to why the steering wheel is offset.
If these people do not understand that changing the tie rods affects the alignment toe then they’re on shaky ground, mechanically speaking.