Twice now, after having the oil changed and tires rotated my van has come back "misaligned"


#1

So on two separate occasions now we’ve taken our van in to our regular place to get an oil change and tire rotation. For the second time, it’s come back misaligned in some way. Last time this happened we didn’t get it back in right away due to being busy and not making it a priority, but when I did get back in I mentioned how we brought it in fine and it came back out of whack. Guy didn’t seem to care much just wanted to do an alignment, they did that and it still wasn’t 100% fixed. A friend of ours owed us and offered to pay for us to take it to his guy, we did and he fixed it right away citing the cause was the steering wheel not being centered and not the alignment at all.

Fast forward a bit and we take it back to our regular place, give them another chance, and it comes back AGAIN out of whack. I tell the guy on the phone our experience from last time about us taking it there and it being the steering wheel and can’t they just check that and he insists that the mechanics are recommending an alignment. Can you even do one without the other nowadays? I should also note that the van doesn’t seem to pull, rather I have to hold the steering wheel significantly to one side to go straight.

Guess my question is twofold… What could be causing this to happen when we get the tires rotated? Could my steering wheel/column be loose in some way? Is this just incompetence on the shop’s part?

Also, since this is the second time this has happened…car has went in fine and come out with more issues than went in with…is this something the shop should be discounting me on or even fixing for free? Or is it an issue that’s common enough it could just be normal and have nothing to do with the shop?

As of now I told him not to do anything else and I’ll either pick it up or call him back…more than anything I’m curious how to approach this when I talk to the shop again.


#2

Assuming your tires are of matching brand/model and are not excessively worn, you can still have a pull on the steering wheel not directly connected to alignment, but rather connected to the lost uniformity of one of the tires. It is not unheard of.

#1. Do you see a strong correlation of the problem with tires rotation?
Ask for the tires to be swapped left-right and see if it flips the direction of the pull, then you will know tires are the root cause.

#2. When your alignment was done, do you have a print-out of your current angles after alignment? is it in normal range?


#3

What kind of van are we talking about, and how old is it? Did the other guy say why the steering wheel was off-center if it wasn’t caused by bad alignment, because usually that is the cause of an off-center steering wheel.

If it’s really getting knocked out of alignment as part of the tire rotation, the only thing I can think of is that they’re driving it too fast over a pothole in the back lot, or they’re using a 1000ft/lb thundergun to get the wheels off and on and that’s somehow twisting it out of alignment, but I’d consider that to be a fairly low probability.

It’s also possible that the shop is intentionally adjusting your car out of alignment in the hopes that you will come in and pay them to align it, but unless they’re really, impressively stupid they shouldn’t be doing that to the same car twice because, as has happened here, the owner would get suspicious.


#4

All I know for sure is two separate shops told us the alignment was fine and not the issue…and when the second shop fixed it by adjusting the steering wheel itself, all was fine. He had no explanation as to why this would/did happen.

As for the tires themselves, we discussed this possibility when I dropped it off so I’m making a (possibly bad) assumption that they checked that and would let me know. They’re a tire shop first/foremost so I would think they’d be super quick to point out any other issues with the tires in the hopes we’d buy new ones.

This is a 2013 Dodge GCV. We made a fuss about the issue previously because we were about to drive from MD to Milwaukee. There was no issues that whole trip after it was fixed and in the two months since the trip, not hint of any issues at all…but as soon as we got the tire rotation done again it’s out of whack again.

I wish I could remember which way it was off-center last time, because if it was the opposite then more than like it IS a tire issue since it was “fixed” and now off in the opposite way. I guess I can ask the shop if they still have that info. If it’s off in the same direction, that would hint to me that it’s something the shop is doing and may either be an issue with something being loose on the van itself or them being careless in some way.


#5

More of a direct reply to these two things… We do currently have two separate brand tires on but they’re on so both of the same brands are in the front, both of other are in the back. I asked when they installed them if that would ever be an issue and they said no.

I’m going to make sure they swap them left-right (or have already done that) before I pick it up today. I really don’t know how to approach it. I don’t want to be accusatory with them but this is the second time this exact thing has happened, so if it’s not them then something is obviously wrong.


#6

This sounds exactly like a tire conicity problem.

Yes, have the front tires swapped side to side. If the direction changes it is the tires. Sorry, but you will either have to put them on the rear permanently, or replace them.

If the direction doesn’t change, then make a front to rear swap to confirm which pair is causing it.


#7

I called and asked them to try swapping the tires before I come back in to pick it up…so they’re doing that now and we shall see. This is, of course, assuming that they’re not trying to screw me in the first place. I would hope not, we’ve given them a lot of business over the years and they’re a really busy place that’s been in town forever. You never know though I guess.

Something else that slipped my mind, we did have a huge bolt in one of the tires so we had to have it patched…


#8

It may be a tire bias issue or something related to the patched bolt hole but one thing it is NOT is the oil change and tire rotation having anything to do with an alignment.


#9

might be time to find a new oil change place…


#10

Is the problem that the car doesn’t go straight ahead when the steering wheel is pointed straight ahead? Or is it that the car won’t hold to a straight line (not matter the steering wheel orientation) and pulls to the right (or left) when you want it to go straight? Are the tires all at the same pressure? Any unusual wear patterns on the treads? Is there a lot of tread remaining, or are the tires nearing their wear limit?


#11

As a certified ASE technician, I also graduated from the Hunter Alignment school in St Louis. I have seen this problem semi-regularly. I’d be willing to bet if you took the van back and had them rotate the tires back to where they were when you brought the van in, the problem would be gone. Think about it, all they did was rotate the tires. The problem is being caused by some combination of wheels and/or tires that are out of whack. The first time this happened someone was able to make some sort of adjustment and the problem was gone until you moved the tires again and now you have more symptoms. Yes, swapping sides on the 2 front tires may help in diagnosing the problem. Also a real close inspection of the tires as they spin or even a high speed spin balance are all ways that will help get to the root of the problem. If it’s the tires causing the problem you should have some recourse with the company that sold you the tires. (think of rolling a styrofoam cup on the floor, it’s not going to roll in a straight line, it’s going to curve, now move that cup from the right front to the left front and it will tug on the steering wheel in the opposite direction) The guy at your oil change place needs to learn to listen to his customers. Unfortunately usually the person on the phone is just a salesman who doesn’t know the difference between a toe-in adjustment and an off-center steering wheel. All he knows is his mechanic said alignment so he’s going to sell you an alignment. After you get the van driving the way it did before the oil change, then take it back to where you bought the tires and tell them exactly what happened. (or was that the same place as the oil change was done?) Oh well, I’ll leave that for you to sort out. Good luck!


#12

I think I need to clear up some misconceptions.

I think the problem is tire conicity - root word: Cone. It’s the property of a tire where a sideways force is generated from within the tire. You can not see the cause, because it is usually the centering of the belt.

And it isn’t that one tire is bad, it’s the combination of both front tires. You can have 2 large values in the same direction with no problem and you can have 2 small values in the opposite direction = problem.

It should be common enough that most auto techs will know that a tire rotation resulting in a pull (misalignment) is NOT a misalignment problem, but a tire problem. And yet many techs just don’t know what to do.

But since it is possible to wear conicity into a tire, the tire warranty only covers this for a short length of time after the purchase - and in this case, 2 rotations later, it would not be covered by the tire warranty.

The fix? Either live with it or replace the tires. While it is possible to adjust the alignment to compensate, that means that 1) the tires will wear funny, and 2) the alignment has to be adjusted back when the tires are replaced.

And the standard test is to swap the front tires side to side. If the pull mare or less changes direction, it’s 100% the tires. If the pull doesn’t change at all, it’s 100% the vehicle - usually alignment. And if the pull disappears, it is BOTH the vehicle and the tires.


#13

Any reputable tire manufacturer should and will warranty tires with this problem.


#14

So how long a period should a tire manufacturer stand behind their tires?

A lot can happen in 3 years or 40k miles with countless pot holes, irregular wear due to alignment or suspension issues, or a very common malady which is cutting right hand turns short and curbing the wheel assembly.


#15

Let me say this again.

It is possible to wear conicity into a tire. As a result, tire manufacturers will provide warranty for this condition for a period of time - up to a year - but not beyond that.