Wandering or "toe-fighting" at freeway speeds

kia
spectra

#1

It’s a 2014 Kia Spectra, not many miles. The tire shop says the alignment is dead on, no parts are worn or loose. It’s exhausting to drive at freeway speeds – constantly correcting with the steering wheel – a little this way, a little that way. If I take my hands off the wheel, it will drift out of its lane within a few seconds – could go either way. I asked the shop to set the toe at 1/4 inch in. Factory spec is zero. It got 50% better. The shop was reluctant to do this – they thought the tires would wear too fast. I’m tempted go go back and ask them to add another 1/8 inch to the toe-in. I thought I’d better ask here first.

The tire shop wants to sell me new tires, but there’s nothing obviously wrong with the tires I have.

Another tire shop told me that Kias are hard to align. I don’t know whether to believe that or not.

I’ve got a long trip coming up – if this problem persists, it will be terrible. I’m counting on you guys. Would more toe-in be a mistake? You got a better idea?


#2

Find another slignment shop. And I would suggest that if you deviate from factory spec to reduce wandering increasing positive caster would have been a better alternative.


#3

Another possibility: Groove wander. Do the roads you travel on have grooves cut into them? Is it possible the tires are trying to follow those grooves? If so, then try changing tires. Some tires have groove spacing such that they line up with grooves cut in the pavement and that will cause the vehicle to twitch as the tires try to follow those grooves. Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.


#4

In addition to the good comments already provided, see if there are any TBSs (Technical Service Bulletins) on this issue for this vehicle.

I realize the car is still fairly new, but how many miles does it have on it?
Are you the original owner?
Has it ever been in an accident that you’re aware of?


#5

A 1/4 inch toe-in is a bit high. Adding another 1/8 may help but it will wear the front tires. If this is a tire problem, that will tend to solve it as you will wear out the tires sooner and replace them. Some cars are sensitive to the type of tire on the car.

Are these original tires? Are these replacement tires? Are they the same exact tires front and rear? If they are replacements, did the wander start when you replaced the tires? You say the tires are fine but there is no way for you to know that. Different internal construction can affect how they feel.

So what is the REAR toe?? It also affects wandering at highway speeds. You don’t mention what the rear toe is. Set the rear to toe-in to 1/4 inch-in. It won’t wear tires as fast as the front.

Oh, and the additional toe-in WILL hurt your fuel economy!


#6

Last time I had that problem it was tire related. Then there was the Saturn electric power steering which took a year to feel like it wasn’t indexed. The straight position felt like it didn’t have its own notch for the steering wheel. It broke in with time. If you mess with the toe in you may lose the transmission. Check engine mounts and tie rod ends. The rack could be loose or power steering fluid could be low. Was it four wheel alignment or just front? The problem could be in back.


#7

Good thought, but it isn’t groove wander. Happens on every road.


#8

Yup!
When I took possession of my new Outback in 2010, I was bothered by constantly having to fight the car’s tendency to drift. It turned out that the rear alignment was “off”, most likely as a result of somebody backing hard into a curb when it was off-loaded from the car carrier.


#9

My 86 Buick Park Ave had a problem right from the start with the rear alignment. The tire shop claimed it was caused usually by chaining the car down for transport. Didn’t wander or anything but the rear tire wore octagon shape in about 30,000 miles. A four wheel alignment with a spacer kit took care of it.


#10

In understanding of alignments I would prefer adjusting caster rather than toe in. Save on uneven tire wear for inside vs outside of tire.