Wandering steering

Would worn out rear shocks cause my 2001 Eclipse to “wander” all over the road? The car seems to follow every rut or swale in the lane of traffic. It also drifts to either side without my moving the steering wheel. I had the left front strut replaced ten months ago. The mechanic said all else was good at that time. I did the bounce test but did not notice anything out of the ordinary. There is a rattle from the rear when I hit a sharp bump in the road or go over a particularly rough patch of pavement. The steering is tight with no delay between moving the steering wheel and observing the wheels moving. Any suggestions?

You really need to get this car to a well-reputed front-end shop (NOT a chain operation!) because, based on the symptoms, you could have badly worn ball joints or tie rod ends, and either of those situations is potentially dangerous.

The other thing that concerns me is that your mechanic replaced ONE front strut on a car that was at least 8 years old? Unless the other strut on that end of the car is very new, when one strut fails, the other strut should always be replaced also, and this could also be part of your problem. I seriously question your mechanic’s expertise if he does not replace struts in pairs.

To return to the original question–yes it is possible that bad rear struts are to blame, but you need to have the front end examined, in addition to having the rear struts checked.

I share VDC’s thoughts and concerns. Particularly as regards the replacement of one strut. This is inexcusable. Struts should always be changed in pairs and that rattle you mention means you probably need rear struts too.

My only addition is that while it could turn out to be serious and should definitely be looked at, struts are normal wear items. Expect as a minimum an alignment when the rest of your struts are replaced.

Oh, and the “bounce test” is really not a good indicator of the condition of the struts. The wandering is, assuming everything else checks out.

Thank you both for your replies. I agree about the struts needing to be replaced in pairs as a rule. The left one was replaced due to it getting bent after the car was hit. I took the guy’s word on the other being good. I’ll have to rethink that decision. I just got home from work and crawled under the rear of the car to see if I could find anything loose. Nothing seems amiss except the toe control arm, at least on the right side, can be rotated by hand. Is this normal? I’m thinking not.

The problem is that even good struts lose performance slowly as they age, and changing only one on an eight year old car creats an imbalance. No tech that I know of would just change one strut on an eight year old car.

When you get the rear ones done, you may wnat to ask if they can match the new left front one with a new one on the right of the same make and part number.

Not. If it’s the arm I’m envisioning it should be secured. It controls your toe-in. You’ll need a 4-wheel alignment anyway, mention it to them so they can be sure to secure it properly.