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Will an alignment machine pick up on failed front end part(s)

Will an alignment machine show fluky numbers - not “settle,” if, for example, there is a bad rack, hence tipping off the mechanic that he or she should not proceed with the alignment.

A good alignment generally comes with a good look-see (visual) for any worn out or loose components as well as things like a leak in the steering rack. But no inspection is 100%, and the machine itself won’t detect all wear conditions unless they affect the ability of the tech to align the vehicle.

Why are you asking?

Thank you for replying. Had rack replaced due to leaking ps hose - only way to get to it. Alignment done elsewhere - private shop as well. I told both my mechanic and the guy who did the alignment that the steering was very loose. Then, power steering fluid dumped completely. Mechanic had me return every week to the shop to “mark” the stick in the reservoir. I kept asking him to put the car on the lift. He wouldn’t.
Fluid dumped completely again. Determined the replacement rack itself was bad.

Replaced with another rack last week. Need alignment. Wouldn’t go back to the first guy who did the alignment because he refused to do a recheck after I said the steering was still loose on the road. Car put on lift at another shop, very visible leaks at the end seals, so of course they wouldn’t do the alignment. And now it’s a matter of finding out what my mechanic will say THIS time.

But at the new alignment shop, they said that the guy who did the alignment couldn’t have missed that there was a front end problem because the numbers on the computer wouldn’t have settled. They said I should attempt to get my money back for that first alignment on the bad rack. Really insisted, and went into thorough detail about there being no way he could not have noticed that his machine (top of the line), was showing a problem. Only if he wasn’t paying attention to the readouts, they said, could he not have noticed.

I know he’s not going to refund my money, but I’d like to know if the alignment machine hypothesis is valid.

I am having a problem with having to replace the rack to change the hose. You may have to lower the rack to get at the cose if clearances are tight. Now maybe your mechanic talked you into replacing the rack now when you are already paying for part of the labor to replace it, but have to-no.

Nothing was mentioned by the mechanic about being able to lower the rack in order to get to the hose. At this point in this mess, I can’t immediately recall if there was some other reason he said the rack should be replaced – but I don’t think there was a reason. But the issue is whether there is credence to the alignment machine indicating that something wasn’t right.

A power steering fluid leak will not result in a “loose on the road” condition nor will it show up on alignment equipment. I get the impression that the problem might lie in the indecisive meandering among shops.

And a realignment isn’t necessary when the rack is replaced a second time. Some shops likely charge for an alignment any time a car is put on the rack but all that is necessary after a warranty replacement of a rack and pinion is toe in.

There wasn’t indecisive meandering among shops. My mechanic does not do alignments. The guy to whom I took the car after the rack was replaced refused to do a recheck when I said the car did not feel right on the road. Loose steering, broadly speaking. The replacement rack was bad, and it was bad when he did the alignment.

At the new shop tonight, the toe was especially off the chart. My mechanic had said he put the settings - manually - back to what they were as best he could.

Again, the question is whether the Id alignment machine would act up because the rack was bad. I did not say, nor would I think, that power steering fluid leak would cause the car to wander.

A leaking rack alone should not cause instability in the alignment reading. But there may have been other things going on that got mixed into the conversation, so I’m reticent to criticize the statement.

I’m inclined to agree.
If this is what happened, than unless the old rack is actually leaking it’s a policy I disagree with. I was convinced years ago to replace a rack for this reason, the replacement (rebuilt) rack was defective (leaked intermittently), and the rack replacement caused more problems than it prevented. I’ll never do it again. I also lost faith in rebuilt racks.

Ah. Well, it’s done - twice. Two bad racks? Or bad mechanic.

Part of the alignment test is to steer the front wheels left and right and measure how the steering angle affects one of the other of the wheel’s orientation angles. So if they did that measurement twice, first turning the steering wheel in one direction, then in the other, it seems like they’d notice if the steering rack was loose.

One guy or gal couldn’t do that alone.

Wandering on the road would be caused by a worn suspension or steering component, loose wheel bearing, loose steering column coupler, incorrect air pressure in the tires, or the alignment being off.

Yes, a wear problem can show up on an alignment rack but it will not necessarily show you exactly which component is bad.

Thank you. My question is “how” a problem would be indicated by the machine. I’m trying to determine whether or not the guy who did the alignment with the bad rack, should have caught it, even if he did not do the steering wheel maneuver.