Is your steering wheel off center when driving straight down the road?

June 02, 2015 Steve

Is your steering wheel to one side or the other when driving straight down the road?
This common problem is easily fixed, you don't even need a Trackace to fix it, although you might want to have one on hand to check the alignment after you have made the adjustment to center the steering wheel.
If the misaligned steering is noticed immediately following an alignment, I personally would never take my car or truck back to that alignment shop again. It should never happen, however it does all the time.
This problem could be caused by faulty or miscalibrated alignment equipment, it can also be caused by an inexperienced alignment tech, or perhaps one who saves time by adjusting only one side tie rod, getting the toe correct but throwing the steering wheel off to one side or the other during the process.
If the off center steering happened without your car being in the shop, it may be because the alignment has been knocked out of specs by a curb or pothole, or problems with your cars front end, such as something bent or broken in which case it would be better repaired first, before you correct the centering of the steering wheel.
The Trackace is calibrated during every use by design, it is also the only laser alignment equipment that calibrates at a longer distance than its measurement distance. What that means is that if the user makes the Trackace slightly "off" during calibration, the error is reduced during measurment use. Many commercial machines are calibrated at a shorter distance than the measuring distance, meaning any error during calibration will be magnified while measuring toe angle.
That is of course if the alignment tech or shop bothers to check the calibration of their machine at all!
Additionally the Trackace is extremely simple, with few parts to introduce error into the process.
That means that barring user error, an accurate reproducible reading in easy to take.

Once you fully understand the process it is quite simple to center the steering yourself. A video is worth a thousand words and the two videos at the bottom demonstrate how easy it is to center your steering wheel using the tie rods. The adjustments you should make are usually small, and vary in amount depending on how much the steering wheel is off center, the coarseness of the tie rod threads, and the geometry of the vehicles front end, so there is no one size fits all answer.
It is adjust and test drive, adjust and test drive...... until you get it just right, perfectly centered.

Once you get the steering wheel centered then you can use the Trackace to check the toe alignment and adjust to specifications.

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you only make equal adjustments to each tie rod, any difference will throw off the toe and steering wheel.
Because the adjustments you will be making are small, it is also IMPORTANT to mark the tie rod with something, the video shows tape, which is good, you could also mark it with a marker, a spot of white out, or even nail polish. But be aware that if using a spot, at certain rotations the mark may become out of view. Tape is a better method, but either can work.

Enjoy the videos, they were produced by the Inventor of the Trackace Terry Grogan who is from the UK, hence the "funny accent":

Centering the Steering Wheel Theory:


Adjusting the Tie Rods, Practical: