Power Steering
Chevy Blazer S-10
Chevy Nova

Why does a 1986 Chevy Nova pull hard with the slightest turn of the steering wheel on the freeway?

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2011-09-13 23:42:52
2011-09-13 23:42:52

WARNING: Two DANGEROUS possibliites come to mind: Loose steering parts or Wheel coming loose. While I'm NOT a "qualified mechanic" -- I have some "shadetree" mechanic experience, and occupational experience, and have owned a similar model.

In situations where the steering is exaggerated at high speeds, it may be because of the amount of drag on the wheels exacerbating the tendency for the wheels to "slop" to whichever side they are pointed, jerking the car more than you intended, in that direction. It's not as likely (nor as conspicuous) at slower speeds.

This is definitely possible behavior if a wheel is coming loose. Also, though I'm not sure about the steering systems in front-wheel drive cars, I've experienced this with bad steering parts in a rear-wheel drive car.

This is DANGEROUS. It can mean that you are near to losing a wheel or the ability to steer. This situation puts unnatural strain on all the steering parts, and a sudden breakage or other abrupt loss of control is quite possible. Don't drive the car fast until it's been professionally diagnosed and fixed. You may suddenly loose all steering control, which can result in an uncontrollable swerve into roadside objects, or other cars, including oncoming traffic -- or the sudden swerve (especially at medium or high speeds) may result in a rollover in the middle of the road.

STEP 1: CHECK FOR LOOSE WHEELS

Before going to a shop, though, a common (and often successful) amateur fix is to check the tightness of the lug nuts/bolts on the wheels (all four). Be careful to jack the wheel off of the ground, so there is no tension on the bolts, and then (with your hands on the SIDES of the tire (not top or bottom, for safety reasons), try wiggling it. Using a lug wrench, check the apparent tightness of the bolts. Then lower the tire to the ground enough to make enough friction to ensure that the wheel won't rotate when you apply significant torque to the bolts/lugs, and then really TIGHTEN them. If doing this results in a lot of rotation of the bolt/lug nut, then odds are it was loose to begin with.

If this test reveals a possibly loose wheel, your work is NOT done. Remove the wheel and examine the lug bolt for any signs of damage. A very, VERY common consequence of driving on loose wheels is that one or more of the lug bolts has been "chewed on" by the wobbling wheel, and is damaged. If so, it is no longer safe, and MUST be replaced.

Finding one loose wheel doesn't mean you've found THE problem. It means you've found A problem. Check all four wheels, and consider the remaining possibilities with the steering and/or drive train. After checking (and if necessary fixing) all four wheels, DON'T TEST DRIVE IN TRAFFIC. Find a fairly empty roadway. Ideally, go accompanied by a friend with a cell phone, as a "safety man," who will watch you from another parked car, or from a car leading yours (NEVER have the safety guy in a FOLLOWING vehicle during steering checks. If you loose all control, your car will probably suddenly decelerate, and he'll likely run into you.), For the test, start at slow speeds, then gingerly work your way up, trying turns at gradually higher speeds. If ANY jerkiness happens, immediately abort the test, and creep slowly to a qualified, trustworthy mechanic.

STEP 2: GO TO A GOOD SHOP

Find a trustworthy, reputable shop, and have them examine the wheels and entire steering system. (Some examination of drive train is probably appropriate, also, for front-wheel drive cars).

Do NOT take it to the last shop that worked on your wheels, because THEY may have caused it. In particular, loose wheels are normally a product of some mechanic forgetting to tighten the lug nuts down, especially after tire or brake work. Almost every professional mechanic does this from time to time, over the course of years -- but the worst idiot mechanics do it all too often. That's a life-threatening act of stupidity, and I avoid shops that have done it to me (after pointing the error out to them, so they'll hopefully reform their ways, for others).

Steering fixes are often expensive. Tough. Losing all control of your automobile in traffic will be far MORE costly, I assure you. It may even cost you your life, or that of your passengers, or innocent children in other vehicles. Don't be lax on this. Way too much is at stake. Best of luck.

RH

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