STEERING, SUSPENSION, AND ALIGNMENT

Steering System

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The steering system for most vehicles on the road today is actually two different systems tied together: the steering linkage and the steering assist system (either hydraulic or electronic).

The steering linkage is the set of components which are connected together and physically move the wheels when you turn the steering wheel. It consists of the steering wheel and column, tie rods, and the steering gear or rack and pinion unit (one or the other). On larger or four-wheel drive vehicles, there may be other components such as steering dampers, stabilizers, drag links, and a track bar for stability to make the large vehicles easier for the driver to control.

The hydraulic steering assist system consists of a power steering pump, steering gear or rack and pinion unit, fluid reservoir for holding power steering fluid, and hydraulic hoses to carry the fluid from one component to another. Some newer vehicles are being equipped with an electronic steering assist system which still uses a steering gear or rack and pinion unit, as well as an Electric Power Assisted Steering Control Module (EPAS Module). This module is essentially a computer which translates the movement of the steering wheel into electric signals which does the same work as the hydraulic system. Both types of steering assist provide effortless movement of the steering wheel for the driver.

The steering gear / rack and pinion unit is the component which uses power steering fluid (in a hydraulic system) or interfaces with the EPAS Module (in an electric system) to assist the driver in effortlessly turning the steering wheel in the direction the vehicle needs to go. It is part of both the steering assist system and the steering linkage and ties both parts of the steering system together.

If the hydraulic system is leaking, or if a component such as the power steering pump or the rack and pinion unit fails, it can be very difficult to steer your vehicle and require more strength to get the vehicle to go where you want it to. Similarly, if the EPAS Module fails, the vehicle will become difficult to steer. If you have ever driven a vehicle that isn’t equipped with power steering, you will know what this feels like. Finding the root cause of a problem can be tricky; come see Asher Automotive - we can help!

The steering linkage contains the most moving parts and is the primary culprit when drivers complain about a vehicle not driving straight, or having to move the steering wheel a long way before the vehicle responds. If any one part of the steering linkage is damaged or worn out due to age or use, the vehicle will not drive straight or pull to one side, can be difficult to control, cause excessive shaking at high speeds (also known as “death wobble”), and can cause other components (like tires, shocks, or other parts of the suspension) to wear out faster than normal.

At Asher Automotive, we specialize in eliminating pulling, shaking, “death wobble”, improper tire wear, and other steering-related problems with your vehicle. Call us today for an appointment!

Suspension

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The suspension system is responsible for maintaining a smooth ride for the passengers but also for the handling, and braking performance and preventing other parts from wearing out due to excessive stress or load. These concepts tend to be exclusive to each other, so finding the right balance between comfort and vehicle performance is critical. If you have ever seen a race car driver inside his car, you’ve seen him being fastened in with a harness rather than a seat belt, and noticed his body being shaken and beaten by the movement of the car. This is because race cars are set up to sacrifice comfort for the sake of the best handling performance possible. Fortunately for us, our passenger vehicles are able to make our ride smooth because of the way our vehicle’s suspension system is designed.

The parts of the suspension system most likely to exhibit wear are the shock absorbers (shocks) and/or struts, springs, ball joints, and tires. These components of the suspension system will wear out over time, by design. In fact, most manufacturers recommend routine replacement of shocks and struts every 60,000 to 80,000 miles as routine maintenance, even if you may not feel any difference in the ride of your vehicle. After riding on the same shocks and struts for 80,000 miles or more, we have had several customers tell us what a noticeable difference that installing new shocks and struts has made to the ride quality of their vehicle! Worn suspension components not only affect comfort, but will make the vehicle less responsive in the steering and take the vehicle a longer distance to stop, causing more wear on the brakes. Does your vehicle “nose dive” when you brake firmly? If so, it might be time for Asher Automotive to check your suspension system. Give us a call to set an appointment to inspect your vehicle’s suspension system.

Other components in the suspension system which do not require much maintenance are torsion bars and leaf springs, though adjustments and modifications can be made to these components for performance based upon the use of the vehicle, such as if it hauls heavy loads or tows a trailer often. If your vehicle is used for more than just getting people from one place to another, visit with Asher Automotive about what we can to do optimize your suspension for the type of work you do.

Alignment

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You can’t talk about steering and suspension without talking about wheel alignment. Any time you have maintenance or repairs performed to your steering or suspension system, you need to make sure the wheels are in proper alignment afterwards. Even the slightest difference in the fit or installation of new steering and suspension components will cause a vehicle to be out of alignment. But did you know that your vehicle can be out of alignment due to ordinary operation of your vehicle?

Your vehicle may need an alignment if you experience any of the following:

  • Vehicle pulls to one side or does not drive straight
  • Tires are wearing more on one edge, or replacing tires more often than normal
  • Accidentally hit a curb or parking spot bumper, pothole, or debris in the road
  • Less responsive steering

In addition, if you have had your tires replaced recently just because they were worn past their normal life, it is a great investment to have your vehicle aligned. After all, the cost of an alignment is much less than the cost of replacing your tires before their time.

If any of these things have happened to your vehicle, give Asher Automotive a call to schedule your alignment service. As a courtesy we will inspect your entire steering and suspension system at the same time. In many cases we can perform this service while you wait.