Diagnosing Steering Problems

Car steering problems are the cause of multiple accidents. That’s why the proper diagnosis of any steering problem on your vehicle is essential by a professional mechanic. Let’s see how to diagnose some of these problems.

Pulling to One Side: A car that pulls to one side can have one of three problems. Front-end alignment problems will cause the car to steer to one side as though you had turned the steering wheel. Low tire pressure will cause the tire to drag slightly, which will pull the car to one side – particularly if the low tire happens to be on the front-end of the car. A stuck brake caliper will work much the same way, slowing one wheel as though the air pressure in that tire were low.

Loose or Sloppy Steering: The term “loose” doesn’t necessarily mean that the steering is far easier to turn, but rather that you turn the wheel and it doesn’t do anything. Low power steering fluid level can cause funny things to happen with the pressure, causing the steering to go hard, slip or go sloppy, depending upon the car. But in this case, you’re more likely looking at some loose connection or bent linkage in the steering system. Worn-out or broken tie rods ends, broken steering rack brackets and mounts, worn-out or malfunctioning steering isolators – the rubber disc in your steering column that keeps vibrations from reaching the steering wheel – worn strut bearings or mounts and bad ball joints are all possibilities.

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Hard steering: Back in the day, before power steering, all vehicles used manual steering racks. In order to give a driver enough leverage to turn the steer wheels, the steering rack had to use a high gear ratio that forced the driver to turn the wheel six to eight times from side-to-side instead of two to three. Power steering systems use a lower ratio because the power system compensates for the lack of gear ratio; which is great as long as the power steering works, but not so much if it doesn’t. A wheel that’s hard to turn indicates a lack of power steering fluid, a broken pump or steering rack, a worn-out power steering pump belt (which you’ll hear in the form of squealing) or broken steering rack mounts.

Slipping: Steering systems can’t really “slip,” because the connection between the wheel and the rack is mechanically solid. The sensation of slipping – a feeling that the wheel is alternately going solid and moving itself while you’re steering or holding the wheel still – is generally a fluctuation in hydraulic power steering pressure. The causes are much the same as they are for hard steering, because slipping often precedes hard steering. In addition, an internally or externally leaking power steering rack will cause slippage.

Cleaning the MAF Sensor

Since we already explained what the MAF sensor does in the O2 sensor section, now all you need to know is how to clean it. The MAF sensor mounts either to the throttle body, in the tubing from the air filter box to the TB, or on the airbox housing itself. The removal and cleaning procedure is about the same, and vital for all the same reasons.

The heated MAF sits in a small “sample tube,” which tends to collect dust and junk for the same reason that the IAC does. When the hot wire gets coated in dust, air flowing over it will no longer cool the wire. This will send an inaccurate reading to the computer, resulting in a loss of performance and possible engine overheating when the engine runs lean.

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Cleaning the IAC is a fairly straightforward procedure. Remove the Allen-head screws that hold it in place – note that they use a little “security post” in the middle that requires a matching Allen wrench – and carefully lift the sensor out. Spray a purpose-made MAF sensor cleaner directly on the sensor wires in the sample tube, but only on the metal sensor wires. MAF cleaner can damage other components of the sensor, so keep it on the wires where possible. Allow the cleaner to air-dry, and reinstall the sensor pointing the same direction that you pulled it out. Snug the screws hand-tight, and you’re done.

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