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the Suspension and Steering
Today's suspension and steering systems are relatively dependable
and trouble-free; however, there are a few things you should do to
keep both in good working order:
Repack the wheel bearings
Check the power steering fluid level
In most cases, you'll only
want to check the power steering fluid yourself. The other
services usually require a lift and other equipment and are more
suited to being done at a repair shop.
If the fluid is low, you'll have to add some. Most auto
parts stores carry power steering fluid, or you can use automatic
transmission fluid. Be careful not to overfill the pump. If the
fluid level gets too high, it could push out the top when you turn
the wheel hard and spray all over the engine.Once you have the level
set properly, reinstall the cap or dipstick. That's all there is to
checking the power steering fluid.
This is the "lube" part of the "lube, oil and
filter" that you're supposed to have done at least four times a
year. It involves pumping fresh grease into the ball joints, tie-rod
ends and other rotating components in the steering '• and
suspension system. Failure to have the suspension and steering lubed
regularly can cause the components to wear and eventually fail.
Some cars have sealed suspension and steering systems from the
factory. These systems usually have small plugs installed where the
grease fittings normally go. If your car has plugs instead of grease
fittings, have your repair shop install the grease fittings so they
can lubricate the suspension and steering properly.
Repacking the Wheel
Wheel bearings are ball or roller bearings that hold the wheels
straight on the axle while allowing them to rotate. On drive axles,
those bearings usually are either lubricated by the axle oil or are
sealed components and won't require service unless they fail.
On most non-drive wheels, the wheel bearings will need to be
repacked occasionally. Repacking the bearings means removing and
inspecting them, forcing, or packing, new bearing grease in between
the bearings and races, replacing the seal and adjusting the bearing
tension. The bearings that usually need to be repacked are the
front-wheel bearings on rear-wheel drive cars and the rear-wheel
bearings on front-wheel drive cars.
On front-wheel drive cars, the rear-wheel bearings don't get
exposed to a lot of heat or load. In general, you should be able to
get away with repacking them when the brakes get replaced. But on
rear-wheel drive cars, the front-wheel bearings take quite a
bearing. The additional heat from the front brakes, combined with
the extra load caused by turning the wheels, really puts a lot of
stress on the wheel bearings.
Most state inspection programs include a suspensions and steering
check. This involves
checking the ball joints, tie-rod ends, and other components for
looseness or wear, and a visual examination of any bushings and
other components. And
it usually includes a bounce check for the shock absorbers or
If your state requires this type of inspection, great.
In most cases, that should be all you need to make sure your
car’s suspension and steering are in good working order.
But if your state doesn’t have a safety inspection program,
or it doesn’t include this level of inspection, you should take
your car I and have it checked at least once a year.
A good time to do this is right before vacation, to make sure
your car’s suspension and steering will handle the additional
miles without leaving you stranded.
A few years ago, this was called “front-end alignment.”
But today, an alignment involves much more than just the
front end. On most
cars, an alignment means aligning the rear wheels with the
centerline of the car and then aligning the front wheels to the rear
wheels. This brings the
whole car into alignment to provide additional tire life and better
Depending on the shop you use, this type of alignment will carry
names like thrust angle alignment, or four-wheel alignment.
In general, these terms mean the same thing: aligning all
four wheels to the center line of the car.
How often should you have your car’s alignment checked?
You should have it checked if you notice any of these conditions:
Unusual tire wear
A pull or drift to one side – that doesn’t mean
you should take your hands off the steering wheel.
Different levels of road crown will cause that type of drift.
But if you feel the steering pulling one way or the other,
have the alignment checked.
You hit a severe pothole or curb, and the steering
feels different than it did before.
Remember to explain the reason you want an alignment checked so
the repair shop knows what to look for.
In addition, you should have the alignment checked when you
get new tires. This is just an insurance policy to help make sure
you get the most miles out of your new tires.
Most manufacturers also recommend you get your wheels aligned at
least once a year. This
isn’t a bad idea, and it will help keep your tires in good shape.
However, it isn’t necessarily a cost-effective
consideration. If you do decide to have your wheels aligned yearly, a good
time to do so is right before your vacation, so your car will handle
properly during the miles you’ll be driving.
Car's Mechanical Condition
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to ask before choosing a mechanic.
the Stop to Your Brakes
your car exhibiting any of this potential warning signs?
Find out more.
Change Every 3000 Miles - Good Advice or Just a Sales Pitch?
-do you really need to change your oil every 3000
miles? The answer may surprise you.
Auto Repair Manuals for the Do-It-Yourselfer
-are you the fix-it-yourself type? Find great
sources for your manuals.
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