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E46 (1999 - 2006)
The fourth generation 3 Series (E46 chassis) was introduced in 1999 and set the standard for engineering and performance during it's years of production including being named to Car & Driver's 10 best list every one of those years! ! -- View the E46 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 10-21-2010, 01:20 PM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Pulling to the left

My car is pulling to the left. I got it re-aligned and it's still pulling to the left. The alignment specs looked ok IIRC, but I didn't get a copy. I am going to take it back to the shop again for another re-alignment, and they will probably inspect it for any other problems. I just wanted to ask if there is anything else that could cause it to pull to the left besides a bad alignment?
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  #2  
Old 10-21-2010, 01:37 PM
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kunal_D kunal_D is offline
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A sticking brake caliper can cause this as well.
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  #3  
Old 10-21-2010, 05:08 PM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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If it is the brake caliper, it will straighten out if I lightly apply the brakes right? Just wondering how to test it...

It doesn't seem to change with speed either.
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  #4  
Old 10-21-2010, 06:00 PM
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G. P. Burdell G. P. Burdell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
If it is the brake caliper, it will straighten out if I lightly apply the brakes right? Just wondering how to test it...
If a brake caliper is sticking, the rotor and wheel may feel hotter to the touch than the side that isn't sticking.

Has the car suffered any front-end or suspension damage? Are the strut towers still flat on top and the strut mount studs parallel to each other? A bent front strut can cause the car to pull to one side.
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  #5  
Old 10-21-2010, 06:21 PM
Piquet Piquet is offline
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may be a redundant question but does it pull all the time on any road, highway?
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  #6  
Old 10-21-2010, 06:32 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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tire inflation, radial pull, incorrect individual toe (which would cause the steering wheel to be off centered, even though 'total toe' is within specs and not wear tires) could cause this.

to check a radial pull, even if the tread is 'directional', swap the front tires. this will identify the tire is the culprit and can be remedied with a replacement. it will not wear the tires out abnormally, or harm the tire in any way by doing this.

get a copy of the specs, and the individual toe for the front, as well as the rear, should be the same, or within 0.01 degrees of each other @ straight ahead.

hope this helps.

df
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  #7  
Old 10-22-2010, 07:08 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Yes it pulls any time on any road. If the road is tilted to the left it's even worse.

Yeah for the toe issues, I will take it back to the shop and have them do the alignment again (it's under warranty).

So I need to swap the tires from side to side and see if that helps...

I swear I can see some slight mushrooming on the left strut tower but I showed it to a BMW mechanic and he said it looked normal to him. So I really don't know. I am suspicious about suspension damage since the front subframe seems to have some damage on it (but it's only in the center, near the oil pan access hole), and I have no idea how it got there. It was another thing which wasn't mentioned to me when I had the PPI done. However, I don't recall it pulling to the left when I first got it but I am not certain.
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  #8  
Old 10-22-2010, 04:55 PM
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ask the alignment shop if they list specs for included angle, and steering axis inclination (ai, & sai). these will help a good alignment tech in determining what, if any, suspension parts may be bent or damaged, including the subframe.

if they are not familiar with these terms, don't frett much. most guys doing alignments aren't familiar with these. it's more for body shop alignments.


just thought that i would throw that out to you. regardless, you should be able to get a copy of the specs for the alignment to your car. feel free to post them, that way we can take a gander and see where your car is 'pointing'.


df
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  #9  
Old 10-27-2010, 06:50 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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So I have a little more information. It seems at lower speeds the steering wheel is cocked even more to the left when you let go of it (maybe 15% sometimes, but it seems to vary). Also I don't know why I didn't connect the dots but I had to get the front left wheel repaired because it was bent. So if anyone has any suggestions on how I can check for suspension damage I would appreciate it.
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  #10  
Old 10-27-2010, 07:37 AM
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I went a couple alignments before went BMW shop RRT, here in VA. They have done by using just a simple string, and since it's good. Of course in VA roads have some incline, so it's pulling toward incline, also wide 225 front tire don't help much.
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  #11  
Old 10-27-2010, 08:21 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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It's not the incline. If the incline is to the right it still pulls slightly to the left. If the incline is to the left I can't let go of the wheel for more than 1-2 seconds before I am veering out of my lane. I am going to take it to the shop again (they have a warranty) and if they can't figure out what is wrong I might have to take it to RRT. If someone can tell me how to figure this out myself I would appreciate it. What should I look to be bent? The ZHP has the M-tech control arms so I doubt they are bent but how can I check?

Are you saying that yours was pulling to the left until you took it to RRT? How much did they charge?

Last edited by Ozymandias; 10-27-2010 at 08:23 AM.
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  #12  
Old 10-27-2010, 08:34 AM
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about 100 buck something. But ask guy (James Muskopf -lead mechanic) on front desk to do himself, but don't take on computer alignment.
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  #13  
Old 10-27-2010, 09:21 PM
mujjuman mujjuman is offline
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ok this may sound weird.... but check your tire pressure...
my car would pull to the right SO badly, and it was aligned with new OEM suspension and everything, new brakes everything.... Finally my father told me "check tire pressure" and I did.... I couldnt visually check my pressure was off, but it was like 10psi difference!!!!! I think it was 30psi vs 40psi. I made everything 35psi and problem solved.
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  #14  
Old 10-29-2010, 09:43 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Tire pressure was a little low but it was the same on both sides. I put in some air and the pull is still there but not quite as bad. I think the next step is to try to switch the tires around and see if that makes a difference.
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  #15  
Old 11-08-2010, 10:19 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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So they say it could be pulling to the left because the camber is way off...they can't get it into spec. What could cause this? Bad struts? Bad strut tower bushings? Damage somewhere?

How long do ZHP struts typically last?
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  #16  
Old 11-08-2010, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
So they say it could be pulling to the left because the camber is way off...they can't get it into spec. What could cause this? Bad struts? Bad strut tower bushings? Damage somewhere?

How long do ZHP struts typically last?
Camber would be off because something is bent - maybe the strut tower is mushroomed badly, or some other suspension component is bent. It's not the sort of thing a bad strut is going to cause. A good alignment shop that knows the car should be able to see what component is out of spec and causing the problem.

Which corner has the bad camber - likely the same one as the damaged wheel you mention in a prior post? Unfortunately it sounds like you hit something, maybe 'just' a bad pothole, but that something damaged a wheel and put your suspension seriously out of whack.
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  #17  
Old 11-08-2010, 11:15 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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So here it is:

FL Camber: -1.71*
FL Caster: 4.63*
FL Toe: .05

FR Camber: -2.39*
FR Caster: 4.56*
FR Toe: .07

RL Camber: -2.03 (they got this into spec....it was -1.56)
RL Toe: .08
RR Camber: -1.55*
RR Toe: .04

* - out of spec

The guy at the shop is insisting that old struts could be causing it. He says visually everything looks fine. So not sure what to do at this point. I might call RRT and see what they say.

I have a feeling whatever bent the wheel did something else, but the camber is off on 3 out of 4 corners, so I don't really know...

Last edited by Ozymandias; 11-08-2010 at 11:23 AM.
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  #18  
Old 11-08-2010, 01:11 PM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Called RRT and was really impressed. It was like talking to a suspension encyclopedia on the phone. He said a -2.4 camber shouldn't even be possible on stock suspension. So I am taking it there on wednesday and they will look over it. Will post any updates.

Kinda wishing I had them look over my car before I bought it. Heh.
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  #19  
Old 11-08-2010, 01:53 PM
Bilstein Bilstein is offline
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Oz, from the look of your alignment specs I would have suspected someone lowered the car and in doing so altered the suspension geo. Also with your front right being so negative relative to your left the car's right side may be "pushing" your car left. Just thought.
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  #20  
Old 11-09-2010, 04:12 AM
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MicahO MicahO is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
Called RRT and was really impressed. It was like talking to a suspension encyclopedia on the phone. He said a -2.4 camber shouldn't even be possible on stock suspension. So I am taking it there on wednesday and they will look over it. Will post any updates.

Kinda wishing I had them look over my car before I bought it. Heh.
Good to hear that you've got someone with knowledge. -2.4 at the front should not be possible on these cars (though the -1.7 is with a bit of finagling). On the stock suspension front camber is not supposed to be adjustable, but there are some small adjustments to be made.

Looking at the top of your strut towers, do you still have the alignment pins positioning the top of the strut mounts? You should see a silver domed pin about 5mm round sticking up through the top of the strut tower on both sides. If it's not there, you'll see a 5mm hole, and part of the strut mount visible below it. It's possible to take out those alignment pins and then shift the strut mount inwards to get another ~0.5degrees negative camber up front, probably bringing the car to about -1.7 or -1.8 (though that would be equal across both sides; the -2.4 is truly out of bounds). If the pins are already out, it's easy to yank the top of the strut back out to take out some negative camber - raise the car a little bit to get some weight off the mount, loosen the 3 strut mount nuts a bit, and yank on the spring.


Even with the pins out, you shouldn't be seeing more than -2 on a stock suspension, at least not without serious ride-height issues or with other problems. Bilstein's note about a failed attempt at lowering rings true....

Does the car sit lower on the one side? How many fingers can you fit between the wheelwell and the tire on either side?


The -1.7 front may not be 'in spec,' but if you've got it equal across both sides, you'll find handling improvements by taking the front out to -1.7 or -1.8 on both sides. Make sure that the shop is reading specs for the sport suspension, which is a bit more agressive as far as negative camber allowances. And then aim for the extreme (negative) edge of that spec. Negative camber, spread equally across the axles, is your friend
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  #21  
Old 11-09-2010, 07:06 AM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilstein View Post
Oz, from the look of your alignment specs I would have suspected someone lowered the car and in doing so altered the suspension geo. Also with your front right being so negative relative to your left the car's right side may be "pushing" your car left. Just thought.
I was thinking the car might be lowered but when I see another E46 it doesn't look any lower...so I am not sure.
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  #22  
Old 11-09-2010, 08:33 AM
Bilstein Bilstein is offline
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Oz, how your sled can "look" stock and be as negatively cambered as you stated is perplexing. Did someone lower it and them alter the wheel diameter and/or tire profile to maintain the gap between the wheelwells and tires?
And typically, hitting something tosses one corner out, maybe a side, but not the whole car - unless of course someone ran directly over a downed telephone pole.

Take a look behind the front wheels, do you have colored shocks or springs? My bilsteins are yellow and H&R springs are red, so it's readily apparent I did something to the suspension.

Also check, as Mica suggested, to see how many fingers are between the top of the tire and the wheel well.

We got us a genuine mystery on our hands.
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  #23  
Old 11-10-2010, 12:33 PM
Ozymandias Ozymandias is offline
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Front struts are bent. Alignment pins have already been knocked out to try to get things back into spec. Strut towers are slightly mushroomed but not too badly. Right rear lower control arm has been replaced but somehow the right rear camber is still off by 1 degree.

BMW of Fairfax didn't catch any of this. When I pointed out the strut towers, their mechanic said "looks ok to me". Screw them. Seriously. I'm spending so much money getting this car "right"...thankfully up until now I have been able to DIY everything. Never go to a dealer for a PPI. never.


e: Just wanted to say RRT is awesome. They didn't try to rip me off for the diagnosis and they took their time to show me everything. They never tried to take a shortcut.

Last edited by Ozymandias; 11-10-2010 at 12:38 PM.
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