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E39 (1997 - 2003)
The BMW 5-Series (E39 chassis) was introduced in the United States as a 1997 model year car and lasted until the 2004 when the E60 chassis was released. The United States saw several variations including the 525i, 528i, 530i and 540i. -- View the E39 Wiki

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  #1  
Old 02-07-2013, 04:04 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Car is trailing right - help diagnose?

So a couple months ago, I tapped a curb at 5 mph and my already-blown strut on the FR side lost pressure, effectively lowering the ride height of that side of the car. You can find my thread about it here. Now, the ride heights are even since I replaced the struts on both sides and everything is going good except for the misalignment of the steering wheel. In order to drive straight, the steering wheel must be held centered at the 57 minute mark, if you were to visualize the wheel orientation as a clock face. If you let go of the steering wheel at 45 mph, it takes about 7-8 seconds to end up in the other lane. I noticed that this was an issue ever since the accident. The steering wheel was straight before, almost perfectly.

I have been through 10+ alignments since then, at various Firestone stores (I know, they're horrible) and at an independent alignment/tire shop. The car tracks fine, everything is within spec and symmetrical except for the front casters which are FR 6.0 degrees and FL 6.1 degrees. This alignment sheet indicates that for a sport suspension, these values should be within 6.2 to 7.2 degrees. The toes are FL 0.02 degrees and FR 0.05 degrees.

I understand that many roads, especially here in SoCal, are crowned in the center and that generally makes people think that their car is leaning right. However, I've driven this on roads that I would speculate to be reasonably flat and the car persistently runs right.

I'm not entirely sure if this issue is related, but upon braking (sometimes? I can't seem to reproduce this problem consistently) the wheel will turn right hard, almost like the wheels are trying to climb something. If my hands are on the wheel, this is entirely controllable but strange.

Any insight/suggestions? I appreciate the help and I'm sure my E39 would as well.

Last edited by superwashcycle; 02-07-2013 at 04:09 PM.
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  #2  
Old 02-07-2013, 05:13 PM
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drivinfaster drivinfaster is offline
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well, first of all, when you get a proper alignment and there are no bent/worn parts, the steering wheel should be straight.

make sure the rear toe is correct as well, or that will throw off the alignment.

steering axis inclination will also be necessary to be checked to ensure no bent parts.

i dare say that if you 'tapped' a curb enough to blow out a strut, you were going a little faster than 5mph....and you probably have additional bent parts.



if the shop doesn't know what 'sai' is, then go to another one.....




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Old 02-07-2013, 05:41 PM
acoste acoste is online now
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I have checked your previous thread. I'm not expert just thinking out loud.
Let's assume the alignment is perfect and the suspension parts are o.k. What could cause the car to pull right?

brakes? if the front right brake will act a little bit earlier (any twisted brake lines?), you will have the "trying to climb" feeling and that turns the steering wheel immediately:
Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
I'm not entirely sure if this issue is related, but upon braking (sometimes? I can't seem to reproduce this problem consistently) the wheel will turn right hard, almost like the wheels are trying to climb something.
(the other thing I could think of causing the issue above is a loose suspension part, but we assume everything is o.k.)

slight constant pulling to the side can be caused by slightly dragging brakes.

I haven't heard of a bad wheel bearing causing pulling to the side, but in theory it is possible that a bearing that has higher rolling resistance will brake the wheel a little bit. But I guess that would be noticeable loud.
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Old 02-07-2013, 07:32 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post

steering axis inclination will also be necessary to be checked to ensure no bent parts.

i dare say that if you 'tapped' a curb enough to blow out a strut, you were going a little faster than 5mph....and you probably have additional bent parts.


df
Hey drivinfaster,

My SAIs are as follows: FL 14.4 deg, FR 14.0 deg.

Oh and for clarification, I was driving on blown struts, contacted the curb at 5 mph, and after the impact that FR side was lower than the FL side. I didn't have good struts, then hit the curb, and blow em out.
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  #5  
Old 02-07-2013, 07:39 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acoste View Post
I have checked your previous thread. I'm not expert just thinking out loud.
Let's assume the alignment is perfect and the suspension parts are o.k. What could cause the car to pull right?

brakes? if the front right brake will act a little bit earlier (any twisted brake lines?), you will have the "trying to climb" feeling and that turns the steering wheel immediately:

(the other thing I could think of causing the issue above is a loose suspension part, but we assume everything is o.k.)

slight constant pulling to the side can be caused by slightly dragging brakes.

I haven't heard of a bad wheel bearing causing pulling to the side, but in theory it is possible that a bearing that has higher rolling resistance will brake the wheel a little bit. But I guess that would be noticeable loud.
Thanks for the great information, acoste.

I was looking at the "sticking brakes" threads for the E39 and thought this could be an explanation. It could be a possibility because every time I return for another alignment, the data sheet is fine. The brakes would only cause the pulling when the car is in motion.

I had the car inspected and everything under there is solid. I wiggled the wheels around and according to some of the threads around here, my bearings aren't busted.

I was driving around today trying to recreate the situation where the wheels turn right under braking. I did all different types of braking patterns but could not recreate the pull!

I'm at 65,7XX miles, am I due for bearings?
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  #6  
Old 02-07-2013, 07:45 PM
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at any time has anyone tried swapping the tires from side to side on the front?? when i did alignments i would occasionaly come across what can be described as a 'radial pull'. it would either go away or pull to the other side if it were.

if it still pulls to the one side, and the alignments were done on the same rack, then i would chec the level of the rack.

so i can get a better idea, could you post a copy of the alignment measurements?? it makes much more sense to me when i can see the collective information in relation to all four wheels.






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Old 02-07-2013, 07:47 PM
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I think you've got a bad thrust arm or damaged front brake pads, and also need to take your car to a place that specializes in BMW's for an alignment.

My son is an alignment tech and he swears that most cheap tire chain stores do not understand the extra steps involved in aligning BMW's even though their alignment equipment is fully up to doing the job.

This is one of the very few jobs that I actually recommend that you take to the dealer or a good German Independent Shop and pay the $120-$150 they're going to charge you to get it done right. Good thing is that once the alignment is correct, it should be good for many years.

Last edited by Ltmax; 02-07-2013 at 07:50 PM.
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  #8  
Old 02-07-2013, 08:05 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drivinfaster View Post
at any time has anyone tried swapping the tires from side to side on the front?? when i did alignments i would occasionaly come across what can be described as a 'radial pull'. it would either go away or pull to the other side if it were.

if it still pulls to the one side, and the alignments were done on the same rack, then i would chec the level of the rack.

so i can get a better idea, could you post a copy of the alignment measurements?? it makes much more sense to me when i can see the collective information in relation to all four wheels.

df
http://imgur.com/zJnYsvb

Here is the alignment data. I haven't tried swapping the tires from side to side - does a "radial pull" show up on the alignment sheet?
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Old 02-07-2013, 08:10 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ltmax View Post
I think you've got a bad thrust arm or damaged front brake pads, and also need to take your car to a place that specializes in BMW's for an alignment.

My son is an alignment tech and he swears that most cheap tire chain stores do not understand the extra steps involved in aligning BMW's even though their alignment equipment is fully up to doing the job.

This is one of the very few jobs that I actually recommend that you take to the dealer or a good German Independent Shop and pay the $120-$150 they're going to charge you to get it done right. Good thing is that once the alignment is correct, it should be good for many years.
What kind of steps? I'm actually considering that as a Plan B if I don't get this sorted out. After 10+ alignments from chain stores and non-chain stores and the repeated "wheel leaning to left," I kinda want to see what else could possibly cause this first. I have no doubt that a $150 alignment is going to be better than the $150/999,999 alignment plan.
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Old 02-08-2013, 11:04 AM
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DHoang DHoang is offline
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your car needs to be preloaded w/ sand bags, rice bags, (I've seen flour bags used too) or plates of 45kg barbell weights placed in the car before doing an alignment.
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Old 02-08-2013, 01:31 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DHoang View Post
your car needs to be preloaded w/ sand bags, rice bags, (I've seen flour bags used too) or plates of 45kg barbell weights placed in the car before doing an alignment.
What are the implications of not weighing down the car before alignment? So even if the alignment data is good, but the car was not weighted, the steering wheel will be crooked?

Sorry if my questions come off as a bit offensive, I'm just trying to understand how it works. Thanks for the post!
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Old 02-08-2013, 02:20 PM
acoste acoste is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
I'm at 65,7XX miles, am I due for bearings?
I don't think so. Mine is 170k and has no play. I guess such a minor accident won't cause any bearing damage.
First thing of the suspension parts that bends is the tie rod. But even if it's bent a little bit and you don't realize it, the alignment would take care of it. Were you braking when you hit the curb?
Just a very primitive test: Could you accurately measure the distance of the front and rear wheels on the right side and compare it to the distance on the other side?

Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
So even if the alignment data is good, but the car was not weighted, the steering wheel will be crooked?
No, the dummy load is symmetrical.
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Old 02-08-2013, 02:27 PM
mbell666 mbell666 is offline
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It has to be:
- Miss alignment
- Failed suspension component
- A tire problem

You have pretty much ruled the first two out, have you looked at the tires? Maybe rotates the spare tire around the car to see if it sorts it self out. I've had a new front tire cause steering to be off center, moved it to the back and the steering was straight again.
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:00 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mbell666 View Post
It has to be:
- Miss alignment
- Failed suspension component
- A tire problem

You have pretty much ruled the first two out, have you looked at the tires? Maybe rotates the spare tire around the car to see if it sorts it self out. I've had a new front tire cause steering to be off center, moved it to the back and the steering was straight again.
Ding ding ding! Mbell666, you hit the nail right on the head. The inside of the right tire is worn down... possibly from driving 1000 miles with weird camber issues. I'm going to bring it in to a shop tomorrow and have my spare put on and confirm the problem. Great suggestion.
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Old 02-08-2013, 06:01 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acoste View Post
I don't think so. Mine is 170k and has no play. I guess such a minor accident won't cause any bearing damage.
First thing of the suspension parts that bends is the tie rod. But even if it's bent a little bit and you don't realize it, the alignment would take care of it. Were you braking when you hit the curb?
Just a very primitive test: Could you accurately measure the distance of the front and rear wheels on the right side and compare it to the distance on the other side?


No, the dummy load is symmetrical.
Thanks for the post. I will have the distances for you tomorrow if the tire wasn't the issue. Went to my 12th Firestone today and they noted the tire wear as a possible cause also. Good lookin' out!
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Old 02-08-2013, 07:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
http://imgur.com/zJnYsvb

Here is the alignment data. I haven't tried swapping the tires from side to side - does a "radial pull" show up on the alignment sheet?
no, a radial pull (or tire pull) will not show on the spec sheet. it *should* however, have been identified by the tech doing the alignment during the post alignment test drive. with those specs the steering wheel should have been very close to centered. (i like to see toe even up front, less than 0.2 degrees difference side to side myself when i did alignments)




Quote:
Originally Posted by DHoang View Post
your car needs to be preloaded w/ sand bags, rice bags, (I've seen flour bags used too) or plates of 45kg barbell weights placed in the car before doing an alignment.
yeah, and we used to grab 2 of the oil change guys to sit in the car while we did the adjustments when they were available...

Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
What are the implications of not weighing down the car before alignment? So even if the alignment data is good, but the car was not weighted, the steering wheel will be crooked?

Sorry if my questions come off as a bit offensive, I'm just trying to understand how it works. Thanks for the post!

no, not weighing down the car will not cause the alignment to give you a crooked wheel.

worst case scenario, i have done alignments on bmw, mb, jaguar without preloading and have had no issues with the way the vehicle handled or issues with tire wear. as it was explained to me by one of my alignment instructors, these cars are designed to be driven at high rates of speed, and as such, when loaded, are aligned to give maximum performance at these speeds.

we don't drive that fast, though, so it was stated that while always the best idea to follow the mfr specs, the car will not perform poorly (in any measureable way) if not preloaded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by superwashcycle View Post
Ding ding ding! Mbell666, you hit the nail right on the head. The inside of the right tire is worn down... possibly from driving 1000 miles with weird camber issues. I'm going to bring it in to a shop tomorrow and have my spare put on and confirm the problem. Great suggestion.
again, why was this not picked up by the alignment guy?? (i'll tell you, he was a 'green is good' kind of guy. get it in the green and let it go...)


btw, i do not see where camber was out at all. in fact, the only thing out of spec is rear toe...which will affect front toe when adjusted.

again, i figure this is an alignment done after the initial one when you had hit the curb, so i expected it to be close. but i see no red flags with this right now.

if, after the tire is addressed, the car still pulls, or has an off center wheel, have the shop hang the heads and then let you put the wheel where you want it to be. then see where the toe winds up on the screen.

again, alignments are not that hard, *especially* when there is technology like what we have. hand 4 heads, roll the chassis back 18", then forward again, level the heads, and *bam*. you're compensated and have your measurements. when i did them, it was 'way cool' to be able to hang a head and comp it before going to the next wheel...




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Old 02-08-2013, 07:19 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Hey Drivin'Faster,

You are correct that the alignment was done after the new struts were installed.

Would a rotation be able to ward off the effects of the worn tire for a while? On the front right, it's the inside of the tire (farther from me that the outside wall) that is wearing. I assumed the camber from the superblown strut caused that. I also have a full spare to add into the mix, but it's tread might actually be better than the tires on the car right now. Not sure how to approach this - I'm a tire noob!

Thanks again, your input is always appreciated!
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Old 02-09-2013, 06:15 AM
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without seeing the tire, i would be guessing at best. however, once a tire has started to wear unevenly, it seldom ever gets 'corrected'. you could simply put the tire to the rear if it is still safe enough to drive on, or, swap in the spare tire if it isn't.




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Old 02-09-2013, 05:02 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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Swapped the fronts to continentals... No change
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Old 02-09-2013, 05:16 PM
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then i would have the shop recheck their alignment rack, or go to another shop and have an alignment check performed. i'd bring a copy of the measurements and have the service manager take a ride with you. there is no reason for the vehicle to not have a centered steering wheel.




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Old 02-09-2013, 06:45 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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I appreciate the follow-up, drivinfaster. I feel rather alone in this, as I haven't been able to find anything of the sort online. So if the alignment sheet is fine, tires are fine... is it really just an alignment issue? I'm scared about damage to my steering rack, though my mechanic (definitely not from the alignment shop!) says the suspension is perfectly sound.

Is it possible for the steering wheel to be off and the toe to be fine in the alignment data? How about a bent control arm? I never replaced my control arms, just the struts - that got my car tracking straight again.

Thanks again for all your contributions, guys.
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:09 PM
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well, bent parts are possible, but, if the included angle and steering axis inclination are within spec, and the readings are also within spec, then the possibilities are as follows. again, this assumes that there has been a thorough inspection to compare the suspension parts are not bent.

the total toe is the important angle, and is what causes the tire wear when out of spec. individual toe will be the factor to a straight ahead steering wheel.

if there are no bent parts identifiable, then the possibilities are:


the toe was set with the steering wheel off center, the rack is off center, or the head(s) are out of calibration.


this can be verified by going to another shop and having an alignment check performed, just bring the paperwork from the other shop with you. i have also written a thread about alignments.

http://www.bimmerfest.com/forums/sho...740&highlight=





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Old 02-09-2013, 07:21 PM
superwashcycle superwashcycle is offline
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How does the wheel lock work for most alignment shops? I have a strong feeling its door number one: steering wheel not straight before alignment but after 10 alignments, there's got to be something going on here.
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Old 02-09-2013, 07:55 PM
acoste acoste is online now
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Hi superwashcycle,
if the steering wheel is not centered during wheel alignment, the car will still go straight without touching the steering wheel which will be off by some degree.
Compare this to an unsymmetrical suspension where you have to keep the steering wheel off in order to go straight.
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Old 02-09-2013, 08:46 PM
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Quote:
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Hi superwashcycle,
if the steering wheel is not centered during wheel alignment, the car will still go straight without touching the steering wheel which will be off by some degree.
Compare this to an unsymmetrical suspension where you have to keep the steering wheel off in order to go straight.
first, i *never* suggest using this as a method to 'check an alignment'. it makes no sense to let go of the steering wheel when driving. there are variables like road surfaces for one, that could affect how this method proves out. plus it is unsafe an not accurate. just because a car 'goes straight' when you let go of the wheel does not mean the alignment is in spec. enough negative camber and the vehicle will travel fairly straight regardless of road conditions.

next, the total toe measurement is what will be the wear factor. if total toe is supposed to be at 0.12 degrees, then if one wheel is at the 0.12 and the other at 0.0, the tires will not wear but the wheel will be off centered. this was unacceptable in my world when i did alignments. i would set the toe to be at a 'zero degree' straight ahead steering wheel.

there are 2 ways of doing this. one id by using a steering wheel lock, the other is a method developed by one of the hunter alignment trainers that i learned. it has since been written into every hunter alignment machine. i'm sure that there are others that use similar formulaic math to get the same result, i am not certain. i am more familiar with hunter equipment, but as with anything, it is a tool. if you understand how it works and why it works that way, you could use 'lesser' equipment to get the same results.

since the op has had so many alignments with the same result, i stringly suggest either going back to the shop with a large level an make sure the rack is set properly, or go to another shop with the previous paperwork to compare. the measurements may be just a hair off, toe in particular, by maybe 0.01-0.02 tops. any more than that then i would seriously question the accuracy of the previous equipment.

hope this helps.




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