Steering Wheel Return to Center

Steering Wheel Returnability

If something is binding in the column, linkage, or gearbox, the steering wheel return to the center will be affected. Steering wheel returnability depends on the caster angle, and most vehicles incorporate a positive caster (~ 6-7 degrees) into both front wheels.

A positive caster angle helps the steering wheel return to center.

Turning the wheel lifts the front end a little, and releasing the wheel allows the vehicle's weight to push back down, assisting return to center.

A tie rod protective dust boot.

Wear and damage to the dust boot result in lubrication loss and water and dirt intrusion; this environmental damage results in premature ball joint failure. Loose and worn ball joints make a clunking sound while steering. Loose swivel ball studs in the tie rods and other steering linkages make clunking and popping sounds while turning. In addition, binding steering linkage and ball joints can result in memory steer and an off-center steering wheel.

Ball Joint

Binding front-end parts cause serious steering problems. Check the ball joints, tie rod ends, idler arm, and other linkages for binding. Be careful when installing these parts; many vehicles require the wheels to be straight on the final torque, or the part will act as a spring, returning it to the turned position.