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One front wheel out of place?

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  • One front wheel out of place?

    I just noticed that my right front wheel appears to be about a half inch further aft than the left. With the steering centered, the gap between the trailing edge of the right wheel is about a finger width, on the left about a finger and a half. To my knowledge, my car hasn't ever been wrecked, and it tracks straight. What could cause this?

  • #2
    bent control arm? damaged control arm ball joint(s)? damaged or rotated control arm bushing?



    • #3
      The control arms are pretty new, I have a receipt from the PO who replaced them shortly before I bought the car. The (solid) offset bushings look like they are in the right place. The ball joints *look* ok, and there is no play when the car is jacked up. Everything *looks* fine, which is why it seems so odd. One thing I do know is the shock towers are too close together to put on a standard size tower brace. but - the hood seems lined up ok...


      • #4
        Are the tops of the strut towers flat? Ie not ballooned up?


        [email protected] | H23-is | S14 | Ceccoto #270


        • #5
          The strut towers don't appear to be mushroomed at all. I also notice it rides about a half inch lower on the RHS by about 1/2", too. Makes me wonder if something is bent, or if one side has a shorter spring. But it's not clear to me how something being bent - assuming the body is straight - could cause this. Need to get it up on a lift I think and check things out.


          • #6
            You should measure the wheelbase from side to side and compare.
            This should then indicate whether it is body panels out of tolerance(wheel base equal on both sides), or accident damage to the suspension(unequal wheelbase), or unibody damage on one side(unequal wheelbase).
            Then have a thrust alignment done to determine whether it is one of the front or rear corners out of tolerance.



            • #7
              Wow, wheelbase is almost 3/4" longer on LHS. That is a LOT!!!


              • #8
                What do you guys know about the strut tops being mushroomed? I recently noticed that my car has that but I havn't heard of it happening before. Is it common? It seems like it would have happened from a pothole
                "It is needless to say that self-propelling vehicles, like other machines, will never do as much for one who does not understand them as for one who does."


                • #9
                  One guy up here in Dallas has the same issue. He has taken it to a body shop and it measrues out correct. Mine looks like the right front wheel is set back at bit as well.



                  • #10
                    Did you check to see if there is any cracking in the panel behind the strut tower and below the fuse box? If that cracks, it could allow the tower top to move and affect the alignment. You can check for the location of the strut tower top for this reference.
                    Good luck with it, I would first focus on being sure the car is structurally sound and something did not bend and move.
                    88M3 henna

                    97 540\6-Gone
                    2008 MINI Clubman S


                    • #11
                      No cracking anywhere I can see. The misalignment appears to be on the RHS, not on the fusebox side - the right front wheel is visibly not centered in the wheel well like it is on the LHS. Since the ride height is different side to side, and the strut towers are not mushroomed, I'm thinking all is not well with the RHS suspension. It sure seems like the control arm must be bent (or incorrect) for this to be possible. Has anyone ever bent an aluminum control arm that far?


                      • #12
                        The aluminum may bend, but only slightly....and it will show some slight rippling.

                        Take the car to an alignment shop and request a 4 wheel alignment.
                        make sure the shop can provide a print out of what the settings are.

                        Then you want to look for the "thrust angle" spec on the printout, which shout be near as dammit Zero.
                        Thrust angle at spec means that the rear axle and its chassis attachment points on the car are aligned and the car will not be "dog tracking" down the road.
                        it also ensures that your reference point for wheelbase are ok.

                        Then you need to look at the caster #'s on the front suspension and compare between sides.
                        If the caster is off then look for:

                        1, bent strut housing.
                        2, warped strut tower on one side.
                        3,bad strut bushing or camber plate on one side. or camber correction strut housing set to adjust caster on one side the the opposite number set for camber correction.
                        4, evidence of accident repair on one front rail.

                        Another spec to check is to measure the distance between the front subframe and the rear subframe, on each side in order to see if accident damage has tweaked the front subframe and therefore the attachment points of the front suspension.

                        You may be correct about the RF looking out of spec ,but using a bolt- on body part as your point of reference won't help much at finding where the problem actually is.
                        The datum points for the suspension, suspension attachment points and trueness of the unibody chassis really need to be measured for facts.

                        Forget about the different ride height.. it means little to nothing.
                        A car that has been corner weighted or balanced for optimum handling will have very visible ride height differences at each corner.

                        Last edited by Mmark; 06-25-2006, 09:08 PM.


                        • #13
                          Mmark -
                          Thank you for the excellent detailed summary - it gives me an excellent basis for moving forward.

                          The previous owner had a lot of suspension work done, in fact there was an article about it:

                          Looking at this, it appears I have some adjustable plates in there. Hmmm. Maybe I need to take it over to Terry's place.



                          • #14

                            The person Bruce is referring to in his reply above is probably me (even though I am in Ft. Worth). Everyone up here thinks I am spending too much time on this issue, but it's very anoying (too me at least).

                            My wheelbase measures 10mm shorter on the passenger side. The driver's side is to BMW "spec" (I think 254cm, but don't quote me on that number...)

                            Here is a run-down of everything I've been through:

                            - Installed all new suspension last summer as I started resurrecting the car. Brand new, in the box, Gr. N suspension, brand new Lemforder aluminum control arms, offset bushings and GC camber plates.

                            - Installed my 17x8 wheels and immediately noticed something was "off". Actually, everyone that sees the car asks me about it. (I can't say I ever paid attention to it when I bought the car with worn out everything and 15's on it)

                            - Took the car to a bodsy shop up here and they said the frame was spot on.

                            - Downloaded all the body shop reference material posted in a thread here on to measure myself. Again, nothing.

                            - Just last week took the car to a "race car" friendly body shop up here and had the car on a Shark frame measuring machine. All the measurements came back to be 0,1, or 2 mm off spec. BMW tolerence is +/3mm, so as the body shop manager said "most non-BMW, high end cars nowadays only require +/- 5-6mm." He said, he tried everything, but the frame is perfect.

                            At this point I am planning on swapping out my front strut and aluminum control arm with one from a known, good vehicle up here to eliminate those components. I doubt the strut housing itself is bent, but maybe the spindle part has been "dislocated." The only other thing left would be my front subframe, which I will also swap if the first test fails.

                            I am *very* curious to know if you find anything out.


                            BTW, my car is a very early production.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jdbunda
                              Mmark -
                              Thank you for the excellent detailed summary - it gives me an excellent basis for moving forward.

                              The previous owner had a lot of suspension work done, in fact there was an article about it:

                              Looking at this, it appears I have some adjustable plates in there. Hmmm. Maybe I need to take it over to Terry's place.

                              looks like the car has an extensive history of track time.
                              With a lot of time spent at 9/10ths and above, it may be reasonable to assume that it has left the track forwards, maybe backwards, sideways.

                              Take it to a good alignment shop.

                              Has the car had or have a front strut brace?
                              If there is no evidence of it having one, check out the strut towers carefully.