Steering & Suspension Component Visual Inspection Guidelines
Steering Component Inspection
Flexible steering joint
- Rag joint
Check the flexible coupling connecting the steering shaft to the steering gear. Replace if damaged or deteriorated.
- Flexible joint
Inspect and replace if the joint binds, is excessively loose or show signs of rust.
- Check for damaged attachment points, bends and twists.
- Check for ball joint and bushing wear.
Outer tie rods
- Steer the wheels back and forth checking for looseness of the ball joint stud.
- Depress the tie rod ball joint and check for excessive up and down play. Replace the tie rod if any movement is detected.
- Twist the tie rod by hand. The tie rod should rotate through its entire operating range without binding. Replace the tie rod if it will not rotate freely.
- Inspect protective rubber boot for damage. Torn or damaged boots will allow dirt to enter the socket area and destroy the socket.
- Inspect the adjustment sleeve. Replace the sleeve if bent or damaged.
- Check for tight fit to steering gear or sector shaft.
- Check for bends or twists and ball joint wear.
Power steering systems
- Check the pump, belt and hoses for leaks, damage or signs of wear or deterioration.
Rack and pinion style inner tie rods
- Rock the steering wheel side to side. A worn inner socket will allow the tie rod to move in and out independent of the rack gear.
- Replace bellows boots that are torn, cracked or softened from steering fluid.
- Check for bent rods, and damaged or worn ball joints.
- Inspect ABS plug for damage. ABS wire must remain secured to spindle. Inspect for scored bearing race areas.
- Do not use spindles that have corrosion on areas where seals or bearings contact. Inspect for obvious distortion.
- Measure the distance from the brake rotor to the ball joint. Compare this measurement from one side of the vehicle to the other. The measurements should be equal. Unequal measurements indicate a bent steering arm.
- In addition, the steering arm should be measured to a symmetrical location on the upper or lower control arm. This measurement checks for vertical movement in the steering arm.
- Check mounting points for damage.
- Rock the steering wheel from side to side and up and down to check for any wobble or abnormal steering effort or noise. If there is excessive movement or an audible clunking or grinding sound, replace the steering column.
- Inspect for obvious compression of the column jacket.
Steering center link
- Have an assistant steer the front wheels back and forth and observe the center link joints. Any looseness is not acceptable.
- Check for signs of impact or bends.
Steering gear box
- Rack and pinion
– Check the rack for looseness by trying to move it up and down and side to side. Inspect the insulator bushings and replace them if cracked or damaged.
– Inspect the rack for housing cracks and cracked or broken mounting ears.
– Check the bellows boot by squeezing it. Power steering fluid leaking from the gearbox into the bellows boots will make the boot feel soft.
– Unclamp the bellows boot from the inner tie road and push the boot inward to expose the tie rod. Signs of fluid indicate damaged or worn rack housing seals.
– Inspect threaded tie rod ends for damage.
– Check for pinion shaft end-play and excessive steering wheel free play.
– Inspect housing for corrosion or leaks.
- Parallelogram or relay rod
– Inspect the pitman arm to steering box output shaft connection.
– Check for loose bolts or worn splines. Twisted splines are generally the result of a severe impact to a front wheel.
– Check for noises, binding, uneven turning effort, looseness, hard steering and fluid leakage.
- Place a straight edge vertically on the brake rotor. Measure from the straight edge to several points on the steering knuckle. Compare these measurements from one side of the vehicle to the other. The measurements should be equal. Unequal measurements indicate a bent steering knuckle.
- Check for signs of flaking coatings or corrosion on the knuckle. When a cast part is bent it may disturb and loosen any coatings or corrosion that has built up on the part if the degree of bend is severe enough.
- Discard any knuckle that shows signs of previous repair by heating, welding or straightening.
- Check knuckle for cracks, twisted ears and damaged attachment points such as elongated holes.
- Vehicle on ground
Have an assistant rock the steering wheel while checking the steering linkage for any side-to-side (lateral) looseness.
- Vehicle weight off front tires
– Steer each front wheel by hand to identify components with excessive lateral movement.
– Rotate steering linkage components by hand to check for binding of ball joints and excessive up and down (vertical) movement.
- Check for a cracked or bent wheel and damage resulting from air bag deployment.
Suspension Component Inspection
- Check for axial (up and down) and radial (side-to-side) play by raising the vehicle under the lower control arm (load-carrying ball joint) or frame if the upper ball joint is loaded or both upper and lower ball joints are unloaded.
- Check for axial movement by prying up on the tire checking for free-play.
- Check for radial movement by using hand pressure only to move the tire and wheel assembly in and out at the 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock positions. Look for any movement between the wheel knuckle and both lower arms at the lower ball joints. If movement is not felt or seen, the ball joints are OK.
- Wear indicator design (except Chrysler)
This design uses a collar protruding from the base of the ball joint around the grease fitting. As the ball joint wears, the collar retracts upward into the ball joint housing. The ball joint passes inspection if the collar extends past the ball joint housing with the vehicle weight on the wheels. If the collar is flush with the face or recessed by any amount, the ball joint should be replaced.
- Chrysler wear indicator design
Wiggle the grease fitting with your fingers with the vehicle weight on the wheels. The ball joint should be replaced if the grease fitting shows any sign of movement. Discard ball joints with torn boots, and noisy or binding movement.
- Inspect and loosen bleed screw.
- Inspect piston and dust seal for damage.
- Visually inspect rubber bushings for cracks, breakage and contamination from oil or other fluids.
- Inspect metal bushings for wear by determining if any looseness is evident.
- Control arm bushings should not have any inward or outward free-play.
- Check for broken, bent or fatigued springs. Wear or damage to the jounce bumpers caused by the suspension bottoming out indicates fatigued springs.
- Check for excessive corrosion and pitting.
CV drive axle
- Inspect boot for tears. Inspect ABS ring for damage.
- Inspect threads on end of shaft for damage.
Front locking hubs
- Check for exterior damage, fluid leaks, cracks, and binding parts.
- Check for water intrusion and contaminated grease.
- Inspect the leaf springs, spring eye, shackles and u-bolts for damage or signs of stress.
- Check bushings for cracking or other signs of wear.
Lower control arm
- Place a straight edge beneath the lower control arms running from side to side. Measure the distance from the straight edge up to the spring seat of the control arm. A difference from side to side on this measurement indicates a bent lower control arm.
- Inspect bushings and ball joint.
- Inspect attachment points for physical damage.
- Check each link rod for looseness by shaking with firm hand pressure.
- Check for damaged or worn bushings.
Shock absorbers and struts
- Inspect for broken, damaged or loose mounting hardware.
- Excessive external fluid leakage indicates the component should be replaced.
- Inspect housing for leaks.
- Inspect mounting tower for damage by placing a straight edge along the side of the strut cartridge to look for areas where there are gaps between the straight edge and the strut. In addition, measure from a straight edge placed on the hub face to symmetrical locations on the strut. If the measurements are not equal, the strut cartridge is bent.
- Check cartridge for clunking, binding and excessive movement.
- Raise the vehicle by the frame. Pry under the tire to detect vertical play and move the tire in and out at the top to detect lateral play.
- Steer the wheel to detect binding in the strut plate bearings.
- Check for damage, loose attachment components and signs of fatigue.
- Inspect for looseness by raising the vehicle and rocking the tire in and out at the top.
- If visual inspection made of the race, look for indentations on the race.