Piston Slap: Taking Control of Torque Steer?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

M.D.K. writes:

Good Afternoon. This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run. The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to run reasonably well with a fuel filter and removal of the clogged catalytic converter (The EPA man wasn’t coming to Bagram). Sadly about a week after we got the Trailblazer running they collected it in an effort to go to an all diesel fleet. It was replaced with a TaTa pickup.

This actually pertains to a vehicle in my own fleet, my wife appliance grade 2007 Hyundai Tucson.

It is a 2WD 2.0 4 cylinder automatic that has begrudgingly earned my respect for the fact that it has gone about its 94,000+ miles with the timing belt and seized tie rods courtesy of upstate NY winters being its only dealer trips. Tires, Oil, Gas, and brake pads are it otherwise.

My issue now is that it exhibits torque steer like crazy. Doesn’t seem to be an alignment issue as I just had it done (hence the new tie rods) and it is straight so long as your foot stays off the gas. But press the gas, even at highway speed and it tries to turn right.

My research seems to point to the lower control arm bushings as the culprit. I have no suspension clunks or anything though. The motor mounts also look good and the tires are of the correct size. The struts were done a year as well. I know FWD vehicles will exhibit some torque steer but I have had this vehicle since new and this is abnormal.

My plan would be replacement lower control arms since there is some rust on them anyway but I want to make sure I’m not missing something else here. The car is paid for and has no other issues so I’d like to figure this out. We generally take it on our long trips so the constant tug on the steering is annoying. Just want to make sure I am not missing anything.

Sajeev answers:

Thank you for writing again, I do love my repeat customers!

Since you replaced the tie rods, the torque steer’s source is either a control arm bushing or a ball joint. Or maybe both? No matter, if one side is bad then the other is ready to fail. Whatever failed, replace it in pairs.

Wow, that ended pretty abruptly.


Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

Always remember that suspension parts go bad with time, but modern cars have it worse for a few reasons. Take the increasingly horrible condition of roads in this country. And oversized wheels with rubber band thin sidewalls: offering no cushioning effect on our (increasingly horrible) roads.

And maybe it’s my family’s two Mercedes products that ate lower control arms with less than 30k on the clock, or my friends with control arm consuming BMW and VAG products from the last decade, or the numerous related Piston Slaps ( here, here, for starters)…but suspensions don’t last like they did 20-ish years ago.

And while suspension lube service intervals must remain in the bad old days of wide whitewalls and “separate but equal” segregation, one must never forget:

What’s that? You say video game Panther Love shall never prove my point?

Well excuuuuuuuse me!

[Image: Shutterstock user temp-64GTX]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Salguod Salguod on Feb 13, 2015

    I'll offer counter anecdotal evidence to your modern suspension wear statement. I drove a 1999 Odyssey to 205K on the factory shocks/struts and no major suspension replacements. It got tie rods, stabilizer links and a CV joint at about 175K, but nothing else. My 2005 Mazda3 is at 155K on all the original suspension parts. The shocks/struts have been bad for a while (new part are here, waiting on warmer temps), but no other issues. My other 3 current cars (2007 Prius - 140K, 1998 Escort - 150K, 2003 Protege - 130K) were all bought with 110K-125K on them, so they may have had things replaced, but I doubt it. The only trouble on them has been stabilizer links on the Escort & Protege and rear lateral links on the Protege, my lone major suspension repair in many years.

    • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Feb 24, 2015

      1999 CR-V AWD - only suspension parts I have changed are the front sway bar bushings. 283,000 miles. Did do front axles and the driver's side carrier bearing last winter.

  • Jimbob457 Jimbob457 on Feb 14, 2015

    In the '90's (as I recall) Saab had an ad campaign that, in effect, touted torque steer as a virtue. Consider trading vehicles with your spouse. Now you can pretend you are a fighter pilot.

  • Dave M. IMO this was the last of the solidly built MBs. Yes, they had the environmentally friendly disintegrating wiring harness, but besides that the mechanicals are pretty solid. I just bought my "forever" car (last new daily driver that'll ease me into retirement), but a 2015-16 E Class sedan is on my bucket list for future purchase. Beautiful design....
  • Rochester After years of self-driving being in the news, I still don't understand the psychology behind it. Not only don't I want this, but I find the idea absurd.
  • Douglas This timeframe of Mercedes has the self-disintegrating engine wiring harness. Not just the W124, but all of them from the early 90's. Only way to properly fix it is to replace it, which I understand to be difficult to find a new one/do it/pay for. Maybe others have actual experience with doing so and can give better hope. On top of that, it's a NH car with "a little bit of rust", which means to about anyone else in the USA it is probably the rustiest W124 they have ever seen. This is probably a $3000 car on a good day.
  • Formula m How many Hyundai and Kia’s do not have the original engine block it left the factory with 10yrs prior?
  • 1995 SC I will say that year 29 has been a little spendy on my car (Motor Mounts, Injectors and a Supercharger Service since it had to come off for the injectors, ABS Pump and the tool to cycle the valves to bleed the system, Front Calipers, rear pinion seal, transmission service with a new pan that has a drain, a gaggle of capacitors to fix the ride control module and a replacement amplifier for the stereo. Still needs an exhaust manifold gasket. The front end got serviced in year 28. On the plus side blank cassettes are increasingly easy to find so I have a solid collection of 90 minute playlists.