By on February 12, 2015

torque steer. Shutterstock user temp-64GTX

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 [email protected]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.



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35 Comments on “Piston Slap: Taking Control of Torque Steer?...”

  • avatar

    The major culprit of torque steer is the kinematic deformation of the suspension components under load. Things like crappy worn out bushings can allow a lot of deformation, so I think you’re on the right track with the control arm bushings as there really isn’t much else going on in that mac strut setup.

  • avatar

    Have the shock absorbers checked to.

  • avatar

    Love that opening photo. The Unitized Power Plant – you down with UPP? Yeah you know me!

    • 0 avatar

      I’m down with UPP.

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately it is the mirror image version of the real rendering. The transmission on the actual car is on the driver’s side, not the passenger side. If it was of the actual passenger side we would get to see how GM tackled the problem of minimizing torque steer with the prodigious amount of torque a big block Olds makes. They used equal length axles by putting an intermediate shaft under the oil pan and hanging it in a bearing supported by a bracket that mounted where the engine mount would on a RWD version.

  • avatar

    Well it points to something that has gone bad. Generally, torque steer will pull a car to the left because the left (drivers) side half-shaft is shorter than the right (passenger) side shaft.

    If it pulls to the right, something is out of kilter. I would think for it to be suspension bushings, you would have a lot of noticeable slop in the movement of the control arms. And this is usually accompanied by noise (clunking) or the feeling of something shifting but not always.

    My initial thought is that there is something binding, perhaps in a CV joint that causes the half shafts, under power, to not pull with the same force as in one pulls (the passenger side)with greater force than the other. Do the CV joint boots look compromised? I would suggest having someone who really understands how the joints connect and operate take a look at them to make sure they are functioning equally well.

  • avatar

    While we’re on the subject, how many components go into the suspension and steering system on a FWD vehicle? Off the top of my head: shocks/struts, control arms, wheel bearings, tie rods, CV joints, uhhh…

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    It’s also worth checking the engine mounts and transmission mounts. Maybe the whole works is shifting around, and yanking the suspension with it.

    And another thing – try swapping the front tires; maybe one of them has developed an issue with a belt or something, or even low air pressure.

  • avatar

    For whatever reason, let pic reminded me of neighbor’s pristine ’65 Buick Riviera.

    Oh what a lordy beautiful machine in every way.

    Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio & Ye Once Awesome General Motors?

    Cadillac, just build the Elmiraj even if you lose money on every one (which you will lose less on than the ATS/CTS anyways). Put a growling V8 in it that barks with a respect-ma-authoritay exhaust note, and a magic carpet ride suspension.

    Purge Roger Smith, Red Ink Rick & Mary Barra from your bowels.

    Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,
    Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
    What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson.
    Jolting Joe has left and gone away,
    Hey, hey, hey
    Hey, hey, hey

  • avatar

    I don’t remember Toronados having a torque steer issues, if you want a poster car for torque steer try a Plymouth (Mitsubishi) Colt Turbo, crazy scary torque steer when the turbo kicks in, good times.

  • avatar

    Thanks for all the input. I have done the tire bit so I am going to rule that out. I am going to replace the lower control arms. The ball joints don’t have any slop and the motor mounts look OK. I can do the lower control arms with bushings for around 150 all together plus probably in another alignment. They are fairly rusty anyway so might as well.

  • avatar

    The Toronados/Eldorados of that era were interesting beasts. The cars were front drivers, but the engines were not mounted sideways. Instead the the engine was mounted front to back, while the torque converter was separate from the trans. Torque converter and trans were connected using a chain and sprockets.

  • avatar

    Cool video, love Driver SF! It needs this though:

    “I Can’t Turn You Loose” Blues Brothers

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

  • avatar

    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.

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