Piston Slap: Tie Rod Tuning for a Tweaked Tiller?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
Scott writes:Hi Sajeev,The steering wheel on my 2016 VW GTI (manual w/performance package) is off center by a few millimeters to the left. It’s been this way since new and I’ve had the dealer look at it twice.The first time (w/250 miles on the clock) they told me there’s a service bulletin and that it’s normal pending the telescoping position of the steering wheel. We did an alignment with no luck (it’s cocked to the left in any telescope position). Then a year later the same dealer told me there is no such service bulletin and acknowledged that it’s off center, but offered no viable solution. I’ve noticed via a few online forums that many Volkswagens have this issue (with various fixes, such as tie rod adjustment or repositioning the steering wheel). I’d like to have this fixed as I love the car. Seeking your advice on what path I should take. I am okay with taking my car to an independent mechanic vs. the dealer….Love your column, keep up the great work!Sajeev answers:Interesting query! As you’ve seen on the forums, there are a few options:
  • Remove the steering and clock it as many splines to the right is needed to compensate (BAD idea)
  • Adjust the tie rods after toe setting is adjusted/verified correct
  • Reset the steering angle sensor (after passing a wheel alignment check)
This thread was a gem, especially this quote:When checking for steering wheel alignment on any new vehicle listed, be aware that the position of the steering wheel can vary up to 2.5 degrees total. This is dependent on the position of the height adjustment of the steering wheel itself. In the full up position, the steering wheel is set approx. 1.25 degrees off center to the right and accordingly, 1.25 degrees to the left in the all down position. By controlling the offset, when the wheel is pulled into the normal driving position (center tilt) it will be centered. When testing for steering wheel center, make sure the adjustment is centered on the tilt.Perhaps there’s technically nothing a VW dealer can do? I’d take it to an alignment shop, hope for a second opinion that validates the need to adjust the tie rods.Go ahead and have a shop tweak something outside a “normal” parameter, I did this to TTAC’s Ford Sierra: finding someone with the fortitude to adjust the tie rods (and everything else) via UK Ford Shop manual and their experienced feel.
It worked well, so I have high hopes for your GTI. Of course, I went to 3+ shops before finding one that aligned vehicles sans whatever specs are in a computer. Surprisingly, a franchise shop (Meineke) with veteran techs tackled the challenge while independent guys walked away. Lesson learned: never judge a book by its cover.What say you, Best and Brightest?[Image: VW]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
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  • Syncro87 Syncro87 on Aug 24, 2018

    This is generally an easy (albeit a little time consuming) fix on many cars, not sure about the GTI specifically. You adjust one tie rod end in slightly, the opposing one out slightly. Just enough to remove that miniscule amount of "off center" out of the wheel. They key is to move them exactly the same amount. It really isn't that difficult if you are precise. Sometimes you have to make a couple of really fine adjustments until you hit it right on the head. I will say that I've owned a number of new Volkswagens, and probably a third of them either had the wheel off center a small amount (a few mm) from day one. I'm cursed with noticing tiny things like that. Technicians usually aren't ultra picky about a tiny offset in the wheel once the alignment is set properly, I've found. Once in a while, you get lucky and find a shop with a tech who is a stickler for this kind of detail. It is fairly tedious from their standpoint, and they really aren't getting paid to take an inordinate amount of time to adjust out 1 or 2 mm of steering wheel imperfection. Sometimes, tires are worn a little differently and by just rotating them, you'll notice a small steering wheel offset crop up or go away. You might try that first as a DIY.

    • See 4 previous
    • Rpn453 Rpn453 on Aug 27, 2018

      @rpn453 Crazy. I could put up with the rack adjusting itself to what it thinks is center at each start-up, but I wouldn't have expected it to compete with the caster while in use. From your initial post, it sounds like it's easy enough for someone with the proper equipment to reset the zero point. I guess the dealers tend to be uncooperative or incompetent.

  • Brux2dc Brux2dc on Aug 25, 2018

    I checked Ross Tech's website and this looks like it can be setup via VCDS. If you own a VW you really need to spend the money on it. Here's a link to the alignment procedure on an older Golf/Jetta. It'll be close to the Golf mk7. Double check at VWVortex forums. http://wiki.ross-tech.com/wiki/index.php/VW_Golf_(1K)_Brake_Electronics_(MK60EC1)

    • MBella MBella on Aug 26, 2018

      Those directions only reset the steering angle sensor at the steering wheel. The rack itself must also be reset. I forget which one you have to do first but there is a correct order. This should also be possible with the ross-tech

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