How to align steering wheel?

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SublimeHiPpOs

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The steering wheel on my 2018 is off by a couple degrees while driving straight. There are no noticeable issues with the vehicle pulling to either side, just that the wheel isn't perfectly straight while driving straight. I have a Jeep and am familiar with adjusting the drag link to correct the steering wheel angle on that type of vehicle, I just wasn't sure if it's at all similar with an IFS vehicle. I need to take it in anyway for some warranty work, so I could just have the dealership address this as well, but thought I'd ask and maybe learn a little/save a few bucks if it's a relatively simple fix.
 

Going_Going_Gone

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Apparently it is somewhat of a delicate adjustment centering the wheel exactly. Last fall I bought new tires plus a 4-wheel alignment, and when I drove out of the shop, I immediately noticed that the steering wheel was slightly cocked necessitating a return to the alignment rack. Came back perfectly lined up. So, if an alignment tech using an alignment rack can set the alignment to spec and still have the wheel cocked, then I imagine crawling under to do it yourself without measurement tools might not be as simple a task as it sounds.
 

rd618

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The steering wheel on my 2018 is off by a couple degrees while driving straight. There are no noticeable issues with the vehicle pulling to either side, just that the wheel isn't perfectly straight while driving straight. I have a Jeep and am familiar with adjusting the drag link to correct the steering wheel angle on that type of vehicle, I just wasn't sure if it's at all similar with an IFS vehicle. I need to take it in anyway for some warranty work, so I could just have the dealership address this as well, but thought I'd ask and maybe learn a little/save a few bucks if it's a relatively simple fix.
You need a wheel alignment, to do it correctly you need to bring it to a shop. any independent shop can do it for you for ~$150.
it's not that far off from the Jeep, but the IFS requires adjustments on both sides.
 
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SublimeHiPpOs

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You need a wheel alignment, to do it correctly you need to bring it to a shop. any independent shop can do it for you for ~$150.
it's not that far off from the Jeep, but the IFS requires adjustments on both sides.
Good to know. Just to clarify, we're just talking about the alignment of the steering wheel, not adjusting the alignment of the actual wheels, right?
 

HILLY

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If the car tracks straight and that wheel is off with no further play, chances are that the last tech that did the alignment did not center the wheel well when doing it. I'd start by going to a shop and telling them your concern so that the tech is focused on getting that right. Otherwise a lot of shops just churn them out with the old "set the toe, let 'em go" mantra.
 

rd618

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Good to know. Just to clarify, we're just talking about the alignment of the steering wheel, not adjusting the alignment of the actual wheels, right?
correct, assuming you never removed the wheel itself, your adjustments are on the suspension components.
 
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SublimeHiPpOs

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If the car tracks straight and that wheel is off with no further play, chances are that the last tech that did the alignment did not center the wheel well when doing it. I'd start by going to a shop and telling them your concern so that the tech is focused on getting that right. Otherwise a lot of shops just churn them out with the old "set the toe, let 'em go" mantra.
It hasn't been aligned since I've owned it. It's still on the OE Hankooks w/ around 53k on them (I've owned it since 28k). We're going on a 3,000+ miles road trip in a few weeks, so debating if I want to replace the tires before or wait a few months. Regardless, I don't want to pay for a full alignment until after I get new tires on.

I first noticed the misaligned steering wheel a few months ago, maybe we just hit a bad pothole or something..
 

HILLY

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It hasn't been aligned since I've owned it. It's still on the OE Hankooks w/ around 53k on them (I've owned it since 28k). We're going on a 3,000+ miles road trip in a few weeks, so debating if I want to replace the tires before or wait a few months. Regardless, I don't want to pay for a full alignment until after I get new tires on.

I first noticed the misaligned steering wheel a few months ago, maybe we just hit a bad pothole or something..
OK, that's more detail to go on.

Yes, definitely replace the tires first. Wearing tires can definitely affect the alignment as well as hitting a pothole as well.
 

ROBERT BONNER

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It hasn't been aligned since I've owned it. It's still on the OE Hankooks w/ around 53k on them (I've owned it since 28k). We're going on a 3,000+ miles road trip in a few weeks, so debating if I want to replace the tires before or wait a few months. Regardless, I don't want to pay for a full alignment until after I get new tires on.

I first noticed the misaligned steering wheel a few months ago, maybe we just hit a bad pothole or something..
You are likely correct, pothole, curb strike, on any of the 4 wheels could lead to a "clear vision" (steering wheel misalignment condition). Less likely causes could be a suspension component failure. Clear vision issues are by definition, wheel alignment issues.

More than you probably want to know: The front toe spec on gen IV 4x4's is 0.20 degrees +/- 0.20 degrees with the entire spec allowed on either wheel. Most (all) shops will adjust the toe statically. The factory sets to the same specs dynamically, which is different. I would never set one to 0.0 degrees statically which is technically within spec., this is because once the vehicle is operating at cruising speed in 2WD mode, the wheels will toe out, which will cause a certain amount of wandering in the absence of automatic lane keeping corrections.

So what? So, tell whomever you have set the 4 wheel alignment (and center the wheel) that you want the toe to be positive in front, I prefer between 0.2 degrees and 0.4 degrees and as close to equal on both front wheels as possible (equal on the both rear wheels as well, note rear toe spec is slightly more positive than front) My front was last set at +0.33 degrees and the rear is at +0.27 degrees both as close to center as I can get them, which works well for me. Keep in mind that dynamically, as you drive, both of these numbers move in the negative direction.
 

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Yes, if you're mechanically inclined it's not a very difficult adjustment. My credentials - 18yrs at Ford corporate, about 10yrs of that in advanced manufacturing on F150 (almost identical front end as Expedition). I was responsible for designing the automation that set the alignment in the factory.

If on a flat road (no crown) you can let go of the wheel and it tracks straight, but your wheel is off-center, it's probably a clear vision problem (weird name, but that's what they call the perception of steering wheel being centered). Let's say for example your wheel is off by a few degrees clockwise. If you move the steering wheel to center, both of your wheels will now be steering slightly left. So you'll want to rotate both wheels to the right by adjusting the tie-rods.

Here's your process - paint mark the relative location of the male/female threads on your tie rod ends. Loosen the jam nut (hold the outer tie rod with a wrench) on the driver's side, then screw the male threaded rod into the female (this is for our example where steering is off in clockwise direction). Do exactly half a turn, or a whole turn, but count and be exact. You've just rotated the left front wheel in by a few fractions of a degree. Tighten the jam nut. Now on the passenger's wheel, do the same procedure, but unscrew the male thread from the female by the same number of turns. This rotates the passenger wheel out. Tighten your jam nuts and test drive.

Unless you have some strange tire wear that makes you think your total toe is a problem, as long as you change both tie rods by the same amount in opposite directions, you don't affect total toe - only clear vision. The Expedition we bought last year had a clear vision issue. The 1/2hr it took me to fix it was less painful than the hassle of taking it to the dealer. I did a full turn at first and it was too much, so I backed off to a half and it's now spot on.
 
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