This month’s technical tip concerns a front end pulling problem with the Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight, Eighty-Eight, LSS and Regency models. But before I get into the details of that procedure, let me digress a moment to say goodbye to a car line whose time has come and gone. I, for one, mourn the loss of any car line that has helped create so many memories. Please pardon my reflection. Now, let’s get to that tech tip. Some owners of 1991-96 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight and 1992-98 Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight, LSS and Regency models may comment that the vehicle “pulls or leads” left or right. More than likely, the owner probably has taken this vehicle to other shops and those shops couldn’t fix it because the alignment specifications were within limits and the tires looked fine. “Then what might be causing this condition?” you ask. It’s something called strut spring side load. Strut spring side load occurs when the strut spring is turning or twisting the strut relative to the strut mount. This could be a result of either the strut assembly being mounted off-center from the steering knuckle, uneven height between the two strut towers, or a combination of the two conditions.
Start by road testing the vehicle for a sufficient distance on a known smooth road surface to duplicate the condition. This should be done after a tire break-in of at least 10 miles (16 km) at 45 mph (73 km/h) or greater to eliminate any possible tire flat spotting.
1. Inspect the alignment to be sure the vehicle is within specification.
2. Verify “cold” tire pressure, per the label located on the tires.
3. Check the condition of the tires.
4. Confirm that condition is not torque steer, memory steer, bias steering rack characteristics or brake drag.
Note: When you’ve exhausted all of the above possibilities, go to the repair procedure.
Important Note: DO NOT try to correct this condition by shimming the strut mount.
1. Remove both strut assemblies. Both struts need to be done for optimum results.
2. In order to compress the spring in the strut assembly, install the strut into a strut compressor tool.
Note: Take care to avoid chipping or cracking the spring coating when handling the front suspension coil spring. Failure to do so may result in spring breakage.
3. Mark the orientation of the spring relative to the strut.
4. Adjust the strut compressor tool until the spring compresses enough so that the upper spring seat can be rotated.
5. For “lead or pull” conditions to the right: Rotate upper spring seat clockwise 20 to 25, or about 2.5 cm (1 in.). (See Figure 2)
Important: Do not exceed the 25, or about 2.5 cm (1 in.) when rotating the upper spring seat.
6. For “lead or pull” conditions to the left: Rotate upper spring seat counter-clockwise 20 to 25, or about 2.5 cm (1 in.). (See figure 2)
7. Loosen the strut compressor tool and remove the pressure on the strut spring, then remove the strut.
8. Install the strut assemblies on the vehicle.
Important Note: It may be necessary to reset the alignment back to specifications.
9. Road test the vehicle for a sufficient distance on a known smooth road surface to verify that the condition has been resolved.
Charge enough in your estimate to complete this job. The spring adjusting procedure pays approximately 2.0 hours to do both sides. Also, allow enough time for checking the alignment before and after the repairs. I’m sure the owner will be elated that you were able to find a problem that eluded the other shops. Make sure you take the time to do the job properly. Remember: the car you fix today just might have been “your father’s Oldsmobile.”