Sometimes failing to track down a vehicle pulling problem can not only be time-consuming and frustrating, it can be slightly embarrassing as well. If you have an alignment rack in the shop, customers naturally expect that you should easily be able to cure any alignment-related problem. They don’t want to hear that you need more time to diagnose a problem; they want it fixed as quickly and inexpensively as possible. I’ve found that when faced with one of those difficult situations, educating the customer by explaining what diagnostic steps you’ve taken and need to take goes a long way toward pacifying their concerns.
Thomas Edison once said, “If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward.” Unfortunately, Mr. Edison, automotive technicians don’t have that luxury. For those of us attempting to make a living in the automotive repair business, trial and error takes precious time, and time is the one commodity we can least afford to waste. So, in the interest of customer satisfaction, saving time and your credibility, here is a tech tip that could save hours of misdirected diagnostic time.
A customer may drive a 1996-98 Nissan Pathfinder into your shop complaining that the vehicle:
Pulls at steady speeds.
Has an unusual amount of play in the rear axle during moderate acceleration or deceleration.
Exhibits excessive sway and rocking motion in the front suspension when coming to a stop.
What if the customer told you that he or she had been to another shop, and all of the routine possibilities such as a complete front suspension inspection, a comprehensive front-end alignment and even cross-rotating the tires had been tried with no positive result? You may want to recheck their findings, or more productively, you can use this information as a clue to reveal the real problem.
If a 1996-98 Pathfinder 4WD exhibits the conditions listed above, the cause may be from worn bushing(s) in the rear suspension upper and/or lower links. To correct those conditions, use the following service procedure.
1. Test-drive the vehicle under the conditions described by the customer to verify the problem.
2. Inspect the upper and lower rear suspension links (indicated by the arrows in Figure 1) for damaged or worn bushings as follows:
Remove a suspension link from the vehicle.
Use a screwdriver to move the inner metal portion of the bushing in all directions while inspecting the rubber portion of the bushing for damage or wear.
3. Replace the links that have damaged or worn bushings.
4. Tighten the link retaining bolts/nuts to specification.
IMPORTANT: Before tightening the link retaining bolts/nuts, the rear axle must be positioned in its normal ride height. Use the most convenient one of the two procedures listed below to correctly position the axle before tightening the link retaining bolts/nuts:
Place the vehicle on the ground or…
With the vehicle on the lift, use jack stands to support the rear axle and slowly lower the vehicle lift until the rear lift arm pads just separate from the vehicle. Stop lowering the lift as soon as the gap between the lift arm pads and the vehicle is approximately 1/2 inch.
All attachment points103-116 ft. lbs. (140-157 Nm)
Frame attachment point85-98 ft. lbs. (115-133 Nm)
Differential attachment point103-116 ft. lbs. (140-157 Nm)
Test-drive the vehicle after the repair to ensure the problem is resolved. Most likely, this procedure will be the problem solver; although it does seem a little confusing that a problem in the rear of the vehicle could cause problems in the front. But that’s why tech tips and technical service bulletins are so valuable – they point you in the right direction and make problems take far less than 10,000 attempts to solve. Sorry to disagree with you, Mr. Edison, but we like to measure our success by solving problems in one try.
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Written by ALLDATA Technical Editor, Rich Diegle.
Rich is an Advanced Engine Performance Certified, ASE Master Technician with an AA Degree in automotive technology and 22 years of dealership and independent shop experience.