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Discussion Starter #1
I just purchased a 2005 Lotus Elise that has 17k miles. :D
The car seems to be fairly clean but I am concerned with the steering wheel not being straight.

During the test drive I questioned the steering wheel not being straight. The owner of the Elise said it had been like that since he purchased it several years ago and it hadnt bothered him. He recently put LSS suspension on the Elise but didnt get it aligned. He stated the steering wheel wasnt straight prior to this though.

The car drives straight and it doesnt pull when braking or accelerating. It does have an extreme amount of bumpsteer and seems to wander all over the place if on a bumpy uneven road. On a flat smooth road it feels perfect except the crooked steering wheel.

I am going to get an alignment soon, can I just take it to Firestone to get this done or do I need to go to a specialty shop?
The amount my wheel is off seems excessive... Will an alignment fix this? Is there an easy fix to center the steering wheel?

I have included a picture to show what the wheel looks like driving straight down the road, does this seem like its just "out of alignment"?
 

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A lot of early cars had their racks replaced. It's likely that your steering wheel is off a spline. With the front wheels straight, count the steering wheel turns to lock, both left and right and see it it's the same both ways. Also look at the adjusters at the end of the steering tie rods and see how far each side is adjusted out. It everything is close on each side, you need to re-clock the steering wheel. If you just have the front end re-aligned to your current position, you may end up with a car that turns sharper one way than the other. Don't ask me how I know this.
 

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When I bought my car the steering wheel was off almost as much as yours. It drove perfectly straight but the steering wheel was canted.

I had the car aligned and there were some tow-in issues that were straightened out and now everything lines up. I took my car to a specialty shop in town since there is no Lotus dealer. I wouldn't let anyone other than a Lotus dealer, high end performance dealer or a specialty shop that you trust align the car. But that's just me...

Or it could just be off a spline...

Good luck.
 

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Take it to a specialty shop or a dealer. The alignment needs to be perfect. The cars are too sensitive to minor adjustments. I had the same issue after an alignment that was a bit off by a couple mm. The car will self center itself for the most part but that does not mean much.

If there is nothing wrong with the alignment a good lotus mechanic should be able to figure out what is wrong.

By the way, on mine the alignment was a bit off even from the factory. A proper alignment and tire pressure setting was a great thing to do.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Thanks for the responses! I have read about the steering racks failing on earlier models, my steering wheel makes some minor noises but nothing as drastic as the stuff I have read. Hopefully its not that.

I counted my turns lock to lock and it seems equal, but honestly its hard for me to tell (its difficult to count over 1 :confused:). Here is a video of the car being turned lock to lock, you can hear some clunking noises from the rack as well... is this normal? Lotus Elise steering rack noises, steering wheel not straight. - YouTube

I noticed that almost every nut a bolt on the car has a green paint mark/stripe across it... Is this done at the factory? If so, Ill check my paint marks on the tie rods and see if they line up so I can rule out any non factory adjustment there.
I just hope nothing is bent/damaged.

Thanks again :)
 

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It's hard to tell from the camera angle, but it looks like your wheel is in fact on correctly and your alignment is simply way off. Personally, I wouldn't bother with the dealer, but instead have it checked out by chassis/alignment shop (not to be confused with a tire shop that does alignments).

I don't know where you are, but this place got my car sorted out.
Tru-Line Frame and Wheel, Inc.
 

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You can adjust the track rods to center the steering, I just did it on my neighbour's VX220 (same as the Elise)
Mark the position of the track rod and the ball joint with paint, loosen the nut, and (using the nut as a guide) rotate the steering rod one flat on the nut. You'll have to work out which side to adjust out, and the other side is adjusted in by the same amount.
If you do one flat on each the steering wheel will probably line up straight, the VX220 was out by similar amount to yours.
If you do it carefully the tracking will not change at all.
 

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Rotating a spline moves the top center over an inch. I tried it. Takes what Zebraman said.
 

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Go to a 'Specialty' shop that services high end cars who does alignments. Have them check the 'toe' readings.

If the rack was replaced it could mean the steering knuckle u-joint could be off a few splines, of all the ones I've replaced on various cars there is a 'pinch bolt' so you can't go too far off if the Elise has this...

To check if the toe is off look at the inner tie rod threads to the jam nut. If you see a lot more exposed threads on one side than the other your toe is off and needs to be corrected.

If the Camber is off either the outside or inside edges of the tire will wear out quickly. To define 'Camber' place your hand in front of your face, fingers pointing at 12 O'clock, palm at 6 O'clock. Tilt it to your right 1 O'clock to 7 O'clock that is 'positive' camber. Tilt your hand 11 O'clock to 5 O'clock and that is 'negative' camber.

Castor is front to back angle and on most cars is not adjustable. Most overlooked problem for a wheel to favor one side is tire pressure. Steering wheel direction tends to favor the underflated tire.

I would have the alignment checked, these cars have air bags so be VERY careful if your going to try and 'center' the wheel. On most cars the battery needs to be disconnected for at least 1/2 an hour before you get into an air bag but don't hold that time to my 'estimate' On some cars there are 'electronic' systems which keeps the air bag activated even if they do not have battery voltage.
 

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I really don't think your problem is alignment. If it was, I think you would be experience some kind of odd wear issues, strange vibrations or something else. If the car drives straight, with no wear issues, then your steering wheel might not have been put on straight if the steering rack was replaced, like MOTO mentioned. I would take the wheel off and try to put it on straight before I tried to make a alignment changes, to straighten the wheel out.

But that being said, you might just get an alignment for alignment's sake.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Go to a 'Specialty' shop that services high end cars who does alignments. Have them check the 'toe' readings.

If the rack was replaced it could mean the steering knuckle u-joint could be off a few splines, of all the ones I've replaced on various cars there is a 'pinch bolt' so you can't go too far off if the Elise has this...

To check if the toe is off look at the inner tie rod threads to the jam nut. If you see a lot more exposed threads on one side than the other your toe is off and needs to be corrected.

If the Camber is off either the outside or inside edges of the tire will wear out quickly. To define 'Camber' place your hand in front of your face, fingers pointing at 12 O'clock, palm at 6 O'clock. Tilt it to your right 1 O'clock to 7 O'clock that is 'positive' camber. Tilt your hand 11 O'clock to 5 O'clock and that is 'negative' camber.

Castor is front to back angle and on most cars is not adjustable. Most overlooked problem for a wheel to favor one side is tire pressure. Steering wheel direction tends to favor the underflated tire.

I would have the alignment checked, these cars have air bags so be VERY careful if your going to try and 'center' the wheel. On most cars the battery needs to be disconnected for at least 1/2 an hour before you get into an air bag but don't hold that time to my 'estimate' On some cars there are 'electronic' systems which keeps the air bag activated even if they do not have battery voltage.
The previous owner went through all the upgrades, service and repair that was done to Elise and steering rack wasnt mentioned but its possible the 1st owner of the car had an issue but it would have been within the first 4k miles.

I am familiar with alignment terms, the camber on my front seems to be slightly negative as the inside of the tires show wear but the rears seem to wear pretty evenly... the tire wear is even from left to right.

I still need to investigate my tie rods and see how they look.
I have found a decent write up on steering wheel removal on here and it explains the proper airbag procedure, I may attempt to check out the tie rods and steering wheel alignment this weekend.

Thanks for the fantastic input! :)
 
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