Ride quality complaints are much more common now than they were even just a few years ago, which can be tough for drivers to handle. But it’s great news for the technicians who know how to fix these problems.
|Sometimes rough tire wear patterns are really obvious. The edge of this tire feels like it looks: rough.|
In very general terms, drift, pull, wander and vibration concerns usually mean wheel, tire, alignment and drivetrain concerns and those ride quality complaints usually can be corrected by diagnosing and fixing problems in those systems. But it’s important to know what to look for and where to look to keep repairs profitable and keep diagnostic time to a minimum.
Here’s a guide to get you started.
Defining the Concern
When diagnosing ride quality complaints such as drift, pull, wander or vibration, it’s important to start with the basics before getting into deeper diagnosis. A good place to start is with the tires themselves. If you’ve spent much time with newer-model cars and trucks, you’ve probably noticed that many of those new vehicles are now coming right from the factories with larger rims and tires than they were a decade (or more) ago. And since larger tires have larger contact patches, big-wheeled cars and SUVs can be more susceptible to directional and handling issues when they encounter ruts left in the roads.
This mount looks OK, but the only way to know for sure is to test it under the conditions the complaint occurs.
Adjusting tire pressures used to be a favorite trick for those “undercover test” cars. TV shows would send “bugged” vehicles to various garages to test how honest they were: one tire would be set much lower than the others and the “customer” would complain about a pull to one side. The “correct repair” was simply correcting the tire pressures, and usually a painfully high number of shops did not repair the problem correctly, instead selling alignments and complete sets of new tires as the hidden cameras rolled.
Checking and correctly setting tire pressures usually is pretty easy, and it’s very important because incorrect pressures can and do cause problems. If one tire pressure is incorrect, the vehicle can pull. If all tires are overinflated, the ride can be harsh (among other problems). Therefore, even on vehicles with tire pressure monitoring systems, it’s still important to check that tire pressure is correct and also that it’s checked correctly (usually on cold tires) with an accurate gauge before going any further in the diagnostic process.
And if indeed one tire is much lower than the rest, it’s important to find and repair the cause of the leak (possibly a leak or puncture) so that the customer doesn’t return with the same problem in a few days.