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I took my car (Mk1 Golf/Rabbit Cabriolet) to get new front struts and new strut mounts kits installed.

When I got it back, the steering and suspension certainly felt better, but the steering wheel is now on an angle.

I can't imagine any reason why the tie rods would be tampered with during this process, but I am not a professional.

Could this just be the result of replacing the strut mounts and strut mounts bearings, causing the wheels to be better aligned?

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The alignment of your front end is affected by much more than just the tie rod ends. The camber especially would be affected by changing the struts.

Camber is the amount of lean in or out the top of the tire has. The following image describes it pretty well:

Wheel Camber Explained

And as you can see from the image, the process of changing the struts, could change the camber if things are not put back correctly. Before you end up wearing an odd pattern into your front tires I would suggest having the front end aligned.

Additionally, toe or caster may have been changed. This diagrams below show what each are.

Toe Defined

Caster Defined

If the toe is off you could easily be driving down the road straight, but the wheel is off center.

But, it sounds like the work was done by a shop. Did they align the front end after doing the suspension work? If they did, it's not unusual for your steering wheel to no longer be perfectly straight even though the car is driving straight down the road. If the did an alignment, your fine, and this is annoying, but harmless. If they did the suspension work but did not do an alignment, you should have one done VERY soon before you start scrubbing rubber off your front tires.

I hope that helps!

  • Ah, this makes sense. This is a project car and one of the issues was that one of the strut mounts was so worn that the strut could move about 5mm laterally either way, thus creating camber. I didn't know that camber would translate back into the actual position of the steering wheel, though. – MeltingDog Mar 1 '17 at 23:05
  • If they did an alignment and the steering wheel is not pointing straight they you need to get is to a different alignment shop post haste. Because they did not know what they were doing or did a shoddy job of it. – Ukko Mar 2 '17 at 20:39
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After work such as this you need to get the alignment checked. Even back to where the car body was built each side was not identical : there are allowable tolerances for the wheelbase length on each side for example. So, that means one front wheel could be in front of the other by a small, but allowable, amount. The new struts can be fractionally different : even 0.1mm difference can cause a significant difference at the other end, this is all about trigonometry or think of a lever : large movement one side caused by a small movement the other.

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Keep in mind that on the Mk1 Rabbit the left tie rod, from the factory, is not adjustable.

The replacement of struts can impact the placement of the strut, which impacts alignment, and in particular camber. In reality, it can impact castor as well as toe-in. However, the wear on the struts may not be uniform bilaterally. So if the alignment is adjusted, and is not symmetrical side-to-side, then the steering wheel may not end up centered.

If your left tie rod was replaced (which is a high possibility on a 20+ year old car), then it may have an outer tie rod end which is adjustable. But coming from the factory they were not adjustable.

So yes, a strut assembly replacement, replacing the top bearings, will impact alignment, and furthermore, if the left tie rod is not adjustable, that will most likely cause your steering wheel to be off-center.

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