My wife was in an accident around August 22, 2017 in our 2010 RAV4. Another driver hit her from the side in the front right corner. The wheel was bent in. We got the car back around Sept 13th. They had done suspension work, replaced the bumper and right quarter panel. They added weights to the wheel to balance it. I’m sure there was other stuff done. I can look it up if you think it would be helpful. I have the paperwork still somewhere.
Anyway, I immediately noticed 2 issues the first time I drove it after getting the car back on/around Sept 13th: there was a vibration when you got up to around 65mph and the steering wheel felt consistently and uncharacteristically tight - I noticed that right away. I called the body shop and complained about both issues on/around Sept 14th. They ordered a wheel to replace the rebalanced right front wheel and I waited a few weeks for them to get that in and deal with insurance. In that time, the steering wheel loosened up and felt somewhat normal (either that or I’d gotten used to it). I got the car back with a new front right wheel in mid-October. They didn’t address the steering and I, for whatever reason, didn’t press the issue. I wish I had...
Around the second week in December, I noticed that there was some play in the steering wheel and an intermittent knocking noise associated with turning the wheel, sometimes accompanied by a snapping “give” to the steering wheel.
I took it into service, not making a connection with the accident. Initially, the service advisor said that the steering shaft was worn, but after they replaced that and the issue wasn’t resolved, they discovered that the power steering drive felt like it had something floating around inside it. They guessed that a tooth on a gear had broken off. The guy was very apologetic - looked shocked even. He said that in his 20 years on the job, he’d never encountered that before, which prompted me to ask, “could this be related to the accident we had a few months ago?” And he seemed like that clicked, as if that explained it, and he said it could. So then my insurance, which had already covered the initial work and the wheel replacement got involved.
Ultimately, my insurance has claimed that the broken tooth in the power steering drive could not be related to the accident because the rod leading into the drive wasn’t bent or damaged. They claimed that, while rare, the broken tooth is a known issue of wear. They also pointed out that I’ve put around 5000 miles on the car since getting it back (which I haven’t confirmed - but am taking their word for it).
There’s no written record that I’ve found of me having complained about the steering the day after we first got the car back and I feel like their explanation doesn’t account for the issue I detected right away with the steering back on Sept 14th-ish. Maybe they don’t believe me. I don’t know. I don’t have any way to prove I complained about the steering other than my testimony, but it’s possible the guy I complained to might remember, though I recall he seemed mainly focused on the wheel, so I’m not optimistic.
So I have a few questions:
- Can the rod going into the power steering drive cause a tooth to break/bend without the rod showing any damage when the wheel is hit dead-on and bent in at the top?
- Is my initial complaint of the tightness of the steering wheel consistent with the tooth breaking off? I.e. could it have been bent from the accident, loosen, and eventually break off over the course of about 3 months’ time?
- Can anyone corroborate through data whether damage inside the power steering drive is always accompanied by damage to the rod going into it from the wheel? I.e. Does a lack of damage to the rod “prove” that the broken tooth in the power steering drive is not from the accident?
- Is the rod going from the wheel into the power steering drive straight? I.e. does it go directly from the wheel into the drive or is it hinged or curved or are there other parts in between?
- If the broken tooth in the power steering drive is not related to the accident, then what explains the tight steering wheel issue I complained about when I first got the car back in September?
My total bill, for the shaft, power steering drive (aka steering rack), and the loaner rental was over $2600. I am exploring my options. I feel strongly, simply by the coincidental factor and the admitted rarity of this type of “wear” that this damage is from the accident. But I wouldn’t want to make the insurance company pay if it is likely to be normal wear, as they claim. So I’d appreciate anyone’s insights on this matter.
Full disclosure side note: around the 17th of September, a bearing went in the alternator. I had explored the possibility that it could have been related to the accident simply because it was located directly behind the front right wheel (I never saw the damage personally - my wife was alone in the car when the accident occurred and it went directly to the dealership where we had the repairs conducted), but they convinced me that it couldn’t possibly be related to the accident, so I was satisfied and paid as a matter of course. This case, however, definitely to me seems related to the accident.