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      10-08-2015, 12:57 PM   #1
lupa
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At wit's end - sloppy steering

Experts, help please, I'm losing my mind.

I've posted here (and another 1 forum) that my 2011 E82 with M Sport Package has had bad handling for some time. It manifests as loose, sloppy steering, and road surfaces changing the direction of the car.

I had been to the dealership numerous times on this, and was told tires (I bought new tires), alignment (got it aligned), tires (told them I bought the damned tires from them). Multiple inspections of suspension parts, told everything was "within spec."

So, after the warranty expired, I bought replacement front shocks, had them installed by a friend's shop at a discount. That got rid of the rocking motion associated with the bad handling. I saved the old, blown shock, and plan on wrapping it up with a bow and sending it to the dealership, asking if by "within spec" they mean "broken."

Anyway, the car is now grounded (for lack of a better term), but the steering is so light that it still feels like the road is moving the car around. After research here and other places, I went looking for a bad steering coupler (giubo), only to find that the E82 doesn't have one of these.

Tie rods are good.

No obviously bad bushings (is there a better way to check than pushing, pulling, levering, visually inspecting?).

Best description: there is no resistance at all in the steering wheel, the slightest touch changes the car's direction, and vice versa from the road up.

Can power steering be "tightened" a little??

When this car was new, it was SOLID. Now it feels sloppy. Don't know how else to describe my pain.
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      10-08-2015, 01:24 PM   #2
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What kind of tires did you get? What are your alignment specs? Stock control arms I'm guessing? How many miles?

The more info the better.
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      10-08-2015, 01:34 PM   #3
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I'm thinking it sounds like a problem with the adaptive steering.

Last edited by Coleroad; 10-08-2015 at 03:45 PM.
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      10-08-2015, 06:25 PM   #4
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Info:

M Sport
68k miles
Stock everything, including replacement shocks
No adaptive steering (this would have been a good candidate)
Michelin run flats, forget the spec (I'll post later). Same that came with the car when new and it rode nicely.

I've read many posts here and other forums on this, and I have a question. ..could sub frame bushings make the steering feel light and cause substantial tram lining?

Rear shocks?

Back end doesn't feel sloppy...but I guess it could be the culprit?

The car was just a solid tank when new, and now it is loose.

Can components in the suspension be tightened? Steering?

Again, nothing seems loose or rattling, just a general lack of BMW feel anymore.
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      10-08-2015, 08:19 PM   #5
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This probably goes without saying, but start by eliminating the simplest culprits first. This may sound ridiculous, but double check your tire pressure. Tire shops (including BMW in your case) have been known to over inflate the tires to get the bead to seat properly. Over inflated front tires exhibit the same symptoms you describe. Good luck finding the issue.
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      10-08-2015, 09:42 PM   #6
lupa
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Interesting thought. Go with spec inflation? Less?

I haven't looked at it since the shocks were changed, and if they are high, maybe I'm seeing that as light, lose steering.

this would make me happy if it were that friggin simple.
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      10-08-2015, 09:54 PM   #7
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Use the door jam tire pressures.

68k is a good amount on the stock control arms, perhaps upgrading to the M3 ones would not be a bad idea. They have much stiffer bushings and will increase the road feel and add some weight to the steering as well. That's what I can suggest if you're saying everything else is good.
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      10-09-2015, 11:12 AM   #8
lupa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris82 View Post
Use the door jam tire pressures.

68k is a good amount on the stock control arms, perhaps upgrading to the M3 ones would not be a bad idea. They have much stiffer bushings and will increase the road feel and add some weight to the steering as well. That's what I can suggest if you're saying everything else is good.
Tire pressures were almost dead nuts this morning to the door -- fronts both at 36 psi, back right at 39, back left at 40.

Tram lining on the interstate was miserable, so I got on a side road and tried a few things...

I can rock the steering wheel about an inch each way, back and forth repeatedly, and not change the direction of the car at all. It is like there is a rubber band between the steering and the actual wheels.

I (intentionally) hit potholes. Bump steer basically redirects the car.

Corrections on the steering do not manifest equally, as in, sometimes a small adjustment has the same effect as a large adjustment.

Back to tie rods? How do I check them?

Would control arms cause this?

I keep asking all these questions, because there is no obvious culprit. Wife wants me to dump the car and just get a dad-mobile, but when the little guy works, it is a blast. Please, help me save my independence!
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      10-09-2015, 11:27 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lupa View Post
Tire pressures were almost dead nuts this morning to the door -- fronts both at 36 psi, back right at 39, back left at 40.

Tram lining on the interstate was miserable, so I got on a side road and tried a few things...

I can rock the steering wheel about an inch each way, back and forth repeatedly, and not change the direction of the car at all. It is like there is a rubber band between the steering and the actual wheels.

I (intentionally) hit potholes. Bump steer basically redirects the car.

Corrections on the steering do not manifest equally, as in, sometimes a small adjustment has the same effect as a large adjustment.

Back to tie rods? How do I check them?

Would control arms cause this?

I keep asking all these questions, because there is no obvious culprit. Wife wants me to dump the car and just get a dad-mobile, but when the little guy works, it is a blast. Please, help me save my independence!
I would have a good indy shop look at it. Even the slightest steering input should make a difference on these cars. I am still on the stock control arms up front after 51k miles and I can tell you that an inch would have me in another lane (well, maybe not that much lol). My steering was always precise even when my car was stock and had the crappy 17" RFTs on it.
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Last edited by chris82; 10-10-2015 at 06:00 PM.
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      10-09-2015, 11:30 AM   #10
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Thank you.

Is there a way for me to check the control arms on my own first?

Should there be play in the wheels if the arms are bad? How to check?
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      10-09-2015, 11:35 AM   #11
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Honestly, sounds like it may be an alignment issue.
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      10-09-2015, 07:35 PM   #12
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Recently aligned, all within recommended spec. I saved the printout, I can pull it out of the car later.

After you posted this, though, I looked at the car, and the rears look cambered out (negative) a lot.

Interesting. Maybe I'll get a pic in the light tomorrow.

Can I shake, push, pull, compress, etc, anything to see if it is suspension related?

Also, I'll try to get a video of moving the steering wheel with no change in direction.

Last edited by lupa; 10-10-2015 at 04:57 PM.
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      10-10-2015, 04:44 PM   #13
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TL/DR: SOLVED

Took a good look at the car in the daylight today, and noticed that it wasn't the rears that were negative cambered (out at bottom), it was the way the car was sitting in the driveway (a little slope), and when I looked at them contrasted against the front right wheel, which was positive camber. The car was aligned after the struts were installed, so I thought this odd.

So...I popped the hood, and found the following. Note that the post wasn't fully ripped off, but rather, I saw the wear pattern the nut carved into the paint. I used a 13 mm ratchet (1/4 drive) and hand force, and promptly ripped the post right in half. I don't have a torque wrench, but I can tell you I didn't torque on it very hard, like I just started turning to get a feel.

The other two nuts were nice and snug, I would have had to pull on them pretty hard to get them to turn:



So, as I said, I tried to snug the nut that had the most wear, and it ripped right off.

Here's another pic:



I guess I will be replacing the plate at the top of the strut (not sure what it is called).

In the meantime, I need the car, as it is the daily driver.

So, I went to the hardware store, found a small 8 mm bolt that matched the original, tapped out the old aluminum post (center punch, hammer, a few taps), threaded the bolt over a star washer on the bottom and put a wide flange nut on the top, hand tightened everything down:



Car rides like it is brand new. Solid. Slightest touch of the steering wheel, and the car responds, and best of all, it returns to center. All the slop is gone.


My best guess of what happened is that the front right mount has been screwed up for two years. That, coupled with a partially blown strut, led to a terrible ride. When my buddy's shop mounted the new strut, they used the old plate. Maybe they torqued it right, maybe not...I've been going to them for years for other stuff, so I'd be surprised they screwed up something so basic. More than likely, it was torqued right, but the soft post and nut were damaged, because that wear pattern is new. There isn't any oxidation or dirt in there, and I never noticed that before.

I think the strut tower was rocking back and forth about 1/8th of an inch each way over bumps and road surface changes, and that was screwing up the feel. The steering may have been moving the tower before the wheel turned, which could lead to a dead spot...and then really, really light response when the wheel was just going with the road.


In sum...I hope this is it. I've taken it up and down the interstate a bit today. Up to 110 mph and back down, cruise at 65 to 80, and made sure I went over all the normal bumps and patches of the road that have been causing me so much heartache. Seems really, really solid.

Last dumb question, I promise...if this works and doesn't creep at all (I marked where the front nut sits in red sharpie, you can see it in one pic), should I even bother replacing that plate?

Thanks, everyone, for the input. I think just talking it out here put me on the right path.

Last edited by lupa; 10-10-2015 at 04:49 PM.
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      10-10-2015, 04:56 PM   #14
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Glad you found the issue and thanks for sharing your findings. You'll find the part number here.

http://www.realoem.com/bmw/enUS/show...diagId=31_0695
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      10-10-2015, 05:16 PM   #15
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Interesting. Not sure how one broken stud on the strut mount could make any difference in feel.
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      10-10-2015, 05:21 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyMouseTech View Post
Interesting. Not sure how one broken stud on the strut mount could make any difference in feel.
+1

Honestly it sounded to me like you were responding to the OE shocks being known for their underdamping behavior. Replacing shocks with OE replacements will not cure this, as they will have the same spec that no one likes, you will have to go to the aftermarket for a fix. A loose strut tower is definitely not a good thing to have, but it would most likely cause the car to pull one direction when you take your hands off the wheel. Bump steer = dampers. Loose steering feel = dampers. Road force causing the car to float and steer on its own = dampers.
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      10-10-2015, 05:50 PM   #17
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At a minimum you should get a decent alignment. Don't go back to that last shop.

You still have not posted what kind of Michelin RFT tires you have? Size and speed rating? Are they all seasons by chance? The choice of tires and model, will change how your car handles(or doesn't).


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      10-10-2015, 06:04 PM   #18
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Tires are the most important thing to handling. Post up what tires and importantly what size they put on.

Even full tread to near worn out makes a big difference.
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      10-10-2015, 06:04 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW135pls View Post
+1

Honestly it sounded to me like you were responding to the OE shocks being known for their underdamping behavior. Replacing shocks with OE replacements will not cure this, as they will have the same spec that no one likes, you will have to go to the aftermarket for a fix. A loose strut tower is definitely not a good thing to have, but it would most likely cause the car to pull one direction when you take your hands off the wheel. Bump steer = dampers. Loose steering feel = dampers. Road force causing the car to float and steer on its own = dampers.
He said after he replaced that nut and tightened it all down that it felt solid, so it wasnt the shocks at all, it was whatever problem he was having with that strut tower
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      10-10-2015, 06:09 PM   #20
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Well, i'd think the other two bolts should do the job, right? But look at the wear pattern around all of them. ..they definitely were all sliding. No idea of my friend's shop fixed the damper problem and then under-tightened the front right, causing the next problem. Those dampers were installed two weeks ago, and the sloppiness had gotten worse recently.

I travel a lot for work, so it isn't like I've ridden in it consistently of late to be sure if I was going crazy or OCD about it.

I will say, unequivocally, that with the front right locked down, the car feels right again.
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      10-10-2015, 06:12 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris82 View Post
He said after he replaced that nut and tightened it all down that it felt solid, so it wasnt the shocks at all, it was whatever problem he was having with that strut tower
I noted that, but having succumbed to the placebo effect quite a few times in my own travels and been humbled by it, it could be placebo, only time will tell. The description of the problem doesn't make sense to be caused by only one out of three securing points on the strut tower to be slightly loose or worn.
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      10-10-2015, 06:51 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BMW135pls View Post
I noted that, but having succumbed to the placebo effect quite a few times in my own travels and been humbled by it, it could be placebo, only time will tell. The description of the problem doesn't make sense to be caused by only one out of three securing points on the strut tower to be slightly loose or worn.
Lots of posts to respond to and I'm on my phone...but take a look at that one pic. It looks like all nuts were rubbing, so maybe they were all loose, and I only noticed the worst one? It was the first I tested and it snapped right off, and I know I tightened the others after, but lightly. You can understand I was concerned after that first one.

Do alignment shops loosen those nuts for alignments?
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