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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently bought an e46 330i with 18 inch rims. The wheels in the back are wider (255 cm) than in the front (225 cm).

My steering wheel doesn't return to the center / middle position after a corner. Also, when I drive over a little ridge or something, the steering wheel + the wheels are kind of 'pulled away' from going straight and I have to manually get the steering wheel back to the middle again.

This makes for a pretty uneasy driving experience and doesn't give me the confidence to get the maximum cornering performance out of this car.

I took it to the garage and the guy said that everything is fine with the steering driveline. He said it's most likely because of the 18 inch rims in combination with the wider back wheels. He said changing to 17 inch and all 4 wheels the same size will fix these problems.

Could that be true? Or are there other things that should be looked at?

Thanks!
 

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E30M3 Race F10 535 R1150Rt M Coupe
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I would inspect/lube the universal joint on the steering column under the hood.

There are times when the suspension is drooped (up on a lift) that all the ball joints and tie rods move freely. There's either something binding or the caster has been (unlikely) heavily modified. Possible very stiff strut mount also.
(a short blast of grease in the bearing could help that)
The 18" rims should have a negligible effect.
 

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Shouldn't be the wheel set up, mine has staggered 18" alloys with 225/40 front and 255/35 rears and it drives fine

I'd initially be having a look at the steering rack and any associated joints in the steering set up to see if anything was, loose, binding or fouling.
 

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I have the same problem, as MrMcar says check the strut or your steering column, if it's not that check for play in your front suspension.
Might be a bad alignment but personally an alignment didn't change anything, I think it's just my suspensions.

for reference i have 18" all around with 8.5" wide (wider than stock for a 325ci), and it didn't happen few month ago, don't change your wheels.

you can also check the balance of the wheel, just to be sure it's does come from a bent wheel, but in my case it happens at low speed and not at high speed, def not a bent wheel...

i'll try WD40 on my strut mounts but I think they're just shot.
 

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2002 BMW 540Ti, 2004 BMW 330i ZHP, 2001 325Ci
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Recently bought???? then you are not familiar with e46 steering, My 2002 540 has very heavy steering compared with my e46 coupe but all of then require an assist to go straight an all of then are heavy compared to other manufacturers
 

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2002 BMW 540Ti, 2004 BMW 330i ZHP, 2001 325Ci
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e46 xi can be even more on the heavy side, usually front shock mount bearing dry, compound universal joint on steering nuckle, extremely dirty power steering oil and filter an possibly pump going bad
,
 

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2002 BMW 540Ti, 2004 BMW 330i ZHP, 2001 325Ci
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another quick check to have someone apply brakes and shift forward then reverse and observe front tire movement to check your thrust arm bushings, another quick check put steering straight ahead and look down edge of front tire, you should just see the round bulge of rear tires bother sides
 

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I recently bought an e46 330i with 18 inch rims. The wheels in the back are wider (255 cm) than in the front (225 cm).

My steering wheel doesn't return to the center / middle position after a corner. Also, when I drive over a little ridge or something, the steering wheel + the wheels are kind of 'pulled away' from going straight and I have to manually get the steering wheel back to the middle again.

This makes for a pretty uneasy driving experience and doesn't give me the confidence to get the maximum cornering performance out of this car.

I took it to the garage and the guy said that everything is fine with the steering driveline. He said it's most likely because of the 18 inch rims in combination with the wider back wheels. He said changing to 17 inch and all 4 wheels the same size will fix these problems.

Could that be true? Or are there other things that should be looked at?

Thanks!


Your car has what they call, Staggered Fitment or set up. You will have a 225/40x18 in the front and a 255/35x18 on the back. The thing is, the circumference of the tires is important, and is critical from left to right more than front to rear. You are describing a problem that if it comes from the tires then it's that the left and right side are not the same -- I do not think this is the issue.

What I think you have going on is worn suspension components in the front of the car, this can be the ball joints or the lower control arm bushings, or some combination. The lower control arm comes with new ball joints and it fits into the control arm bushing that you need to buy separately. It's possible to need the bushing and not the ball joint, but by the time you take the control arm off you may as well put a new one back on. The lower control arm bushing bolts to the firewall near the passenger and driver foot wells, there is a bushing on each side and you should replace both.

It's possible that you have trouble with the rear suspension, but I think your starting point must be the front.

If you turn the steering wheel and it comes back to center when you go left, but is off center when you go right or vice versa, this is a problem with the bushings and/or ball joints, maybe the steering rack. All of these things can also cause the steering to change with variations in the roadway.

What you really need is a new mechanic. He told you to get what is called a Square Fitment, but this is not true. The factory had a tire package for this car that was staggered, and 18 inches. Your mechanic is a hack.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yea I already thought it was weird for him to say this. I'm taking it to another garage soon to get someone else to look at it. I'm about as handy with cars as the average 8-year old so I'm not even bothering with looking at things myself.

The steering wheel does rotate back after a corner though, just not completely towards the middle. It stays 'stuck' on the 10 and 2 'o clock positions.
 

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Caster is what makes the steering want to center. If you drew an imaginary line from the lower ball joint to the upper ball joint, it would be tilted to the rear of the car, this is caster. Consider those Razor Scooters with the inline skate tires, they have practically no caster angle at all and the steering is very squirrelly -- the steering wobbles. Now consider a Harley with extended forks, the steering angle here is so flat that the bike is hard to steer. Your car has a very steep caster angle -- more like the Razor than the Harley -- so the steering does not return to straight, but it should hold straight without wandering and you should seldom need any corrective steering input. You said that the top of the steering wheel comes back to 10 and 2, but not to 12. This is not right, you have something wrong. But, I was reading from your first post that it came to center when you turned one way, but not the other. Perhaps the terminology needs some clarification. The Steering Rack takes the steering wheel rotation and converts it to a linear (side to side) motion. The center section of the rack can become worn and the result is that the steering feels uncertain when the steering wheel is at 12 o'clock. Roadway variations can send the car in another direction because the rack and pinion are worn and are fitting loosely together. You can test for a sloppy rack & pinion easily enough, with the engine off, gently turn the steering wheel from side to side and you should feel the slop, and the tires won't move when the wheel moves. If the rack & pinion is in good condition, the tires should move almost exactly with the rocking motion of the steering wheel. If the wheel can move from 11 to 1, or 10 to 2 without moving the tires, then you have a worn rack. (The Rack and Pinion are sold as an assembly that is called a Steering Rack, the rack wears, but generally not the pinion, but you replace the entire assembly with 4 bolts after disconnecting the tie-rods. It's not hard, but does require an alignment when you get done. The tie rod ends are also a wear item that can give sloppy steering from the center, it's the same test as the rack, but you observe movement of the rack and the tie rods are sloppy, causing the tires to move later than the steering wheel. The difference in the rack and the tie rods is, when the steering wheel moves from side to side, the rack moves immediately or not, then when the rack does move the tie rods should change the direction of the tires. The rack can move late, the tie rods can move late, or there can be a combination of the rack and the tie rods all moving late.
 

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Caster is what makes the steering want to center. If you drew an imaginary line from the lower ball joint to the upper ball joint, it would be tilted to the rear of the car, this is caster. Consider those Razor Scooters with the inline skate tires, they have practically no caster angle at all and the steering is very squirrelly -- the steering wobbles. Now consider a Harley with extended forks, the steering angle here is so flat that the bike is hard to steer. Your car has a very steep caster angle -- more like the Razor than the Harley
My '73 Citroen SM has zero Caster, and the wheels returned to perfect straight regardless the engine is running or shut off (turn the wheels either sides and shut off the engine, then they will return to perfect straight ahead).
 

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My '73 Citroen SM has zero Caster, and the wheels returned to perfect straight regardless the engine is running or shut off (turn the wheels either sides and shut off the engine, then they will return to perfect straight ahead).
Interesting; 0° of caster.

The French have always been innovative. If one takes a look at all of the "new" inventions of engines or systems on aircraft over the decades, one can usually find that the French have already tried it sometime back in the teens or 1920's. They just lacked the "computer controls" to make such happen at the time.
 

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Interesting; 0° of caster.

The French have always been innovative. If one takes a look at all of the "new" inventions of engines or systems on aircraft over the decades, one can usually find that the French have already tried it sometime back in the teens or 1920's. They just lacked the "computer controls" to make such happen at the time.
Zero caster so it's easy to turn the wheels, and the power steering wheel firms up progressively as car speed increased. Since the wheels will try to turn back straight as soon as engine turned off, users need to learn a trick to cock the wheels, required by law, when park on steep hill. At slow speed or during parking, just one finger one can turn the one-spoke steering wheel. It already had rain sensor in 1970.
 

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Zero caster so it's easy to turn the wheels, and the power steering wheel firms up progressively as car speed increased. Since the wheels will try to turn back straight as soon as engine turned off, users need to learn a trick to cock the wheels, required by law, when park on steep hill. At slow speed or during parking, just one finger one can turn the one-spoke steering wheel. It also ready had rain sensor in 1970.
You forget I lived on Europe for 5 years.
 

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Just a thought..... When you change the wheel offset from the factory spec enough that the center of rotation is no longer on the axis defined by the pivot points (lower ball joint and strut pivot bearing) or where the engineers intended it to be, the steering feel and road tracking will change. If you have enough offset in the wheels that the center moves inboard of the axis it is going to have weird effects on handling in a corner too. The wheel on the outside of the turn moves back and the wheel on the inside of the turn moves forward. This effectively shortens the wheel base, moves the CG ever so slightly forward relative to the wheel base, and turns the front axle away from the direction of turn. Some designs intentionally place the center of rotation outboard of the pivot axis. As long as you use a factory spec offset for the wheel size this shouldn't be a problem.

Late 60's early 70's Ford products weren't built particularly straight. After they were wrecked body shops would get the frame straighter than the factory did. A factory 'spec' alignment would work OK on them. Straight from the factory it wasn't unusual for them to pull one way or the other. Fortunately they all had front suspensions with adjustable caster. If it pulled right we would add caster to the right wheel until it went straight. One company car had 4 degrees more caster on one side than the other - and tracked perfectly straight and returned to center. After it was wrecked It came back from the body shop with both sides the same.
 

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Just a thought..... When you change the wheel offset from the factory spec enough that the center of rotation is no longer on the axis defined by the pivot points (lower ball joint and strut pivot bearing) or where the engineers intended it to be, the steering feel and road tracking will change. If you have enough offset in the wheels that the center moves inboard of the axis it is going to have weird effects on handling in a corner too. The wheel on the outside of the turn moves back and the wheel on the inside of the turn moves forward. This effectively shortens the wheel base, moves the CG ever so slightly forward relative to the wheel base, and turns the front axle away from the direction of turn. Some designs intentionally place the center of rotation outboard of the pivot axis. As long as you use a factory spec offset for the wheel size this shouldn't be a problem.

Late 60's early 70's Ford products weren't built particularly straight. After they were wrecked body shops would get the frame straighter than the factory did. A factory 'spec' alignment would work OK on them. Straight from the factory it wasn't unusual for them to pull one way or the other. Fortunately they all had front suspensions with adjustable caster. If it pulled right we would add caster to the right wheel until it went straight. One company car had 4 degrees more caster on one side than the other - and tracked perfectly straight and returned to center. After it was wrecked It came back from the body shop with both sides the same.
I am not sure a lot of people went out of range enough so that the steering feels totally different.
You'd have to get extremly large front wheels with such an aggressive offset you'd have to add camber so that the wheel does fit. Adding camber itself will introduce a different steering and steering wheel feeling , but mostly because camber, caster, and all the geometry specs are all related.
here we are talking 18 inchs wheels with factory suspension and tires specs, but that's a good point for someone going 20x9.5 in the front and an aggessive ET (example).
 

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You'd have to get extremly large front wheels with such an aggressive offset you'd have to add camber so that the wheel does fit

You are thinking the wrong direction with the offset. If you reduce the offset of the wheel it moves the tire out. This is what some do for 'stance' or looks. When you increase the offset of the rim it moves the tire in. You do this to fit a wider tire/wheel under the sheet metal without rolling the fenders. The original factory spec wheels had the center of the tire where it should be. When you move the center in it doesn't need to move far for the suspension geometry to change significantly. Think of it as a 'tipping point'. Once the wheel center moves in past the desired axis of turn some aspects of the suspension geometry will be working opposite of the desired geometry in a turn.

The OP referenced what appear to be tire sizes that we know fit. But it really doesn't say what wheel widths/offsets those tires are mounted on.
 

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You'd have to get extremly large front wheels with such an aggressive offset you'd have to add camber so that the wheel does fit

You are thinking the wrong direction with the offset. If you reduce the offset of the wheel it moves the tire out. This is what some do for 'stance' or looks. When you increase the offset of the rim it moves the tire in. You do this to fit a wider tire/wheel under the sheet metal without rolling the fenders. The original factory spec wheels had the center of the tire where it should be. When you move the center in it doesn't need to move far for the suspension geometry to change significantly. Think of it as a 'tipping point'. Once the wheel center moves in past the desired axis of turn some aspects of the suspension geometry will be working opposite of the desired geometry in a turn.

The OP referenced what appear to be tire sizes that we know fit. But it really doesn't say what wheel widths/offsets those tires are mounted on.
I was more referring to those who reduce the offset AND increase the tire width.

And I assumed OP had kind of Factory size wheels.might be wrong.
 
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