Wandering Challenger

Submitted: Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 18:18
ThreadID: 96088 Views:4854 Replies:8 FollowUps:10
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Hello to those Drivers who have experienced vehicle wandering. Have just purchased a 2003 Mitsubishi Challenger which drives fine on good city roads but as soon as any uneven surface she wanders as if hit by a sudden gust of wind. I have spoken to tyre fitters who think it could be shocks. Have had full check over by renowned suspension specialists who have adjusted torsion bars and done wheel alignment. They said vehicle would benefit by new shocks but said those on the vehicle are still working. This vehicle was purchased on the condition that it had a Safety Certificate as well as the Air Con fixed. My experience so far is that it's wandering is that unsafe I am unsure about travelling with my family aboard...not to mention the air conditioner has run out of gas 3 days after buying the vehicle.(Hoping the Dealer will come good on this) however my bigger concern is the handling of the vehicle. Just wondering if anyone has experienced the same as I would like to get to the bottom of it without having to buy new tyres, new shocks etc only to find it's something else.
Leisa :)
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Reply By: Madfisher - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:06

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:06
What type of tyres is the vehicle fitted with Leisa?
Cheers Pete
AnswerID: 487873

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:47

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:47
Hi Pete
The Mitsi has Bridgestone Dueler H/L on the back and Goodyear Wranglers on the front.

FollowupID: 763107

Follow Up By: Madfisher - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 23:03

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 23:03
Mmmn I wonder if the two diff threads patterns could be contribiting to your problem. Mind you My wifes Jack has two diff at patterns and it does not do this.
Good luck Pete
FollowupID: 763119

Reply By: Ross M - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:27

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:27
Unfortunately shockers which pass a roadworthy don't necessarily perform properly.
Most, nearly all, none of the testers, actually test the shockers but do an assessment of body movement and hopefully ride performance. Most tests are done around town and not done on surfaces where the shockers have to perform/work much, so they can be really lacking but ok in the law.

The renowned suspension specialist may have adjusted things but the vehicle may benefit from more caster angle than they have OK'd. If your vehicle is raised at the rear this is even more important as there could be hardly any caster and therefore flighty on a loose road. The specialist may not have allowed sufficient caster. Don't want too much though.

The tyre pressures may be too high and the grip on loose surfaces will be less because of this.Check the pressures.
Also, some tyres are suited only to sealed road situations and don't provide much grip when it is loose stuff.

All these factors are related to the performance and manners a vehicle has on and off road. A less than favourable situation with all of them can compound into a vehicle which is a bit scary to drive.

For me the shocker performance is paramount as control, braking and cornering ity is provided by these. Of course tyres have a large importance too but they can't perform if the shocks are under par.
AnswerID: 487879

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:46

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:46
Thanks Ross for your invaluable info. We had checked and lowered the tyre pressure...haven't taken the vehicle off-road yet but plan to. Scarey to say the least when bringing the vehicle home to Bundy from Brisbane in wet conditions with many semi-trailers approaching and the Mitsi suddenly taking a move towards oncoming traffic.
Caster angle theory was something we hadn't thought of but makes sense. Sounds like we might have to go down the road of new shocks. Thanks again for your unbiased opinion...always difficult to know whether businesses are giving you the right information or just after a sale.

Best Regards
FollowupID: 763106

Reply By: Bazooka - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:50

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 19:50
I'm not an expert by any means Leisa but I doubt shocks would cause major 'wandering'. Years ago I had the front shock mounts on my patrol break and apart from obvious bounce (lack of damping) the steering and tracking was pretty much unaffected.
AnswerID: 487886

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 20:29

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 20:29
Thanks for your take on the wandering situation. This is exactly our dilemna as we have had to change shocks in 2 other vehicles this year and their symptoms didn't involve wandering at all. Hard to know if its one thing or a combination of things and that's why we were hoping the experts would know. Tricky situation as we have expressed our disappointment with Dealer we purchased vehicle from as thought we were buying a safe "on the road" vehicle.

FollowupID: 763110

Reply By: GT Campers - Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 23:48

Thursday, Jun 07, 2012 at 23:48
something is loose or broken.. nothing wanders or bump-steers that much (into other lanes), not even old Holdens with worn-out dampers...
AnswerID: 487903

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:24

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:24
Thanks for your comment GT Campers!

FollowupID: 763124

Reply By: Mick O - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 06:46

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 06:46

has the vehicle had any height adjustment through a suspension lift? If it is lifted above standard then castor angle can be affected and this may cause "tram tracking" or steering behaviour as you describe. Off set castor bushes may be required to bring the front end geometry back to standard.

Cheers Mick
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AnswerID: 487910

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:27

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:27
Hi Mick
Vehicle doesn't look to have had any height adjustment to suspension. "Tram Tracking" is a good description of what is going on. Thanks for your comment.

FollowupID: 763125

Reply By: linds_72_99 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 06:48

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 06:48
I have just remedied a similar problem on a recently purchased d22 Navara by replacing worn shocks with good quality new items. Other contributing factor was wheel bearing which needed to be tightened a little.
AnswerID: 487911

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:30

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 07:30
Good to hear from someone who has experienced same problem...as would seem it is difficult one to diagnose unless inspector takes it for a drive on roads other than well maintained city streets.

FollowupID: 763126

Reply By: Ron N - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 13:57

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 13:57
Leisa - "Tram tracking" can be caused by tyres with an exceptionally heavy wall and tread belt that don't flex enough.
The old "crossply" tyres used to be dreadful for "tram tracking" on ruts on gravel roads.

I'd be getting another suspension/steering specialist to carefully examine the entire front end. There are any one of a dozen causes for wandering or "tram tracking".

This model Challenger uses an independent front suspension with torsion bars and a live rear axle with a 3-link setup.

Caster angle is the first thing I'd be looking at. An inadequate amount of caster creates steering wander. The alignment crowd may have used an incorrect caster setting, or not checked it all. Some people regard only a toe-in-toe-out check, as a full wheel alignment. A proper wheel alignment means checking EVERY specification.

Worn steering components will cause wandering, so a careful inspection of all moving steering components is on the cards.
A worn bushing in any one of the rear axle links will also create steering steering wander.

Tyre types may be a factor, as would the shock absorbers - however, worn shock absorbers generally show up as "wallow", excessive roll on cornering, and excessive rebound after suspension compression.

The initial quick check for worn shockers is to jump on the vehicle body, to compress the springs, then jump off. If the springs rebound up and then back down again, the shockers are stuffed. The spring should rebound, then promptly stop as it reaches its original position.

Cheers - Ron.
AnswerID: 487953

Follow Up By: Leisa1770 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 14:10

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 14:10
Thanks Ron for your wealth of knowledge. Will certainly take all points into consideration.

FollowupID: 763165

Follow Up By: Fab72 - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 17:08

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 17:08
Finally a mention on suspension components other than shocks.
Me personally, I'd start with a check of excess play in the wheel bearings, the condition of the tie rod ends, ball joints, free play in the steering rack and the condition of the bushes on the radius arms if a Challenger has them???).

Changing tyres may seem like a short term solution but if your tyres have worn unusually due to a steering/suspension issue, it's only a matter of time before the new tyres take a set also.

Basic rule of thumb, check the condition of all the components, then check that they are all correctly alligned (especailly as others have said - caster). Nearly all wheel aligners these days only check toe in/toe out. Probably because in most instances, caster and camber angles can't be easily adjusted. Doesn't mean that they cant at least report out on their findings.

Ask the wheel aligner if they have specs for your type of vehicle, rather than the usual "standard" 1-2mm of toe in. That will be a good indicator to whether they actually know what they're checking.

Remember also that although the steering and alignment angles may be good at rest on a wheel aligner, worn bushes can cause a loss of castor when in motion.

FollowupID: 763181

Reply By: Member - wicket - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 16:32

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 16:32
Suppose you have checked but it hasnt been in a major accident has it ?
AnswerID: 487966

Follow Up By: Ron N - Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 18:04

Friday, Jun 08, 2012 at 18:04
Yes, this is a good thing to check, and it doesn't need to be a major accident, either.

The vehicle may have been stolen as some time and seriously abused (used in ram raid, driven across country at speed, avoiding Police, or just run off the road at speed, and into obstructions such as stumps and rocks).

Nose-diving into a washout at substantial speed, and having the front suspension bottom out heavily, can bend or twist front suspension components, such as wishbones, radius rods, and even the mounting points (lugs) on the chassis.
Simple checks such as precise measuring of the wheelbase (centre to centre of the hubs) on each side of the vehicle often shows up startling differences.

There are manufacturers reference dimensions, for various points on the chassis, that must be checked, if the vehicle has been in an accident.
These dimensions are to ensure that the chassis is in alignment, not out of square, or twisted.

You often see near-new vehicles going cheap (Fleabay) that appear to have mimimal damage.
Usually these vehicles have taken a heavy hit somewhere and the chassis or subframe is buckled, distorted, or concertinaed.
Often, these vehicles are put on the "written off" list by assessors - but a lot of times they are marked as "repairable", sold at auction to unscrupulous people - who then onsell them without bothering to straighten the subframe or chassis damage.

I've seen bolts come loose in suspension mounts, that then "wallowed" the holes out.
You can never keep this particular bolt tight again, nor stop it from moving, if this happens.
As result, the vehicle develops weird handling behaviour as the suspension moves around.

Rubber bushes in suspension links can often look good - but they can be softened by oil, or the rubber is starting to chew out - and this makes the suspension move around a lot more than the engineers planned. This affects the vehicle handling.

Fab is on the ball, about suspension checks. Wheel bearing adjustment, ball joint wear, tie rod joint wear, even steering rack wear, can all contribute to handling and steering problems.
That's why a thorough suspension and steering check is critical to pinpoint the precise problem.
It may be as simple as changing the tyres - but I'd suggest the problem is deeper than that.

Cheers - Ron.
FollowupID: 763183

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