1994 Altima - Steering and Torque related problem

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Hello All. I'd like to see if anyone could offer some insight into a particular problem I'm having with my 94 Altima. It has 186,000 miles, automatic transmission, 2.4L (I think GLE, not absolutely sure). Front wheel drive.

The description: At any speed, any weather condition (although worse when cold) when the vehicle is changing the torque output, most often when changing gears, the steering will jerk. If the torque is increasing (acceleration) the steering jerks left. Decreasing torque (stabilizing speed after acceleration, or letting off the accelerator) the steering jerks right. It seems that the actual jerk might be more related to the driver's response to the steering wheel suddenly changing orientation. The steering loosens up for a moment, then settles in again. So, the standard pressure the driver is exerting on the wheel is magnified to one direction or the other. I'm basing that last part on the experience that if you are not touching the wheel when the "steering orientation" changes, the car doesn't jerk direction quite so bad. But it will have a noticable left-right or right-left shimmy. During the change of steering orientation, the wheel might travel a 1.5 hour increment - if we were to use a clock for reference.

The car has new tires, recently rotated with no change in the problem. Today I had new CV joints installed and new struts on the front and a 4 wheel alignment. This needed to be done anyway, and I was really thinking that new CV joints would solve this problem. Only now, the problem is more pronounced. So, I'm $800 in to this project, and hoping to get it fixed without having to spend that much more. I'm not looking to do this work myself, but rather trying to get educated for the upcoming interaction with the mechanic.

I have heard a couple of shaky ideas, but instead of tainting your thought process, I'll let you offer your own ideas.

I will sincerely appreciate any help you might be able to offer.

posted by  hunkinator

I'm not sure if you've figured out the problem yet or not, but I have the solution. There is a bushing bracket which is part of the lower control arm assembly that is connected to the undercarriage frame using 3 bolts. If these bolts come loose, the driver will experience exactly the problem that you mention. I know, because my sister in law was experiencing the same problem. I told her I'd check it out for her and when I got down under the car, I noticed this bracket was very loose (all 3 bolts were loose). I tightened them and took it for a test drive and the problem was gone. The jerking is either because of the lateral movement of the wheel due to the bracket being loose "or" because of the loose bracket, the pinion gear is jumping a tooth on the rack and causing a sudden jerk. The only thing I didn't like was that where the bracket mounts to the frame, there's no access to the nut on the other side of the bolt. I believe the nuts are welded to the inside of the frame. I went to tighten up the bolts and one would not tighten. I think that because of the looseness of the bracket (and subsequent vibration) one of the nuts' welds broke, because I COULD NOT tighten one of the bolts. If you haven't found the problem yet (and haven't spent a fortune in having it diagnosed) then you can take care of it yourself. I hope this helps.

posted by  spareparts

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