Why Some Cars Look Like They’re Driving Sideways Down The Road
So if you see a car that looks to be traveling sideways down the road, it’s probably because the rear axle is pointed in the wrong direction due to an issue with the frame, the springs, or the Estimated Reading Time: 8 mins.
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That brings us to the question: How can an axle be pointed that far in the wrong direction in the first place? Image: David Tracy unless stated otherwise in caption As shown above under a random Explorer that I slid under in Kentucky yes, I risked being shot to take these pictures , four leafs together make up a leaf pack, which is fastened to the underside of a solid axle.
Image: David Tracy unless stated otherwise in caption The ends of the leaf spring which contain bushings are held in a frame-mounted shackle on the rear of the truck and directly onto the frame at the front.
The way this all works is this: as the vehicle goes over a bump, the wheel transmits forces to the axle, which pulls up on the leaf spring, bowing it upward. As the spring flexes, it straightens, and its fore-aft length gets longer, so the rear shackle rotates about its mounting point on the frame to accommodate. Also called a center pin, it goes through a hole drilled through all four leafs. The pin has a round head on one end that goes into a hole in the leaf spring perch on the axle, and a nut on the other end, which sticks through a hole in the leaf spring mounting plate.
When you install the spring, you make sure that the center bolt sticks through that hole, and that kinda keeps [the axle] from shifting fore and aft. For one, he said, one of the two leaf spring center bolts could have broken or fallen out of the locating hole in the axle, allowing one side of that axle to shift fore-aft along the leaf spring. If the axle slides forward on one side, it will cause both rear tires to toe in one direction, yielding a nonzero thrust angle, and thus making the rear of the car want to drive in a direction other than where the nose of the car is pointed.
In addition, Lehto says the front leaf spring frame mount on the left side could have failed, allowing the spring to move rearward, or the frame mount on the right side could have failed, allowing the entire spring to shift forward.
He also says there could have been a failure in a leaf or in a U-bolt mounting plate. In addition, he told me, a U-bolt could simply have loosened, allowing the center pin to come out of its locating hole in the axle-mounted spring perch, and thus letting the axle shift on one side.
A bent frame could also cause such a condition, as could a large disparity in leaf spring stiffness, as a flat leaf spring on one end and a highly-bowed spring on the other would cause the axle to shift rearward on the saggy side. On vehicles with independent rear suspension, the rear toe could possibly be adjusted out, and the dog tracking reduced.
In any case, it means the car is deeply screwed up, and possibly structurally compromised. So maybe give them a bit of space.