Dear Car Talk:
I have a 1999 Toyota Corolla with 213,000 miles on it. About six months ago, it started to wobble down the interstate. I could not get it to stay straight. I would have to “oversteer” to correct it and keep it in my lane. I got four brand-new tires and had them balanced (I needed tires anyway), then had a front-end alignment, and it still does it. It terrifies me to be on the interstate going 50 or more miles an hour with the car weaving on the road. Can you tell me what is wrong with it? – Lucy
It does sound like a classic alignment problem. But you’ve already had it aligned. So I have to start by scolding you for taking away my best answer.
I think you know it’s not safe to drive, Lucy. But I want to reinforce that. You have to get it fixed before you go back out on the highway again for a leisurely Sunday weave.
If you’re having trouble finding a mechanic who can figure it out, try going to www.mechanicsfiles.com. That’s a database of good mechanics personally recommended by people who read our column and listen to our radio show. You put in your ZIP code, and you get some honest, unbiased recommendations.
One thing I would ask your mechanic to check is the steering coupling. Your steering column goes through the firewall into the engine compartment, and then it has to make a bend, down toward the steering rack. That coupling usually uses two universal joints. And sometimes, on older cars, one or both of them can seize up. That can make the steering feel very odd. It can make it hard to turn the wheels for a second, and then the steering can suddenly break free and get easier, causing you to “oversteer.”
So have your mechanic check that first. If that’s not it, I’d probably check the alignment again, just to be sure the guys who say they aligned the car actually did it, and did it correctly.
But whatever it is, Lucy, you have to get to the bottom of it before you end up at the bottom of something.
Write to Car Talk at www.cartalk.com.