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07 9-5 2.0t BioPower Auto..

So we had a storm here in Ireland the last few days, and whilst travelling at about 65 mph, I came down a hill to find a river of water running across the road. I was in a group of cars and we all hit it hard and without any warning. I felt the car get pulled to the left and then keep going. I continued on the journey and felt a slight new vibration, thinking I'd lost a weight from one of the wheels. The weather was awful and that seems to have masked other issues...

Got into the car today - lovely sunny weather - and immediately I feel my steering has changed. If I let my hands off the wheel at say 20 mph, I can see the steering wheel gently wobble left and right, like a rudderless ship. Also, when the car is self centering, it does so jerkily. The steering vibration is also bad at normal speeds, anything over 50 mph especially and no speed up to 80 mph does it get any better (have not gone quicker).

I pulled over to have a look and nothing visibly looks out of place. Went into a tyre place but they were full - explained what happened and the owner claimed he had never heard of deep water causing that type of issue in this 40 years etc.

I parked the car for 30 mins then opened the p/s reservoir which was pressurised and ejected a few drops of fluid quite forcefully. I tried bleeding it. Didn't help but steering possibly lighter.

Before I go throwing money at people, is there any of this that sounds familiar to anyone? And ideas what might be going on? Obviously I'm hoping my alignment has simply been thrown out but I've not been very lucky of late and suspect there's more to it.

Notes: I did have a wheel bearing making noise prior to this. And I believe my serpentine belt tensioner is on the way out. But both appear to be 'as they were' before.

Up until this the car was very, very smooth (it's my motorway car) with a lot of time spent at my (now closed) Saab dealer getting it driving right. Very, very annoyed with myself. Have not done chassis stuff before. Tyres are ok, had no issues before this.

I'll jack up the car during lunch and see if I can detect any issues with tie rods / bearings etc. but would love to hear any input.
Cheers!
 

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Took the front wheels off and nothing looks out of place, tie rod ends seem fine, pulled and prodded everything, drop links etc., wheels don't appear to have any play. Boots in place, no grease leaking out.

One anomaly, the LF wheel came off as usual, taking some effort to release the lug screws. The RF was noticeably easier. They weren't loose but they were not as tight as I would have expected.

I rubbed down the hubs and the wheels to remove any surface rust.

Front tyres a lot more worn than I thought - possibly a new wear mark on the inside shoulder of the LF... I seem to have remembered them wearing evenly before.

I wish I owned an alignment machine, I hate the idea of handing over €100 and crossing my fingers on an alignment that might do nothing at all.
 

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Took the front wheels off and nothing looks out of place, tie rod ends seem fine, pulled and prodded everything, drop links etc., wheels don't appear to have any play. Boots in place, no grease leaking out.

One anomaly, the LF wheel came off as usual, taking some effort to release the lug screws. The RF was noticeably easier. They weren't loose but they were not as tight as I would have expected.

I rubbed down the hubs and the wheels to remove any surface rust.

Front tyres a lot more worn than I thought - possibly a new wear mark on the inside shoulder of the LF... I seem to have remembered them wearing evenly before.

I wish I owned an alignment machine, I hate the idea of handing over €100 and crossing my fingers on an alignment that might do nothing at all.
edit: also, I had the car in a smooth concrete-floored car park and turned the wheel from lock to lock while stationary (I wouldn't normally do this) and the steering seemed good and consistent without any 'jerkiness'. Does that rule out any issues with the PAS and keeps things mechanical?
 

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Loose lugs on the right side could explain it. It doesn't take much reduction in torque to allow the wheel to move very slightly on the hub.

I experienced this years ago on my daughter's old 9-3. I had wheels balanced at a local shop. On my way home it felt like imbalance at 40 mph. It was late and the garage was closing for the night so I was prepared to return the next day for rebalancing. I rechecked all the bolts at home and it was obvious what was wrong - one of the front wheel's bolts weren't torqued fully. Mistakes happen but I never returned to that garage.
 

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Loose lugs on the right side could explain it. It doesn't take much reduction in torque to allow the wheel to move very slightly on the hub.

I experienced this years ago on my daughter's old 9-3. I had wheels balanced at a local shop. On my way home it felt like imbalance at 40 mph. It was late and the garage was closing for the night so I was prepared to return the next day for rebalancing. I rechecked all the bolts at home and it was obvious what was wrong - one of the front wheel's bolts weren't torqued fully. Mistakes happen but I never returned to that garage.
Sadly it didn't make any difference, but just trying whatever I can before parting with cash. Drove it again last night.

When it's up to speed, e.g. 70 mph, it actually tracks pretty straight - just the vibration is bad. I notice that when I pull down a little left, it self centres quickly and correctly. But when I pull down on the right, it isn't as quick and could still move to the right. So it has a tendency to pull right - this is most evident if I let off the accelerator at low speed (not touching brakes) and it will wander.

At a particular speed the steering wheel will gently oscillate back and forth by itself, which I find unnerving...
 

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I agree with Steve 12955 - rule out tires first.

BUT I noted your comment on wheel bearing noise, which would make a wheel bearing my next suspect. A good dose of added water (immersion) into a wheel bearing already having issues could very well make things worse quickly. I replaced a front wheel bearing on my daughter's 2006 recently at about 140K miles, and it was definitely bad. Because it was the RF wheel, I removed the axle and replaced the intermediate shaft bearing at the same time - it was still 'okay' but I didn't want to have to revisit the job, and it is so much harder to diagnose that bearing without taking all apart.
 

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Water can hide nasty, wheel and suspension damaging potholes, but that doesn't sound like the case here.*

I would carefully look at all the steering and suspension parts for evidence of loose seals or boots, in case the force of the splashing got water into somewhere that it shouldn't be.

Nevertheless, the steering wheel wobbling at low speeds points to an issue with wheels/tires not being straight. It's hard to spin up a front wheel for visual inspection (unless you run the engine in gear, which is entirely at your own risk), but it's easy to spin up a wheel on the back of the car, so you could do that.

A recent job had me looking at claims, of which many were "my car hit a pothole and now my tire/wheel/suspension/car*" claims. I now try to avoid driving through puddles of unknown source and depth. And if the road is flooded due to a water main break, if at all possible, avoid the area entirely.

**One unfortunate owner sent a series of pictures of their Mustang, as it sank, somewhat akin to the Titanic, into a sinkhole caused by a water main break. I felt sorry for him, because he was doing the right thing by trying to turn around and leave the area. But I was just on the intake side of the claims, not the settlement side.
 
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