[E39] Floaty steering at hwy speeds

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Has anyone experienced floaty/twitchy steering on their e39 at highway speeds (say 80 mph)? The best I could describe it is as if you were kept getting hit by crosswinds and had to keep correcting the car's path. It's
not very apparent and it's not that the steering wheel gets pulled out of your hands (like when the car is tramlining). Yet, it detracts from the fun of driving as the car feels loose and not particularly stable at higher speeds. Feels more like a boat or an American cruiser.
Apparently, BMW's own recommendation is to tweak the alignment specs a little:
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d102/escape2music/530i/stability1.jpg
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d102/escape2music/530i/stability2.jpg
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d102/escape2music/530i/stability3.jpg
Has anyone actually tried this suggestion? Did it help? BTW, the symptoms they list (fidgety/floaty/nervous) describes exactly what I'm experiencing.
For the record, it's an '02 530i manual with sport pkg, 32K miles, OEM rims and new 235/45/17 Dunlop SP Maxx tires. I had the alignment done when I bought the car 2 months ago - it is now practically in the middle of the recommended alignment range specs. All the suspension/steering components have been looked over with no sign of damage of any kind.
Maybe it's just me - maybe I'm expecting too much from this car, but honestly, it doesn't feel as solid on the hwy as a b5 A4 that I used to own before. And it's not the roads either - they're as smooth as can be.
If there's anything that you can think of that could correct this twitchy steering, I'm all ears.
Someone on another board suggested replacing items 9, 10, 11 in this graph:
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/diagrams/e/c/53.png
as well as the entire steering rack. But honestly, without knowing which particular part is causing this behavior, I might end up replacing the entire suspension and steering system before I find the problem.
Thanks, Pete
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"Pete" wrote

Oh yeah, here's the printout from that last alignment:
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d102/escape2music/530i/530_ali.jpg
Pete
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Pete;105130 Wrote: > Has anyone experienced floaty/twitchy steering on their e39 at highway > speeds (say 80 mph)? The best I could describe it is as if you were > kept > getting hit by crosswinds and had to keep correcting the car's path. > It's > not very apparent and it's not that the steering wheel gets pulled out > of > your hands (like when the car is tramlining). Yet, it detracts from > the fun > of driving as the car feels loose and not particularly stable at higher > speeds. Feels more like a boat or an American cruiser. > > Apparently, BMW's own recommendation is to tweak the alignment specs a > little: > http://tinyurl.com/2h3ze5 > http://tinyurl.com/yr3uzc > http://tinyurl.com/288pks > > Has anyone actually tried this suggestion? Did it help? > BTW, the symptoms they list (fidgety/floaty/nervous) describes exactly > what > I'm experiencing. > > > For the record, it's an '02 530i manual with sport pkg, 32K miles, OEM > rims > and new 235/45/17 Dunlop SP Maxx tires. I had the alignment done when > I > bought the car 2 months ago - it is now practically in the middle of > the > recommended alignment range specs. All the suspension/steering > components > have been looked over with no sign of damage of any kind. > > Maybe it's just me - maybe I'm expecting too much from this car, but > honestly, it doesn't feel as solid on the hwy as a b5 A4 that I used to > own > before. And it's not the roads either - they're as smooth as can be. > > If there's anything that you can think of that could correct this > twitchy > steering, I'm all ears. > > Someone on another board suggested replacing items 9, 10, 11 in this > graph: >
http://www.realoem.com/bmw/diagrams/e/c/53.png
> as well as the entire steering rack. But honestly, without knowing > which > particular part is causing this behavior, I might end up replacing the > entire suspension and steering system before I find the problem. > > Thanks, > Pete
It may well be the same problem I had which was that a rear wheel control arm was worn out: One rear wheel had a lot of play in its alignment, requiring me to correct the car's path all the time. This was with my previous E39 528i. Replacing the control arm cured the problem.
I now have a similar problem where I need to correct the course of my newer E39 530i more often than expected, but I suspect this time it is due to excessive friction in the steering system (perhaps the steering column itself). The symptoms include weak self centering of the steering wheel and a dead steering feel, even though wheel alignment ought to be ok (BMW just examined the car throughly).
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"pfloding"

Which part exactly are you refering to? Is it nr. 14 in this diagram? http://www.realoem.com/bmw/showparts.do?model=DT53&mospidG587&btnr3_0519&hg3&fg0

Hmm... that also sounds familiar, i mean that dead steering feel. So, what are you planning to do about it? More inspections? Blindly replacing of the steering column (what if that's not it?). Just living with it?
Pete
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Pete;337785 Wrote: > "pfloding" > > It may well be the same problem I had which was that a rear wheel > > control arm was worn out: One rear wheel had a lot of play in its > > alignment, requiring me to correct the car's path all the time. This > was > > with my previous E39 528i. Replacing the control arm cured the > problem. > > Which part exactly are you refering to? Is it nr. 14 in this diagram? > 'RealOEM.COM * BMW E39 530i REAR AXLE SUPPORT/WHEEL SUSPENSION' > (http://tinyurl.com/2eudez ) >
I'm pretty sure it was part 18. It was a very thick aluminium arm. But any bad joint could probably cause a similar problem.
Pete;337785 Wrote: > "pfloding" > > I now have a similar problem where I need to correct the course of > my > > newer E39 530i more often than expected, but I suspect this time it > is > > due to excessive friction in the steering system (perhaps the > steering > > column itself). The symptoms include weak self centering of the > > steering wheel and a dead steering feel, > > Hmm... that also sounds familiar, i mean that dead steering feel. So, > what > are you planning to do about it? More inspections? Blindly replacing > of > the steering column (what if that's not it?). Just living with it? > >
No, I tried lubricating it today. Read up on similar problems with other BMWs. Not sure how to get access to all bearings though. I just lubed the U-joint for now, and some areas around it more or less in hope. Access was not good. Unfortunately you can't hire ramp-time here in the UK.
I suppose the power servo itself could be to blame. At the moment my mother's SAAB 9-5 has more steering feel, and that won't do!
Patrik
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BTW, Pete,
If you can jack up the rear wheels (one at a time will do), you can feel the problem I described as the wheel being able to move in and out. Grab it at the bottom with both hands and pull and push.
I think I restored some feel by lubricating the steering column U-joint, but I could be dreaming. I just think I can now just about feel the point where both front wheels are planted straight ahead (or following the curve on a cambered road, as it were), and self centering is a bit more positive. It's still a bit of the case of having to "steer straight" though, so perhaps there is more friction in the system to take care of, or there is some other problem -such as toe-in, or worn joints. The car has only done 50k miles, but is from 2002, so excessive friction in the steering system seems the most likely explanation (especially as the steering seems kind of heavy).
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My car follows the grooves they cut into the concrete. This is normal.

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"Jeff Strickland" wrote

Sure. But in my case the floaty feeling exists even on smooth asphalt with no grooves.
Pete
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Check all the steering geometry, tyre inflation, wheel alignment, bearings and shock absorbers (or just put it in for an MOT).
This should reveal the problem.
Also check the badge - you might really be driving a yank car...
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R. Mark Clayton;337985 Wrote:
> > > > > "Jeff Strickland" wrote > >> My car follows the grooves they cut into the concrete. This is > normal. > > > > Sure. But in my case the floaty feeling exists even on smooth > asphalt > > with no grooves. > > > > Pete > > > > > > Check all the steering geometry, tyre inflation, wheel alignment, > bearings > and shock absorbers (or just put it in for an MOT). > > This should reveal the problem. > > Also check the badge - you might really be driving a yank car...
I doubt an MOT would find any subtle problems. Not even BMW's own check-ups finds smaller problems that, when they add up, degrade the feel of the drive. I suspect they rather like older cars degrading so their new models seem better than they are. ;)
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"R. Mark Clayton" wrote

No such thing as MOT here in Florida. As a matter of fact, the cars don't have to pass any kind of state inspection at all. But I had the car checked at both the dealer and a BMW indy shop, and neither one could find anything wrong. Well, the dealer found leaking thrust arm bushings, which I replaced. It reduced the floaty feeling a little bit, but it's still not perfect.

It sure feels like driving a Buick sometimes.
Pete
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Often on the big heavy cars you can't spot that there's some play in the supension until you've got the parts off. If the car's just wallowy then it's either just because that's the way the bigger cars are, or you need new shocks. I can't see the alignment measurements you have but in general toe-in leads to better straight ahead driving than toe-out which is better for cornering. If there is wear in the system you'll often get dynamic toe-out at speed even if the static figures don't show it.
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"adder1969" wrote

Here are my alignment specs:
http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d102/escape2music/530i/530_ali.jpg
I can't remember now if the positive toe numbers mean toe-in or toe-out, but in either case, I seem to be within the recommended spec.
The only thing that's noticeably out of spec is the right front caster value, but the shop claimed that it was impossible to adjust it. Next time I get new tires, I will probably take it to a BMW dealer for an alignment.
As for the shocks, when I first got the car and when I observed this issue, it had 30k miles on the odo. Everyone I talked to said that it could not be the shocks at such low mileage. The roads down here are pretty good (no potholes), so the suspension doesn't typically take a beating. Then again, I am not the first owner so I have no way of knowing how and where the first owner drove during those first 30k miles.
Pete
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I'm disallowed access to the photo site from work :-( I was going to mention caster but thought nah it can't be off. It can be adjusted but not necessarily without modifying other parts of the car - it depends how far out it is. Simplest is to elongate the strut top mounting holes. ...or again, it's a sign that something somewhere is so worn that the strut is way out of line. Positive is toe-ing out. I'd suggest setting it to 0 or slightly toe- in and see if it helps. You can do it yourself and if you count the number of turns you can always set it back.
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"adder1969" wrote

The specified range for the caster is from 6 to 7 degrees. Mine is at 5.5 degrees on the right and 5.9 degrees on the left.

The specified range for front toe is from -0.04 deg to +0.13 deg. Mine is at +0.08 deg.
The specified range for rear toe is from +0.05 deg to +0.22 deg. Mine is at +0.06 deg.
Pete
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"adder1969" wrote

The funny thing is that BMW TIS actually recommends setting the toe-out (but still within the recommended range) on the front in order to counteract the floatiness at high speed. This BMW TIS recommendation is what started my original thread. Here's its content again:

I did have the shop realign it using these recommendations, however, it made no noticeable difference in handling/stability.
Pete
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Pete;341168 Wrote: > "adder1969" wrote > > Positive is toe-ing out. I'd suggest setting it to 0 or slightly > toe- > in and see if it helps. > > The funny thing is that BMW TIS actually recommends setting the toe-out > (but still within the recommended range) on the front in order to > counteract the floatiness at high speed. This BMW TIS recommendation > is > what started my original thread. Here's its content again: > > > http://tinyurl.com/2h3ze5 > > http://tinyurl.com/yr3uzc > > http://tinyurl.com/288pks > > I did have the shop realign it using these recommendations, however, it > made no noticeable difference in handling/stability. > > Pete
Yeah, but for the other case (pulling to one side) they recommend a relatively (compared to the toe-out) large toe-in. BTW, I wonder if BMW loaded down the car as recommended before alignment, and if not using it with the same total load and distribution affects things. Especially if some suspension component is worn out.
I assume the rear axle was checked for wear as well?
Mine is going to my local independent on monday to see what causes the slightly dead, non-centering steering. If he can't find any worn out parts, I guess it's back to BMW for a 4 wheel alignment. BTW, my car is perfectly stable on the highway, it's just that I got spoiled by another car that did a lot more of the steering (following the road) by itself -and then I started to question where the famous BMW feel was...
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On Feb 20, 8:16am, pfloding <pfloding.352...@no- mx.cardealerforums.com> wrote:

Toe in will help high speed stability but might make the car not feel very responsive. Toe-out will do the opposite. You can have different settings front and back and that'll give the car a different feel depending how you have it. ..but thaving said that, if the specs are close enough to straight on then it sounds like there's something else at play, the castor being out of spec won't help.
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"pfloding" wrote

The alignment was done by an indy shop, but they did follow the procedures, ie. full tank of gas, loading the car with extra weights, etc. However, it is only me driving the car and I weigh 140 lbs. Probably much less than the weights required in the procedure.
After that, I did take it to a BMW dealer and the tech drove it and said "I don't know what you're talking about". So, I have a feeling these cars may just handle like this. But then again, it's hard to believe with BMW being the 'ultimate driving machine' and all. I'm repeating myself here, but my old Audi A4q felt more confident at high speed.

Yes.
Regards, Pete
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My '96 130k mile 740 will drive along happily at speeds in excess of 100mph, but it's not quite as planted as the M3 (which isn't as planted as some lesser cars I've driven)
You might want to try the E39 or E38 forums (they share the same type of undercarriage).
Maybe it's the tyres. Those "Maxx"s are the cheap ones aren't they?
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