.02 Steering, Alignment, and Suspension.

A. Steering. Inspect the entire steering system including steering, wheel, steering column, lash, linkage, free play, and power steering for missing, loose, damaged, or worn parts.

(1) Steering Wheel. The steering wheel shall be inspected to determine whether it is circular (complete rim) and free of cracks, breaks, or objects which will interfere with the safe steering of the vehicle. The inspection will also be made to determine whether the steering wheel is original equipment or equivalent, including diameter.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Inspect for missing, broken, or altered rim. (a) Steering wheel rim is broken, cut, or altered to the point that it is not continuous.
(b) Inspect for cracks or breaks which would interfere with safe steering. (b) There are cracks or breaks large enough to grasp clothing, hand, or fingers (including horn ring).
(c) Inspect for objects which would interfere with safe steering.
(d) Inspect for hand controls of vehicles equipped for physically disabled persons.
(c) There are objects attached which would interfere with safe steering (if vehicle is equipped with hand controls for physically disabled, special equipment is acceptable provided it is part of the manual controls including steering knobs).
(e) Inspect steering wheel for size and equivalency to original equipment. (d) Controls are not readily accessible (within arm's length) or are binding, damaged, or jammed.
(e) Steering wheel is not original or equivalent including size.

(2) Energy Absorbing Steering Column. Some model vehicles may be equipped with an energy absorbing steering column. This special column was designed to absorb energy by controlling the collapsing of its components. It collapses under impact from wither end of the column—steering gear end or steering wheel end. To determine whether the components are capable of functioning as designed, a careful inspection shall be performed, and include any objects on the steering column. An external examination of either shear pins or collapsible mesh-type material shall also be performed.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Inside Passenger Compartment:
  (i) Inspect for separation of shear capsule from bracket and general looseness of wheel and column.
  (ii) Inspect for objects mounted on steering column which would prevent it from collapsing upon impact.
  (i) Shear capsule is separated from bracket, or if wheel and column can be moved as a unit.
  (ii) Objects (tachometer, etc.) mounted on steering column.
(b) Under Hood: Inspect for condition of shear pins and mesh-type collapsible portion. (b) Column shows indication of having been collapsed.


(3) Coupling. On heavier vehicles, there may be a flexible coupling in the steering column located just above the steering gear, usually known as "rag joint", "pot joint", or "U joint".

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Steering Column (Heavy Vehicles):
Inspect flexible coupling in steering column (if equipped) for excessive misalignment and tightness of adjusting screw or nut.
  (i) Flexible coupling is badly misaligned.
  (ii) Clamp bolt (nut) is loose or missing.


(4) Lash, Free Play, and Travel. Inspect the steering system to determine whether excessive wear or improper adjustment of the linkage or steering gear exists. The vehicle shall be on a dry surface. If equipped with power steering, the engine shall be running and the fluid level and belt tension shall be within manufacturer's recommendation. (See Figure 3)

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Lash or Free Play:
   With front wheels in straight ahead position, turn steering wheel until turning motion can be observed at front wheels. Measure lash.
(a) A total movement in excess of that shown in the following table is measured at the steering wheel rim before the front wheels move.
(b) Travel:
   Turn steering wheel through a full right and left turn and feel for binding and jamming conditions (on vehicles without power steering it may be desirable to jack front wheels slightly).
Steering Wheel
Diameter up to
16 inches 2 inches
18 inches 2-1/4 inches
20 inches 2-1/2 inches
22 inches 2-3/4 inches
  Roughness, jamming, binding, or any excessive play in the steering linkage is present when turning the wheels from full right to full left.


(5) Linkage. Linkage Play. Excessive free play causes wheel shimmy, erratic brake action and steering control problems. Make sure any looseness detected is not wheel bearing free play. Spring or Torsion Bar Height. Optimum front spring height is established as part of the overall design of front wheel alignment angles.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Steering Linkage Play. (a) Measurement is found to be in excess of:
With the front end lifted properly, grasp front and rear of tire and attempt to turn assembly right and left—record movement at extreme front or rear sidewall of tire. Wheel Diameter up to Lash
16 inches 1/4 inch
17 inches 3/8 inch
18 inches 1/2 inch
(b) Follow procedure under wheel bearings—suspension for correct lifting. If equipped with brakes on the steering axle, they should be applied during the inspection either by another person or by use of a portable brake depressor, to eliminate wheel bearing play. (b) Tie rod or drag link balls and sockets have play in excess of 1/8 inch.
(c) Joints are not secured with cotter pins or other locking devices.
(d) Steering stops allow tire to rub frame, metal, or other chassis parts.
(c) Visually inspect steering linkage for any gross misalignment of parts. (e) Tie rods, tie rod ends, center or drag link, pitman arm, or idler arm are grossly misaligned.
(d) Visually inspect steering box and mounting. (f) Steering box is leaking or mounting is loose.

Figure 4.

(6) Power Steering.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Inspect power steering belts for proper condition and tension. (a) Belts are frayed, loose, or cracked.
(b) With engine running inspect power steering system including gears, hoses, hose connections, cylinders, valves, pump and pump mounting for condition, rubbing, and leaking. (b) Hoses or hose connections have been rubbed by moving parts or are leaking.
(c) Cylinders, valves, or pump show evidence of leakage or malfunction.
(c) Inspect power steering reservoir fluid level. (d) Pump mounting parts are loose, missing, or broken.
  (e) Fluid level is less than manufacturer's recommendations.
  (f) Power steering removed and not converted to full manual steering.

B. Wheel Alignment. There are five basic factors which are the foundation to front wheel alignment: caster, camber, toe-in, steering axis inclination, and toe-out on turns. All are mechanically adjustable except steering axis inclination and toe-out on turns. Overall front wheel alignment can be somewhat grossly indicated by measurement of front wheel toe. Excessive toe-in or toe-out is a general indication that a complete check should be made of all front wheel alignment factors. Rear wheel misalignment on vehicles with fixed rear suspension can be caused by broken or damaged springs, trailing rods, or center bolts and improper toe or camber adjustment on vehicles with independent rear suspension. If during road test there are no undesirable steering or handling reactions, caster and camber check is not necessary.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(1) Toe (In—Out):
  (a) With wheels held in a straight ahead position, drive vehicle slowly over the measuring device and record results.
  (a) Side slip or scuff exceeds 50 feet per mile.
  (b) Measure dimensions A and B.   (b) Dimension is beyond inspection limits.

Figure 5—TOE (IN-OUT)

(2) Caster. Caster is the forward or backward tilt, from vertical of the spindle support arm at the top. Improper caster can cause hard steering, low speed shimmy, wander, and brake pull problems.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Measure caster (caster can only be measured with gauges). (a) There are adverse steering or handling reactions and the inspection limits are exceeded.


(3) Camber. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the top of the wheel from vertical. Improper camber can cause erratic tire wear problems, hard steering, and wander.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Measure camber (camber can only be measured with gauges). (a) There are adverse steering or handling reactions and the inspection limits are exceeded.


(4) Rear Wheel Alignment. The wheelbase of a vehicle with tandem rear axles is determined by measuring from the center of the front wheel to the midpoint between the tandem axles. When measuring for tracking, the dimensions shall be taken between rear wheel centers. (See Figure 8 or 9)

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Rear Wheel Alignment: Observe whether rear wheels follow front wheel tracks in "straight ahead" travel.
(b) Alternate Method:
(a) Rear wheel does not follow the front wheel track in "straight ahead" travel or if frame is bent, broken, or rusted to affect tracking.
  (i) With vehicle on a level surface, adjust tracking gauge to the distance between the front and rear wheels of vehicle on one side and compare distance with the front and rear wheels on the opposite side. (Front wheels shall be in a straight ahead position.)

Do not reject if vehicle is designed with different tread widths—front and rear.
  (ii) Using a tape measure, determine the distance between the center of the front wheel spindle and the center of the rear axle drive shaft and compare from side to side (front wheels shall be in a straight ahead position). (b) The wheel base on one side is different from the wheel base on the other side by more than 1 inch.
(c) Rear axle is obviously misaligned.
Agency Note: Not applicable if vehicle specifications indicate different left and right wheel base dimensions.






C. Suspension. Inspect the suspension system for missing, broken, damaged, worn, rusted, or modified wheel bearings, ball joints, control arms, springs, torsion bars, or frame that would affect vehicle stability.

(1) Ball Joints. In checking for motion of ball joints, check in accordance with manufacturer's specifications, keeping in mind that the load carrying joint is unloaded in procedures (a) and (b), below, and that a pry bar pressure sufficient only to lift the weight of the wheel assembly is required. If the inspector uses the leverage of a pry bar to exert excessive pressure, he can easily force an apparent ball joint movement and get a false reading. This may result in expensive replacement of perfectly good joints. Therefore, only a 12- to 18-inch pry bar should be used.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Ball Joint Wear (without wear indicators).
   (i) With the vehicle properly jacked, position a pry bar under the front tire and, with a lifting motion only sufficient to overcome the weight of the wheel assembly, move wheel up and down and observe movement shown on dial indicator or ball or joint checker (see Fig. 13).
   (i) Ball joint movement is in excess of manufacturer's specifications.
   (ii) Ball joint is equipped with tightener repair kit. Control bushings are not to be considered repair kits or tighteners. Refer to C(1)(b) for procedures to check control bushing-type ball joints.
   (ii) Grasp the tire and wheel assembly at the top and bottom. Move in and out to detect looseness (more horizontal movement is permitted because of the nature of most ball joint construction). Some manufacturers do not accept horizontal movement as being indicative of ball joint wear. If this measurement is required it shall be made at the sidewall of the tire.    (iii) Ball joint has been repaired by heating or bending the socket assembly to eliminate movement.

(See Figure 10)

(b) Ball Joint Wear (preloaded). Using the same method as in C(1)(a)(i) and (ii) inspect for ball joint movement relative to its socket. These ball joints (marked "**" in specifications) are preloaded by rubber or springs under tension, and should have very little movement in a vertical direction. (b) Ball joint movement is in excess of manufacturer's specifications.

(See Figure 11)

(2) Ball Joint (wear-indicating). Some manufacturers provide a wear-indicating ball joint to facilitate inspection in which case a visual inspection is made with joints loaded.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Ball Joint Wear (wear-indicating): In vehicles with wear-indicating ball joints, support vehicle with ball joints loaded, wheels on the ground. Wipe grease fitting and checking surface free of dirt and grease; determine whether checking surface extends beyond the surface of the ball joint cover. (a) Manufacturer's specifications for replacement are exceeded.
(b) Ball joint is equipped with a tightener or repair kit.
(c) Ball joint has been repaired by heating or bending the socket assembly to eliminate movement.

(See Figure 12)

(b) Wear is indicated by the protrusion of the 1/2 inch diameter boss (exaggerated for illustration),into which the grease fitting is threaded. This round boss projects .050 inch beyond the surface of the ball joint cover on a new, unworn joint.  


(3) Ball Joints (nonload carrying). Inspection of nonload carrying ball joints shall also be performed with the joints unloaded. With the vehicle properly jacked, inspect for any noticeable looseness.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Ball Joint Wear (nonload carrying): Using the same method as in C(1) inspect for ball joint movement relative to its socket. (a) Any noticeable looseness is detected in a nonload carrying ball joint.
(b) Manufacturer's specifications are exceeded.
(c) Ball joint is equipped with a tightener or repair kit.
  (d) Ball joint has been repaired by heating or bending the socket assembly to eliminate movement.

(4) King Pin or Spindle Bolts. Inspection of king pins or spindle bolts shall be made to determine whether there are any missing, broken, or worn parts that may affect the steering or suspension of the vehicle.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
Hoist the vehicle under the axle or control arm and grasp the top and bottom of the tire and attempt to move the assembly in and out. Record measurement at the sidewall of the tire. Measurement at sidewall of tire is found to be in excess of:
  Wheel Diameter up to Play
16 inches 1/8 inch
17—18 inches 1/4 inch
18 inches or more 3/8 inch

Figure 14.

(5) Wheel Bearings. Wheel bearings out of adjustment can cause wander, unequal brake action, and noise due to interference of parts.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Wheel Bearings and Suspension: With the vehicle lifted properly (if equipped with ball joints, they must be loaded), grasp the front tire top and bottom and rock it in and out, and record movement. To verify that any looseness detected is in the wheel bearing, notice the movement between the brake drum or disc and the backing plate or splash shield.
(b) Spring or torsion bar on lower arm, hoist at frame (see Figure 13).
(a) Suspension play measurement at the sidewall of the tire is found to be in excess of:
Wheel Diameter up to
16 inches
17—18 inches
18 inches or more
1/4 inch
3/8 inch
1/2 inch
(c) Spring or torsion bar on upper arm, hoist at lower arm close to ball joint (see Figure 13). (b) Wheel bearings are loose, rough, galled, or otherwise defective.

(6) Springs and Torsion Bars.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) Springs and Torsion Bars: With unloaded vehicle on a level surface, visually inspect the heights of the four corners of the vehicle. If necessary, use a measuring device and determine differences from side to side. Visually inspect for broken spring leaves or torsion bar damage. Inspect spring shackles, bushings and U-bolts. Visually inspect for presence and conditions of lift kits, blocks, or modification to suspension system and components. (a)
   (i) Any spring, main, or torque leaf is broken.
   (ii) Any spring with more than four leaves has two or more leaves broken.
   (iii) Any spring with four or less leaves has a broken leaf.
   (iv) Any torsion bar is broken.
   (v) Any spring center bolt is broken.
   (vi) More than two spacers are installed in coil springs or are loose.
   (vii) Shackles or U-bolts are missing, broken, worn, loose, or extended causing gross misalignment of steering linkage or drive line angles.
(b) Hitches or Coupling Devices: Inspect fifth wheels on truck tractors for proper alignment, distortion, deformation, cracks, or missing parts.    (viii) Any object or equipment extends below the bottom edge of a wheel rim.
   (ix) Frame is rusted, broken, or damaged to affect the suspension, or the frame has been repaired and not fishplated, or the body is not securely attached to the frame.
   (x) Multiple blocks are used as a means of raising the vehicle.
   (xi) There is any evidence of looseness of any lift kit or suspension component.
   (xii) Lift kit does not provide a means of aligning the spring center bolt, spring and axle or axle housing.
   (xiii) U-bolts are not of sufficient length to protrude at least 1/4 inch beyond nut when tightened.
   (i) Fifth wheel is distorted or cracked or is not properly aligned.
   (ii) Mounting bolts or rivets are missing, cracked, or broken.
   (iii) Fifth wheel is not properly or securely mounted.
   (iv) Mounting holes for bolts or rivets which mount the fifth wheel have become elongated.

(7) Air Suspension. Some school buses, commercial buses, trucks, and truck tractors may be equipped with air suspension systems. Inspection of the system consists of checking for air leaks, proper height and ride level. CAUTION: The inspector should not use a creeper under the vehicle unless the vehicle is properly jacked and supported.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) With entire system drained of air, and while observing brake air pressure gauge, determine pressure at which air begins to lift the vehicle. Pressure regulator valve should not allow air into the suspension system until at least 55 psi is in braking system. (a) Air begins to lift the vehicle before 55 psi is indicated on pressure gauge.
(b) With air in system at normal operating pressure, inspect hoses, connections, and bellows for leaks and excessive deterioration (open air-operated doors and apply service brakes fully). (b) Air leakage rate is greater than 3 psi in 5 minutes.
(c) With air at normal operating pressure, observe height and level of vehicle relative to ground surface (this will indicate function of pressure regulator and height control valves). (c) Vehicle is resting on one or both axles or if the vehicle is not level (is listing to right or left).

(8) Air Suspension. Retractable Axle (not applicable to school vehicles). Some large vehicles may be equipped with retractable axles. If the axle is the type having independent suspension, the toe shall be checked the same as for the front suspension systems (see Figure 5).

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) On vehicles equipped with retractable axle(s), with air in the system at normal operating pressure, activate the axle lift control switch to wheels up and wheels down positions. (a) Axle fails to respond properly to the axle lift control switch.
(b) If retractable axle has independent suspension, inspect for toe. (b) Toe (in or out) is not reasonably close to zero (/1/16 inch).
(c) If retractable axle has independent suspension, with system activated and wheels down, inspect for ball joint wear as follows:
  (i) Mark ball joints (upper and lower) with center punch as indicated in Figure 15, measure and record distance between punch marks.
  (ii) Upper Ball Joint. Carefully place jack under axle so that jack screw extends through lower control arm, and raise upper control arm until wheel is clear of floor. Measure distance between punch marks.
  (iii) Lower Ball Joint. Carefully place jack on top of lower control arm near ball joint and extend jack ram to underside of upper control arm—apply force until lower ball joint is fully compressed. Measure distance between punch marks.
(c) Second measurement between punch marks on either ball joint exceeds first measurement by more than 3/32 inch.


(9) Shock Absorbers (if equipped).

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) With vehicle on a level surface, push down on each corner of the vehicle and release.
(b) With vehicle on a hoist or jacked, visually inspect for missing, broken, loose, or damaged shock absorbers, mounting brackets, bolts or bushings, and excessive leakage.
(a) Vehicle continues free rocking motion for two cycles after release, or shock absorbers are worn, damaged, or leaking to the extent vehicle stability is affected.
(b) Shock absorbers, mounting bolts, bushings, or mounts are missing, broken, or loose.
  (c) Severe leakage (not slight dampness) is present.
(d) Any bushing is missing any portion of the bushing or is damaged, deteriorated, or dry rotted to a point that the bushing is broken or loose.

(10) Lift Axle Air Pressure System. The lift axle shall have a certified air pressure to ensure the minimum load of 12,000 pounds for an evenly loaded vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 70,000 pounds.

Procedures: Reject Vehicle If:
(a) The lift axle shall be designed so that when in the down position the axle can only be fully engaged. Check for proper operation. (a) The lift axle can be fully engaged and the axle is not in the down position.
(b) An air pressure adjustment control may not be located in the cab of the vehicle. (b) The air pressure adjustment control is located in the cab of the vehicle.
(c) A standard automotive air pressure valve for the lift axle shall:
  (i) Be supplied on each vehicle that uses a lift axle;
  (ii) Have an external valve stem;
  (iii) Be located on the outside of the passenger side of the vehicle toward the rear of the cab, and shall be inspected for proper location;
  (iv) Be readily accessible and visible to enforcement personnel.
(c) The standard automotive air pressure valve:
  (i) Is not supplied or is not in the proper location;
  (ii) Does not have an external valve stem;
  (iii) Is not located on the outside of the passenger side of the vehicle toward the rear of the cab;
  (iv) Is not readily accessible and visible to enforcement personnel.
(d) Measure pounds per square inch (PSI) of air pressure on the lift axle using a standard automotive air pressure gauge and compare the PSI reading with the air pressure on the certification. (d) The air pressure on the lift axle does not measure equal to, or greater than, the PSI for 12,000 pounds axle load appearing on the manufacturer's certification.