A Practical Recount of DS Steering Control – Can you top this Citroën Story?


Here is a wild story of when John Chassin’s DS had the tie-rod to the right front wheel break at the alignment coupler sleeve – totally disconnecting the wheel from the rack!  Yet it did NOT cause a serious loss of control, as the disconnect wheel just followed the still attached right front wheel – amazing!  

Here’s John’s recollection of the incident:

On most automobiles good steering feel is based on the condition of rubber donuts that hold the suspension arms. You feel the impact on the domino that’s laying there and can correct for the wheel’s change of direction, camber and caster by turning the steering the other way and hoping for the best.  Your driving skill is in the quality of your estimated aim which varies from car to car AND model to model.

In the DS type of suspension, hitting a brick or a pothole does not change the camber, caster, etc and you do not have to correct.  Feeling is superfluous and the hydraulic rack does not allow any deflection or change in the wheels’ position.  No need to aim. You steer and it goes there.  All Citroën DS steer identically and predictably, even with one broken steering arm. 

Maintaining the camber and caster is one of the reasons that the DS fared so well in arduous rallys.

I drove some 25 miles with one side snapped loose as a result of 26 years of under battery rust.  That was back in 1994 and I realized the problem while parking.  I just backed off and parked again, but with a wider radius.

When I found out, after opening the hood, I was amazed that the wheel would follow, (unless I cranked the steering to a large angle). I recall a bus was honking frantically at me as he was crossing.  The wheel was probably visibly wobbling, but I did not feel it at all, going some 45 mph on a two-lane road.

The battery is on top of the parallelism adjust sleeve. The ball joint to the upper pivot arm had rusted solid.  Very hard to rotate it. It fatigued the sleeve thread and neatly cracked off flush at the sleeve.  I tried to clean, squash, lube it.  No way.  Found spare and slowly replaced, offing the sleeve 1/12 turn at a time in the DC sun.

I should go and check it now… it’s been another 25 years!  Take it out, squash it, clean it, lube it, install, adjust.  Parallelism done?  Good forever. Pothole?  Phfoooey!

Do you have an amazing Citroën experience that you think would be of interest to our readers? If so, please send it via email to: gdyke@sympatico.ca.

1 comment

  1. Yikes! so one wheel was totally disconnected from rack??  It could be pushed, but not pulled, yes?  Yet it didn’t affect steering due to caster & centerpoint pivot as there was no offset to cause the wheel to drag R or L – amazing even tho its simple physics.  Any other car would’ve been completely out of control.  I saw it personally one day around 1985 – a Camaro was coming toward me on a two-lane road when its right front wheel flipped full right, locked up and the car slid off the road into a ditch!  The balljoint on a tie-rod had let go!

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