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Tracking / steering issues

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  • Tracking / steering issues

    My '11 Crown Vic has got 315k miles on it and I'm having some kind of tracking problem that I think is coming from the steering. If there's not much wind it drives straight down the road just fine up to about 60 mph. But if the winds up some, or if I take it up to 70, it's tracking characteristics start to get weird and unsettling. Rain seems to cause it to get worse as well. The feeling is not dissimilar to hydroplaning.

    I got the wheels off the ground and pushed/pulled on all the tires..3 and 9 o'clock, 6 and 12. Back wheels were solid, and the fronts were ok when I did the 6 and 12, but on the 3 and 9 test the tires moved about 1/4". They didn't move easily say as if they were completely loose, but it didn't take all that much effort to get them rocking either. At each limit of movement there's a low grade thud that's coming from somewhere between the two wheels, pretty close to the center of the car I'd say. I don't know if the movement I'm seeing is normal, but the degree the steering seems to be unpredictable would seem to correlate to about the degree of movement I'm seeing with the 3 and 9 test.

    Any ideas on where I go from here?

  • #2
    It almost sounds like you could have some loose eccentric bolts on there. Those are the ones usually used to adjust the alignment. If those things shift around a bit, all sorts of uncomfortable things can happen.

    Now at 315k, it's also entirely possible that you have any number of worn out suspension components, but I'd get under there and check those cam-bolts.. If you find they're loose (if they can shift at all,) you'll need an alignment, and have them cinched down properly.

    Mike Martin

    1997 Mark VIII LSC 5.0
    2001 Dodge Dakota


    • #3
      Have any of the steering/front suspension bushings been replaced? If they are original, it is definately time for a complete front suspension/steering overhaul.
      96 MKVIII Base


      • #4
        Your driving symptoms are indicative of too little caster in the alignment.

        The play on the steering could be exactly that... play in the steering either from a worn rack/pinion assembly and/or inner tie rods. If nothing else, a good alignment shop should be able to tell you the problem(s).


        • #5
          Thanks for all the good advice and sorry it took so long to get back. I just got the car back from a front end inspection and they're saying my biggest problem is that both lower ball joints need to be replaced. I've done work similar to this before (using a pickle fork to separate joints and using a rented ball joint press) but they were advising it might be too tough of a job to do by myself in my driveway. I have a 1000lb impact wrench but only a really small compressor.

          What do you guys think about attempting this job myself? Any advice?


          • #6
            In my humble opinion, the lower ball joints can be quite challenging or stupid easy to replace. I would lean towards the former given the mileage stated.


            • #7
              Well I've decided I'm gonna give it a shot at doing this myself. 'Couple' questions...

              - I know the lower BJ presses out, but does the top one press out as well?

              - Does the sway bar link have to come off for better access?

              - Anything else I should change out while I'm in there? So far I'm gonna be doing both upper and lower BJs and probably the tie rod ends.

              - I've been told to use green loc tite. That would be used on the threads on the bottom of the BJs?

              - Also been told to watch out for the spring shooting out at me but I believe I have a shock in spring, a strut? Is there any danger of this spring suddenly popping out after tension is eased? I don't plan on removing the spring at all.


              • #8
                If it were me, I would replace the entire control arms, both upper and lower, along with sway bar links and tie rods(both inner and outer).


                • #9
                  I agree driller, it all needs to be done. Since I'm mr cheapo right now ... for the control arms ... could I away with just replacing the ball joint and 2 bushings on each arm and just reuse the same arm?

                  I have some experience drilling out, air chiseling out, and pressing in new bushings on my Jeep's rear leaf springs.
                  Last edited by bradhays; 08-21-2019, 06:57 PM.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bradhays View Post
                    ...could I away with just replacing the ball joint and 2 bushings on each arm and just reuse the same arm?
                    Sure, it's just more work in the long run. All depends what your time is worth.



                    • #11
                      nevermind. my pic is too large
                      Last edited by bradhays; 08-27-2019, 12:59 AM.


                      • #12
                        Last edited by bradhays; 08-27-2019, 03:53 PM.


                        • #13
                          Considering the mileage I've decided to change out everything I can. Ordering 2 new top A-arm assemblies, 2 lower ball joints, 4 lower A-arm bushings, 2 new strut assemblies w/ springs, and 2 sway bar links. This only leaves the tie rod ends which there is a chance are not original. This car was part of a fleet that got regular maintenance so since I didn't see any movement at the outer tie rod ends when I was doing the 3 & 9 push test I'm thinking they may have already been replaced. I'll put in everything I've ordered and see how the steering is after that. Do you always do both inner and outer tie rod ends at the same time or is it common just to do the outer, or just the inner?

                          Found a decent set of ebay shock and spring, strut? assemblies for $150 but it's specified as fitting the interceptor model whereas mine is just the base model. Would they still work ok?


                          • #14
                            It is more common to replace the outer tie rod ends.