Wheel Alignment 101
PREFACE: This is a brief article that will help you check for component wear and aid in identifying defective steering and suspension parts on your T-Bird or Cougar. This is in no way a complete list, but it will help you to identify some of the basic problems and some of the most common wear items in the steering and suspension system.
Basic Suspension Parts to Check
It is very easy to check for ball joint and tie rod end wear on the T-Bird’s and Cougars.
Jack up a front tire and shake the tire in and out to check the tie rod ends, and up and down to check the ball joints. Anything more than about an 1/8 of an inch of movement they should be replaced.
Sloppiness in the strut-rod bushings and the upper and lower control arm bushings are a bit tougher to check. However, if you have any sloppiness in these components, it is best to replace them. Also check for broken or worn sway bar bushings. These are easy to spot and easy to replace.
Check all four shocks and springs. Worn shocks will typically allow the springs to bounce up and down excessively while driving, but you should also check for obvious damage such as leakage. Newer Gas charged shocks sometimes do not show leakage, they just fail. Shocks can often be tested using a simple “bounce test”. A bounce test is done by pushing down on the front or rear of the car rapidly. Then let go and observe. If the car continues to bounce more than once or twice, the shocks are probably worn.
As for the springs, check for sagging on one side or in the front or rear. You may also notice a significant loss in the ride height when the springs fail.
It goes without saying …… but I’m going to say it anyway …… ALL of these components will wear out no matter what you do. Just keep in mind that driving a car with worn steering and/or suspension components is VERY unsafe. A broken tie rod end, spring, shock or ball joint can result in a serious accident. Check your vehicle often to minimize the risk to yourself and others.
Lastly, checking for wear doesn’t cost you anything but your time! It is unfortunate that most people wait for a critical component failure before they do something. By the time you have a component failure, it’s to late! If you catch it early, you will save yourself a lot of money, time and aggravation!
HOW SICK WOULD YOU BE IF ….. you had to have your car towed in and the guy said, “Well, it was definitely the left upper ball joint that broke and caused the car to slam into the guardrail at 90 mph ….. It’s to bad you didn’t find this bad part yesterday … you might still have a nice car. As it is, not replacing that $60.00 part in time has just totaled your car!!!!!
Wouldn’t it be a shame to lose your car (or your life) over a $60 dollar part?