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Old 02-16-2008, 10:50 AM   #1
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2003 Wagon steering completely different from 2002 ZX3

I recently totalled our 2002 ZX3. The car had manual transmission and was a blast to drive - the steering was very quick and sensitive. I have bought a 2003 wagon - 30K miles - with automatic transmission to replace the ZX3.

I knew the performance would be slower but the steering is very heavy and makes the car handle like an Army tank. Anyone have any idea if this is normal? Why is there such a difference in how the steering works? Is it because it is an automatic or because it is a 2003 wagon instead of a 2002 ZX3? The ZX3 had some premium package with larger wheels - would that account for the difference?

Thanks! Chris


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Old 02-16-2008, 12:11 PM   #2
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I'm guessing it could just be the different mileage.

Though I think I read that there's not much difference weight or structure wise between the various Focus models, anything from suspension changes to different tires or accident damage could account for the difference.
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Old 02-16-2008, 01:59 PM   #3
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I have a 2004 ZTW wagon, the only Focus that I've owned. When I first bought it, used w/ 34K miles, it had 15" factory alloy wheels, and I put on a set of new Kumho tires. Nice, smooth, and quiet. They had a good rep on Tirerack.com but the steering response was kind of blah. Disappointing, but I just figured that maybe the Focus wagon was nothing special in that department. Finally, I bought some used Ford 16" 6 spoke alloys with 205/55-16 Bridgestones. This was done with appearance as the main reason, but I was absolutely blown away by how different was the steering response, ride, and handling. Night and day. Completely unexpected. Now I really enjoy driving the Focus; before I might well have considered selling it and buying something else.

So in answer to your question about whether the larger wheels would account for the difference, I would have to give an emphatic YES based on my experience, and keeping in mind that we both have wagons. I should also point out that the tires on my wheels are oversized with a 55 profile (50 is stock for the 16s). That may make a little difference.

Rereading your post, you mentioned about the heavy steering "like a tank". That doesn't sound normal or right with any tires/wheels you would have, so get it into a shop soon to have it checked before you do anything else. Let us know what you find out.
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Old 02-16-2008, 02:09 PM   #4
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IDK if the later wagon models have enhanced european suspension, but the 05-07 Wagons/SES model focuses european suspension; Although I cannot really tell the difference between one without european enhanced suspension like my 02 SPI.

Check to see if your Steering Fluid is black and or burnt.
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Old 02-17-2008, 12:32 PM   #5
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The steering on my wife's 03 ztw feels lighter than my 04 ztw (2.3).

I used to have an 04 zx3 with the 16" wheels--it did have a better feel, but it felt a lot rougher on bad dirt roads. The 15" wheel/tall sidewall tire is much better on rough roads.

Off topic, but tires have a lot to do with it. I switched to a summer tire on the hatch, and it was like night and day on the street, but became twitchy and slidy on dirt roads.

My wagon had decent all season perf. Bridgestones on it that were good all around, but still not good on muddy roads. When they wore out, I decided to try something cheap but with a nice open tread. I settled on the Fuzion HRI's (told'ya I'm cheap!). They feel pretty numb on the street and straight ahead is not as precise as the Bridgestones, but man--for a car tire, they can sling some dirt. They are pretty cushy on rough roads too.

I'm waiting for someone to make an all-terrain tire in 195/60-r15!
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:33 AM   #6
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Thanks for your replies

I will check the power steering fluid, belt, tire pressure etc. this weekend and see if anything jumps out...

Chris
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Old 04-09-2008, 12:56 PM   #7
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Meant to follow up on this...found the power steering fluid reservoir was completely empty. Filled it up and seems to have helped somewhat although the power steering pump may be damaged...

Thanks for your help Chris
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