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Old 02-23-2013, 03:06 PM   #1
pmiller613
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Help with steering/vibration diagnosis...

2000 Focus ZX3, 140k miles.

I first noticed a few months ago that at low speeds, the steering seemed to be fighting me a little at low speeds. The car seemed to want to steer to the right, and seemed like a little more resistance when steering left at low speeds (<10mph).

So once I started "listening" for symptoms, I noticed the car pulling to the right, particularly at interstate (>70mph) speeds, along with a noticable vibration in front/end telegraphed through steering wheel. The vibration is present at all speeds above 50mph or so, but is more severe at particular speeds.

The vibration being the more annoying symptom, I thought it might be balance or other tire problem and they were at end of life anyway, so I started there with 4 new tires and no change.

Having ruled out tires, due to the pulling to the right I took her in for an alignment, and was (shockingly, for an alignment shop) told my alignment was fine. Twice, since it was still pulling to the right after first check.

Then I noticed that at creeping speeds (<5mph), you can watch the steering wheel move when it gets to the "bad spot" in each revolution. Wheel will turn a few degrees right, then go back ALMOST to center, but not all the way, such that eventually the car is veering off right slightly.

That leads me to think maybe a bad CV joint, but boots are good and firm, no play at all, and relatively early in life. Vibration is not acceleration-dependent (same coasting or on the gas), not turn-dependent (same severity turning sharply left or right). From CV problems in the past, seems like I should notice a difference accelerating/turning.

Occasionally I'll notice a pop from the front end going over a speed bump or pothole at low speeds... My next thought was to jack up the front wheels and check for play, and nothing noticeable from burly-guy-grunting-at-his-car tests.

Thoughts/opinions/ideas? (Sorry for being long-winded)


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Old 02-23-2013, 09:05 PM   #2
BC_ZX3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pmiller613 View Post
My next thought was to jack up the front wheels and check for play, and nothing noticeable from burly-guy-grunting-at-his-car tests.
lol.
Probably won't help your pulling problem but that popping over bumps may be your sway bar end links needing attention. Cheap and easy to replace. Fix first.

Hope you had all four wheels aligned. Should set toe to the minimum Ford spec.
I'd investigate brake components next. Look for binding or sticking brake caliper guide pins, damaged rotor, perhaps.
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Old 02-23-2013, 10:04 PM   #3
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I'd bet money the right CV joint is going, I had very similar problems with my car but it was intermittent. It kind of came out of nowhere, I was accelrating from a coast and the steering wheel started to twitch and vibrate in my hands and it was pulling the car to the right. It would come and go randomly at different speeds but it was pretty frightening during a WI winter in a snowstorm, it could have easily put me into a spin. By the time I finally decided to change the halfshaft I arrived at school to do it and the CV joint grenaded completely when I came to a stop in the parking lot.

I would define it as a distinctly mechanical tug in the steering wheel that pulls the vehicle to one side, and only under engine load and not in neutral. Is the car an automatic? Brake stuff is easy to investigate and if you have significantly uneven pad wear that should be corrected also as BC_ZX3 mentioned.
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