97 Tracer- can't eliminate pulling to the right | Ford Escort Owners Association (FEOA)
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97 Tracer- can't eliminate pulling to the right

Discussion in '3rd Gen 1997-2002 2.0L SOHC' started by ethangsmith, May 13, 2016.

  1. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    I've had 3 shops try and align my 97 Tracer LS sedan. When the car is aligned to spec, it makes a pretty hard right turn. You can easily get all the numbers in spec too. When each shop tried to align it, in order to get it to even go reasonably straight, they had to tilt the wheel right and adjust the tie rods to that. I had the outer tie rods done, rear struts/springs done, and even put different tires and wheels on the car. I even had sway bar links done in the front and rear. Nothing. It still has a bias to the right. We're all stumped. Any suggestions??????? Help!
  2. dchawk81

    dchawk81 FEOA Member

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    You sure it isn't the road pulling? A lot are sloped for water runoff.
  3. pextor

    pextor Moderator Staff Member

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    bent control arm?
  4. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    This is a definite bias towards the right. When all suspension #'s are aligned to exact center of their respective ranges, the car makes a VERY defined right turn. You actually have to fudge the alignment a bit to get it to go decently straight.

    As for damaged or bent components, all 3 shops have poked, prodded, and checked the entire front and rear suspension for any signs of scratches, dents, or bends. So far, nothing.

    Would bad steering rack bushings or a failing rack cause something like this?
  5. pextor

    pextor Moderator Staff Member

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    bad steering rack bushings just add a dead spot in the steering as the rack sloshes side to side before it catches.
  6. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    Rack maybe?
  7. spearjh

    spearjh FEOA Member

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    What kinds of shops are these? Big-name-chain shops? Or locally owned places?

    I'd probably be headed to a body shop at this point rather than an alignment shop.

    I assume it's not only when you apply the brakes.
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  8. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    Nope, not only when I apply the brakes.

    The shops are a variety- One was a local guy here in town that's very good. The 2nd and 3rd shops are sort of the same- I work at a dealership and I had two different technicians try to align the car at two different times. One tech is from our franchised portion and the other is in our used car department. All 3 times, when the car was aligned into spec, it turned right. Here's the thing too- the car has never been wrecked. No painted panels, no turned bolts, all VIN tags are present. No sanding marks, no body filler. All panel gaps are consistent one side to the other. Nothing. No scuffs, dents, or scratches anywhere. This car was very well maintained. If the body was bent or a suspension component was damaged, the techs wouldn't have been able to get everything correct. They all agreed on that. They're as stumped as I am!
  9. dchawk81

    dchawk81 FEOA Member

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    Definitely strange. My vehicles and even the Peterbilts will emphasize road slope but otherwise they're straight.
  10. spearjh

    spearjh FEOA Member

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    The other thing that crossed my mind was a binding / otherwise stuck or damaged front strut bearing. I had a minivan once with persistent tracking weirdness due to that. You said that the rears were done. If the fronts are orginals, they're certainly due.

    FYI, the pre-assembled strut units are great if you do any of your own work. Easy to change and affordable if you shop around.
  11. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    That thought has crossed my mind too. There is occasionally some popping sounds going on in the front. Not sure if it's suspension or steering related, but it could explain some of the weirdness.....
  12. spearjh

    spearjh FEOA Member

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    I had a bad set of '97 escort strut bearings once - and they sounded pretty much exactly like a bad CV joint (pop-pop-pop-pop-pop). They didn't cause any tracking issues - but noisy for sure and I did end up dropping new strut assys in since they had all of about 200K miles on them. I'd say that's enough
  13. DrewsBrews

    DrewsBrews FEOA Donator

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    Mine gets that way periodically, but it's just low pressure in the right front tire.
  14. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    Air pressures are good. I've been monitoring them to make sure it's not that simple.

    The car has about 94K on it. I'd hate to replace the front strut assemblies just to continue to have the same problem, but I think I may have to start doing things one at a time to see what happens. There's got to be something that is either worn or defective somewhere!
  15. spearjh

    spearjh FEOA Member

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    Yeah. Throwing parts at stuff is never a great idea, but I don't know that there's a good way to check the upper bearings without removal. One thing you can do is jack up the front and hold onto the springs while someone turns the wheel. If the upper bearing is binding you will feel it ping through the spring as it releases while turning. Of course, you might then replace and still have the tracking problem - but in that case, the replacement would have been justified on other grounds. Only 94K on the struts - but about 20 years is a lot too.
  16. DrewsBrews

    DrewsBrews FEOA Donator

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    I assume both wheels spin freely?
  17. Intuit

    Intuit FEOA Member

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  18. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    Yep, both wheels spin freely. No brake binding or wheel bearing issues. Had the techs check that out. I'm trying to think of anything else I've observed or checked. We've done a lot with this car to try to remedy the situation and nothing has given good results. I took the car on a 4 hour round trip journey last weekend on the highway and it was pretty annoying. Lots of pulling right and the car felt very unstable above 70mph. It rained pretty hard on the return trip and the car wanted to hydroplane right on higher speed right turns- despite having new Hankook H727 tires on it (Known for excellent wet traction). The car likes to eat tie rods and sway bar links too. The best way to describe all this is that the car feels like it's fighting itself as it goes down the road. Like it's pulling in all different directions and whatever wants it to go right is winning.
  19. Intuit

    Intuit FEOA Member

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    I also see no mention of ball joints.

    These, when broken, can certainly affect camber and caster when turning.
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  20. ethangsmith

    ethangsmith FEOA Member

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    Ball joints are tight and free of play. That was something we suspected right away. The car has never been wrecked either. All 3 times I had an alignment done, it was a complete alignement, front and rear including thrust angle. Everything can be easily set to spec in both the front and rear.

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