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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long post! Grab yerself a drink and sit back....

First off, let me say that this is very, very good news.

I stopped off at Winn Dixie on the way home yesterday. Got my groceries, started car, heard a strange metallic grating sound. I revved the engine a little bit and the noise grew. Looked under car - didn't see anything. Figured the car was going to die anyway so I decided just to drive it home and set it on fire.

Realized on way home that it could simply be one of the catalytic converter heat shields vibrating. After all, in the past month, it's had a bad resonance around 3500 rpms. The noise was not related to engine/wheel speed so I figured it's not something interfering with the drivetrain. So got home and put it in the garage. Cranked up and awful noise started up again. Took a broom handle and pushed hard against the outer heat shield - noise stopped. Repeated. Each time could get noise to stop by pressing on the heat shield. Culprit found....

I didn't have any hose clamps handy, nor ramps so went to WalMart and Advance and got the parts I needed.

Took about 30 minutes to get the hose clamps set to the right length to completely circle the cat, then tightened down. Recranked and held at various rpms and noise did not reappear. Great news and a cheap solution (all of $6 for clamps).

Now - that was good news, being an easy fix. But what I found when I was under there was illuminating.

I saw where when the old cv joint exploded, it threw grease around. Also saw where Muffler Shop cleaned it up best they could to get new unit in. Staring me in the face was one of the 3 steering rack bushings - and it was 3/4 of the way out of its place. Was just flopped over out of the joint, so that the steering rack was able to move about a half inch when wiggled. THIS WAS THE SOURCE OF THE STEERING INSTABILITY I'VE BEEN COMPLAINING ABOUT. I theorize that the bushing has been progressively working itself loose over all this time, explaining why the steering was getting so bad. I loosened the steering rack bearing clamp, used a screwdriver to push the bushing back into place, then retightened it all. Took for test drive.

Night and day difference.

I actually had precision. Steering tightened up noticeably. Car went where pointed! No more of that side to side wiggle I'd have to do with the wheel to keep it straight. Gone is the drama when cornering, even moderate corners. The oddball twitch is also absent.

Think I've cured the car.

Granted, it's still underdamped. Got the wrong struts, but it's not nearly the huge deal it was before I found the bad bushing. Now I can put off the strut swap until the fall or maybe spring. Drove into work today and it was so nice to be able to drive one-handed (I like to drive with one hand on the gearshift) - car didn't fight me the whole way in.

It was difficult not to run outside last night and just start screaming in joy.

I'd been dealing with the steering issue since I bought the car in April of '02.... Now I think it's finally over! Just ordered a set of steering rack bushings from ZXTuner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Couple of days after posting my first message on this subject, I had hernia repair surgery due to an injury. So that put me out for a couple of weeks. But since recuperating and having time off from work, I was able to replace the bushings with the polyurethane replacements from ZXTuner. The stock bushing had wiggled out again so the handling went to hell all over again.

I've now replaced the steering rack bushings with polyurethane, everything's all bolted up good and tight and I took her for a test spin. Drives great. I'm going to wait a few days and see whether the new bushing slips out again. If so, it's going to the shop to see why. If it stays in place, then that's great news. The local shops charge $150 for the job if you supply the bushings. But I found that I could do it myself in about an hour with a set of ramps and a good set of sockets. Get the 6 points, not the 12s....

I really recommend checking your bushings if you experience odd handling. You never know. I never even suspected steering bushing failure until it was right in my face. And at such a cheap cost (less than $20 including shipping), it's well worth it from a maintenance perspective, if not for performance enhancement.
 

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Zeemax said:
It was difficult not to run outside last night and just start screaming in joy.
I think you're the first guy on feoa to reach climax with his car. That is something that most escort owners only dream of. I'd say I'm happy for you, but that'd be weird.

Congrats on the fix. I'm sure it was good for both you and your car.
 
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