1996 Ford Contour front end

Tiny
TOMSMITH36
  • MEMBER
  • 1996 FORD CONTOUR
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • AUTOMATIC
  • 240,000 MILES
When I turn the corner it feels like it is sticking when I make sharp turn. Then I get a clunk. When I go around the other way seems to clunk back in to place this is on the front left side also sounds like it may have something to do with the front springs but not sure has that sound
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014 AT 6:07 PM

4 Replies

Tiny
MLDANIELS2000
  • EXPERT
Check tie rod end. Someone can look at them while another person turns the wheel when engine is running put in park with parking brake on. Look for any movement.
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014 AT 6:50 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
There's two things to consider here. First of all, Ford has way more trouble with steering and suspension parts separating leading to loss of control and crashes than all other car manufacturers combined. Clunks, rattles, and squeaks must never be ignored. Some parts routinely develop noticeable wear every 15,000 miles. The engineers have already left off one the main alignment adjustments. They went for a smooth ride over good tire wear. Potential car buyers compare ride quality among many car brands so Ford sells a lot of cars. They don't tell you about the horrendous tire wear due to misalignment that can't be corrected. Now when you add worn steering parts, that tire wear gets much worse. The steering and suspension systems should be inspected at least once a year at a tire and alignment shop, and whenever you hear a noise or feel something unusual. I'm aware of one instance where an inspection showed everything to be in good condition, and a ball joint broke 700 miles later and was found to be full of impacted rust powder inside.

Your comment about "When I go around the other way seems to clunk back in to place" is what concerns me. There are some parts that can shift when they're worn, and not be a serious safety issue, but they definitely will affect tire wear and handling. Given your description of a combination of symptoms, the upper strut mounts may be binding. That is not serious as far as something that can break, but it can be irritating when the steering doesn't return or respond as expected. To identify a binding strut mount, reach over the top of the tire and wrap your fingertips around the coil spring, then have a helper slowly turn the steering wheel back and forth. The spring should rotate smoothly with the tire. If the mount is binding, you'll feel the spring build tension, then suddenly pop free and turn.
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014 AT 6:51 PM
Tiny
TOMSMITH36
  • MEMBER
What is causing the spring to bind and can it be fixed
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Thursday, January 30th, 2014 AT 9:52 PM
Tiny
CARADIODOC
  • EXPERT
Upper strut mounts. If you're feeling that popping and releasing in the spring, the bearing in the upper mount is bad and the mount needs to be replaced. It's a plate about 5" in diameter that bolts to the inner fender, and the shaft of the strut bolts to the center hole. The center hole can also rust away and allow the shaft of the strut to wobble around. The shaft is what holds the wheel upright and keeps it in alignment. That damage can't be seen until the assembly is removed and disassembled to replace the struts, then the mechanic has to tell you more parts are needed. Some shops quote the cost to replace struts and include new upper mounts in case they're needed, then they can surprise you with a lower bill if they aren't needed.

Ride height is also important for proper handling and braking. Coil springs sag with age, and that changes the geometry of the suspension system. That greatly affects tire wear even when a car appears to be in perfect alignment on the alignment computer.

It takes about an hour to replace two front struts. It takes just as much work to replace just the upper mounts, so if you can live with the binding until new struts are needed, everything can be replaced at once. To address the time involved, the likelihood of finding weak springs, and the chance of finding a worn upper mount, some aftermarket companies are offering "quick struts". These are becoming popular because you get the entire assembly ready to install. There's new springs, new upper mounts, new struts, no need for a strut compressor, and it saves some time. As a suspension and alignment specialist, I'm very picky about correct ride height for the ride and handling qualities and the legal issues. These quick struts restore the ride height to where it should be, and they aren't much more expensive than just the struts.
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Friday, January 31st, 2014 AT 12:25 AM

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