Is this a true problem? You have noises, the wheel IS about to fall off, and the wheel is shaking. Do any of those things sound normal? You avoided a serious crash so consider yourself very fortunate. Noises with the steering and suspension systems must never be ignored, but that is especially true with Ford products. They have more crashes due to parts separating than all other manufacturers combined. When that happens at highway speed, the question is will the vehicle head into the trees or oncoming traffic? Most Ford owners have their vehicles inspected yearly at a tire and alignment shop. In addition, two weeks is WAY too long to wait when you hear an unusual noise. Ford was famous for building some really dangerous cars. The Crown Vic is not one of them, but they should still be inspected periodically.
There are also legal ramifications to ignoring noises. If you had caused a crash that caused property damage or injury to someone, the lawyers would make a huge deal out of knowingly driving an unsafe car. We've also heard of cases where insurance companies refuse to pay damages when drunken driving, willful misconduct, and ignoring defects or causing unsafe conditions. They state in their policies that those are things they have no control over but car owners do. In our sue-happy society, you don't want to be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In this case the fact you noticed the wheel leaning at an unusual angle was the glaring clue. Most likely the lower ball joint came apart. That is one of the parts that holds the wheel in proper alignment. Your car is rear-wheel-drive so there's no axle shaft to come apart, at least as we normally think of a half-shaft on a front-wheel-drive car. Depending on how knowledgeable your friend is, the bearings on the front spindle could have come apart. That's not real common but it would allow the wheel to lean in on top. That is considered the axle, and is a less costly repair than ball joints.
Most likely you'll need a tow truck to get the car to a repair shop. If it's still drivable, go very slowly. Depending on what is wrong, it will usually adversely affect the braking system too so you could cause additional damage and / or need a longer distance to stop.
Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 AT 7:44 PM