AUUUGGHHH! I'm a suspension and alignment specialist, and as such, I never get involved with raised trucks or lowered cars. Correct ride height is critical to best handling, braking, steering response, comfort, and tire wear. When I worked at the dealership, I had the owner's blessings to refuse to work on any altered vehicle because doing so could make us party to a lawsuit, even when what I worked on had nothing to do with the suspension system. This is also serious enough that members of my school's Advisory Committee, including my former boss / owner of the dealership, and the owner of the local Goodyear store, got wound up if I even allowed a student to bring a vehicle into the shop with altered ride height.
That said, and without going into my really long, detailed explanation of why this is such a big issue, you can't assume anything about the alignment, centered steering wheel, or tire wear. Ford is by far the worst manufacturer when it comes to tire wear problems, most of which can't be fixed. You just have to keep buying new tires. The Bronco 2 and the Ranger are two of the worst models Ford has for tire wear, other than the very dangerous '80s Ford-built Escorts and Tempos. What you have going for you is your truck is a two-wheel-drive. Look at any four-wheel-drive model when it's on a hoist and you'll see the front tires are tipped WAAAAAY out on top. There's no denying the twin I-beam suspension system is strong, but it is the worst possible system for tire wear. On those models, the wheels go though the same motions, tipping in and out on top, as the truck goes up and down on the road.
You should have the much-improved "short arm / long arm" front suspension system which includes the upper control arm and ball joint, and a lower control arm and ball joint. If you installed "drop spindles" to raise the truck, those do not alter the geometry of the front suspension system. Think of parking the truck with the tires sitting on top of 4" x 4" blocks of wood. The body is 4" higher off the ground, but the lower control arms are still perfectly parallel to the ground.
If you installed longer coil springs in the front, or, turned up the torsion bars, you will see the lower control arms are no longer parallel to the ground, and the upper control arms are drooping way down. That will make the wheels tip in on top, and the tires will wear out very quickly on their inner edges. No alignment will solve that because even if there is enough range of adjustment to get the numbers to be in specs on the alignment computer, those numbers only refer to a truck that's standing still. The suspension's geometry is deigned to minimize the angle changes each wheel goes through while the truck is in motion. That design is rendered ineffective at any ride height except what's specified.
To address your question about the steering wheel, I could explain it better if I was looking at your steering system with you there so I could point to things. I think you have what is called a "parallelogram" steering linkage. That will have an inner tie rod end, an outer tie rod end, and an adjuster sleeve connecting them, on the left side, then it will have an identical setup on the right side. There will be an idler arm on the passenger side, and a pitman arm on the driver's side. That system is more forgiving for tire wear, but those tie rod linkages need to be parallel to the ground. That can't happen when the lower control arms are angled down.
Ford also used a steering linkage with a link that runs from the pitman arm to the right spindle, then a shorter link is attached in the middle of that link on the right end, and to the left spindle on the other end. That system is practically designed to cause bad tire wear, but that is minimized when the truck is at the correct ride height. That proper ride height places both links nearly perfectly parallel to the ground. The problem is being many different lengths, no linkage or control arm goes through the same angle changes as the truck bounces up and down. That means the front tires turn left and right as the truck bounces up and down. That is minimized to the point the truck is driveable when it's at the specified ride height. At any other height, you're going to find it darts to one side when you hit bumps in the road. That's not a concern if this is a hunting or off-roading truck, but it will be very tiring if you try to drive it long distances at highway speed.
The concern right now is by raising the suspension, the outer ends of the steering links have pulled in, and if they're the unequal length links, they've pulled in unequal amounts. That turns the wheels an unequal amount. You have to bring them back, with the steering wheel, to where they're turned in or out equally for the truck to go straight, and that point is not the point the steering wheel is straight. That refers to "toe", which is the final adjustments made during the alignment. Toe is normally set to make the front wheels slightly closer together in the front so road forces pull them back while driving so they're perfectly parallel. That provides the best tire wear. Your mechanic may ask you how heavily-loaded you normally have the truck, then he might alter the toe adjustments to try to compensate for the bigger steering changes the wheels will go through.
Nothing will happen to the rear axle or rear suspension because they just go up and down. The only concern there is with the drive shaft and u-joints. There's a definite angle difference between the drive shaft and the transmission's tail housing, and between the drive shaft and the axle's pinion gear. That angle forces some rotational movement in the needle bearings as the drive shaft rotates. That is needed to prevent the needle bearings from constantly sitting and wearing in one spot. The concern is if that angle gets too big, a vibration can be set up, and that occurs at a specific range of speeds. This used to be a problem with older GM trucks and full-size vans, and was just the "nature of the beast".
Ford also had problems with that drive line vibration on conversion vans when they got to be about six months old. Many of their vehicles were tied down too tightly on the car haulers when they were delivered to the dealerships, and that stressed the springs and lowered ride height. That vibration showed up after a few more months, and was aggravated by the constant added weight of the conversion furniture.
I only mentioned all these things so you won't try to correct any problems while being unaware of the actual cause. The alignment won't solve everything, but you can expect the steering wheel to be straight.
Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 AT 12:04 AM