'91 Thunderbird swaying violently at all speeds

Tiny
VARUNA
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  • 1991 FORD THUNDERBIRD
I've got a 1991 Thunderbird (3.8L V6, no supercharger),
and recently it started to sway rather violently, at first I thought it was my rear suspension (The sway seems to be caused by the front end pulling, but the front end shocks are dead anyways, figured all of them dying would cause this), but it recently became somewhat worse, and it's a little easier to tell where it's coming from, and I'm positive it's the front end.

On top of that, if I let the steering wheel go, it rotates clockwise in tandem with the swaying of the car. At highway speeds it can sway hard enough to cause my car to veer off slightly to the right. Also, it seems to calm down if I can turn the steering wheel enough for it to fully engage the pinion with the rack's teeth, and doesn't get as bad if I grip the wheel hard and hold it as steady as possible. I can also feel a sort of thunk or clank in the wheel occaisionally when it starts swaying, almost like something in the steering column engaging or clicking into place (think it's the rack and pinion, not sure). This problem seems to be caused and hieghtened by ruts or bumps on the road as well (which is what initally led me to believe it was my suspension).

Now I'm thinking it's a worn out tie rod or maybe my rack, but any advice/ideas would be absolutely wonderful!
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Friday, February 16th, 2007 AT 3:02 PM

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Tiny
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http://www.2carpros.com/forum/automotive_pictures/30961_tbrd_1.jpg



Being a 91, I would expect multiple problems. If you are at a stand still with the motor off and key on, is there play in the steering wheel when turning it, before the wheels actually move? Check for broken springs, sway bar links, weak bushings, ball joints and like you say tie rods. Need to jack up the front end and check for play in the wheels by grabbing each wheel and push/pull feeling for play.
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Friday, February 16th, 2007 AT 5:09 PM
Tiny
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I checked for play in the steering wheel, and there isn't any. Though, when I turn the wheel left I feel that slight clunk, and the front end of the car shifts noticeably left and right with the wheel movement (this could be normal, I've just never noticed it on any vehicles in the past).

I haven't checked any of the front end components yet,
have to go visit someone with a garage, since we have about 3 or 4 inches of snow on the ground right now, hehe.

Thanks for the reply!
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Saturday, February 17th, 2007 AT 12:38 PM
Tiny
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Checked all those components, and everything seemed fine from what I could see, so I assumed it was my ball joints. Called a friend at a parts store and he quoted me about $280 for all 4 ball joints (with a discount, sadly. The upper balls joints only come as a whole control arm assembly), so I had my brother test drive it as a last ditch effort, since he has more experience in actual vehicle symptoms than myself, and he figured it was loose axle nuts (recently replaced all the brake components and replaced a blown rear CV axle, so it seemed plausible that they weren't properly torqued.).

So, we checked them and they actually were a bit loose, tightened them up, and the car stopped acting funny. So, I'll go to a shop and get them properly torqued to be safe. There's a heads up for anybody else who, for any reason, took they're wheel spindles apart!

Thanks for the help, I really appreciate it!
(Actually checking that list of components led me to discover my camber is wonky, and I need a wheel alignment, hah)
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Tuesday, February 20th, 2007 AT 2:45 AM

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