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1996 Ford Ranger wandering steering wheel?

Wandering steering wheel reaction? Feels like it reacts to the steering wheel input as if connected by rubber bands!!
very uncomfortable driving?

Steering couplers may have failed

Steering couplers?? No doubt!

On a 22 year old Ranger, likely EVERYthing in the front end needs replacing, 4 ball joints, 4 tie rods, one idler arm, 2 stab bar links and 2 bushings and 8 A-arm bushings!


Are you telling or asking ? I would guess it is unnerving. I will probably get slammed but I will ask anyway. If you are not going to fix this yourself why is this not in a shop being repaired ? This sounds like something that could result in a catastrophic accident.

I had a man bring in a Tahoe that had the same problem with drivability problems.

He insisted that I take it on the freeway to diagnose.
I got up to 40mph and 1/4 mile from the shop and refused to drive it farther.

Get it fixed…this is not only unsafe for you to drive, but a danger to any other drivers and pedestrians.


The loose steering might be from worn steering gear box.

There’s an adjustment at the top of the steering gear box to remove any slack in the gear box.


The problem surfaced after having new tires installed. New upper and lower ball joints were also replaced. I took the truck back and had the allignment checked again. was told it was as

specified? Took it to another shop and had the alignment checked. was told that was as recommended? The problem apparently is not related to that. I’m just not used to turning the

steering wheel without seeing an immediate response!! Appreciate the help.

A 22 year old vehicle that didn’t have loosey-goosey steering would be… rare.

Would have been REALLY helpful to us if you had told us this from the beginning!


If it happened immediately after replacing the tires, make sure the tires are properly inflated. If that’s ok, try moving the tires to different positions. swap front with back. right with left, might provide a clue to what’s going on. Weird tire tread patterns and toe-in problems can cause this, either on the front or the back. You might ask that the toe-in be adjusted to more toe-in as a test. Sometimes the rear wheels and front wheels can be aligned on their own, but there’s a problem between the front and rear alignment. I doubt that’s the problem b/c that’s very noticeable and wouldn’t have changed much just by replacing the tires.

Did the alignment shop check both rag joints? Along with the parts Mustang mentioned that were not replaced.

@weber03; Everything mentioned so far seems worth looking into and I’ll add that the steering gear mounting bolts may have worked loose. But I also strongly suggest taking the truck immediately to an old. seasoned front end man at an independent shop. If the situation when driving seems dangerous it likely is and the previous shops are either totally unqualified or totally unconcerned with the truck now that they have all the money they can likely squeeze out of you.

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Agreed, OP might need to find a better mechanic.

Rag joints were not mentioned so I doubt they were checked and I’m not Familiar with

them. I will have to ask the shop that did the ball joints.

I will take the truck to a reputable shop for further checking.

Very good advice and I will again have it looked at by someone I hope knows where to look? Thank You

Maybe your tires are not balanced properly .

96 Ranger has Twin I beam front suspension, it made a nicer riding truck, but the steering felt loose to a lot of people the were used to a more conventional front suspension.

I’d be looking at the rag joint/steering coupler
Upper and lower ball joints
Control/Radius arm bushings
I beam pivot bushings
Ball joints
Center/Drag link
Tie rods

If you’re going to try adjusting the steering gear box, find a youtube video on how to do it properly, you can cause more damage than good if you do it incorrectly.

Yes, @It_s_Me. And the twin-I-Beam suspension was a pain to deal with that many front end men avoided then and still avoid today. I had better luck cranking the adjustable ball joints into the closest driveable compromise using an antique bubble gauge working on the floor than sending them to state of the art shops. The eccentric bushing does not allow for setting caster and canter independently. When one aspect is changed the other changes also and caster is the more important angle to approach factory specification.The earliest twin-I beams were corrected using holding fixtures and presses on the axles while heating them with a torch.