2003 Ford Focus Svt Unsafe steering issues

Hi there my name is Jeff, and I would greatly appreciate any help with the problem I cannot seem to figure out or fix for that matter. The problem makes the car unsafe to drive. The quickest way to describe it is a hard pull to the left after a very linear steering feel. My perception is almost as something is holding on and then just fails and lets go and the car quite abruptly shoots left in a very unsafe manner. Here are the things I have done to remedy the situation, I replaced the struts with factory replacements 15,000 miles ago. At the same time i replaced the left and right axles, drove the car with the problem then last weekend, I replaced the upper tie rod arms, and lower tie rod ends, the sway bar bushings, and the control arms on both sides. I literally feel as though it is a darn near new front end. Just yesterday I had 4 new Goodyear eagle tires and an alignment done and the problem became more pronounced and worst. I really like this car and want it to be a joy to drive as I know from others these little hatchbacks are a real joy on winding mountain roads. Please help and thank you. Sincerely , Jeff Beal

Are you sure you arent trying to describe a faulty Power Steering pump ? Are you sure this issue is a mechanical binding ?

A PS pump that is locking up…will make the wheel feel easy to turn one second…then it feels very hard to move…and then when the pump or slipping belt grab the ps pump pulley again…you immediately go back into power steering assist…which then makes the steering wheel feel easy to turn. But in your instance…when the pump wasnt turning for a moment…you applied more muscle to the wheel…and then bang…the pump is working again…and you over compensate…

You sure that isnt happening and making you think its a mechanical binding ? Hard to tell from here…this is up to you. Any noises associated with this adventure? Ever change the serpentine belt or check your PS fluid ?

Sometimes the condition I tried to describe above is caused by the PS Pump…a High pressure Hose…and or the actual steering rack. Id be looking in these areas if there is no obvious mechanical defect.


The alignment shop should have checked all of the front end components for problems, so if the shop is competent, the problem is elsewhere.

Why did you replace struts, axles, bushings,and tie rod ends to correct a binding problem that only exists in one direction? That is almost always caused by a bad steering rack.


You’re going straight, not attempting to turn at all when this happens?

Does the steering wheel rotate (or attempt to before you intervene) as the vehicle veers to the left?

Does it seem to happen after a bump or other anomaly in the road surface or can it just happen anytime?

How often does this behavior happen?

Will it do it at the same point in the road if you repeat the same trip or does it appear entirely random?

Is it occurring at or above some particular speed?


I’m also leaning towards a problem with the rack

I hope all these parts were replaced because they were worn out, not to solve this problem

Did you walk into the shop and say “I need 4 tires and an alignment” . . . ?

Or did you say “My car pulls to the left. I’d like you to diagnose and repair it” . . . ?

if it was the former, then you should’t expect them to figure out why it the car is pulling

All that said . . . the shop should have done a test drive before beginning repairs AND after completing the repairs, in order to qc their work

Have you inspected the engine/transaxle cradle bushings?

The steering rack and lower control arms are attached to this cradle. And if the cradle bushings are worn and the cradle shifts, there’s no telling in which direction the vehicle will veer.


Concur w/the above, sounds like a steering system problem. Rack/pump/hoses/mounts

Thank you so much for the offered help. I am someone who does a lot of his own repair work, yet I am not that familiar with this car’s suspension and decided to replace all the tired old parts to fix the problem - trying to make the car reliable for the next two years. The cradle bushings are a good idea because the sway arm bushings were completely toast when I replaced them. The power steering fluid level is good, and the serpentine belt was brand new 15,000 miles ago. However I was told to check the power steering pump for pulley play or movement, with the belt off. I really do not want to replace the rack and pinion if I do not have to, but will to resolve this issue. Many thanks.

I’m guessing for steering rack replacement, about $500 for the part, & 3 hours labor. If it turns an unsafe car into a safe one, seems a bargain to me. I mean going to a movie takes three hours and almost $500 in the price of the ticket and snacks … lol …

Sounds to me too like a bad rack, specifically the spool valve.

But then I started to wonder if a rear wheel is locking up. Have you checked for any signs of a seizing rear bearing? What kind of rear brake system does this car have? Drums? Hit any big potholes lately?

Normally if a rear wheel seized I’d expect it to skid, causing a pulling to one side but being obvious. But I thought I’d mention it anyway.

So this is a really old thread but, there’s some irony here. I have purchased this car from Jeff up there and I am shaking out the exact same problem… anyone still here?

You bought this car? Even after knowing this problem has not been fixed in 2 years of throwing parts at it. :open_mouth:


Considering what’s already been tried, I still recommend looking for a bearing seizing or a brake somehow locking up.

An infrared thermometer could easily identify a wheel locking up for either reason. Simply, keep the thermometer with you and when it pulls left pull over and measure the center of the wheels. If one is hot, it’ll need looking into.

Yes, we are here and most of us would know not to buy this vehicle.