Stiff handling on rebuilt suspension on 1997 T-Bird



I took my '97 T-Bird into a local well-recommended car care center because it quit running – and they fixed that. However, they called and said it had serious suspension problems. Short story, I OK’d the rebuild (I did not buy the deluxe rebuild which included better parts because, well, it’s 13 years old!). Anyway, the problem is the handling. It almost feels like I have little or no power steering. The handling, while driving at highway speeds is hypersensitive. And the car will not “help” (for lack of a better word) you pull out of a turn – if you turn to the left, she keeps going left until you physically wrest her back to center. You do not DARE drive with one hand. And stepping on the brakes accentuate the least off center you are (if you are driving with a slight left leaning and step on the brake, she pulls deep to the left).

I took the car back and had them check the power steering and the handling. They said everything looked fine and that what I was experiencing was “factory fresh” handling. They said I needed to drive the car for at least 500 miles to let the parts seat. They also said this is the kind of responsive and heavy handling race cars have.

My question: Is what they told me true? Will the handling eventually loosen up? Or should I take it back and insist that something be done (but I don’t know what that would be)? If I drive someone else’s car now = their car’s handling seems so light – even sloppy.



What parts were replaced in the front end?



Ticket says they replaced the upper and lower control arms, ball joints, outer front tierods, rear swaybar links and they did a front end alignment.


Hypersensitive steering may mean a boo-boo during the front end alignment. I would take the car to another front end shop to have it checked out. Parts don’t have to loosen up because new vehicles are sold every day with perfect steering and suspension. I just don’t buy their story.


Would someplace that does front end alignments qualify or do you think this requires a specialist?


And how does the alignment impact the heaviness I feel in the steering wheel? I used to be able to turn the steering wheel with one hand. Now I have to pull with one hand while pushing the steering wheel with the other.


A good front end shop should be able to handle the job. If the alignment is out of whack you can experience all kinds of trouble with your steering. It’s a lot like driving a vehicle after it strikes a curb head-on.


This parts seating business is bunk.
The hypersensitive steering could point to an alignment problem involving the caster angles.

The steering wheel not returning to center also points to an alignment problem or a pinion gear that is too tight in the steering rack. Since the odds of the pinion gear being too tight or even being messed with during this repair is very close to zero the alignment should be suspect.

Did you receive a printout with the alignment? If so, inspect those caster numbers closely.


I agree. I thought of the caster angle when the OP said that the car would not return to a straight track after turning. It sounds to me like the car simply is not tracking properly, and caster angle popped into mind.

As others have stated, I think a good chassis shop other than the one that did the work is in order. This is not something to mess with. it needs to be addressed.