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Suspension issues on 99 Ford Taurus

I recently replaced most of the front suspension on my car (struts, ball joints, and control arms), but I’m now having a puzzling issue. When the car is lowered off the jack, everything looks fine, but once I go to back it down the driveway, the steering wheel turns itself, and both front tires are very cambered out. I’ve pulled the wheels and checked that everything is tight and connected and everything. And trying to shake the wheel with the car in the air, everything still feels solid. Both sides do this, so it seems like it should be connected, but I can’t seem to figure out what is doing it.

I apologize if this is something super obvious or dumb, but this project has lasted me 10x longer than expected, so my brain power is pretty burned up.

are you sure you do not have any “spare” bolts/nuts left in the bucket? :slight_smile:
when you tightened the control arm bolts/nuts, were they in “loaded” condition or still extended down?

I did check, no spare nuts/bolts :smile: And I did tighten the control arm nuts with the suspension loaded.

Sound like the control arms you used are the wrong length. By cambered out, do you mean the top of the tire leans into the car? If that is true, definitely the control arms are wrong.

That’s correct. I looked briefly comparing the old parts to the new when I put them on, but not super closely, so they’re quite possibly the wrong ones.

The toe setting is off by a great amount. When the toe is off the drag while moving the vehicle causes the suspension, wheels and tires to flex giving the appearance of a camber problem.

These cars have been around a while with many variations. Very possible the contol arm changed length for some variation. Measure ball joint to bushing on both sides or just place the old one up against the new one.

I did some measuring/side-by-side comparisons, and as near as I can tell, the old part and new part match up. And maybe I’m just misunderstanding something here, but I don’t understand how an incorrect control arm would keep the alignment fine when the car is parked, but off when it is moved. I should point out that after I move the car, if I get out (with the car in park) the wheels will be leaning in, but when I roll it back forward, they re-align.

What would cause the toe to be severely off? I didn’t replace the tie rod ends or anything. In addition, I don’t think I made it clear in my original post, but the alignment will be off even after stopping after I’ve moved (backed up). Then if I pull forward again, it straightens back up.

During the past wheel alignments on this car the toe was set back to specs compensating for the worn ball joints and distorted rubber bushings. Now that you have restored the suspension the toe must be corrected.

Removing and reinstalling the same lower control arm can affect the toe setting, there is enough play in the mounting bolt holes that can affect the position of the control arm and change the toe setting. The toe should be checked after any suspension repairs, measure the toe setting.

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Forgive my ignorance of stuff with alignment. This is my first real foray into suspension repairs. Even with the control arm bolts loosened, there doesn’t seem to be any play in the bolt holes that would allow for adjustment. I’ll take a picture to show what I am talking about, but it seems to me the amount that it is off would be due to more than just some small alignments adjusted by control arm bolts. I do definitely plan on having the car professionally aligned once I am done, but I first of course need to get it safe to go on the road.

Before:

After:

Here are 2 images of before and after movement. Hopefully you can see what is going on.

You say you replaced the ball joints. How did get the ball joints into the control arm?

Also, you replaced the struts. Were the struts an individual strut were you added the spring, bumper and mount before installation in the car or did you install quick struts with all the parts brand new and already bolted together?

Something is clearly loose here.

The ball joints install into the spindle knuckle and then thread thread through the control arm. And I used quick struts.

I think we are getting close to the issue. Every picture I can find on RockAuto as well as what I remember from my 93, the front lower ball joint is pressed into the control arm. And every control arm pic I can find show that, too.

Does your ball joint have a large diameter nut that clamps the joint to the arm or does it have 3 bolts that attach it to the arm.

On mine the ball joint is pressed into the knuckle and then there’s a nut that goes on the other side of the control arm.

Yeah, I see that now on a YouTube vid. I’d suggest jacking the car back up and rocking the tire side-to-side and up and down. Given your picture, these will be excessive motion. Find out where that motion is coming from. Look to the strut-to knuckle connection, the ball joint itself and the ball joint-to-control arm connection and the tie rod itself as well.

Something is moving that shouldn’t.

I tried rocking the wheel and nothing seemed to happen. I’ll try it again when I get home from work to see if I can figure something out.

I’ve got it back up in the air. There’s a tiny bit (<.25") of play side-to-side (though that seems to maybe just been the bit of play in the tie rod/steering rack and the flex of the tire on the rim) with a fair bit of force, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to cause the issue I’m seeing. I don’t see anything obvious flexing or loose.

I don’t think it is related, but just in case it is, I wanted to point out that I did replace the passenger side outer tie rod end (not because it was bad, but I messed up the threads when removing it, so I replace it. I replaced both outers and inners a few months back), and the sway bar is disconnected (though it has been for months, I can’t get the old end links off of the sway bar).