A light, airy, effervescent, blog of grave consequence. (NOT!) Dedicated to those of us who must respond to negative stimuli by Chernobyling (entombing in concrete) our innermost thoughts.

Location: Slaughter, Louisiana, United States

A semi-gruntled corporate reliability engineer trying to make ends meet while keeping my wife happy, and myself out of the asylum.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Ford Update #2 - Complete

Well, Autozone only had one pitman arm puller available so I picked that up. (Free because of my cash back on the other parts.) As I expected I didn't have enough clearance to get the clamp in place and also the pulling stud. Lower frame cross member is in the way. After studying the problem for a few minutes, I decided to loosen the steering box bolts to see if that would allow me enough room to get the stud into the clamp. As oddly good luck would have it, it did.

So I torqued up the puller with my impact wrench. Nothing. I ended up using a two foot bar and bracing my feet on the cross member while pulling on the bar with both hands and the pitman arm finally popped loose. I hadn't realized it was a tapered spline as well.

Cleaned the spline up, lubed it and popped the new one in place.

Then I attached the center steering member to the pitman arm. Installed the new idler arm and attached it to the center member.

I then measured the old tie rod members and started disassembling them as well. I even counted the turns to remove the old ones so my new assemblies would be close.


After I got everything in it was pretty obvious that I was facing a severe toe-out condition. So, I centered the steering wheel and cranked them until the wheels looked close from the front and rear.

I will give Ford a little credit for using opposite threads on the tie rod ends so the toe is easy to adjust.

After about ten test drives and a bunch of tweaks, I finally have it set with the steering wheel centered and no pull in either direction excepting for the crown of the road. On top of that the steering is a bit lighter since that seized up idler arm ball joint is out of the system.

I did end up having to install some washers on one of the rod ends. The left inner rod end castle nut had to tighten up so much it was past the hole for the cotter pin. Rooted around in the junk drawer and found three washers to space it out and we're back in business.

I'll probably have it professionally aligned at some point, but it's certainly close enough for jazz.

Ford Update #1

So far it's coming apart pretty nicely. The tie rods are off and the four ball joints on them are all crunchy, but not overly sloppy. The boots are all trashed from the years so it will be good to replace them.

I did find one of the problems when I removed the idler arm. The secondary pitman arm on it rotates fine but the ball joint is completely seized up. That would probably explain why the steering was so stiff and felt like it didn't want to return to center.

Last thing to do is remove the pitman arm from the steering box. I actually had the 1-5/16" wrench I needed to remove the nut and lockwasher, but I don't have a puller that will fit in the poorly engineered space that Ford has left for me, so it's off the AutoZone to see what I can find.

Fun with the Ford

So since I've had the '97, I've had to replace a few of the OEM mechanical pieces because they were just worn out. At 205,000 miles now, even though I replaced the upper control arms and ball joints several months ago, the steering is getting heavy and inconsistent once again.

I checked it out a couple weeks ago and found that all of the ball joints in the steering assembly are getting loose. All of the boots are gone and there is a bit of play starting to creep in.

So, I started gathering parts. (One piece at a time so I could maximize my cash back at autozone.) Yesterday I picked up the final few parts and this morning I'm going to start replacing the left and right inner and outer tie rod ends, the pitman arm and the idler arm. (Which is a big thing on the passenger frame rail that acts like a secondary pitman arm to support the opposite side of the steering.

Hopefully this gets the steering back where it should be.