How to Tighten the Steering on a Ford Crown Vicby Chris Weis
Nevermind sharks, spiders or nightmare men with knives for fingers: Few things chill the blood more, engender quite the degree of terror, or trigger such an involuntary drop in blood pressure as the sight of Crown Vic headlights in the rear-view mirror. The legendary Crown Victoria, last champion of the full-framed, V-8 sedan, may have slipped from Ford show-rooms in 2007, but even then they had all but come to rule the fleet vehicle market. Yes, "fleet vehicles" -- as in cop cars and New York City taxi cabs. These customers continued buying the old warhorse in droves until the platform was discontinued in the 2012 model year. With so many now coming up for sale in fleet auctions, it's inevitable that a few are going to need some front-end work after all those years of service.
Front Suspension Checks
Inspect the car tires for abnormal wear or visible defects. Extreme uneven wear of front tire tread may indicate suspension component failure. Replace worn or defective tires because they will adversely affect handling characteristics. Check the size of all four tires. All should be the exact same size as specified by the manufacturer. Tires should be the same brand, since slight variations in dimension can exist between brands having the same size. Set tire pressure to specification for your Crown Vic model year.
Test the shock absorbers by pushing down repeatedly on the front bumper. Stop pushing and monitor the reaction of the car body. Continued bouncing after you stop pushing indicates weak shocks which should be replaced by a qualified professional. Perform this test on the rear shocks as well. Rear shock performance will affect steering on bumpy or uneven road surfaces. Drive the car slowly over a speed bump to test the shocks should you lack ability to bounce the car by hand. More than one bounce after a bump also signifies poor shock performance and indicates need for replacement.
Raise the front of the car with a jack until the front wheels are three inches off the ground, and support it on a pair of jack stands. Place them under the frame rails, near the bends, just behind the tires. Check wheel bearing run-out on the front tires one at a time. Grasp the tire with your hands at the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions. Push with one hand while pulling with the other, alternating action in attempt to "wiggle" the tire. Acceptable limits in this plane are less than .010-inch and barely detectable. Easily detected movement requires wheel bearing service or replacement by a qualified professional.
Unlock the steering wheel by turning the ignition key to the run position without cranking the starter. Check steering components by grasping the passenger side front tire at the 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock positions and attempt to steer the tires back and forth. The tire movement should be uniform and smooth. Looseness here typically indicates a failure in the steering end links or damage to the steering system, though sway-bar end-links and deeper damage is always a possibility. Both tires should always move at the same time; if they don't, there's definitely a problem with the lateral links.
Remaining looseness at the steering wheel may be eliminated by steering gear sector shaft adjustment on Crown Vic models so equipped. Rack-and-pinion equipped models require replacement of the steering rack if looseness persists. Front-end alignment can also tighten steering response by calibrating tire movement and angle. Any of these services should be done by a qualified professional as incorrect procedure could result in loss of vehicle control and subsequent personal injury and property damage.
Items you will need
- Tire pressure gauge
- Floor jack
- 2 jack stands
- "Automotive Suspensions-Steering Alignment and Brakes";Walter Billiet,Ed.D.;Walter Alley,M.S.;1976
- Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images