"sloppy" Steering

Discussion in '1996 - 2004 SN95 Mustang -General/Talk-' started by snowman23, Apr 5, 2014.


  1. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Hi all,

    I have been researching steering and handling mods for my car since it feels loose or "sloppy" compared to the other cars I drive. I am well aware that it is a heavy car with a solid rear axle and that has a lot to do with it. I am not looking to change the shocks/struts and springs at this time and DO NOT want to lower it. I am not looking to win any handling contests as the car is a cruiser/DD.
    I basically just want a more responsive feel when I turn the wheel. I am planning on putting the car back on the road from its winter hiatus in about 2 weeks and getting it all balanced and aligned for starters.

    The questions I have are
    1- will changing the steering rack bushings to aluminum rather than the stock rubber have an effect like what I am shooting for on an otherwise stock car?

    2- will there be a noticeable change that I would be able to feel with subframe connectors and/or aftermarket sway bars with stock everything else?

    As I said, changing suspension components right now is not an option and it's really not so much the handling as the loose feel that is bothering me.

    Thanks
    #1
  2. reldla1996

    reldla1996 Member

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    Subframe connectors will make a very noticeable improvement, eliminating a lot of flex in these cars. Sway bars can make the car handle flatter, but will not eliminate any looseness. "Sloppy" is a relative term, but it makes me wonder if you have a suspension issue that needs repairs, perhaps a bad control arm bushing or the like.
    #2
  3. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I am strongly leaning to subframe connectors at the least (and maybe upgrading the swaybars, I have read that really only the rear one will make a noticeable difference on otherwise stock suspension).

    I was actually thinking the same thing on maybe having something in there worn. I plan to have my mechanic check the suspension, bushings, etc when it goes in for its spring oil change. Because I do not drive it year round, I cannot really remember if this is how it always was and being we were DDing two SUVs- it never "felt" like an issue, but now that my DD is a 2009 Lincoln SUV and my wife's DD is a 2010 Acura TSX, so in comparison, it makes a 10 year old car like the mustang feel like there is an issue.
    #3
  4. reldla1996

    reldla1996 Member

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    I'm a big fan of subframe systems, I have the Kenny Brown Extreme Matrix on my 89, the Stifflers FIT on my 04, and the Global West system on my 67 Cougar. They really tie the front and rear subframes together, and then tie them to the rocker panel pinch weld, eliminating most of the flex. Stifflers takes it one step further than the other two with their spider brace, connecting the subframes to the transmission mount to the K member. I've done front and rear sway bars on my 89, but not on my 04. Personally to improve handling and remove sloppiness, I replace front control arm bushings (easier to replace the arms with new bushings) and install caster camber plates before I did sway bars.
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  5. Mattstang04

    Mattstang04 Active Member

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    Subframe connectors are the best. They even help control creeking dash boards. You can get urethane rack bushings from UPR or Energy and it will be less severe/more forgiving than the aluminum. Check the front end for slop in the ball joints and tie rods. If found replace those first. Rear lower control arms with spherical bushings will cinch up the back end a little bit.
    #5
  6. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I have had good experiences with subframe connectors on previous cars so that is definitely one of the first things I plan on trying. Before anything else however, I will have it inspected for worn parts or bushings in the suspension and steering and have it aligned. Once all that is confirmed, poly bushings would be an easy and cheap enough thing to try out.
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  7. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Thanks for the reply. Would you say the Stifflers is worth the extra cost over a traditional full length connector? If this is strictly a street cruiser, would the Stifflers be overkill? I don't want to stiffen it so much it becomes uncomfortable on the roads here....they stink!
    #7
  8. reldla1996

    reldla1996 Member

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    In my mind, yes, but I love taking corners more than anything. A stiffer frame allows you to achieve better handling, and with softer springs than otherwise would be required. Bracing does not make the car ride stiffer - stiffer springs, struts and shocks do (and shorter stiffer tires). On my 89, I remember adding just the (cheapo) K member brace, and noting the handling improvement on the streets. Strut tower brace, same thing. You'll get most of the improvement from just the subframe connectors, but you'll note improvement from every brace you add.
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  9. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Once I get all of the existing hardware checked and the car aligned, I will move on from there. On past vehicles, SFC and strut tower braces have made noticeable improvements in the feel of the car- a more solid feeling- which at least in part is what I am describing as sloppy. I will wait until it is all checked and then probably do the SFC first. The strut tower brace is a part that at one point I was all set to order and then read numerous posts stating that it was such a pain to install that the gain, if any, did not make it worth it. As I said, in my own past experiences on three different cars, one a Mustang, I did feel a much more solid feel to the front end when driving, so I may revisit that option too. At least any and all of these things do not seem to have a huge price tag for the parts or the install of them if I cannot do it myself. Thanks again.
    #9
  10. flstang65

    flstang65 Well-Known Member

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    solid steering shaft
    #10
  11. samcudney

    samcudney New Member

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    not to question the wisdom of installing superior suspension parts, always a good idea, but can we assume the alignment is on the money? I come from the Miata world, (which is full of pompous know-it-alls, I don't wanna be one of them) and they are incredibly sensitive to alignment. The cars, I mean. I have never managed to align a know-it-all. So, I discover, is my '01 'stang. A lousy ⅛" change in toe makes a huge difference in going-the-direction-I-want-to. Another ⅛" was too much. Talk about sensitive (said with slight lisp)....
    #11
  12. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Honestly, no. I am not sure on the alignment due to the fact that it wasn't done last summer and the time before was a shop that circumstances forced me to use but I was not thrilled with. So it is very possible that can be a major contributing factor! After my regular mechanic, the alignment shop I know use and trust is stop number two on the list....I am being very hopeful these two stops will be enough to get me pointed in the right direction (literally and figuratively). I definitely do not just want to start changing or adding things until I have a better idea of what I am exactly dealing with.
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  13. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    I started making appointments for next week to get spring maintenance done, look into the steering (which I really am hoping at this point is simple!) and to hopefully start on SFCs installed. I have read enough to know that if I am going to do it, full length is the way to go and probably going to go with Maximum Motorsports, Stifflers or very likely Steeda (since I have nothing but good to say about my experience with their products).
    Is there any drawback to running these on a car that is strictly a street cruiser / DD?
    #13
  14. samcudney

    samcudney New Member

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    you know, unless you have caster/camber plates, the only adjustment available to you is toe, which has a tremendous effect on steering. Caster/camber, not so much anyway unless they're way out of whack.

    Toe is easy to set yourself with a couple of boards and a carpenter's square. Here's one example --->

    http://forums.corral.net/forums/handling/931155-how-do-your-own-alignments-low-cost-effective.html

    There are endless tables and charts on the 'net, but I found somewhere around ⅛" toe in as measured at the wheel, not the tire, was about right for me. It started out with slight toe-out, which is a disaster for handling; wouldn't go where it was pointed, no way no how. Supposedly, this was a professional alignment by the PO, I even have the receipt. At about ¼" toe in it got real stable; too much so. More than that had no effect.

    This might be a good thing to check, even if you're going to get a professional alignment (hopefully, better than the one I apparently inherited), and you might save big bucks. At least you'll know more.
    #14
  15. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I did know that there was little adjustability with the stock plates. That link you posted is definitely helpful. The shop I now use is definitely better than the last place to align the car so I am hopeful that they will have an answer or at least a starting point.
    #15
  16. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    I just wanted to once again thank everyone for the replies. I had my mechanic check all of the suggested items and there were no issues with anything except a little play in the steering box. The alignment shop made a slight adjustment to this but said going too tight would give steering issues too. They then did the alignment. The shop drilled out the factory "stoppers" on the top of the strut towers allowing for more adjustment. This was something they said they often have to do with Mustangs (and other cars) that do not have a great deal of factory adjustability with the caster and camber. They did this and aligned it to spec. I am beyond happy to report that it worked! My car has never felt this good since I have owned it. It goes in the direction I turn and stays there without me fighting the wheel or feeling like I was not controlling it, the steering wheel returns correctly to the position it should, and it stays straight when it is supposed to. I can honestly say that I had the biggest smile on my face driving back from the shop (on the longest route possible) and that it truly feels like a new car. I plan to simply drive it and enjoy it before moving on with anymore part changes or additions (like the SFC mentioned above). Thanks again.
    #16
  17. samcudney

    samcudney New Member

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    Good deal! Cheap fix. I had much the same feeling after getting the toe set right. Your Caster/Camber must have been way out of whack. I'd be curious to know the before/after numbers.
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  18. snowman23

    snowman23 Member

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    I don't have the numbers but I can tell the night and day difference. You can actually see the front wheels sitting straighter than they were. When I had last had it aligned at a different shop, I remember the tech saying that they could only do so much to adjust it and that it was the best it would be. After this shop's "trick" it is truly unbelievable to me how much better the car feels. The "sloppy" feeling I was trying to describe and remedy is all gone. :) I am very happy with this cheap fix and that I did not have to start throwing parts at it to get it to remedied.
    #18
  19. samcudney

    samcudney New Member

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    good! sounds like maybe way too much negative camber, then, as well as toe being off. Some yahoos do this on purpose thinking it somehow looks good on their Civic, complements the fartcan muffler nicely, but if they had to re-drill for your upper mounts, it could just be tolerance stacking or the result of collision damage. Anyway, good for you--simple, cheap fix. I suspect most of us, and certainly me, won't drive hard enough to appreciate additional bracing, but it's always an option. Personally, I'd brace the strut towers before subframe bracing. On New Edge the windshield supplies part of the body's torsional rigidity but isn't well connected to the front suspension, tying the strut towers to the firewall and each other would help there a whole lot as well as being potential eye candy. You might think about that.
    #19

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