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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
My 2003 with 325,000 has started to slowly feel 'loose' - i.e., getting that race car 'floating' feeling. I've looked at everything on the suspension I can think of, and everything seems tight in front and back. Lower and upper control arms, various bushings, struts, shocks, inner and outer tie rods, ball joints, axles and sway bars all appear tight. Front axles, outer tie rods and rear sway bar links are new within the last 20k.

After I purchased it, I needed to service the power steering pump and replace the steel line - so I'm thinking that maybe after that many miles and almost 18 years the rack is starting to go? It's still relatively responsive though, so I'm somewhat struggling a bit with this one. I've played with tire pressure, and I have one tire with a slow leak (*weak bead seal) but the looseness doesn't seem to differ with tire pressure or moving tires.

I'll note that it's become more obvious the last few months. The only thing 'different' was that during the month of May I drove thru river floodwaters a few times. The water was 12-16" of moving water and definitely submersed the front suspension for a few minutes each trip. This is why I was inspecting and tugging on the front suspension - I was thinking I'd find a loose joint, or a boot with a small hole that let some water in, but found nothing obvious.

Any one else have other thoughts/suggestions? It's not overly bad but my 15yo is getting ready to start driving lessons, so other than the rack, I'd like to make sure I'm not overlooking anything obvious. Thanks
 

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Unfortunately I think you have hit the nail on the head. With a budding new driver loose is not good. At Rock Auto new rack & pinions are running between 2 & 4 hundred while remanufactured are running between 1 & 2 hundred.

If the 15yo is so inclined, now would be a excellent time to introduce them to the wonderful world of DIY auto repair.
 

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My 2003 with 325,000 has started to slowly feel 'loose' - i.e., getting that race car 'floating' feeling. I've looked at everything on the suspension I can think of, and everything seems tight in front and back. Lower and upper control arms, various bushings, struts, shocks, inner and outer tie rods, ball joints, axles and sway bars all appear tight. Front axles, outer tie rods and rear sway bar links are new within the last 20k.

After I purchased it, I needed to service the power steering pump and replace the steel line - so I'm thinking that maybe after that many miles and almost 18 years the rack is starting to go? It's still relatively responsive though, so I'm somewhat struggling a bit with this one. I've played with tire pressure, and I have one tire with a slow leak (*weak bead seal) but the looseness doesn't seem to differ with tire pressure or moving tires.

I'll note that it's become more obvious the last few months. The only thing 'different' was that during the month of May I drove thru river floodwaters a few times. The water was 12-16" of moving water and definitely submersed the front suspension for a few minutes each trip. This is why I was inspecting and tugging on the front suspension - I was thinking I'd find a loose joint, or a boot with a small hole that let some water in, but found nothing obvious.

Any one else have other thoughts/suggestions? It's not overly bad but my 15yo is getting ready to start driving lessons, so other than the rack, I'd like to make sure I'm not overlooking anything obvious. Thanks
Yes, I'd be looking at the steering rack. Is there any play in the steering wheel, as in, does it rotate left and right any without the tires moving?
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks DG and NG. There's no excessive play at rest and no shudder around corners, etc. But now that I remember back ~6months, I would occasionally feel tightness/jumping when leaving my campus parking lot at night - I thought it was due to the VTM activating with the slightly uneven surface, but maybe it was uneven pressures in the rack. I'll grab the teenager and have him yank on the wheel while I inspect the rack from underneath. Thanks for confirming my thoughts.
 

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Thanks DG and NG. There's no excessive play at rest and no shudder around corners, etc. But now that I remember back ~6months, I would occasionally feel tightness/jumping when leaving my campus parking lot at night - I thought it was due to the VTM activating with the slightly uneven surface, but maybe it was uneven pressures in the rack. I'll grab the teenager and have him yank on the wheel while I inspect the rack from underneath. Thanks for confirming my thoughts.
The only other things that I can think of is sway bar bushings and the linkage, tie rod ends, tires or under inflated tires. (Just for the record, I'm sure you know these things.)
 

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Absolutely make sure the rear subframe is still firmly attached first.

If "loose" means small "dead zones" in the steering range vs. going where you point it, steering rack and linkages are prime suspects, but worn ball joints will do that, too.

If "loose" means it feels sloppy even in a straight line, and floats over slight ramps or dips, then shocks / struts / lower control arms / ball joints. For me "feels tight" wasn't a good indicator on the front suspension parts. The old "push down one corner and see how it rebounds" didn't tell me anything useful about my struts.

Someone posted here long ago that if you had 125k on a pair of struts, you've gotten your money's worth. I can't find that quote to share, but I think it's dead on. LCA's might be good for more, but I changed mine at 135k and was glad I spent the money.

The good thing about doing the suspension first is that even if the steering is gone, too, it will still make a big difference.
 

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While you're under there, slide over to the back and inspect the rear subframe mount, since you're in the Rust Belt.

Hopefully, that's probably not the source of your looseness, but even on the off chance it is, you don't want your young'uns driving it in that condition.
Good point but wouldn't shaking in the rear be more distinct from your rack?
 

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Good point but wouldn't shaking in the rear be more distinct from your rack?
I was thinking that front / rear tracking could be inconsistent before an impending failure, so depending on the specific symptoms of "loose", maybe? One of the threads referenced is probably the one where the owner didn't notice until the rear settled. I would expect subtle symptoms before the thing let go entirely, but I'm just guessing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Subframe has rust but is still solid, I check it on a regular basis. The previous owner changes shocks and struts but I'll need to review records for when. Ball joints are tight, tie rods don't have any play and sway bar links are solid (rear are new).

And Michigan has a 3-part driver's ed program, and due to Covid he hasn't started/finished Part 1 yet. At the current rate, and the fact his school just decided to go virtual until at least October, he'll be driving on his permit under my supervision for at least the 12-15 months.
 

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Subframe has rust but is still solid, I check it on a regular basis. The previous owner changes shocks and struts but I'll need to review records for when. Ball joints are tight, tie rods don't have any play and sway bar links are solid (rear are new).

And Michigan has a 3-part driver's ed program, and due to Covid he hasn't started/finished Part 1 yet. At the current rate, and the fact his school just decided to go virtual until at least October, he'll be driving on his permit under my supervision for at least the 12-15 months.
Oh man, that sucks like big time. I will never live this down. Driving with my parents in the car. Oh man..... Okay, but you have to duck down in the seat so no one sees you.

Been there, done that, use the t-shirt as a shop rag.
138917
 

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Been there, done that, the t-shirt still has the perspiration stains. :eek:
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
My wife and I have already been through this with my oldest. My daughter turns 20 at the end of this month, and she's relatively a very safe driver - probably because my wife did most of the training/practice hours - but the kid drives just like I did as a teenager. She has a non-turbo Subaru Forester and is still affectionately referred to as 'Cassy Andretti'. :D
 
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