atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#284: Adventures with a Modern Jalopy

This series used to be called Adventures in Escort Repair but I forgot where I was and I'm too lazy to look up the number of the last entry. It is the true-and-real tale of a man trying to eke out an existence with a $400 car.

"Jalopy" has a nice ring to it, anyway.

The red 1995 Escort LX that I bought in June for $400 has a new issue that needs attention--and I learned this after I had taken three 100-mile trips in the car.

The right front tie-rod end needs replacing.

In the Escort, the right front wheel is on the "thrust" side of the differential. This means that when that tire begins to spin, the car stops accelerating. Most front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars have open differentials, meaning that there is no mechanism distributing the power equally to both driving wheels in the event of poor traction.

Most of the time that's not an issue. On dry pavement, an open differential supplies power to both wheels, more or less equally. There is some bias, but not a significant amount.

Still, it's enough. In my green 1995 Escort, I had to replace the right-side tie rod end after about 80,000 miles. On this car, it has already been replaced once, and now needs it again. How do I know this?

Last week I noticed that--on dry, level pavement, with the wheel held straight--stepping on the gas yielded a definite pull to the left, and subsequently letting off the gas yielded an equal pull to the right.

I put the car up on jack stands and checked out the right-front wheel for play. Sure enough, grabbing it at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions and giving it a wiggle revealed significant play. 12 and 6 o'clock, nothing.

Thank God, it's just a tie rod end and not a ball joint, thought I.

And the left side, of course, is just fine.

Replacing a tie rod end is really pretty simple. You remove a cotter pin, unscrew a castle nut, hit the castle nut with a hammer before you take it all the way off, to pop the rod end loose from the steering knuckle. Then you loosen the jam nut half a turn or so and unscrew the old rod end. Screw a new one on, tighten the jam nut, put the end into the knuckle, etc, etc, use a new cotter pin to secure the castle nut. Grease the new end.

Take the car to a shop and have it aligned.

This is all fine. The problem is, I haven't fixed the rear springs yet.

The Escort (particularly, it seems, the 1995 model year) has a serious problem with rear springs; the factory springs break. They only lose about one coil, but it still prevents proper alignment. This car is no exception, and I have little doubt that the rear end is one of the reasons I got this car for $400. (Well, that, and the fact that it needed a week's worth of work before it could be safely driven. And the oil burning, of course.)

My green car had that issue arise, and I fixed it; well, when I scrapped the green car I took the low-mile rear strut and spring assemblies off of it. They're sitting on the garage floor. All I have to do is remove five bolts on each side...put it together with the good assemblies...and then take the car for an alignment.

See the pattern here?

So, sometime this week I'm going to be doing some suspension work on the jalopy.

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