Ford Mustang Suspension Issues Explained(5 Tips)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the suspension issues that occur in the Ford Mustang, what causes these failures and some troubleshooting tips.

The Top 4 Most Common problems with the Ford Mustang Suspension are:

  • Damaged Tie-rod ball joints
  • Lower Control Arm Bush failure
  • Rear Control Arm Bush failure

Ford Mustang Suspension

Front Suspension

The ’79-’04 (Fox body) Model year Mustangs featured a modified MacPherson strut front suspension, lower A-arms, and coil springs mounted between the A-arms and the K-member (Ford’s terminology for Subframe) which is bolted onto the monocoque Chassis. The system is supplemented by an Anti roll bar (ARB). The front lower A-arms use rubber bushings to attach to the Chassis.

Rear Suspension

The ’79-’04 Fox-body and SN-95-chassis Mustangs share the same rear-suspension setup. Rear Suspension consists of a live axle and four rear trailing arms (mounted between the rear housing and the unibody) along with rear coil springs (mounted between the lower arms and the unibody). 

There are two rear shocks and an ARB (this differs from IRS-equipped Cobras). The rear trailing arms (also called control arms) are die- formed from steel.

Front Tie Rod Ball Joint Failure

Symptoms:

  • Front Tire uneven Wear pattern
  • Steering shake at high speeds
  • Poor handling; Steering feels vague and is hard to control
  • Front wheels seem to wander when going into a ditch or when lane-changing 
  • A clunk noise when changing direction in the steering
  • As seen in ‘07 Mustang GT

Troubleshooting Front Tie Rod Ball Joint Failure

  • Front Tire uneven wear is due to one of the ball-joints of the front suspension
  • If the steering feels like it has a lot of play, then it is most probably the Tie-rod ball joint that is causing it.
  • You can easily check for Ball-joint condition by this simple procedure:
    • Get the car on a Ramp
    • Lock the steering wheel
    • Hold the front tire with both your hands at a 9 o’clock, 3 o’clock position and try to steer the wheel
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in the Tie-rod Ball-joint
  • The Tie-rod ball-joint is threaded onto the Toe-rod. The Ball-joint end of the Tie-rod can be replaced separately.

Pro-Tip:

  • Make sure to maintain the same thread position of the old tie-rod end by not backing up the lock nut too much
  • Any change in the thread adjustment position with alter the wheel toe setting and lead to Tire wear issues

Troubleshooting Damaged Tie-rod ball joint

  • A clear initial sign of Tie rod damage is a ruptured Tie Rod rubber boot
  • One easy way to tell of the tie rod ball joint is gone is to try to move the wheel with both hands while the vehicle is on a ramp
  • One more way to do it is to slowly rock the steering wheel back and forth and listen for a clunk noise. Keep the engine off so that you can pick up the noise clearly.

Front Lower Control Arm Failure

Symptoms:

  • Usually seen in 2005-2009 Mustangs
  • Poor Handling
  • Steering seems vague while Lane Changing
  • Uneven Tire Wear pattern
  • Knocking Noises while going over Rough Patches
  • Steering Vibration at high speeds

Root Cause:

  • Due to a Tire wear issue, it can be inferred that the alignment of the front suspension is outside of the recommended settings. But this is still a symptom.
  • The cause for the change in alignment is closely related to the Lower control arm Bushings and Ball-joints that may have got worn or damaged
  • With worn out bushings and ball-joints, when the tires experience lateral contact forces from the road, the play caused by worn out bushes/ball-joints allows the suspension to move out of its alignment and cause premature tire wear.
  • Due to the worn out bushings and ball-joints, the Lower control arm is now having play at the bushing and ball-joint locations and therefore the lower arm is not anchored to the subframe properly. The ball-joint play also leads to wheel wobble. Poor handling of the car is due to these factors

Troubleshooting Front Lower Control Arm Failure: Lower Control Arm Bushing

  • Lower Control Arm bushing wears out over time and cracks due to age
  • To assess the bushing condition, you can use a Pry-bar and insert it between the Lower control arm and the Subframe. Now, try to move the Lower Control arm using the Pry-bar and observe the movement at the Bush location. If the lower control arm moves without much force, then it means that the bushes have worn out.
  • When inspecting the Lower control arm after removal, it is clear that there are tears and cracks in the rubber portion.

Troubleshooting Front Lower Control Arm Failure: Lower Control Arm Ball-Joint

  • The lower control arm ball-joints are also subject to wear and tear.
  • The deterioration is usually initiated as a crack or rupture in the rubber boot around the ball-joint
  • This leads to loss of lubrication and finally to complete wear out
  • The wear out causes play or movement accompanied by knocking noise. The play in the ball-joint is one of the reasons for the vehicle steering feeling value
  • You can easily check for Ball-joint condition by this simple procedure:
    • Get the car on a Ramp
    • Lock the steering wheel
    • Hold the front tire with both your hands and try to steer the wheel
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in the Ball-joint
  • The best course of action would be to replace the whole Lower control arm since it comes with 2 new bushings and 1 new ball-joint all pre-assembled

Pro-Tip

  • For Rusted Bolt connections that are hard to Break-open, do not try repeatedly using hand or pneumatic tools.
  • Always first soak it for 10-15 min after spraying a good Rust-penetrant

Rear Lower Control Arm Bush Failure

Symptom:

  • Rear Tire uneven wear; Cupping
  • Handling is poor; Rear end does not respond well to lane changes
  • Excessive Rear end roll at high speed
  • Knocking noises while driving over normal roads
  • Explained as seen on the generation (upto 2004)

Troubleshooting Rear Control Arm Bushings

  • The ‘Camber’ setting of the rear Wheels is influenced by the Lower Control Arm bushings.
  • If the Control arm bushings have worn out, the rear wheels go out of alignment, resulting in Uneven Tire wear
  • The rear Upper Control Arm bushings also resist lateral movement of the Tires.
  • The rear lower control Arm bushings resist roll motion during cornering
  • Failed bushings would allow excessive lateral movement of the tires, and excessive rear-end body roll and therefore, adversely affect handling of the vehicle.
  • It would be best to replace the both the Lower Control arms as well as the Upper control arms at a time
  • In general, all Control Arm bushings wear out over time and cracks due to age
  • For inspecting a Control arm bushing, use a Pry bar and try to lift or move the control arm at each bushing location and watch how it moves. If the movement is loose then it means that the control arm has failed
  • Also, when inspecting the Lower control arm after removal, tears and cracks in the rubber portion confirm that the bushings have failed
  • Tire wear and handling issues are caused due to this misalignment resulting from control arm bushing failure
  • The Noise issue is caused by the Lower control arm moving excessively and impacting the subframe bracket

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the suspension issues that occur in the Ford Mustang, what causes these failures and some troubleshooting tips.

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