TCCoA Forums banner
1 - 20 of 46 Posts

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys! Well I'm now the proud owner of a 97 Thunderbird LX 4.6! My buddy was awesome and gave it to me after he let it sit for 5 years because well...he's a car guy and had too many cars and projects and I needed a ride.The car only has 72k, some bits of rust here and there but fixable. So I went and dropped $800 on tuneup parts. Air filter, plugs, wires, fuel filter, oil and oil filter, wipers, coolant, and the list goes on to brakes, calipers and rotors. Well I would post pictures but Underbird is in the shop. I had her for a week and blew the front right brakeline in front of the wheel well and she's creaking and cracking on every turn so I'm guessing bushings or maybe bad ball joint. This car is my daily now and I dont have time to do all the work that needs to be done. So yeah I took her to the shop. I am relatively new to working on cars so this is my learning. This forum comes up every question I google and I love it. My buddy is a mechanic and I've been driving him nuts with questions so I've chosen to come here and talk with you fine people. Seeing and hearing about your projects have made me even more excited to start to build this bird up. Funds and time are limited but we will get there.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
398 Posts
Congratulations on the new car!

I'm fairly new to these cars myself; however, I can tell you that the consensus on this site is to err on the side of caution when it comes to ball joints, because a failure could be fatal.

In our case, the bottom ball joint is of the load-bearing type.

I bought my '97 in March. The car had 39,000 miles at the time. The steering was very heavy and made loud binding/rubbing noises when steering at a standstill. Replacing upper and lower ball joints (and control arms) fixed that issue entirely.
Done by a shop, this service isn't cheap. But better be safe than sorry.

Apart from that, I've done most of the usual (tune-up) suspects myself as time and budget permitted, including spark plugs and wires, oil/filter, fuel filter, etc. Those services produced minimal or incremental improvements in drivability at best; however, one service produced a dramatic improvement: replacing the transmission fluid.
I didn't have the means to get under the car, so I used the two-men method flush: one person monitoring old fluid coming out of the cooler line while the other refills fresh fluid through the dipstick tube. I have a thread about that here. At the time, Walmart sold Mercon V for $4.50/quart. The transmission became much smoother and quieter after the fluid change; torque converter shudder (previously present during light uphill acceleration) was eliminated entirely.

Oh yeah, post pics!
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited by Moderator)
Congratulations on the new car!

I'm fairly new to these cars myself; however, I can tell you that the consensus on this site is to err on the side of caution when it comes to ball joints, because a failure could be fatal.

In our case, the bottom ball joint is of the load-bearing type.

I bought my '97 in March. The car had 39,000 miles at the time. The steering was very heavy and made loud binding/rubbing noises when steering at a standstill. Replacing upper and lower ball joints (and control arms) fixed that issue entirely.
Done by a shop, this service isn't cheap. But better be safe than sorry.

Apart from that, I've done most of the usual (tune-up) suspects myself as time and budget permitted, including spark plugs and wires, oil/filter, fuel filter, etc. Those services produced minimal or incremental improvements in drivability at best; however, one service produced a dramatic improvement: replacing the transmission fluid.
I didn't have the means to get under the car, so I used the two-men method flush: one person monitoring old fluid coming out of the cooler line while the other refills fresh fluid through the dipstick tube. I have a thread about that here. At the time, Walmart sold Mercon V for $4.50/quart. The transmission became much smoother and quieter after the fluid change; torque converter shudder (previously present during light uphill acceleration) was eliminated entirely.

Oh yeah, post pics!
Hey thanks man!

Yeah I'm forsure changing the upper and lower control arms. I was actually just looking at different places and prices because I might just get brave and do it myself! Right now the shop is just diagnosing it and giving me a quote. Yup I have the transmission fluid and filter in the trunk waiting to get done. Wow I thought I was doing good with 72k on my ride! Thats amazing! Thx for the welcome and info! Very much appreciated!

Oh and I will forure put up some pics when I get her back.
 

·
Super Moderator
97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
Joined
·
11,400 Posts
Depending on your location (you mentioned rust) it may be quite a pain to get the lower shock mount out of the LCA when it comes time to replace it - the bolt is thicker at both ends than it is through the sleeve and if it rusted in, it's virtually impossible to get out. In the past I've replaced both the shock/spring and LCA all at once to avoid touching that bolt, and planned ahead by ordering new hardware with the other suspension parts.

Overall I'd say suspension work is not difficult to do but you will need 1/2" sockets and breaker bars; having a good impact will help tremendously. Especially for a beginner, don't do more than one side at a time and be sure you've got a way to get to a parts place if you run into trouble while the car is in pieces. Aside from the shock to LCA bolt I mentioned before, the LCA to spindle bolt is the one that gives most folks difficulty; do a couple searches and you'll see the common pitfalls and how people got around them.

Take pictures of the LCA-K member bolt/cam positions before you loosen anything up so you can get the alignment close when you tighten everything up. You'll need to get a proper alignment after you do LCAs anyway, but having it close helps make sure you can make it to the shop safely. :)
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Depending on your location (you mentioned rust) it may be quite a pain to get the lower shock mount out of the LCA when it comes time to replace it - the bolt is thicker at both ends than it is through the sleeve and if it rusted in, it's virtually impossible to get out. In the past I've replaced both the shock/spring and LCA all at once to avoid touching that bolt, and planned ahead by ordering new hardware with the other suspension parts.

Overall I'd say suspension work is not difficult to do but you will need 1/2" sockets and breaker bars; having a good impact will help tremendously. Especially for a beginner, don't do more than one side at a time and be sure you've got a way to get to a parts place if you run into trouble while the car is in pieces. Aside from the shock to LCA bolt I mentioned before, the LCA to spindle bolt is the one that gives most folks difficulty; do a couple searches and you'll see the common pitfalls and how people got around them.
Thanks man!

Yeah I live in Wisconsin where they like to use alot of salt! Thx for the heads up. I'll forsure look into that. I was thinking of doing a suspension upgrade anyway although funds are extremely tight. So for now rockauto will just have to do. Thanks again!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,655 Posts
Welcome!

I second the need for power tools to do the suspension work.

Al
 
  • Like
Reactions: GreenT

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
If you can't afford air tools it can be done with hand tools it is just a lot of work. I had to do one side when my ball joint let go in my apartment's parking lot.
Yeah I definitely can't afford an air tool setup. I suppose it's worth a try with hand tools. I start my new job next week so will be able to start building up my tool supply. Fingers crossed I'll only need em to do what I WANT on the car and not what I need.
 

·
SuperNewbie
1995 Thunderbird LX Missing 4.6 MIssing Trans Red
Joined
·
4,059 Posts
Go to Harbor Freight and buy a 1/2" Earthquake rechargable impact wrench for $279. That will handle anything you need to do. No Air. I have one I've used 6-7 days a week for 3 years. Looks like it's been through hell. It'll undo anything.
 
  • Like
Reactions: GreenT

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Go to Harbor Freight and buy a 1/2" Earthquake rechargable impact wrench for $279. That will handle anything you need to do. No Air. I have one I've used 6-7 days a week for 3 years. Looks like it's been through hell. It'll undo anything.
Lol first paycheck I'm on it. We just got a harbor freight not long ago so maybe they'll have some deals. Thx for that. I've heard alot of people bash harbor freight tools but I'll take your word on it.

I guess I'm just nervous about getting in too deep and then not knowing what I need to do to fix it. I just moved to the area and am away from anyone I know that has mechanical knowledge so if I screw something up I'm toast.
 

·
SuperNewbie
1995 Thunderbird LX Missing 4.6 MIssing Trans Red
Joined
·
4,059 Posts
Lol first paycheck I'm on it. We just got a harbor freight not long ago so maybe they'll have some deals. Thx for that. I've heard alot of people bash harbor freight tools but I'll take your word on it.
I get all that. But fyi I run/own my own auto repair service for 15 years. If you have to do any of that work yourself. That Harbor Freight Impact is good enough. Millwakee has arguably the best rechargable impact on the market. But do you need to spend that money? Probably not. And for what it is worth long after you've finished doing suspension work, keep the impact close by for tires changes and small things and your friends will think you are an automotive magician. Worthwhile investment.
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Well the results are in. I need both upper and lower control arms replaced! Kinda figured! They are finishing the brakeline job. They said it was so rusted that they have to run bulk line from the passenger wheel well all the way over. That's a $400 price tag I'm kicking myself for not tackling on my own. But looks like I'm about to get some experience in control arms. Any tips, tricks? Or general advice would be much appreciated. I am also changing the front struts as terminator93 mentioned just to make things easier. Again any and all advice would be very helpful including tools needed since my buddy is driving 2 hours and bringing his tools to help me with this job. Thank you guys!
 

·
Super Moderator
97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
Joined
·
11,400 Posts
Remember to get a new lower shock to LCA mounting bolt and nut for each side.

Use anti-seize on the suspension bolts so you can get them out again free of rust later, if needed.

Use an 18mm ratcheting wrench for the UCAs - makes dealing with the bolts at the back of the shock towers doable instead of rant-worthy.

You will need a pickle fork/ball joint separator and a big hammer to get the LCA ball joint out of the spindle. You may or may not need it to get the UCA ball joint out of the spindle as well.

Torque all bolts to spec with the suspension loaded. Put a jack under the lower ball joint and lift it until the car comes off the jack stand to get it close.

The nut for the new LCA ball joint will most likley be crushed slightly to act as an anti-backoff measure; it makes tightening it on the ball joint tricky because the ball joint will just want to spin. A trick I use is putting the open end of a couple wrenches under the nut to force the spindle to push down on the taper of the ball joint as I'm just starting to thread the crush nut. After it goes a thread or two the ball joint is jammed into the spindle enough for you to finish tightening the nut all the way without the ball joint spinning.

9 times out of 10 if the upper and lower ball joints are bad your sway bar endlinks are also shot. These aren't critical to handling but they do make a disastrous racket while you're driving. Replacing them is easy and they are cheap - usually about $15 a side. Do them now just to get them out of the way.
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Hey thanks man. I'm going replacing the whole control arms on both upper and lower. I'm guessing the bushings and everything are shot and the car has been sitting for 5 years so just doing the whole thing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,655 Posts
Make marks for the alignment before removing everything. You can get it pretty close, so you're not driving around before the alignment with it all out of whack.

Al
 
  • Like
Reactions: GreenT

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hey thx. Gonna forsure mark and take plenty of pictures beforhand just to try and get this done. Just ordered the moog control arms from Rockauto.com and today gonna be ordering the shocks. Wish me luck lol
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·





There are some pics of the ol gal. There is some rust building on the driver's side rocker and fender as well as passenger side rocker. Nothing not fixable and the front and back bumper each has a crack that I plan on fixing...one day. This is how she looks today. Maybe someday I'll be able to have some pics of her all built up like some of the birds I've seen on here. It's gonna be a slow process though.
 

·
Registered
1997 Ford Thunderbird LX
Joined
·
69 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Okay guys please bare with me for dumb questions and remember this is the noob section lol. So taking theterminator93's advice I'm going to get new sway bar endlinks to replace the old. While online I see they don't have postings for left ot right side individually. Does this mean they are not side specific or am I missing something here?
 

·
Super Moderator
97 Thunderbird 4.6, 98 Mark VIII LSC
Joined
·
11,400 Posts
They're the same on both sides.
 
1 - 20 of 46 Posts
Top