How to Improve a Classic Ford’s Handling

Replacing old steering components may be one of the quickest ways to improve the vehicle’s handling. Fixing it is a breeze.

How to Improve a Classic Ford’s Handling

Begin by disconnecting the steering from my comet. Remove the tie rods, center link, and idler arm, but do not remove the pitman arm from the steering box. Surprisingly, 50-year-old cotter pins are difficult to remove. You may need to use a punch, hammer, and drill to remove all of the cotter pins, the last remaining step is to remove the castle nuts. Use an electric impact for this. Work smarter, not harder, as the adage goes. This swiftly removed the remaining castle nuts that were securing the components to the vehicle/spindle. After removing everything, measure the center-to-center distance of the center link and right and left tie rod assemblies, which would be crucial later.

After giving the pitman arm a good cleaning, masking, and painting it, as well as the replacement idler arm (unique to the 6-cylinder mustang falcon and comets), Fit the idler arm into the vehicle once it had dried. Since vendors do not offer a straight replacement for the center link and a new reproduction costs more than $125, You can essentially manufacture your own. One little trick will only work on pre-1965 Mustang and Falcon/Comet 6-cylinder models. Begin by purchasing an additional inner tie rod end and outer tie rod end. Then obtain a 19-inch steel wedge tube. Choose 19 inches since the old center link’s center-to-center distance is 24 inches, and with the new design, you want to leave around 5 inches to install the tie rod ends and jam nuts. Also, obtain the left and right jam nuts.  Having built this apparatus and ensuring that the centers of the two joints were 24 inches like the original, next tighten the jam nuts as much as possible, knowing that they will never have to move again. Weld the nuts to the tie rod ends and the wedge tube to the nuts to ensure they would never become loose. Then place the new “center link” and tightened the castle nuts and cotter pins into place.

Move on to the tie rod ends next. If you have a 64′ or later Mustang, Comet, or Falcon equipped with tie rod sleeves for manual steering or power steering, the assembly, and installation process is straightforward. However, the model year is before 1964, thus the adjustment sleeves are longer than those of subsequent versions. So again, create your own. As the length of the adjustable sleeves is 6.5 inches, start with a wedged tube. This little issue was simply resolved by removing approximately 3/8″ from each end of the wedge tube to accommodate the jam nuts. After cutting them to the “proper” length, then run a tap through them again, and they are perfect.

When setting length, match the original length of the tie rod assemblies. This is so the vehicle can be driven down the road and directly to an alignment business. Double-check each nut and lubricate the joints.  Take your vintage Ford to the alignment shop of your choosing, have the front end adjusted, and enjoy the tighter steering.