I took my van in to the local Ford dealer today. I wanted them to check the front end alignment, check for loose connections in the steering linkage or the tie rod, and anything else that might be causing the steering issues I've been having. In short, the van tracks straight, but at higher speeds or in corners, I really have to fight the steering. On a straight, bumpy road, the bumps will throw the front end around, and the steering wheel doesn't follow. I have to massively over-correct to the convince the van to stay on the road. Corners are fine once the van settles into the "edge", but a series of corners with changes of direction is very difficult, constantly trying to find the new edge in each corner without oversteering. I hope that makes sense.
I stopped by the dealership, and with the tie rod disconnected and the front wheels hanging, both sides were extremely stiff and difficult to turn. The mechanic reported that the steering linkage was in good shape. Anyway, their bottom line diagnosis is that the ball joints are bad, both sides top and bottom. $677 to replace.
The mechanic swears that this is the solution, and that he recently did the same fix to an F-350. The dealership owners are long-time family friends, and the shop has been very good to work with to-date, so I have no reason to distrust them. Also, the information they have provided is consistent with everything else I have experienced or have discussed with others.
Any thoughts or advice from ye wise sages of SportsmobileForum? The trip to the Olympic Coast earlier this month was a constant battle, and with about 5,000 miles of driving coming up in the next two months, I need to be able to drive this thing without fighting the steering all the time. I would really appreciate any advice on the new ball joints.