Is this truck just old, or does it have a front-end problem?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1996

Dear Tom and Ray:

Help! Help! I just drove my son's 1960 Ford pickup. He loves it, but I'm worried because the Ford "roadwalks." Is that what you call it? It wanders all over the place. I felt grateful just to keep it in my lane! Rob just laughed and patted my head and said "it's OK, Mom." He says he's used to it, so it's no problem. He says all he needs is a steering box. Am I worrying over nothing?

TOM: I don't think you are, Helen. He may be right about the truck. But it deserves a closer look.

RAY: It's true that cars of that vintage handled like wet toast. We forget how bad they were. You used to have to pick a landmark about a quarter of a mile away, and just sort of aim for it. Improved handling is one of the greatest differences between cars of 1960 and cars of 1990. So part of your shock may be that you're just not used to such a lousy handling vehicle.

TOM: On the other hand, the front end of the truck may be falling apart. He may need not only a steering box, but king pins, tires, tie rod ends, and who knows what else? Wheels may be getting ready to fall off. And that stuff is not going to be made OK by just patting mom on the head. That stuff has to be fixed, and fast.

RAY: And if you (we're assuming you're a reasonably good driver, Helen) can't drive this truck under normal conditions without weaving all over the road, I'd say you're right to be on his case. He should either fix it or get rid of it. Because if it handles that badly under normal conditions, he's going to be a danger to everyone else on the road the minute it starts to rain, snow, or the winds pick up.

TOM: So don't let him drive around like that. Insist that he get the front end carefully inspected and fully fixed up if he wants to keep the truck. Or try to talk him into trading up to a '61.

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