When a big guy like me can't turn the steering wheel with one hand...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2003

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1994 Ford Thunderbird LX with a V-8 that has only 29,000 miles on it. I keep seeing people pull in and out of parking spaces using only one hand on the steering wheel. I have to use two hands in order to move the wheel while the car is either stopped or moving slowly. I am over 6 feet tall and weigh 190 pounds, and I have never owned a car that had a steering problem like this. I have taken the car to the dealer at least 10 times for routine maintenance. Each time, the mechanic says the steering is OK. I keep telling him I watch "Cops" on television, and they're always driving their Fords with one hand, so why is my steering wheel so hard to turn? -- Carl

TOM: Well, now you know why cops don't drive '94 Thunderbirds, Carl. They can't steer them with one hand and balance their doughnut and coffee in the other.

RAY: Even though the dealer says nothing is wrong, I'm going to guess that your power-steering pump is bad. Usually, power-steering pumps whine or groan when something's wrong. And that's probably what the dealer was looking for. But sometimes they don't make noise when they start to fail, and instead they just slip gently into that good night.

TOM: A big guy like you shouldn't need both hands to turn the wheel. So I'd ask the dealer to try changing the power-steering pump for you, and see if that fixes it.

RAY: If it doesn't, then I suppose it could be a design issue. You should ask the dealer if there's another '94 T-Bird you can drive, and then see if it does the same thing. This is a heavy car to start out with. And when you add the optional V-8 engine (the base T-Bird came with a V-6), you make the car even heavier. And where does the V-8 add weight? Right over the front wheels.

TOM: But I'd put my money on a bad pump. And since this is cutting into your enjoyment of cop shows on television, I'd ask the dealership to change the pump for you, even though the old one sounds fine. And if a new pump doesn't help, Carl, sell the car to a guy who wants to bulk up his arms but can't afford his gym-club membership anymore.

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