Mitsubishi FTO and the MOT - Suspension and Steering

Mitsubishi FTO and the MOT - Suspension and Steering

Front suspension
The most regular MOT failure items connected with suspension and steering are excessive wear to the front anti roll bar drop links. Except for the version R, all FTOs use the same front drop link. These are the rods with a ball joint on each end that connects the anti roll bar to the front strut or suspension leg. Fortunately these links are no longer an expensive item and are quite easy to replace. All you need is a couple of 14mm spanners and possibly an allen key.

These links can be a bit of a pain if the threads are corroded, but a bit of action with a wire brush and releasing oil should do the trick. Whilst you are under there, check the D shaped rubber bushes that hold the anti roll bar to the main cross member. Excessive movement in these bushes will also be a fail. Superflex poly replacements are as cheap as chips, but the problem is actually getting at them. The clamps, one on each side, fastened by a single 12mm headed bolt, are tucked away between the cross member and floor pan. At least the bushes themselves are of the split variety, to allow easy assembly to the bar.

Next up in the MOT failure stakes would be the front lower wishbone, or as it is sometimes known in more adolescent circles, the front bottom arm. This arm is bushed at the two chassis pivot points and attaches to the front hub via a ball joint. It is this outer ball joint that wears but these ball joints are now available separately. You can check for play in this ball joint by getting a front wheel off the ground - don't forget the axle stands - and by grabbing the top and bottom of the wheel and tyre giving it a good tug - you are trying to get the wheel to move top in and bottom out and vice versa.

It's not the easiest job to detect very slight play, but any significant movement means a test fail and replacement. You may get confused if there is also excessive play in the front wheel bearing, but if the play magically disappears when a handy assistant presses the brake pedal, then it's almost certainly worn wheel bearings and not the ball joint. Before you invest in new ball joints, check the arm itself for corrosion and the condition of the two inner bushes. Ifany of these is likely to cause problems then you're going to need a complete new arm and possibly a second mortgage.

Whilst you are ferreting around under the wheel arch, have a look at the front strut and coil spring. On highish mileage FTOs leaky front struts via the seal where the piston rod enters the body of the strut are a regular MOT fail. You will need to lift the dust cover or gaiter to have a good look. A small patch of damp may be ok, but an obvious leak is an MOT no-no. Have a look at the coil spring and make sure it is still in one piece. Give the spring a tap with a small hammer or chisel and if all is well you should hear a clear springy boing sound. A duller metallic sound may indicate a a broken spring. Please note that if you need to take a front strut assembly apart, the coil spring is fitted under compression and you will need a proper coil spring compressor and knowledge of how to use it safely. Failure to observe this warning could take your face off.

Now that we've all had some experience of wheel jiggling, we can get some more practice by checking play in the steering rack. Place your hands at quarter to three, or quarter past nine if you are working late, and try to wiggle the wheel and tyre side to side with short sharp movements. Put a bit of effort in and if you can feel a any play it could be either the ball joint on track rod located under the steering rack gaiter or the track rod end. The track rods (sometimes known as drumsticks) are the two rods sticking out of either side of the steering rack and they fasten to the steering arms on the front hubs via ball joint thingys called track rod ends.

You will need a helper to investigate further. Get him/her to jiggle the wheel while you grab the track rod end. If you can feel movement in the pin, possibly accompanied by a click or light knock, with your hand then hey presto it's the track rod end. If not, then squeeze the rack gaiter until you can feel the track rod underneath again whilst your assistant jiggles the wheel. If you can feel play under the gaiter nearest to the body of the rack it's probably the ball joint at the inner end of track rod itself. Both jobs are straightforward enough, but unless you are pretty experienced and competent, steering repairs are probably best left to professionals, who will also have the specialist gear to check the front wheel alignment - an essential task if the steering or suspension has been disturbed.

Rear suspension
Again the most common MOT failure is worn anti roll bar drop links. This is the link that joins the anti roll bar to the lower lateral suspension arm. The GR and GS versions have a different arrangement to GPX, version R and GX models. On the former you will find separate long bolts with 4 rubber bushes per side. The bolts corrode and the rubber bushes deteriorate. The best bet is to replace the whole lot with a kit containing stainless steel bolts, washers and Superflex poly bushes. On the other models a similar but shorter version of the front drop link is used, with a ball joint at either end.

Please note that with both arrangements, shorter versions are available to suit lowered suspension and you should specify this when ordering. Once again, like the front, the D bushes that locate the anti roll bar are prone to perishing which allows the bar to move about. Uprated Superflex bushes are available for not much money and are easily replaced. The GR and GS models have a 17mm diameter bar fitted and other models have the 18mm version, and you will need to mention this when ordering.

Other areas to check on each side are the bushes in the main trailing arm, lateral lower arm and the two locating links, or dog's bones as they are sometimes called. Best way to do this is to get the back of the car securely off the ground using axle stands. Dive underneath with a tyre lever or man-sized screw driver and have a bit rake about. You will get some play in the trailing arm front bush, but a degree of movement is built in. Superflex do an uprated trailing arm front bush and it is competitively priced compared to the standard part.

Any noticeable play in other bushes or links shouldn't be there and could well herald an MOT test fail. Other bushes are replaceable except for the upper and lower links (dog's bones) which need to be replaced as a unit. The bottom bush in the rear shocker doesn't seem prone to wear but, as per the front suspension, check for leaks on the shocker and broken coil springs. You can check for play in the rear wheel bearings by following the front wheel guidelines above. Having said that, I've heard rear wheel bearings make a right racket on the road, without any obvious signs of play once jacked up. Wheel bearings are not separately replaceable and you will need to change the complete, and inevitably expensive hub assembly.