Introduction - suspension
The FTO's suspension is pretty straightforward with McPherson struts, large diameter coil springs and lower wide based wishbones on the front and a multi link trailing arm set up on the rear. Rear shock absorbers are conventional telescopics with a combined small diameter coil springs. The rear suspension is adjustable for camber and toe, via an eccentric cam nut system. Anti-roll bars are fitted both at the front and rear.
FTO suspension rattles are not unusual. In many cases it can be traced to wear in the anti-roll bar drop links which are fitted to both the front and rear suspension. These are rods with a ball joint at each end and excess play is pretty easy to check by hand. Anything other than the slightest play in the ball joints will give rise to annoying rattles.
GR and GS models have a different drop link arrangement at the rear, with rubber bushes instead of ball joints. The bushes perish with time and can cause a similar sort of rattle as worn ball joints. If you have lowered suspension then, at the rear only, you will need the lowered version of the appropriate drop links to maintain the correct geometry and thus the effectiveness of the anti roll bar.
While you are on it will be worthwhile checking both the front and rear anti-roll bar to chassis bushes, as they also have a tendency to wear. Heavy duty bushes from Superflex cost buttons and they are quite easy to replace. When ordering you should bear in mind that anti roll bar diameters vary from model to model.
Excessively worn front strut top mounts can also be a source of rattles over uneven roads, as can the inner bushes and outer ball joints of the front lower wishbones.
Shock absorbers and lowering
On the subject of uprated and lowered springs, they will normally work acceptably only if your dampers are in good condition. If your dampers are generally knackered, then you will definitely not feel the benefit and it may even may the car feel less stable particularly over uneven roads. Check for signs of fluid leaks where the piston rod enters the body of the damper. Minor leaks are signs that the shocker has seen better days and ideally should be replaced. Major leaks mean that the units are well past their best and could well be an MOT failure item.
Introduction - steering
Once again FTO steering is pretty conventional with hydraulic power assistance to the steering rack. The rack is mounted on the engine subfame to the rear of the power unit. The PAS pump is driven from the engine's bottom pulley via a common 6 grooved belt that also serves the air con compressor.
The steering system is very reliable and most problems are simply down to mileage and wear and tear.
Excessive tyre wear
In common with all vehicles, excessive tyre wear on FTOs is often as a result of incorrect steering and/or suspension geometry. Don't forget if you fit lowered springs, a 1 inch reduction in ride height equates to very nearly one additional degree of negative camber. At the absolute minimum you should have the front wheel alignment and camber checked and adjusted as necessary.
Don't forget to check for wear in the track rod ends and the track rod inner joint. If wear is excessive, both areas will be potential MOT failure items and will render any geometry adjustments a bit of a waste of time. Whilst you are ferreting about with your steering, check out the rack gaiters, boots or bellows - call them what you will - as they have a tendency to deteriorate and split, which is another MOT failure item.
The FTO is definitely not the best sound proofed vehicle on the road and any rotational noises tend to be magnified quite considerably. Before you rush out and buy wheel bearings, have a close look at your tyres. This particularly applies if you are still running with tyres designed for the Japanese domestic market, as JDM tyres can generate unbelievable noise levels on certain road surfaces.
Some El Cheapo budget tyres, often of Asian manufacture, sold in the UK can suffer from the same issues. There are many reasons why some makes of tyre cost only a fraction of the better known brands such as Michelin, Goodyear and Pirelli and less sophisticated construction is one of them. Jack the car up safely using axle stands and spin each wheel. You are looking for strange tyre wear patterns, flat spots, bulges or any sign of eccentricity. Whilst you've got the car off the ground, grab each wheel and give it a good hoick up and down and from side to side - there should be no appreciable free play or knocking noises.
As a second check, if the noise is coming from one end of the car only, then try changing wheels front to rear and see if the noise follows the swappery, if you see what I mean. Once you have eliminated the tyres then your noise could well be worn wheel bearings. Wheel bearing drone often varies in volume dependent upon steering input and as loads change on suspension components. If this variation is evident then you should get a second opinion at your local garage or MOT station.
A regular complaint from FTO owners is that the car has a tendency to drift to one side or the other. This can be as a result of a number of factors, including incorrect wheel alignment, excessive wear in the steering rack, track rod ends or front wheel bearings. In the absence of excessive play, we often find that the answer can be much more simple - incorrect tyre pressures.
Try to get into the habit of checking tyre pressures regularly, but don't rely on the gauge at your local petrol station - a decent digital gauge can now be had for less than a tenner. Always keep it in the car and used regularly it will pay for itself time and again in terms of reduced tyre wear, not to mention improved fuel consumption. For the FTO start at 2 bar (30 psi) both front and rear and adjust to taste.