after driving it all day today i can say the front brakes are definitely making a grinding noise when coming to a stop - but the brake pads are at least 2/3 new i double checked them....ill replace just in case to see what's going on in there maybe caliper sticking?
no rotors are clean on both sides, pads have barely been replaced 3 months ago, those were the 2 first things i thought of. but obviously something isn't good since its making a grinding noise slowing down...car as cheap as this its easier to toss in new pads and go from there since im doing all the labor myself
i installed the tie rods today - mostly uneventful but several suggestions
1) i marked the threads with a white paint pen but this was NOT enough - my steering wheel was 10* off when i finished
2) 2nd time taking it apart i took a thick metal tape measure and stretched it from one side of the wheel well to the other running across the top of the rotor - this way you can tell where the rotor is pointed - i would highly suggest doing this BEFORE you take anything apart and use a white pen to mark on the front wheel well plastic where the tape points MAKE SURE YOUR STEERING WHEEL IS DEAD CENTER
3) torque is listed as 22-33nm - i set mine at 26 i think
using the 2nd method i was able to adjust toe on both sides and got it pretty much perfect the 2nd time
it seems that this DID solve the hard pull to the left - although im 90% sure my inners are shot as well
regarding the quality of the new parts - the new cotter pin broke and one of the new castle nuts the threads completely stripped out of it as if it was made out of aluminium ...not very confidence inspiring
also I was able to think of an even better method to check alignment on the front wheels - with both wheels jacked up and removed, take a laser pointer with a sliding on/off switch and put it in the groove on the top of the rotors pointing toward the front - the red dot will show you exactly where your wheel is pointing and you can mark it from there and adjust toe
im really stumped honestly - after i replaced the tie rods the car was driving straight....now tonight its back to pulling hard left...and i mean hard....so weird....im doing the inners this weekend but im almost wondering if the issue is somewhere else entirely
also after thinking about this for some time i remembered back when we first got these cars the brake pads on the inner side were worn completely down to the metal on both cars but the outers were almost "new-thickness"
there also seems to be a lot brake dust on the passenger side so maybe I need to dig into the caliper again and make sure I didn't miss anything