97' Fiesta niggles

Hi,
Hopefully someone will take the time to reply to my very n00b questions. Thanks in advance to those who do.
Me and my girlfriend have recently bought an R reg fiesta (encore 1.3) that
has just recently developed a couple of (perhaps/hopefully minor) faults. I was hoping to get some advice before going to a garage where they will obviously see my lack of auto knowledge :|
Firstly, the steering is "off" by about 10-15 degrees (ie I have the steering wheel aligned slightly left to go straight). My first thought is that it will just be the tracking, but I was wandering if there is anything else I could check for?
The second problem....and slightly more worrying is a "dull rattle" coming from somewhere near the drivers side rear wheel when going at slow speeds and over bumps. I have mentioned this to a couple of people and they seem to think it could be the shock absorber (from my description). The car despite being 8 years old ish has only done 32k (genuine - have some mot's and its generally in great condition apart from these 2 probs), are shock absorbers likely to wear out over this mileage? - or is there something else I could check for? It has also been mentioned to me that shocks on fiesta's have to be replaced in pairs, is this accurate?
Sorry for the length of post and my obvious lack of auto knowledge, but hopefully someone can offer advice so I do not end up paying over the odds somewhere.
Many Thanks.
Chris B.
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Chris B
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Chris B wrote:

problem and a bad rear shock/strut.
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Hi,my wife's '97 1.3 encore has the same noises but from the front drivers side shocker.It only does it on cold days. Another problem it has is that it cuts out when driving up motor way slip roads when you release the accelerator pedal,all the dash lights come on and you have to switch off the ignition and start the engine again.Any help with this problem welcome.
John
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Hiya Chris,
The steering could be off because of the tracking, check the wear on the front tyres. It may actually be ok but have been reset by some half arsed monkey who couldn't be bothered to centre the steering wheel. Simple enough task to check and rectify by your local spanner twirlers. It could also be damage to one of the tie bars or track control arms or wear in the tca bushes (quite common) but the car would feel a bit odd going over bumps on cornering. Again, not a big job if you know what's what. The rear rattle could well be a damper but again the handling would suffer over bumps. If it is 4rkt it very often leaks oil. Dampers on any car should really be replaced in pairs but you don't have to. It might sound daft but check that the tailgate is shutting properly and all the rubbers are there, if it's a bit loose it can vibrate against the shell as the body flexes. Check the easy stuff as well like for loose wheel nuts or maybe a bearing but you'd probably hear a whining noise with this fault, leave the handbrake off and have a good hard tug at the wheel and see if it moves sideways. That'll keep you busy for half an hour!
m
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