The Truth About Cars » springs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 15 Feb 2015 03:00:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » springs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Saturn on the Down Low, a Progress Report http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/saturn-low-progress-report/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/saturn-low-progress-report/#comments Sun, 21 Dec 2014 15:26:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963042 It’s taken a while to get started on the project to make my daily driver Saturn SL1 into a better handling car. I had the parts but it took a few weeks to be able to get the work scheduled at a shop that was willing to install my own components. Now that the work […]

The post Saturn on the Down Low, a Progress Report appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
20141218_142829It’s taken a while to get started on the project to make my daily driver Saturn SL1 into a better handling car. I had the parts but it took a few weeks to be able to get the work scheduled at a shop that was willing to install my own components. Now that the work has been done and I’ve been able to drive the car in varying conditions, it’s time for a progress report. The short version is that I’m pleased with the results. For the long version, continue reading after the break.

With 100,000 miles on the odometer, it turned out that there was more work needed than I thought, though I wasn’t surprised. In addition to the struts, shocks and CV joint that needed replacement, and a perforated flexpipe in the exhaust system, I asked them to check on a noise that I thought was a groaning power steering pump but turned out to be a worn left front wheel bearing, which makes a lot more sense than a pump that made noise only when turning left. The work was done well, as far as I can tell, but my opinion of the shop went down after I took the car to an alignment specialist.

In addition to replacing the worn components, I also had H&R “sport” springs installed on the car. The fronts are about 50% stiffer than the stock springs, while the backs are about twice as stiff as the OEM ones. The are lower, too, but it’s a modest drop of 1.3″ in the back and 1.4″ in the front. Because of the lowered suspension, care has to be taken to keep the wheels aligned. The KYB GR2/Excell G struts are designed with an oval mounting hole that allows the suspension to be adjusted to within factory camber settings, but when I got the car back it obviously needed aligning. The steering wheel was about 15 degrees from center when traveling in a straight line.

Fortunately, there’s an alignment specialist shop, Wetmore’s, just a few minutes from my house. I’ve written about Wetmore’s before, or more properly, about their building, which was originally a Packard dealership and features a car sticking out from a second story balcony. There are repairs and modifications that I’d do myself, and stuff that I can do but is too much of a PITA, like brakes and exhaust work, so I go to a general mechanic for that work,  but I’ve always left alignment to the experts (electrical work, too).

Wetmore’s reported that not only was the front end off kilter, the car also needed a full four-wheel alignment because apparently lowering the car messed up the rear geometry. That didn’t bother me, since I figured the car would need to be aligned after the initial work, but when they went to align the front end, there was a worn left lower ball joint (possibly related to the worn bearing or vice versa). That was disappointing. Not just because this project is about a better handling car, but mostly because I had specifically asked the first shop to check for any and all worn suspension parts. They found the bad wheel bearing but didn’t notice a ball joint that Wetmore’s said you could feel just by grabbing the tire. Oh well, my work is rarely perfect either (and I apologize for any superfluous apostrophes in some of the the “it’s” in this post – I know the rules about apostrophes but homonyms are stored in adjacent locations on my bio hard drive).

I’ve been picking the brains of my colleagues and when I asked Jack Baruth about alternate suspension settings for quicker steering response, he cautioned against it, citing the dangers of a darting car on icy Michigan roads. It turned out that they gave the car two or three degrees more negative camber than is the exact factory setting, but it was “still in the green”, i.e. within acceptable tolerances, on their equipment.

Speaking of my colleagues, Sajeev Mehta didn’t think the lowered and stiffened suspension was a great idea. Michigan roads aren’t just icy in winter, they’re in terrible shape year round. The state legislature just passed a measure to put a sales tax increase on the ballot to fund over a billion dollars in highway reconstruction in the state. Sajeev thought that the stiffer suspension would be punishing. My conclusion after a couple of weeks of driving on a variety of surfaces, including some of the worst roads that I drive on, is that ride quality is a wash or maybe even improved a little.

While the ride is unquestionably firmer, with the old shocks being worn, the springs weren’t being dampened and the car bounced a lot. I’ll trade an occasional jarring hit from a pothole in exchange for getting rid of the pogo effect. If you asked me to provide some kind of benchmark, without driving them back to back it’s not conclusive but my subjective impression based on memory is that the Dodge Dart GT that I reviewed earlier this year had a stiffer ride overall than how the lowered Saturn is. Overall, the suspension feels more controlled. On the freeway it smooths out nicely.

This wasn’t about ride quality, though. It’s about handling and the difference is significant, though I have to say that there have been a lot of variables changed, including swapping out the all-season Cooper tires for some Bridgestone Blizzaks. Blizzaks are pretty high performance for winter tires, though, so my guess is that if anything, they handle better even in dry conditions than the Coopers. When spring comes, I’ll have a followup report on when the Dunlop Direzzas mounted on 15″ wheels (the stock rims are 14s) go on the car.

For right now, the car handles much better. There’s much less body roll, it’s minimal now. The car turns in a little bit faster, but it holds its line much better than before. I’m finding that I have to dial in less steering – previously all of that lean made the car’s understeer worse. There is slightly less self-centering and I want to see if that changes with the Direzzas or if it’s a question of settings. The improvements are noticeable in most driving conditions. Lane changes on the freeway are now fun and now I can even dive bomb that slightly banked corner near my house.

I also like how the car looks. It’s got a little bit more rake and around the tires there’s less of a pants-up-around-your-ankles look, but for the most part it still looks very stock. You have to put it side by side (or back to back as in the photo above) with a stock SL1 to notice that it sits lower (mine is the blue one on the left). From the wheel it’s only slightly noticeable that you’re sitting closer to the ground. If I was six inches taller, I’d be a six-footer so I’m rather used to looking up at things.  I do, however, notice it when getting into the car. We get use to particular perspectives, like the relationship between the floor, the height of the porcelain rim, and the resulting angle, at least for the half of humanity that micturates in an upright position. When about to sit in the car, it does appear to be lower.

What next? Well, there are those aforementioned Dunlop summer tires, and since starting the project I’ve found out that the Saturn S series cars with the twin cam engines were spec’d with a rear sway bar and a front bar that’s thicker than in the SOHC equipped cars. I checked at the nearest pull & pick auto salvage yard and the parts are available there, along with the rear disc brake setup that was available on some models. That will probably have to wait until spring because the idea of pulling parts in sub-freezing weather doesn’t sound very appealing.

I’ll probably start with the rear sway bar. Speaking of which, if you have a Saturn S with a rear bar, check the links. About half of the cars I spotted at the junkyard that had a rear sway bar also had at least one broken link that was supposed to be connecting it to the suspension. If adding a rear sway bar doesn’t make the car too stiff, I’ll swap out the front for the thicker DOHC one. I’m still not convinced that the disc brake swap is worth it, though. It’s a straightforward swap and I don’t have to worry about brake bias since neither the rear drum equipped cars nor the four wheel disc Saturn S cars came with brake proportioning valves. They have the same hydraulics, the only difference are wheel cylinders vs calipers. If I don’t go with the disc brake mod, I’ll look into performance brake pads and shoes (though I’m guessing that nobody makes performance brake shoes today).

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

The post Saturn on the Down Low, a Progress Report appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/saturn-low-progress-report/feed/ 45
Piston Slap: Suspension Wear and Tear to Infiniti? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 12:32:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=946522   TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes: Hey Sajeev, I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles […]

The post Piston Slap: Suspension Wear and Tear to Infiniti? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
 

2009_infiniti_m35-pic-14982

TTAC Commentator CoreyDL writes:

Hey Sajeev,

I have had several questions floating around in my head for quite a while about proper suspension maintenance. My story begins a couple of cars ago when I couldn’t find answers, and ends here with this multi-part, OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe). After riding in a G37xS the other day and noticing how much more compliant it felt over speed bumps and the like, my awareness of the issue increased.

When I go and look at various message board/etc. sources online, seems like whenever someone has tried to ask a serious question about their suspension, some dudebro usually replies with, “Aw man just put Bilstiens on there and lower it brah.”

So my questions are of the general variety. What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?! I know putting new shocks on won’t be nearly as effective if the bushings and struts are worn out as well.

I want to take proper care of my suspension and keep it riding correct!

Second portion:

Since all these people here at the B&B love talking used (Cadillac), usually higher mileage (Town Car) rides (including myself) (LS400), what would you recommend as far as a “suspension refresh” if someone buys a decade-old car with 100k miles or more? I know you can help us all out.

Thanks for your help.

Sajeev answers:

Let’s quickly answer Question One about suspension wear and tear, partly with your comment:

“OCD-approved question. My 09 M35x has just gone over 56,000 miles and I’m thinking I am past due for shocks (they’re originals, I believe)”

There could be a good reason for needing new shocks at this age/mileage, but it’s just not that likely.  I’m pretty frickin’ OCD about car stuff myself (see photo below) but if an Infiniti M rides worse than a (newer?) G37 with a (maybe?) more compliant wheel/tire package, I wouldn’t blame the car.  Blame the manufacturer, and do a -1 or -2 wheel/tire package like we’ve discussed recently.

More to the point: odds are the shocks are fine, but you go right ahead and test them.  Now for Question Two, using a quote from Question One:

“What sort of mileage intervals can someone reasonably anticipate a need for replacing suspension components? I’m talking passenger cars here, and what parts need replaced: shocks, struts, various bushings, sway bars, control arms, linkages… how far does this list go mayne?!”

Well, okay mayne…I’ll show you how OCD you can be:

How ’bout ‘dem Chocolate and Caramel coated Apples?

At some point a “keeper” could get stripped/reconditioned.  Because at some point all the rubber goes bad.  Or too many potholes busts up the ball joints.  And maybe the wheel bearings might be shot. And if you’re gonna spend the time/effort/money to do all that, fully addressing suspension wear and tear via 100% replacement isn’t totally stupid.

I know what I just wrote about the above photo is an illogical extreme.  But your question merits discussing all aspects. So if you live in Boston, you probably need new control arms/shocks/ball joints before you’ll need new shocks in Wyoming.  And if you drive something fragile (which these days is more of cars than we’d like to admit) with tiny tires on pristine roads, don’t be surprised if they need more replacement “stuff” than a Panther on somewhat horrible roads. (i.e. not Boston)

This is the part where we list common wear items, and let the B&B take it from there:

  • Shocks, too loose or too tight (they can gum up inside).
  • Springs, they get softer, saggier and even (sometimes) break.
  • Spring pads: the rubber underneath the springs can go bad too!
  • Control arms: changing bushings (or ball joints) here isn’t that common anymore, now it’s easier/cheaper to get a new control arm instead.
  • Tires: even if there’s plenty of tread, rubber degrades over time and ride/handling suffers.
  • Swaybar links/bushings: these tend to work very hard, but they’ll get noisy before they totally die.
  • Swaybars: check if yours are hollow.  Don’t be surprised if they are toast, especially if you live in the Rust Belt.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

The post Piston Slap: Suspension Wear and Tear to Infiniti? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/piston-slap-9/feed/ 76
Piston Slap: Butt Draggin’ Bushings? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/piston-slap-butt-draggin-bushings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/piston-slap-butt-draggin-bushings/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 11:40:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457908   Craig writes: My daily driver for a while has been a 1988 Volvo 240 sedan with about 100K miles. I do have some nagging maintenance issues I need to address when the weather warms up. The main one is the suspension bushing, specifically the trailing arms. The car sits a little ass-low, and it […]

The post Piston Slap: Butt Draggin’ Bushings? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

 

Craig writes:

My daily driver for a while has been a 1988 Volvo 240 sedan with about 100K miles. I do have some nagging maintenance issues I need to address when the weather warms up.

The main one is the suspension bushing, specifically the trailing arms. The car sits a little ass-low, and it gets worse if I put a lot of weight in the trunk. I have read that this is from the bushings, not the springs and also that they are a bitch to change. It this a doable repair for a home mechanic? In the last few years I’ve replaced the master cylinder, water pump, and my proudest moment took my broken wiper motor, another broken one from the junkyard and McGuivered the two together into a functional motor.

Thanks, Craig.

(the 240 is the Swedish Panther)

Sajeev answers:

The 240 (or 940, according to the B&B’s Volvo experts) is indeed the Swedish Panther!  Who-hoo, thanks for making that connection for all of us!

I was surprised to see a control arm bushing causing the sag you described but–according to Google–it is possible! At the ripe old age of 24, do a visual on all of your bushings. Consider replacing ‘em all.  This is certainly labor intensive compared to your previous projects, but this website looks like a great big help.

With the age and low mileage in mind, quite honestly, it’s time for new shocks, springs and a lot of new rubber bushings.  They are all toast: go do ‘em all. Also consider replacing entire control arm assemblies to get new bushings in the process with less labor involved. I suspect the aftermarket for 240s can make that happen easily, and it might be worth it to you. So consider it, cost-benefit analysis style.

For what its worth, I have my independent mechanic do jobs like this.  It’s too much time for me, and my shop is worth every penny in labor cost. And I’ll do it all over again, 15-20 years from now, if needed!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

The post Piston Slap: Butt Draggin’ Bushings? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/piston-slap-butt-draggin-bushings/feed/ 24
Thetruthaboutcars.com Celebrates Spring Equinox http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/thetruthaboutcars-com-celebrates-spring-equinox/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/thetruthaboutcars-com-celebrates-spring-equinox/#comments Sat, 20 Mar 2010 18:18:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=349786 March 20, 2010.  Spring Equinox. Spring has sprung. How could Thetruthaboutcars.com celebrate the first day of spring 2010 better than with a concise pictorial history of springs? Apart from tires and seats (which typically have their own springs, the seats, not the tires) the car’s suspension is what protects your (personal) rear end and spine […]

The post Thetruthaboutcars.com Celebrates Spring Equinox appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

March 20, 2010.  Spring Equinox. Spring has sprung. How could Thetruthaboutcars.com celebrate the first day of spring 2010 better than with a concise pictorial history of springs?

Apart from tires and seats (which typically have their own springs, the seats, not the tires) the car’s suspension is what protects your (personal) rear end and spine from the rigors of the road. Apart from shock absorbers (which we’ll celebrate the minute we’ll find an appropriate season for shock absorbers), springs are an essential ingredient of your suspension. Springs come in three basic flavors.

The common leaf spring has been in use in cars and trucks into the mid eighties. From then on, they became an object of derision, except on heavy duty trucks, which use them to this day. The leaf spring was also called “carriage spring,” because it is as old as the horse-drawn carriage. Hence its humorous effect.

To the untrained, a coil spring seems to be the most logical choice. It’s inbred: Most of us have been created with some type of coil spring involved. (See picture left.) To remove or to install a coil spring, you need to be able to operate a coil spring compressor tool. If you don’t know how to operate it, this can have similar effects as a coiled snake. The coil spring is sometimes used in combination with the leaf spring. Or with a shock absorber inside. We’ll get to that later. There are many other coil springs in your car, from valve springs to the spring that pulls your accelerator back – or not.

Then there’s the torsion spring, that strange contraption I learned to hate when I was a young copywriter and they threw me on the Volkswagen account. Die Drehstabfeder or Der Torsionsstab is (so it has been drummed into me) basically a rod that twists along its length. It was popular in the VW Beetle, in the Porsche 356, in the early Barockengel BMW 501/502, in early Porsche 911s, and several Chrysler and GM cars. To this day, I don’t understand why one would twist a poor old rod if there are springs. To this day, they use torsion bars.

From here on, we get into more complex matters, such as coil-over-oil, (or possibly coil-over-gas, but it doesn’t rhyme). It is a combination of a shock absorber and a spring, also known as a McPherson strut. When I was a young copywriter in 1973, this was a big deal. Later, they confused me completely by combining a McPherson strut with a double wishbone suspension. At that point, I turned into a Creative Director and was above such minutiae.

This concludes our TTACesque celebration of the Spring Equinox. May the sun shine bright on you, don’t forget to change the winter tires, and  give your car a good rinse to get the salt out.

The post Thetruthaboutcars.com Celebrates Spring Equinox appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/thetruthaboutcars-com-celebrates-spring-equinox/feed/ 45