Piston Slap: Eibachin', I Bitchin' About Zerks

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap eibachin i bitchin about zerks

Andrew writes:

I’m a 21-year-old college student with a 2001 Chevy Cavalier with the 2.2L and 5-speed. I bought the car when I started college with 40,000 miles on it and I have driven it to 70,000 miles without any problems, despite not always being nice to it. But now the suspension — I think it’s coming from the front — is starting to make a good bit of noise.

Any time I go over bumps, especially at lower speeds I can hear the suspension making squeaking noises. The steering and handling of the car do not feel any different than normal, although I drive it every day so I wouldn’t notice a slow change. Also, the steering makes a clunking noise when turning the wheel all the way at low speeds. There was a technical service bulletin about this issue, and since it didn’t seem like it was causing any real problems and I’m low on cash (read: college student) I let this issue go. I don’t know if these two things have any relation, but I suspect that the squeaky suspension is from one of two things.

First, in the owner’s manual, and service manual I have, it says that the Cavalier’s suspension has fittings that should be greased up every 6000 miles. I did this once the first time I changed the oil, then never touched it since I’ve never done it on a car before and perhaps underestimated it’s importance. The second possible cause I can think of is that I installed front and rear Eibach sway bars on this car since I have the base model, which had no stock sway bars and excessive body roll. The front sway bar has two rubber bushings that hold it in place in the center. When I installed the sway bar 15000-20000 miles ago I put lots of grease in these bushings, but I suspect that it has since worn out, and the squeaking is coming from this source. Also, if I go around to each corner of the car and just push it down a couple times to bounce the shocks, there is no noise, which is another reason I think it is these bushings in the center. If that is the case I may have to just live with the noise since the front sway bar was such a tight squeeze to install and a huge hassle and is not something I care to, or am sure I’m capable of, doing again. So I’m wondering, am I on the right track for this problem? Or is my front suspension going to fall apart on me as I’m driving down the road? Thanks.

Sajeev Answers:

It’s a small, small world. While you might not remember my Addco product review here on TTAC you can rest assured that my time with aftermarket swaybars is more than a little relevant here: we share the same mechanical dilemma.

From what I see on the Internet, your Eibach kit did not come with greasable bushings in the front (the rear appears to be a direct bolt in, no bushings at all) and those are the source of your problem. After 30,000 miles, a lack of grease and colder weather, the front end’s up/down cycling results in sway bar bushing groan. And since your kit comes with the harder “red” bushings, the problem is even worse: I requested the black bushings (a bit softer) and after I foolishly cleaned off excess grease, the rubbing sound was obnoxious once the temperatures dropped below 50 degrees.

So don’t worry, the car is entirely safe. Try to forget the sound, do yourself a solid and upgrade the bushings when you go in there for the inevitable re-greasing. Buy a replacement bushing that comes with a greasable Zerk fitting (just like fittings mentioned in the owner’s manual) at the end. Energy Suspension makes one for your car (probably), just like they did mine. Odds are the right part is listed on eBay right now. But since this is Piston Slap and not a proper Cobalt forum, I’ll let you find the part number and have at it. That’s what I did, and it’ll take all of five minutes to sort out.

And my car? I have the proper Zerk-infused bushings in the rear (easy) but not yet in the front (hard). Which get mighty noisy in the morning, but I am still not motivated enough to get underneath the car to pop the front swaybar free from the body, cut/slide off bushings and install/grease the new ones. It’s cold outside and the car still runs, so I’m currently happy. Well, happy enough.

But I’m sure you will agree, going to aftermarket swaybars is totally worth it…even if they don’t use the Zerk-y bushings from the start.

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

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5 of 19 comments
  • Crosley Crosley on Dec 20, 2010

    Also, one other tip I learned that works well is when you have the bushings off, tightly wrap the sway bar with teflon tape where the bushing wraps around, then grease the bushing. That should last a while.

    • See 1 previous
    • Golden2husky Golden2husky on Dec 20, 2010

      I did just that!! I bought a 7/8" rear swaybar for my Probe GT. Addco kit. The frame bushings came with plain brackets with no zerks. I wrapped Teflon tape on the bar, but I used the yellow teflon tape...the kind meant for gas pipes. Much thicker so it would last longer. So far, so good. Its been three years to date. The car is a weekend play toy, so actual mileage on this setup is only about 10K. Redneck engineering is really cool sometimes...

  • Stingray Stingray on Dec 20, 2010
    And let the Cavalier hate begin! Why?, I got a ride in one, in good condition, and seemed decent enough. The owner was happy with the car. IIRC he told me it's a 98

  • Tassos those 90s pathetic orange pixels are inexcusably lame in a 2010.The interior is filled with Grey Rubbermaid plastic and the tiny sliver of real or fake wood is an utterly pathetic attempt to pretend it's upscale (don't even THINK of "Luxury")Merc SLs with similar metal retractable roofs look so much better inside and out.Regardless of what you paid for this way undepowered near-luxury pretend-sports car, you would have done so much better with a PORSCHE BOXSTER...
  • Dukeisduke That's a cool picture (the one under the bridge) - where was it taken? Google Image Search doesn't turn up any matches.
  • Dukeisduke Okay, yeah, they should fix this, but, "URGENT: DO NOT DRIVE THIS VEHICLE"? I think we're reaching Peak Idiocracy.
  • Lou_BC This offer reminds me of those plans where you get something free but if you fail to cancel prior to the expiry of the "Free" plan you end up on the hook for a lengthy contract. Tesla wants to attract people to their electrical company. It's smart. Make money selling the car, make money with subscription services on the car, and make money selling the fuel to power the car at home and at charging stations.
  • Kwik_Shift Fossil fuels making your electricity. Ironic.