Sunday, November 11, 2018

Meanwhile In the Peach State...

On this day we bring you a wordy post in (somewhat) 'real time'.

Color has started to take hold in this part of Georgia.

The sun has been up for a few hours now but the temperatures are struggling to do the same.

Annie remains undeterred.  She is, after all, from Canada.  This cooler change in the weather usually puts a giddy up in her step!

Alas, our girl is still shoeless and then some!  So no stepping for her right now.

We'd been hearing a knock from Annie's front end for a few months now.  Upon assessment we found this...

The moving part in the video is an idler arm.  It is not supposed to move in a vertical direction!  Side to side only.

The original idler arm lasted 23 years.  Unfortunately though we are discovering that is not the case with newly manufactured parts like the idler arm in the video that we had replaced only seven years ago. 

Here's a photo of it set in place.  Since there are two of these on our van we also decided to go ahead and replace the other one at the same time even though it has not yet shown significant issues.  This time around we also went with a brand that more closely resembled the original parts design and fit.

This was going to be it for suspension right now.  Just the part that had gone out on us.  Or so we thought...

Next up, we decided to take a look at the front passenger side brakes that had frozen up on us way back in North Dakota.

We removed the passenger side caliper and found that the brake pad shim on our two year old pads had melted to the piston.

This brought about the 'which came first' debate... the caliper lock up or the shim coming loose?

We found our answer by checking out the brakes on the driver's side (which had not locked up or overheated).

On the driver's side... the shims on both pads had come loose and begun to slide, as well. 

Thus, we concluded that the adhesive they used on the pads had failed.  And, in the case of our front passenger side brakes, the shim had attached itself to the piston causing the lock up that we had experienced.  Again, a new part had brought on an issue. 

When we removed the 28 year old brake pads two years ago they were still doing just fine.  But we were replacing the rotors and figured why not throw on some new pads.  New is better, right?!.  Funny how we have been able to rely more on our original parts than we can the newer ones we are putting on.

Although you can use brake pads without the shims we have decided to just go ahead and put new pads on the front to avoid any potential issues the remaining adhesive residue might would cause.

While we had the front wheels off and Annie's suspension set up was staring us in the face every day, Nicole got to thinking and reading and learning.

A few years back we had completed what some would call an 'upgrade' of our coil springs and our shocks by going with stiffer ones than original in both cases.  Along with the other suspension work we were doing at the same time the change was significant in terms of handling.  Annie no longer had that old car float, drift and roll that we were so used to. 

But now, our suspension parts are lasting only 3-7 years.  Add to that, we've had trouble with our last two sets of tires since the 'improvement / upgrade' in our suspension.   The problems in the current set, which based on our yearly mileage and driving habits should have lasted another 5 years of so, make us prematurely due for four more.  

So, it seemed prudent to look more into what is going on before we make that large investment yet again.

Original 25 year old softer springs on the left... the stiffer replacements we put in 5 years ago on the right.

Nicole got to thinking... 'The original suspension parts lasted 25 years or so with the softer springs and the softer shocks.  Although with the softer set up there is more drift, float and roll that is how the van was designed and perhaps it should stay that way.'

In her deep dive research, Nicole found information indicating that stiffer springs and shocks were not necessarily the best option. 

One example is the difference between gas and hydraulic shocks.  Sure, in general, gas shocks are an improvement in shock design and they make new cars happy.  However, this quote from one of the sites we read sums up Nicole's findings quite well, "Older vehicles were designed to use hydraulic shocks. Gas shocks can add up to 75 lbs per shock of added resistance to the suspension." 

The general conclusion from many hours of research is that added resistance (such as that caused by the stiffer springs and shocks we installed five years ago) is not always a good thing if that added resistance is then transferred as impact to the rest of your suspension components which are not intended to receive nor designed to handle such impact.  

Long story short...

We made the decision that while we had her apart we would return to OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) softer rated springs and shocks.

While we were at it...  Annie's control arm bushings have never been replaced. 

At 30 years old they are actually still performing pretty well.

However, they have begun to show their age with some uneven wear and cracking.

Since we were trying to get everything shored up once and for all (or so we hoped) we decided to replace these, as well.

Replacing control arm bushings is a tricky but not too difficult task for the everyday Do-It-Yourself mechanic.  After getting creative, Nicole was actually pretty successful at removing the old ones (more about that in another post).  However, finding replacement bushings that are of a quality worth using is another story.

Do these look the same?  They are supposed to be.  Same part number, same brand, manufactured differently.

How about these?  These had more rust on them than the 30 year old ones we were removing.

Third times a charm?  Nope!  Again, two differently manufactured parts despite same brand and item number.

Two different manufacturers, three orders from three different stores and several weeks of waiting and we decided that (for now) it was more reasonable to just replace the whole arms with OEM'ish units.

Lastly, since we would now have all front suspension components seven or fewer years older...

It seemed like a good time to finally replace the original 30 year old sway bar bushings even though they were still in pretty decent shape.

And, that brings us to....

Annie's continued Birthday Celebration!!!!!   Boy has 30 been good to our girl.   Just look at all of those presents!

In the end... the replacement of one idler arm has become:

1) Two idler arms
2) Two upper control arms (includes four new bushings and two new ball joints)
3) Two lower control arms (includes two new bushings and two new ball joints)
4) Two new front coil springs
5) Four new shocks
6) Four new brake pads
7) Painting of all new parts including nuts, bolts, washers and whatever old parts we had off
8) Four new tires when all is said, done and settled

The good news is... with Nicole doing the work the overall cost is really quite low. 

That seems like a long enough story.  Guess we'll leave you there for now.