: Rick's car repair adventures part 318....

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:11 PM
Alright, so this past weekend I replaced the lower control arm bushings in the Town Car.

It would make this horrible squeeking sound anytime I went over a bump, or turned the wheel, even bouncing the car etc... and the steering didn't feel right.... and for some reason, every time I brought it back to Sears (where I got the alignment) for an alignment check, they said the toe was out....

Prior to this, I replaced all 4 ball joints, 4 tie rod ends and both front sway bar links.... Since the noise really happened right after I replace the ball joints and tie rod ends, I thought one of them was defective.... but it just didn't make sense, and it didn't sound like either of them.

So I looked under the car a bit more and saw the A-arm bushings looked.... weird. I was pretty sure they were the problem, as there wasn't much else it could be.... So.... I made it my weekend project to replace them :)

Now these are not normal bushings... they have an inner metal sleeve, the rubber, then an outter metal sleeve which fits into the control arm. The rubber is vulcanized (bonded) to both sleeves, and when the arm moves up and down, the rubber itself twists.... The inner sleeve has "teeth" on it that bite into the brake to prevent it from moving, so that the rubber does twist... which is why its very important to tighten the lower A-arm bolts up only once the car is on the ground and the suspension is level.

It was fairly painless, I was not able to remove and press the new bushings into place, so after searching all morning for a place, I finally found a shop that could do it for me... charged 1/2 hour of labor per arm ($35 each) even tho it took about 10mins... I was happy.... total cost for me LCA bushings and front shocks (Monroe Sensatracts) was about $200.... with $70 of it being the labor for the bushing work.

Anyway... here are the pictures.... lots of them :)

Here she is.... when I am not sure how long something will take, I'll drive the car nose-in into the carport... so its protected from rain and if needed, I have better access to light and stuff, but atleast like this, I can leave it for a long as needed if I had to with no rush of needing to move the car for whatever reason.

Car hasn't been washed in about a month... partly because I am kinda mad at it for the non-stop broken things (these A-arm bushings are the last of the real broken things though!) and also because any free time I do have for the car... I am working on it... and, its been raining on and off, so I really haven't bothered... plus I knew I was going to be working on it and just getting it dirty again.


Not quite a garage, but better then the gravel driveway at my old house in NY, and alot better then the parking lot at my apartment in Clearwater.... My first carport, and I like them alot, not as good as a full garage, but defintily better then just keeping it in the open.


Ah yes, my trusty Isuzu.... what an awesome little truck.


My '89 Fleetwood Brougham... my mom had it for the last 9 years, then they got a new car and gave this one to me... has a bazillion miles on it, alot of rough use (it survived my mom for 9 years!) and alot of stuff is (was) broke, needs a new paint job too... I am slowly fixing it up piece by piece though, its my little project... but is also 3rd in line to get my attention, and with the Town Car being an attention whore right now, there is no free time for the Caddy.... runs and drives fine tho :) The Isuzu, being my daily driver and what I drive to work everyday is first in line for my attention... but the darn thing is just so reliable and simple... and dosn't ask for much....


What I am starting with:


The work space.... the radio makes everything so much better:


Ah yes, factory maintenace manuals :)


Yeah, I've already been in there to replace all 4 sway bar links, all 4 ball joints and all 4 tie rod ends.

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:14 PM
At first I thought I had to remove the entire spindle, but then I was reading the book and it said that basically as long as the upper A-arm is left connected to the upper ball joint, it can stay on, but to remove the caliper and rotor and stuff.... well I took that one step further right now, and decided to work around it, with the caliper and rotor still on :) I *thought* I was going to replace upper A-arm bushings too... but forget that right now... I am not even sure if I want to attempt the right side LCA bushings right now! (though I'll probably do them)


The bushings in the car... hard to get a picture of because the flash was blocked and it was tight space.




The rear on the left side... not the one that was causing the problem, but still cracked as you can see...


Shock and spring are out... I was going to put the same ones back in, but the threads on one of the shocks got messed up and I coudln't get the nut on... so I just went ahead and got the Sensatracs.... only $27 each :)

My car has the "Ride Control Package" with "revised springs and shocks" not sure whats revised... but I guess they are stiffer then normal?

Anyway, I rented a spring compressor, and the thing just woudln't work, so I went back to Advance and the guy said that hes done these on the Panter chassis before and to just let the control arm all the way down and the spring will come out.... I was leery, but, after a bit of fidding, and getting my Isuzu spare tire jack, I was able to get it out like that... not bad either... he said to put it in, once the LCA is bolted in to put the spring in and then use the jack to jack up the LCA with the spring in place... so we'll see.


That little bottle jack is the spare tire jack from the Isuzu.... such a neat little thing, its not a normal spare tire jack, and very useful.... not hydralic either. It is compact, but the thing extends up high, I have used this thing on soo many projects though. It goes higher then my floor jack, and in the case when I am already using the floor jack, but still need the abalitly to jack something up, it comes in really handy.


There it is...


Having all my tools at work means I get just the basics at home... but I am quite surprised what I have been able to do (all the work on the Town Car so far) with just this set and a few other things... as I build up my tools at work and replace them, I'll slowly bring the old stuff home.


08-27-07, 06:14 PM
Since you love this sorta stuff, I think you should buy a vintage Fiat. You'd be in a veritable automotive repair heaven!

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:16 PM
Theres the little sucker... with the new TRW ball joint...




Old bushing that was causing the noise... and probably a couple other things in the front end that didn't feel right...





Cleaned up the LCA...



Old bushings are formed in there...


Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:19 PM
Desperate times calls for desperate measures...



Once I got the center sleeve out, the rubber bushing (whats left of it) is still in there, and a cut the outter sleeve right in half... I was hammering on the balljoint seperator fork, spraying PB Blaster all over the thing, but it wasn't moving.... Thats where I stopped for the night and contunied the next morning.


Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:32 PM
I went that morning to a really local machine shop.... they aren't there anymore... so then I checked out another shop that does industrial stuff... they coudln't do it and sent me to a place that does car/truck/engine machine shop stuff about 20mins away.... they took one look at it and coudln't do it, they said check out a tire shop that does front end work, so I went to Raffield Tire Masters... they coudln't do it so they said to try NAPA that has a machine shop, I went there, there is no more machine shop but the guy told me about this little alignment shop and was pretty sure of himself when he said they could do it.

Honestly, at this point, I was tired of the thing, only reason why I went to NAPA to begin with was cause it was kinda on the way home... I was getting tired of the A-arm and ticked off at the car all together. So when he told me the directions and stuff, I listened but wasn't paying full attention... so as I left I figured what the heck? and rememberd the directions and figured I would look for it, if i didn't find it then that was it...

So... just as I was almost ready to turn around.. I see the sign for the place.... thinking I was going to get the same answer, I pulled in, parked, grabbed the A-arm and walked up, one of the guys was outside so I told him the story I told everyone else.... expecting the same answer as everyone else...

Instead was a "Yeah, we've got the equipment for that you need a *this thing* and a ball joint press and stuff...." But.... we do charge a half hour of labor.... per arm... so that'll be $35 for each arm..... is that alright?

man, I couldn't hand the thing over to them fast enough, went back to the Isuzu, got the new bushings out... waited inside for about 15mins, he came in and gave it to me, I paid $35 and left the happiest I could be...

I've been looking for a quality, small town shop since I've been here, that does quality alignments.... and I think I've just found the one..... since 1956 :)

I got the other arm out, and to the shop by the time they closed....

The right side is pretty much done.. the arm went in smoothly, so easy actually... and at first I had some trouble with the spring, but that went pretty easy after a little creative thinking too... no spring compressor needed either.

The shock woudln't go in because of the threads, even though I did want Bilsteins when it was ime to replace (3x price of Monroe, plus shipping) I said forget it and ended up getting the Sensatracts... but for now I wasn't that concerned about the shock though, so I started on the left side.... unlike the right side, the A-arm would NOT fit in at all, it is too tight, and will not even slide in... I've been beating on it with the hammer in all directions to get it anywhere near going in... I got the rear bolt halfway thru the bushing, but it wont make the other side, and the front isn't lined up at all....

Then it was getting dark, and clouds were rolling in quite fast, and a whole lot of thunder and lightning... so I figured it was a perfect time to stop for the day.

So I was coming up on day #3....

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:45 PM
new bushings in the left arm...





the right side...


current conditions:


the right arm bushings were not as bad, but were cracked, and the one on the left side that was trashed, was defintily showing some wear/elongation.... On this one here its hard to see cause the pic is out of focus, but there is a split from the center to the outside of the bushing.



worn, but to a lesser extent of the left side.


new bushings in the right side


Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:49 PM
arm hung.... A-arm to chassis bolts remain loose


spring... I cleaned all the parts I took off... looks pretty nice.... shiney and newish looking.


There it is! Minus shock cause it was being a real PITA with the upper nut... and no tie-rod hooked up as that was being a pain too... but its all on there and good to go.... it wasn really smooth, but now the left side is giving me alot of trouble.


This is the left side where I left off for the night.... it looks like its on, but its not, the forward hole isn't lined up at all, and the rear is only partly lined up allowing the bolt to go halfway thru


What I ended up doing was getting my floor jack and lightly jacking up no the bottom of the tie rod, it slid into place, then I gave it one more pump and it just barely lifted the spindle... then the nut tightened right up nicely.

As for the bolt... the problem was that trying to get the A-arm into place with the new bushings, it was getting wedged in.. I couldn't move it enough with my hands, and hammer on it yesterday did nothing but put a whole lotta little smiley faces in the metal as well as hurt my ears.

That was the first thing I did that day... man, I got up and I had that whole side done in an hour... I used a pry bar and my ball joint fork remover tool to pry on the arm to get the hole in the sleeve of the bushing lined up left/right with the hole in the bracket... then I got my floor jack under the arm, and simply jacked the arm up (what I was trying to attempt with the hammer) and it got darn close to being a perfect fit.. the bolt slid halfway thru, so I just gently tapped it all the way with the hammer, and it was lined up.

It was a tight fit, the arm dosn't look bent, I think when I was hammering on the outter bushing sleeve I cut in half with the ball joint fork, it may have bent the C part of the arm out ever so slightly..... when the right arm was in with the bolt thru everything, but nothing tightened down, and not connected to the sindle, I could move the arm up and down with no friction at all... but on the left side, moving it up and down you could feel the ends of the rubber against the metal on the bracket... gave a little friction.

The upper nut on the right shock would simply not go on.. threads were messed up, by this time, everything else was done.... and I really didn't want to put 11 year old shocks with 102k miles back in the car when they were out, so when I went to Advance to return the rented tools, I got a pair of Monroe Sensatracs. They were only $27/each, all new hardware and I felt better... not to mention less of a hassle.

So then I put the tires back on, and lowered the car on the ground, got underneat and tightened up all 4 bolts/nuts as best as I could with a normal 1/2" drive ratchet... I know, not a whole lot of torque there and the book said something like 140ft-lbs.... but I wanted them to set in place for what we were talking about eairler with the bushings. I got them as tight as I could with the ratchet, and jacked the car back up and put it on jack stands...

I tried as much as I could to get my 1/2 drive 2' long breaker bar on those bolts.. I got one pretty good, but there was just no room in there at all...

So I went to Sears (I live pretty much across the street from a small mall with Sears) and got a 20" long 1/2" drive extension, and a 1/2" drive universal (since mine is at work) and got the socket, univsersal and long extension on the end of my electric impact gun.... got under the car and tightened all 4 bolts/nuts up good with that thing.... maybe not the best way, but I had nothing else and it worked.

So I took the car out for 15 miles... man, SILENT! no squeeks or anything... the old shocks weren't horribly bad to begin with, but I can tell the new shocks are there.... the alignment is out though, the car drifts pretty well to the right and the steering wheel isn't centered... it may be from me having the front end all apart (doubt it) or because things are actually lined up and held in place like they should be with the new bushings (what I think is the case) instead of a bunch of play... kinda like when you go to the chiropractor and you're a little sore after a really good adjustment... but its cause your muscles are getting used to how it should be :)

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:52 PM
So this is what I came out to that morning:


right side done, awaiting shock:




looking like a car again :)




old shocks.... they were still pretty tight, but with the threads on the one messed up, I didn't want to waste more time with it... plus, I really coudln't see putting old shocks back in it at this point...


new shocks :)



New shock installed.... steering system all hooked up..... getting there :)


Heck yeah... just like new baby!


I am still amazed at how clean the underbody of this car is.... one of the main reasons why I got it, much less don't mind putting so much work into it... it'll last a long time.


Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:57 PM
awaiting tires...





New bushings from the same view of the origanals that were trashed...


I was hammer happy :(


Here she is! Ta Da.....


I also put the vent visors on a few weeks ago but haven't put any pictures of it up with them, I like them alot, I have them on the Isuzu, and just really like them... they are in-channel where as on the Isuzu they are stick on.

Man, with the alignment correct now... its like a brand new car... I can't wait to drive it again and can't wait to take her down to Florida next weekend...

most of all, this marks the last of the big issues with my car! Can't believe it... just a few weeks ago I had a leaking heater core, busted power windows and a horrible squeek in the front end, and really thinking about getting rid of the car... but I said nope.. I am going to address each issue one at a time... and here it is... fixed

I must say too, that lately I haven't been enjoying working on the car... and thats not good, cause its my hobby... what I enjoy doing, but this entire weekend of working on the car, I had fun and enjoyed it... that was the best part, because it really means alot, not to mention very important to me that I enjoy my favorite hobby again...

After all was said and done I drove around for an hour and a half, all over, all types of driving... and... something clicked durring that time... because I now feel attatched to the Town Car, which I haven't in the past.... I was hoping I would at some point soon... so that is really good, hopefully the bond will continue to grow

But.... WOW!!!!!

So THIS is what a '96 Town Car with the Ride Control Package is supposed to feel, ride, and handling like!


alright, alright I'll slow down.

So I took it to Sears for the alignment in warrantee, they did hassle me, but reguardless, you simply cannot align a car when critical alignment components are trashed... and they did just that. I took my '79 DeVille to two seperate places over the 2.5 years I had it, to get an alignment (wasn't really off, but she would drift to the right) and both places refused to align it because the upper A-arm bushings were cracked in half, and would have visable play in them when the car was bounced up and down... granted those were (quality) private shops, but still, its their responsibility to atleast check the condition of things, with that bushing looking like it was, nearly metal on metal (inner sleeve against outter sleeve) there is no way that should have been aligned... a quick inspection with an inspection mirror would have shown the other side of those bushings trashed.... so it was aligned in the warrantee service.

Anyway, the car just drives awesome now. This marked the last of the big repairs I've had to do since I bought the car on April 4th.... the things that remain are little odds and ends that I don't even think twice about, or things that I want to do to improve the car etc....

As a quick test for ride, I figured I'd go over a rough road, a long, rough road at high speed.... my normal drive to work and back is about 50% on this two lane 55mph road that is mainly heavy industrial use, the road is extremly uneven, cause about every 10 feet it feels like you are going over an expansion joint (but its a road) it's like this for miles and miles. My work truck, the Isuzu, actually handles this road quite well (no doubt tho cause I've gone thru that thing too with all new suspension components etc...) but its still a bouncy, slightly jarring ride... but its fun. Well from my co-workers vehicles that I've ridden on the same road ('01 Kia Sephia, new Titan, '04 F-350) those vehicles were really rough over that road....

So I got on the road, and was doing 60.... I haven't been in work for 2 days, so I thought I forgot which part of the road was rough (the whole thing) so I kept waiting for it... and waiting for it.... next thing I know I am passing the turn I take for work..... I went up and down it a couple times.... the car just went over that like nothing! I would hear tire noise with each bump (sounds like going over an expansion joint) and the car would ever so slightly blip up and down... but that was it... this rough jarring road was nearly perfectly smooth!

As is that wasn't enough, at the end of that road, where it connects to another 55mph road, is a nice 270* right turn ramp.... somewhat tight.... caution sign says 25mph....

I was doing 45mph and took the turn like nothing.... I was shocked, but the Town Car really can handle, halfway thru the turn I pushed it harder, and it just stayed, I had to watch myself because I was getting close to the edge of the road... on the inside. On my way back, same road is a long S-turn, caution sign siad 45mph, but I went thru the turn at 60 without even feeling the least bit out of control.

When first entering a turn, the car will kinda sway a bit.... but that is the soft sidewalls on my Goodyear Assurance Comfortreds flexing, they do that.... but once they do flex, they really grip well. I am actually wondering what this car would handle like with a nice touring tire instead of the quietest, most softest riding tire with long tread life I could find... I bet it would make for a really nice riding and handling car.

I am just super happy now, and feel a whole lot better... its good to have the car all fixed up :)

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 06:59 PM
So yesterdayy it was nice out, so I figured I'd wash the car up... after Church I went to the local car wash place to vacuum it out, brought it home, washed it, took it for a long drive to air-dry (too lazy to dry by hand) then cleaned up the interior with Aerospace 303 protectant....

So I parked her across the street to cut my grass... and just coudln't stop staring at her... looks really good. I've added vent visors since my last set of pictures.... I like them alot.






ted tcb
08-27-07, 07:14 PM
Solid story.
At each roadblock, you refused to pack it in and turn it over to a pro.
There must be tremendous satisfaction in knowing the job is done right.
It seems the secret is to back off when the frustration level is maxed out, and
come back with a fresh outlook the next day.

Night Wolf
08-27-07, 07:22 PM
Solid story.
At each roadblock, you refused to pack it in and turn it over to a pro.
There must be tremendous satisfaction in knowing the job is done right.
It seems the secret is to back off when the frustration level is maxed out, and
come back with a fresh outlook the next day.

Man you've got it!

That is another big reason why I do my own work on my cars, besides saving money, and something I enjoy.... I know the job is done correctly, and quality parts are used.

Heh, can't say enough about stopping when the fustration comes in... I did that both nights and the next day I was able to just keep going without incident, making the issue I was stuck at, seem like nothing.

Most any other person would have given up on this car long ago... but I know tht the issues I have had were from previous owners lack of keeping things up.... everything was just stockpiled and broke, and I only knew of a couple things (hardly anything compared to what it really needed) when I bought it... but I've stuck with it...

Now all that is left is just little odds and ends, cosmetic touches and stuff... Also the breaks, front rotors are warped, but when I go to do the brakes I am going to use 12" rotors and dual piston calipers from a '98+ Town Car... bolt in swap :)

But... feels good to have all the bugs worked out of the car... man, just a month ago I had a leaking heater core (again), 3 out of 4 broken power windows (again) and the horrible squeeking noise... I was so close to getting rid of the car, but I said no, and just tackle one problem at a time.... now shes fixed :)

08-27-07, 08:55 PM
good work, NW....thats a great write up and a cool ride!


08-28-07, 06:00 AM
The nice thing about a carport is that you're protected from the rain but you still get tons of natural sunlight. Sometimes in a garage there's just not enough light.

Night Wolf
08-28-07, 07:14 AM
The nice thing about a carport is that you're protected from the rain but you still get tons of natural sunlight. Sometimes in a garage there's just not enough light.

Yeah, thats very true, and I never thought of that.

I need to get more lights though for when I work on the cars at night, I really don't have any lights, and it stinks.... cause I work nights, so on weekends I stay here, sometimes I am working on the car way past dark... try to keep my schedual somewhat the same.

F, Thanks... man it was defintily worth it... its one of the best feelings though... starting the project, then in the middle of it thinking its a really big PITA, but can't turn back now... then finishing it up alot easier then you thought it.... but just the satissfaction when it is all done and you don't have to worry about it anymore.

08-28-07, 12:48 PM
Until you have to work on a car in the winter! When I still had a carport I had to overhaul my Mercedes diesel motor in below freezing weather. I draped tarps all the way around and pointed a kerosene 150K BTU heater inside. It was toasty after that.

Night Wolf
08-28-07, 04:05 PM
Until you have to work on a car in the winter! When I still had a carport I had to overhaul my Mercedes diesel motor in below freezing weather. I draped tarps all the way around and pointed a kerosene 150K BTU heater inside. It was toasty after that.

Been there, done that! :)

My Oldsmobile which was my winter (and all year long as well) driver....

the rear brakes started grinding, I never did drum breaks before that either, so.... there I was witht he car jacked up in my snow covered gravel driveway replace the rear shoes and drums.... took a while, but I got it.

Then the water pump went, and so at the same time I did an oil change.... that wasn't as bad as the breaks though.