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Discussion Starter #1
How do, you all -

So, the old man wagon has been sounding a touch jittery under the front axle - no better description, honestly. Just sort of rattling on bumps, and behaving with a little less "float" than before. I can't complain, considering the miles I've put on him over the last year.

My mechanic recommends that I have him install a new "sway bar kit", along with what he called a "center link" for steering. After that, an alignment check. The initial two steps of this will cost about $350 - rough estimate. I trust my mechanic - he takes really good care of the wagon in cases where I can't, so I feel comfortable in his statement that this isn't an urgent matter - but it will need to be attended to.

My question is if you folks have any advice, or if this might be something I can remedy with the kit, myself. The old boy definitely needs replacement shocks - that'll improve the ride immensely, I'm sure - but the sway bar thing is new to me.

Thanks, again, for your advice. :smile:
 

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You should be able to do the center link as well. Get a replacement and set the length to the current one. Then remove the old using a tie-rod removal tool and a hefty hammer, put on the new one and then have the mechanic or an alignment shop check and set the alignment.

Doing both jobs will save you almost $300.00.

I have a Good Year shop near me that set the alignment on my van. After 5K miles on my new tires they are still wearing evenly, even the front ones. On my Impy I had it done at a Fire Stone shop and all they really did is what is called "Set the toe and let it go", the problem is that the camber setting is off and wearing the out side of my tires, I have even had the car back to them and they give me a sheet that says all is fine, well it is not. So find a shop that will do a proper alignment. In a few weeks or couple of months I am going to take the Impy to the Good Year shop to do the full alignment.
 

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My mechanic recommends that I have him install a new "sway bar kit", along with what he called a "center link" for steering. After that, an alignment check. The initial two steps of this will cost about $350 - rough estimate. I trust my mechanic - he takes really good care of the wagon in cases where I can't, so I feel comfortable in his statement that this isn't an urgent matter - but it will need to be attended to.

My question is if you folks have any advice, or if this might be something I can remedy with the kit, myself. The old boy definitely needs replacement shocks - that'll improve the ride immensely, I'm sure - but the sway bar thing is new to me.

As was mentioned, the sway bar end links are quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive to change. My experience is that they are usually harder to remove [unbolt] than to just break or cut out. Use lots of PB Blaster [or your favorite penetrating oil that is NOT Liquid Wrench], but prepared in the end to cut or just tighten until they snap.

I haven't done the sway bar bushings on a b-body but have on other GM RWD cars. Again, start with lots of soaking with penetrating oil [you should start this a day or two before the job, if possible]. The OEM bolts are a constant resistance[?] type, so they may fight you all the way out. This is another relatively inexpensive part/kit.

If you have not replaced tie rod ends and the idler arm, then I would check these also. There is only one joint/pivot on the centerlink and 6 on the others. The idler arm on our car is a known weaker point.

Replacing these is not difficult but I am always reluctant to have newbies start learning on steering and brakes unless they have a more experienced person looking over their shoulder. There are lots of common sense/mechanical sense things that should be taken into account when doing these and I have seen people do some stupid things that could put their lives and others in danger. I call you a "newbie" because our steering linkage is the basic design that has been used on most domestic cars and light trucks since the late 50's [when they got rid of king pins in favor of ball joints] until more recent times [when rack and pinion became more popular] and you do not seem to know much about it. If I am wrong about you, then I apologize.

A couple of other things...

You should always start your post with "I have a [insert year, make/model]..." Most of us are not going to click through a few links to see if you put the info in your garage profile and will simply ignore your post. Since you specified "wagon" [GM has not put out a wrong wheel drive W-body wagon with a recycled name from the past], I felt ok to assume it was a '77-'96 b-body wagon [and older mid-size RWD cars are similar... covers almost all of the possibilities]. Also, after squinting at your avatar pic, I concluded it was an LT1 [L99's were not offered in wagons] and therefore most likely a '94-6 b-body.

Here is where the previous comment comes into play... If you have a Roadmaster [maybe some Caprice and Custom Crusier wagons?], then you might see what looks like a shock absorber running parallel to your center link and connected to it and the frame [unless my "newbie" comment was dead on, in which case you should get your @ss up off the ground and drive it to someone who knows how to fix cars or will at least watch you do it]. This is a steering damper. If it is there, you need to decide if want to keep it.
Some people have commented about better steering feel with it removed. Many people [me included] couldn't tell the difference with or without it. [To be fair, most of us never had the luxury of driving these cars new and ours may be bad already. The only thing I notice is that when I am accelerating hard on a gentle hard like a freeway on ramp and the trans shifts and the engine speed drops, then I get a second or two of a weird floating feeling when the electrically reduced effort steering box kicks in (forget the option #). I noticed that all the cars with the steering option have a damper and many/most(?) without the option do not... maybe a coincidence?] Why I rambled on [and probably lost a few people in the process] is that the steering damper is a more expensive part [around $100 depending on your source] and having that extra hole in the center link just about doubles the cost of the steering center link. If you are trying to save a few $$ to keep an old wagon on the road, go for the Caprice wagon/sedan part without the hole and throw the damper in the trash with the old center link. If you want to return your car to that luxury car feel, you should probably shell out the $$ and replace the steering damper also.

If you are still reading, then one more thing... If you determine that your tie rod ends need replacing along with your center link [and most likely idler arm] and are doing the work yourself, I found that replacing everything [center link, inner and outer tie rod ends, adjusting sleeves, nuts/bolts for the adjusting sleeves] is much easier and probably a better idea. Measure the end of each tie rod before disassembling and write it down. Try to be accurate to better than 1/16". Leave tie rods [and idler arm and steering damper] attached to the center link and just undo the tie rods at the steering knuckle [remove nut then a "pickle fork' and a BFH], same thing at the steering arm, two bolts that hold the idler arm to the frame [if replacing, otherwise you will need a special puller to not damage the joint attached the idler arm], and unbolt the steering stablizer at the frame. Assemble the tie rods [ends and sleeves] and use the old parts [still assembled] as a guide to get the length as close as possible. Put the idler arm in first, then center link, then tie rods. Do a "final" adjustment on the tie rods to get them to your old measruements. Make sure everything is tight and drive to the alignment shop. [This is the way that I usually do it. This last time, I couldn't get the sleeves (poor planning on my part) and had to reuse the sleeves. It took longer and more effort for the few $$ saved.]
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Forgive the somewhat nebulous character of my post - I came from the position of having posted here before (along with ongoing conversations with several of the members), so a number of folks here know that yes, the wagon is a 1994 Caprice Classic. No offense taken - if anything, my apologies for assuming.

As well, if I decided to go with tackling the work myself, I'd be doing so with a good friend who grew up working on cars - his father owned a repair shop. While I typically go to my local mechanic, if this is something that can wait, I would be willing to tend to it out of town, while visiting with my buddy. If he's at all unsure about it, I wouldn't take the risk - for the sake of others, as well as the wagon.

Thanks for the technical advice and links, everyone - definitely of help!
 
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