Author Topic: The rest of the fleet...  (Read 3790 times)

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Offline toplessFC3Sman

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The rest of the fleet...
« on: May 30, 2015, 08:10:08 PM »
Since I didn't notice this forum before, I'm only now making a post for the rest of the fleet. Those are: my DD - an '06 Saab 9-3, Helen's car - a '91 Toyota Celica, my Mom's car - an '03 Pontiac Vibe, my Brother's car - a 2002 Ford Focus Wagon, the motorcycle - a '73 Honda CL350, and the scooter - an '88? Yamaha Razz

Anyhow, this past week I was visiting my family back in NJ, so it was their cars in the spotlight.  Once a year I usually do a tune-up and some minor things, which happened again this year, but the big project was the front bumper of the Vibe. My mom had gotten into a minor fender-bender over the winter which had shattered the bumper cover and caused some minor damage to the headlight, fender, and radiator support.  Insurance was low-balling her severely on the value of the car, and we ended up deciding to do the repair ourselves.  Anyhow, after gluing some of the headlight mounting ears back on & supporting them with additional plastic, knocking out the rad support and various headlight & bumper brackets back into their approximate shapes, and painting the exposed metal, it was on to the bumper cover itself.  Well... the end results speak for themselves, including the rust repair around the headlights for some assorted dents.





Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2015, 08:28:13 PM »
Prior to leaving to visit my family and in preparation for a driving event, there was a bunch of suspension work done on the Saab.  I wanted to stiffen up the damping a little bit without losing ride height or suspension travel, so I got a set of Bilstein HD B6's to use with the stock springs. Some of the bushings & front ball joints were worn too, so those got attention at the same time. These are write-ups that I did for SaabCentral on the various jobs.

After almost 160k miles, plenty of rough MI winters with lots of potholes, and a couple of ice racing events each year, the OEM dampers had thrown in the towel, with the rears especially starting to make that "sucking a milkshake through a straw" noise. I eventually decided to go with the B6 over the B4 or another OEM replacement to help with body roll & motion during a track day coming up in a couple months, plus I liked how solidly built they are. No first impressions yet, but here's the journey for installing them. Sorry for the lack of pictures removing the front struts, I forgot to take them until it was too late.

Removing the front McPherson struts is pretty straightforward, with all the usual disclaimers of "if you don't feel comfortable doing the work, then take it to someone", "cars can hurt you", "I'm not responsible for what you do with your car", "Only work on the car when it is securely supported by jack stands", "Wear eye protection", "Eat your cheerios" etc. Since I was doing some other work at the same time, I got the whole car off the ground & removed all the wheels first.

To remove the front struts, you need to support the end of the lower control arm & wheel hub so that they don't droop and damage the brake hose or pull the driveshaft out of the transmission. Next, remove the brake line and unbolt the wheel-speed-sensor wiring & clip from the bracket on the strut. Then, unscrew the sway bar link from it's bracket on the strut. This can be more challenging since you need to hold the stud with an allen key while unscrewing the outside nut with an open-ended wrench. Invariably these have become a bit rusted, so some penetrating oil like "P B Blaster" helps a lot.

At this point, since I was disassembling the strut assembly, I chose to loosen the main nut on the shock's shaft with the strut still solidly held in the chassis. Only break it loose and maybe unscrew it one thread, since the spring is still compressed and can do a lot of damage if it's energy was released! This nut is the only thing holding the strut together! This is another case where you need to hold the shaft with an allen key & spin the nut, but since it's buried in the upper strut mount, a different solution must be used:






These were shot when the strut was already off the car, since I forgot to take pictures during disassembly. To make this possible, I was using a 1/2" drive socket for more room in the middle, and had to file down part of the allen key socket so that it would fit through the drive hole and spin freely.

Now with that nut loosened, remove the two 19mm nuts holding the strut to the wheel hub, and the three 12mm nuts holding the strut top mount to the chassis. With a little bit of persuasion, the strut assembly should now come right out! I used a couple zip-ties at this point between the brake line bracket on the chassis & the now-empty bolt holes for the strut on the wheel hub to keep the hub from flopping outwards and stressing the rubber brake line or pulling the driveshaft out of the transmission.

Now time for the spring compressors to keep the spring compressed and allow you to remove that nut from the top of the strut mount! Another disclaimer here: This is probably the most dangerous part of the job (besides jacking up & supporting the car), since if the spring slips, it can very easily launch unsecured pieces of the strut into your face, body, or the surroundings, sever your fingers, pull your hair and give you a wet willy. Inspect the spring compressors before using them for cracks, binding, or other signs of damage, make sure that they're securely on the spring 180 degrees apart to evenly compress it, and use those little hooks or bands to secure the compressor to the spring. Treat the compressed spring very gently, maybe with a nice walk on the beach with wine at sunset. I used some shop towels between the spring compressor & the spring to prevent scraping off paint on the spring, especially since our cars are known for binding & rusting springs (usually due to the strut-top bearing seizing).


Compress the spring evenly on both sides until the top mount is loose and you can freely rattle it and the bearing. Don't point either end of it at yourself, just in case! Remove the nut from the top as described above, lift off the top mount & bearing, and take the spring itself off of the shock (gently!). Disassembled, from left to right (and roughly top to bottom when assembled) is the shock assembly, the still-compressed spring (with it's rubber bottom-end protector on - always use rubber protection!), the dust boot (with rubber protection for the top-end of the spring), the bump-stop that rides on the shock's shaft, the top bearing, and the top mount.


A side-by-side comparison of the old shocks with the new - look at how much beefier the main shaft is on the Bilstein. This helps to contribute to it's stiffness, since side loads on the suspension put the shaft and the piston within the shock into bending. Overall, this will reduce the compliance in the front suspension.


The much larger shaft means that the OEM bump stops or any replacements won't fit, but fortunately the Bilstein B6's have the bump-stop built into the shock internally, so external ones aren't necessary. However, the dust guard is still very important to keep debris off of the polished shaft where it would interfere with the shock's seal and ultimately it's reliability. Plus, the OEM one has the spring's top rubber isolator built in, so I wanted to keep it. Unfortunately, it wasn't long enough to cover the entire shaft on it's own (OEM had a ring to hold the bottom of the rubber accordian, but the Bilstein didn't), and had gotten some holes in it, so it needed some mending.



Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2015, 08:33:27 PM »
Holes! I cut the bottom 4 accordian creases off, and used them to wrap around where the holes were higher up, taking care to avoid kinking the accordian & keeping it functional. Then, I stretched the bottom of the rubber one over the top of a new plastic replacement accordian to lengthen the whole thing so that it would cover the whole shaft




The last thing I did before re-assembly (which I forgot to take pictures of, again) was to take off the rubber spring protector/isolator from the bottom of the spring, and clean it & the bottom of the spring out thoroughly with WD-40. There was a little bit of paint flaking & surface rust down under the isolator where dirt & moisture get trapped, so after cleaning I greased everything up thoroughly with some general purpose silicone grease (Sil-glyde; I use it on suspension bushings, squeaky joints & tracks, all sorts of stuff), and re-assembled. This grease is thick enough that it won't run, and it will help to protect the spring from moisture & debris. I also applied some to the top of the spring where it meets the rubber isolator on the accordian.

Now it's time for reassembly; the reverse of disassembly. Make sure you align the bottom of the spring with the groove in the strut so it will be seated correctly and won't slip in the future. Then, slide the accordian down the middle of the spring around the shock's shaft, drop in the top bearing with the flat side up (it should fit snugly inside the top coil of the spring with the rubber isolator between it & the coil), and then put the strut top back on. Put the top nut back on, using the same method as removal. I prefer to just get the nut fully engaged and snug, and then fully tighten it once it's back on the car and held in place by the chassis. Even though I replaced the strut-top bearings on the front about 60k miles ago, they can fail unexpectedly and cause the springs to break when trying to steer, so as cheap insurance I replaced them and the strut top bushings/plates too. Hey, its a lot easier when everything's already apart.




Re-installing it in the car is the reverse of disassembly - I find that it's easiest to hang it from the bolts on top, then get the ears of the strut over the wheel hub and use the jack that's supporting the hub from below to push it up or down to make the bottom holes align. Use some anti-sieze on all the bolts to keep them from getting stuck next time; the stuff is worth its weight in gold on the underside of a car exposed to salt, water & corrosion! In my case, I also installed one of those camber bolts in the top hole to allow a little bit more negative camber in preparation for the track day - a front-heavy, FWD car will tend to roll over it's front tires under cornering more, so lets try to get at least some of that mitigated with more negative camber.


In comparison, the rears were very simple! Remove the wheels (since I already had the car completely in the air & supported with jack stands), support the suspension from underneath with a jack, and unbolt the strut. It's 3 E14 Torx-head bolts on top, and one E20 Torx bolt below. My E20 socket had broken, but a 16mm 12-point socket worked fine in a pinch. The penetrating oil worked well here too, especially spraying into the pocket behind the top three bolts to get some on the ends of the threads - these three bolts were really gummed up. Maybe they had loc-tite on them from the factory, or maybe just because two of the three were exposed to road-gunk along most of their length due to the mount design? I don't know, but either way I ran a tap through the holes and a die over the bolts to clean them up, and then coated them liberally with anti-sieze (fantastic stuff!). Removing the top mount from the rear OEM shocks was very straightforward - hold the nut with a 17mm open wrench and turn the 7mm hex with a ratchet & socket. Penetrating oil & anti-sieze were used here too. The bilsteins had a female allen head in the top of the shaft instead of a male allen head, so a different socket was used for reassembly.


The one snag was when the top mount on the driver's side just crumbled when disassembling it! Since I definitely didn't want to reuse it in that condition, I had to wait for two new top mounts. If one is that bad, the other may not have been far behind, so lets do them both at the same time.

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2015, 08:38:02 PM »
After replacing the shocks & struts a few weeks ago, my wife took the car to get aligned & the shop said that the rear lateral trailing arms were bad and they couldn't do it. I got in there a few weekends ago to check it out, and there was a lot of play in the rubber bushings that are pressed into the steel plate lateral arm, and some play in the upper transverse arms. Time for replacement!

This is on a 2006 2.0T FWD sedan with 160k miles.

If you're just removing & replacing the parts, you'll need a jack & jack stands, E14, E18 & E20 torx sockets, 18mm & 20?mm wrench & sockets, and a variety of extensions & U-joints. If you're actually replacing the bushings in the arms, then a variety of pipes/tubes of various sizes (or large sockets, etc) to set up the press, and a press, larger vice, or maybe a set of sturdy C-clamps.

Anyhow, on to the suspension. First, get your trusty co-worker to oversee the progress


Now, the first part that is getting replaced is the lateral link's front bushing, which requires removing the lateral link. This is the big steel plate that trails back to the hub assembly from underneath the rear doors, which is where the bushing is located.


To do this, I found the best way was to support the suspension from below, and remove the shock & it's mount to get access to the three bolts shown in this image. These hold the plate on to a lattice-like structure coming off of the hub assembly. The bolts are E-20 Torx.


Once those are off, unbolt the 4 bolts that hold the lateral link's pivot to the chassis under the back of the rear door. It helps to unhook the emergency brake cable from the caliper and move the whole brake line out of the way. With these 4 E-18 bolts off, the whole arm is free to be removed from the car.


Here the lateral link bushing is, with the mounting bracket on it, next to the replacement bushing.


and without the bracket


The replacement bushing had a lot more rubber and less negative space, which (assuming the durometer is close, which it felt to be) would mean that the new ones will be stiffer. Note that the negative space is on the front and back with the arm in the car, so that the rear suspension can move more freely forward & backward, as when you hit a pot-hole, but cannot move as easily up & down.

Anyhow, make note of how far through the arm the existing bushing is pressed. In my case, there was 5/16" from the side of the arm with the extrusion, and 11/16" from the flat side of the arm. This does not seem like an absolutely critical dimension as any slight misalignment will be taken up by the bushing's deflection when the lateral link is bolted back in place, but its always good to get it as close as possible.




First... getting the old bushing out of there. This actually was a lot easier than past bushings in other cars that I've removed. Just support the arm itself on the flat side (I used the large aluminum cylinder in the pic, but you could really use anything... a cinderblock, an arrangement of sockets the same height, a rock...) and smack the bushing alternating from one side of it's outer cylinder to the other. It really just fell right out. I used a couple of squirts of PB blaster to help it break loose, but I doubt I really needed to.

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2015, 08:43:59 PM »
Once the old bushing is free, now's the time to press in the other. Being an apartment-parking-lot mechanic (unfortunately there arent too many shade-trees; it was hot out there), I don't have a hydraulic press available, so its time to cobble something together with what I do have... a bunch of sockets and a bench vice.




This is by far NOT the best way to do this, it was a very intricate balancing act to get everything assembled & tighten the vice to the point I didn't need 3 hands with 8 fingers each to hold all the bits in place. However, once it was assembled, all it took was steadily compressing the vice, pressing the new bushing into the arm. Before you do this, MAKE SURE that the bushing is oriented the same way with respect to front & back, and that you mark how far you need to press on the bushing.


Bingo! Reinstallation is the reverse of removal... although that sentence is the bane of every mechanic's existence, it really is true, and you need to reinstall this link before taking out the next one. Otherwise there would really not be enough structure to support the hub, and the soft brake line would bear the weight, potentially damaging it. On to the upper transverse link.


This is the piece that starts just right of the center bottom of the picture and runs across half of the car from left to right. It's painted gloss black, unlike the bare aluminum arms that are running in the same direction (lower transverse link/spring mount/lower control arm & toe control arm). To remove this, you'll need an 18mm wrench and E-18 Torx socket, and probably a 20 or 21mm wrench (I didn't have one, so I used an adjustable wrench) along with a few extensions. Its pretty tight where this arm mounts to the rear subframe - the 18mm wrench & torx socket with extensions worked well here to loosen it.




These images were taken on the passenger's side of the car, with the socket & wrench towards the rear, vs. the driver's side of the other images.

Un-bolting the hub-side of this arm is much easier, you just need to remove the parking brake line from the caliper to get clearance for the nut.


Unbolt those & remove the wire clips, drop in the new one, and you're good to go! After all this work, the car will definitely need an alignment, and upon reassembly I like to use an anti-seize grease to make future disassembly much easier.

With all the work, it had been a while since I've driven the Saab, and I'd also replaced the front LCAs for the ball joints. Anyway, initial impressions were that the dampers handle larger perturbations like speed bumps, pot holes, and more severe washboard well. Handling is stiffer and body roll feels more controlled. On the downside, so far the ride has felt a bit busier over smaller imperfections on the highway. This isn't unexpected, but is more noticeable than i had hoped. This all is also in comparison to 160k mile old 2.0T suspension, and re-uses those original springs. After the round trip to NJ, the dampers feel like they've loosened up a little bit over the small stuff, but the car is still noticably stiffer, as was my lower back at the end of the 9 hour drive.  I'm not sure if I'm acclimating to it, or whether they're really loosening up, but we'll see whether they earn their keep in the track day in two weeks.

Offline ~Groll69~

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2015, 12:08:26 PM »
I am so glad i at least have my single garage and i am not stuck doing work in an apt parking lot.  I have done it before in the past and it sucks.  Plus i tend to have issues that crop up and take longer then anticipated to repair. 

Keep up the great work.  Nice stitch job on your mom's car there.  It gives it a mean look that says move out of my way.
"Long Live Rotary"

An RX-7 is like having a slut as a gf! She will love you, but she will also screw around with the guy at the parts store, most of the local cops, your insurance agent, your apex seals, your bank account and your credit card!!!

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2015, 05:03:03 PM »
Well, the paved parking lot is better then my parent's gravel driveway anyway.  Sooooo looking forward to the 2-car garage on the house that Helen & I are trying to buy.

Anyhow, just replaced the brake pads with some EBC yellows for the HPDE next weekend. The Akebono ceramics have plenty of life on them, and will go back on the car afterwards, but I wanted a bit more grab and heat resistance when I know I'll be abusing the stock brakes.

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #7 on: June 17, 2015, 04:25:25 AM »
The HPDE this past weekend was a blast! It was my first time doing one, and I'm definitely hooked. Mid-Ohio was so much fun with all the blind corners & elevation changes - too bad I couldn't have brought the 7, but I've come to the realization that I really need to get a coupe to turn into a track-car instead of compromising the 'vert's functionality. The Saab performed flawlessly though, and was great to start out in. Lots of torque from 2000 RPM up to 6000, nice, safe FWD characteristics, but still pretty nimble and light-ish (~3200 lbs).

I moved up from the novice group (D) to group C at the beginning of Sunday, where I was much more well-matched in the corners, but definitely out-gunned in the straights. The group running the event (Ohio Valley Region Porsche Club) specified that if someone was faster than you in the corners, you had to let them pass, even if you pulled away in the straights.

Anyhow, on to the video:
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Offline murz

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2015, 08:26:15 AM »
That looks like so much fun!!  So does that mean it's time to find another rx7? Haha
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Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2015, 04:49:11 PM »
I've been pondering that one myself... maybe even with fidelity's shell & the drivetrain out of Savannah.  On the other hand, maybe I want to see what else is out there - I've been looking at Fieros, Mk3 supras, C4 corvettes, Corvairs, MR2s, and the like for something cheap & track-capable.  Even better would be something that I could potentially run in 24 hours of Lemons.  Also, some of the RX-8's are getting pretty cheap too, although those tend to be the 2004 models that have more issues.

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #10 on: July 23, 2015, 09:49:15 AM »
Helen & I just bought a Mazda5 to use as a much more practical car for moving, with the dogs, when camping, and for any work at this house that we're trying to buy.  Its a 2006, manual transmission, well taken-care-of, 112k miles, and only minor rust issues that I'll be addressing soon.



Offline murz

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2015, 07:12:08 AM »
Looks very roomy for all that space it has. Doesn't look like 112k miles either, nice find!
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Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2015, 07:57:44 AM »
Well, the Mazda5 has just earned it's name... Bessie. That car is stubborn as a mule.

We bought her knowing that the blower motor wasn't working. I've done both the RX-7 & the Saab, and in both cases getting to the blower motor & resistor packs was pretty straightforward. With Bessie, I was disassembling the interior for about 2 1/2 hours before even finding the blower motor, resistor pack, and associated wiring. It's buried so deep in the dash, I can't see how to get to it without  removing the rest of the dash. The workshop manual (which i studied in a lot more depth after locating the motor) says it's possible... we'll see.

After a number of hours messing around with it, and vacuuming accumulated leaves, a mouse nest, and other debris from the HVAC system & cowl, I'm putting away tools & cleaning up when I go to open the passenger's side sliding door. It opens about 6", slams into something, and pops off it's track. Turns out that there is a cable that runs from the gas door to the sliding door, so that if the gas door is not closed all the way, a piece of metal comes out to block the sliding door from opening into the filler nozzle. Definitely a good idea, if it works... Of course, the gas door doesn't stay closed at all due to a stuck cable, and that piece of metal de-rails the sliding door instead of just stopping it, which means another hour and a half of figuring out what happened, pulling apart the door, part of the side of the van, and some more interior to fix it, and the door doesn't feel like it moves smoothly anymore. Well... crap.

Me and Bessie... we need to come to an understanding pretty soon...

Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #13 on: August 02, 2015, 09:27:13 PM »
Bessie & I got along a bit better this weekend... First up was the blower motor

The motor itself was definitely the problem. It looks like it had possibly gotten stuck at one point and the shaft was spinning inside the squirrel cage, heating up until it partially melted through. After melting, the cage was no longer aligned and was hitting the side of the housing, preventing the whole thing from spinning.

Getting the motor out was difficult, but getting the new one in was the hardest part. No pictures, since I could either fit my arm up under the dash or have a line-of-sight to see what was going on, but not both at once. I was able to get it in place using the alignment pin in the motor and housing, and hold it there by shoving a blanket & cardboard in on the squirrel-cage side to brace against the cowl opening (from the passenger's side). The motor needed to be firmly held in place in the correct position, otherwise the locking ring that secures the motor in place from the drivers side won't engage. Actually getting that ring up there and in position was another ordeal of maneuvering it one-handed around everything in the way, and finally getting it lined up by feel. All-in-all, the whole thing took about 5 hours, with 2 of those spent finding where the motor was (before looking at the FSM), 30 min getting the motor out, and 2 1/2 hrs getting the new one in.

Since the dash was apart, I decided to try to add an Aux Input & USB charger to the car, so that we can charge our phones & listen to music/audiobooks etc on longer drives. Following some instructions & looking up the radio's wiring diagram, its working well! Audio quality sounds very clear regardless of whether the phone is charging or not. I also added a pocket where the blank panel/cassette player would otherwise live to hold the phone or MP3 player.









Offline toplessFC3Sman

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Re: The rest of the fleet...
« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2015, 09:19:59 PM »
Helen & I did one of SCCA's track nights at Gingerman last wednesday, and it was a lot of fun. We went in the Saab, and about 1/2 way through my last session the brakes went to the floor. I coasted the rest of the way in, & Helen did her last session while taking it easy on the brakes. We drove home, and I used the car to get to work on Friday, but the brakes felt very strange, spongy, and the driver's side was dragging progressively more.  Well... I took them apart this weekend, and there were some serious problems...

The pads themselves were disintegrating...


The backing plates had bent...


And the caliper piston itself had melted and come apart at the surface that presses on the brake pad...


This happened on both sides, but the driver's side was a little worse. Anyhow, new calipers have been ordered (only available in the UK... hmm, running into Saab parts shortages?), i'm going to get the rotors turned, and hopefully by next weekend I'll have it back together. In the mean time, I'm DDing the 7 again, with the coolant seal seeping away and the window motor dead again.

In other news, my sister-in-law also just bought a 2006 Saab 9-3, wagon, and we've been working on it to take care of any issues it had. This weekend was dropping the fuel tank to replace the level sender & pump, replacing all the fluids, filters, plugs etc, taking care of some rust, and generally giving the car a once-over.  Good thing we did too, since both front springs had rusted off the lower coil and one was precariously perched on the anti-roll bar. New parts now on the way to take care of that soon too.