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oldmangrimes

Front suspension fail

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I had a bad start to my day, but I'm very lucky it could have been much worse.   Thank God nobody was hurt and I didn't cause an accident.broken.jpg.2c4baa660ffbb68111e7a49cd04c23f9.jpg

I had just replaced my lower engine mount a couple days ago, which was causing the engine to move around a lot.    Unfortunately it wasn't my only problem, and this morning when I tried to drive the Cutlass to work, I made it about 10 miles but after taking a 40mph sweeping curve to the left, on a two-lane road, my right front suspension failed.    Luckily I had straightened out of the turn, otherwise I would have rolled the car down into a ditch, or worse.   I tried to steer to the left into a driveway off the road, but my forward momentum wasn't enough to get there, obviously dragging the wheel sideways, jammed into the wheel well.

I was blocking most of the road, but was able to get out of the car and flag down oncoming traffic.   Luckily one of the first guys that stopped to help had some flares and set them up.   Another guy with a truck and a tow rope hooked onto the A-arm and dragged me 20 feet off the road into the driveway.   I was a few miles from town, so I had to wait a while for a tow-truck.   The sheriff came, added a couple flares, wished me luck, and left.   The first tow-truck was a flatbed, and the guy tried but couldn't get the car up onto the flatbed without causing more damage, so he called in another standard lift-truck to do the job.    Eventually that guy got the car secured and towed it back to my house and he managed to place it in my garage, where it will sit while I decide what to do with it.   I haven't had more than 2 minutes to look at it up close, I had to run to work.

The ball joint popped out, the axle was destroyed, the transmission dumped a ton of fluid, (which while the car was being towed ran back along the entire undercarriage and coated everything back to the rear bumper), the tire is probably not safe to use, and I'm sure a ton of other parts would need to be replaced.   The hub has less than 5k on it, but it took a big side-load so might be shot.   The brake lines were stretched, the plastic trim on the wheel well was slightly damaged, the front strut/spring assembly was twisted out of place, the tie rod was damaged, etc.967238199_damage2.jpg.c4c17840838a13a18c087665df952e60.jpg

Of course I SHOULD scrap the car, it's got 235k miles and has some other problems that aren't related.   But I really don't WANT to get rid of it, it's got a new top and I'd planned on keeping it forever.   I'm going to take a few days to calm down and think about it, and I can leave it in my garage for awhile.  But we only have one parking spot in my attached garage and my wife won't be happy about going out in the weather all winter.    The good news is that the belly stayed off the pavement, the fender metal seems ok, and the car might be savable.   I can manage the bolt-on stuff, but I'm mostly worried about the transmission/axle.    And of course since this failure happened, I'll replace everything on the drivers side too, as I'm sure it all is due for replacement.   

Unfortunately I won't have time to dig into it and assess anything until after Christmas, so I'll post an update in a couple months.   I don't have the money to take it to a shop now, although I may have to eventually if I can't do it myself.    In the meantime, I'd appreciate any advice from you guys.   This isn't a show car, just a driver, so I'm looking at ways to get it safely back on the road in time for next summer for less than $1000.    I can take other pictures if you want to see different angles, but I won't have time for much disassembly as I've got another car to drive and other projects screaming for my time and money.

Edited by oldmangrimes
clarifying

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Ditto, probably just popped the CV out of the tranny. Assess the damage and I bet you'll find a leisurely day's worth of labor and a a few hundred dollars in parts.

From the picture I'd say CV and Ball joint, maybe a tie rod and if the tie rod is bent do the outer tie rod end because it'll be off anyways.

 

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That was terrible! Must have been scary too! Good no one was hurt. Like everyone says, it won't take much to fix. Good luck with the repairs. You should be back in business by next summer. 

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 Rough deal man. Real ass kicker. Glad you didn’t lose the drivers side and get pulled into a head on. The parts won’t be bad cost wise so the fix will be easy enough if you know how to do suspension work. Hopefully you find the fender is in good shape and not twisted or pushed into the door? Get the car up on jack stands and take a good look at what you’ve got yourself into.

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1585534509_controlarmbolt.jpg.0ef02d7405974df5e8769743dffdc14e.jpg

I've got the passenger side done, but the control arm bolts were seized to the bushing sleeves on the driver's side.   Penetrating oil and many swings of a sledgehammer worked on the passenger side bolts, but that wasn't enough for the drivers side so I gave up and had to cut the bolts.   One problem I ran into was that was my Ryobi battery-powered sawzall has a long body and I couldn't get a very good angle for one of the cuts that's closest to the axle, I kept bending the saw blades.   So I had to use my angle grinder and cut off chunks of the control arm until I had enough clearance to get all the way through the bolt.   I had to make multiple cuts before it finally cut through (and I get a little nervous with showers of sparks from the angle grinder landing on an oil-covered engine) but I finally got it out of there.  

Now all I have left to do is the drivers side tie rod,  install new brake lines,  torque all the new bolts,  refill the transmission,  clean off the leaked transmission oil from the exhaust (because I don't want to smell that or start a fire) and hope it starts and runs.   I'm guessing I'll get it done by early March.

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I don't actually know if the A-arm bushings were worn out.   I just figured that since I was taking everything apart that this was my chance to put new ones on.   After 24 years and 225k miles, I figured that any rubber in the suspension would be due for replacement.   But I've never done control arms before, and if I would have realized how much of a pain it was to replace I probably wouldn't have done it.    I probably won't notice any difference in the handling, but if I DIDN'T replace the control arms, then I'd always wonder "what if".   The steering has been a little sloppy, but that's probably due to the tie rods and the fact that it's a convertible w-body.   

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She's back on the road!   After a long winter of fighting rusty bolts, I finally got her back together yesterday.   I carefully drove her around the block once, and she seemed to drive and shift fine.  I haven't noticed any leaks from the transmission or the brake lines.   I'll try a longer drive tonight after work and see how it goes.

Parts replaced:

Passenger side only:  Axle.   

Both sides:   Control arms, tie rods (inner and outer), ball joints, flex brake lines.  

Parts saved:   Fender (I straightened the bent lip).  Wheel well trim and lower cladding were slightly damaged but I reinstalled them.

TBD:   Passenger front tire and hub.   The tire held air all winter, but I need to drive at higher speeds and go around corners to evaluate the hub and tire.   

Total cost:   About $400 including tools.   

Time spent:   I don't want to think about it, probably 50+ hours if you count watching videos and buying tools.

It doesn't sound like much, but I found ways to make the project take forever.   It was my first time doing any of these jobs on any car, so it was a slow learning curve to figure out what technique to use.   I often would only have two or three hours a week to work on it, so it dragged on and on.  I tried to save money by using the wrong tool for the job a few times, which just ended up with wasted time and frustration until I would give up and drive to the store and buy the right tool.   Once I had the right tool and the right technique, each job wasn't bad.   Moral of the story:   Buy the right tool!     

back on the road March 2019.jpg

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Testing hub assemblies is easy. Jack the car up, grab the wheel at 12 & 6, push with one hand and pull with the other and if you can rock the wheel at all the bearing is bad.

Hub assemblies are not hard to replace and all four should be checked periodically. Early warning sign is a sound sort of like a plane taking off while driving.

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Yeah I've replaced all four hubs over the years already.  The 12 and 6 method has never worked for me, I've never been able to feel any movement with the car jacked up, even on the hubs where I've heard the humming/roaring sound.       

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Got the alignment done today at a new alignment shop near me.  It's a tiny place with a single bay.   It's run by a young guy in his 20's, I think it's a spin-off of the tire shop next door.    Anyway, when I pull in he looks at my vert and says "what kind of car IS that?".   I tell him and he says "oh, I've never done an alignment on an Oldsmobile before".   Wow.  He said he'd been doing alignments for a year, so that's hundreds of cars.   Here in Gresham Oregon, Oldsmobiles are not common and it's mostly Asian cars or pickup trucks.    I still see Oldsmobiles running around, but I think they are mostly being driven into the ground by the fourth owners and they wouldn't bother getting them aligned.   

Side note:   I noticed that sitting all winter caused my rear caliper to drag, and it sounds like a front wheel bearing is making noise, as I feared.   Oh well, the battle continues. . . 

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