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1996 Grand Prix Suspension Work


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So I got this 1996 Grand Prix that I'm fixing up.  It's a good running car with 152k but needs plenty of work due to previous neglect.  At some point I want to refresh the suspension front and back, but I'm not terribly familiar with what that might include on this car.

I'm no stranger to replacing suspension components on FWD cars, usually I just buy new control arms with bushings & ball joint already installed, struts, strut mounts, sway bar end links, tie rod ends, perhaps sway bar bushings and in the end you basically have a new suspension.  But the setup on this Grand Prix looks entirely different than what I'm used to, I can't even see where the strut unbolts from the knuckle..  Or what I call a knuckle is a stamped steel piece on this car, very strange.  Ball joint looks riveted in or something, on the replacement control arms I notice the ball joint isn't included.

The ride on this car isn't bad but I do get infrequent clunks and I know the tie rod ends need replacing (boots torn to shreds).  Replacing tie rod ends requires alignment, well I might as well go over all the suspension components to avoid repeat alignments as these 24 year old parts fail.

So can someone give me a run-down on what suspension components I might look into replacing, and what is involved in replacing said components?  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

Edited by quakerj
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Also, when searching for parts, Rockauto lists front suspension mounts for a standard duty suspension and heavy duty suspension.  What would I expect to have on my '96 Grand Prix SE?

Also rear sway bar bushings are available in 11mm and 13mm.  Aside from measuring, anyone know what the appropriate size is?

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I've been replacing a bunch of worn down suspension components on my Grand Prix recently so I can help you out a bit. I've replaced the front and rear struts, front and rear sway bar bushings, and the rear sway bar. When you say you don't see where the strut unbolts from the knuckle, I assume you're talking about the front struts right? GM went with a strange design for the front struts where they don't bolt to the knuckle at all. Instead they are removed from inside the engine compartment through the strut towers. Why they decided to do this I don't know, but this is the method for replacing them:

You WILL need the special strut tool to get them out. Part number is MS 6275 for the Matco version.

To replace the front sway bar bushings you need to lower the rear of the subframe to get the sway bar out of the car. That's the only tricky part there. The rear suspension is pretty straight forward. When replacing the rear struts you have to keep a jack underneath the rear knuckle to keep the leaf spring from suddenly pushing the suspension downwards once you remove all the bolts, but that's really it. The sway bar bushings on the knuckle are easy to replace, though the ones in center of the car will require a bit of work because they are in a metal retainer that clamps around them. I'm not that great at directions, so if you need any help feel free to ask.

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3 minutes ago, quakerj said:

Also, when searching for parts, Rockauto lists front suspension mounts for a standard duty suspension and heavy duty suspension.  What would I expect to have on my '96 Grand Prix SE?

Also rear sway bar bushings are available in 11mm and 13mm.  Aside from measuring, anyone know what the appropriate size is?

I can't answer your answer about rockauto, but if you check the RPO codes for the car and you spot the code FE3 you'll want the 13mm bushing.

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50 minutes ago, Amanita said:

I've been replacing a bunch of worn down suspension components on my Grand Prix recently so I can help you out a bit. I've replaced the front and rear struts, front and rear sway bar bushings, and the rear sway bar. When you say you don't see where the strut unbolts from the knuckle, I assume you're talking about the front struts right? GM went with a strange design for the front struts where they don't bolt to the knuckle at all. Instead they are removed from inside the engine compartment through the strut towers. Why they decided to do this I don't know, but this is the method for replacing them:

You WILL need the special strut tool to get them out. Part number is MS 6275 for the Matco version.

To replace the front sway bar bushings you need to lower the rear of the subframe to get the sway bar out of the car. That's the only tricky part there. The rear suspension is pretty straight forward. When replacing the rear struts you have to keep a jack underneath the rear knuckle to keep the leaf spring from suddenly pushing the suspension downwards once you remove all the bolts, but that's really it. The sway bar bushings on the knuckle are easy to replace, though the ones in center of the car will require a bit of work because they are in a metal retainer that clamps around them. I'm not that great at directions, so if you need any help feel free to ask.

As a owner of 3 W-bodies, I will at some point have to do this to all of them.  Thanks for the video!

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Posted (edited)

Where can I find the RPO codes?  I'm used to them being under the trunk lid on GM cars, but I'm not finding it.  What's the deal with the front ball joints?  The new control arms don't come with them-- do they press in?  Looks like a funky design, I'm not quite sure how they're installed.

Edit:  Nevermind, I found the RPO codes on the spare tire cover.  Mine DOES have FE3 listed, what does this imply?  I assume I need to order parts on Rockauto referring to front HD suspension?  Rockauto lists a different front strut mount for standard and performance suspension.  What are the differences?  Visually they look the same, I'm referring to the rubber block looking thing-- upper strut mount is what they're calling it.

Edited by quakerj
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2 minutes ago, quakerj said:

Where can I find the RPO codes?  I'm used to them being under the trunk lid on GM cars, but I'm not finding it.  What's the deal with the front ball joints?  The new control arms don't come with them-- do they press in?  Looks like a funky design, I'm not quite sure how they're installed.

I haven't messed with the ball joints, but the RPO codes on Grand Prixs are on the spare tire cover under the trunk floor mat.

Edited by Amanita
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a 1st gen car doesn't make use of a *readily replaceable* front strut, if one needs new shocks one replaces the *cartridge* , the main strut body remains on the car. The ball joint is attached to the strut, it is inverted. The GTP or an LQ1 car will have the large dia anti roll bar up front, 13mm bar at the rear, SE's will be smaller. 

 

1814656909_wbodyfrontstrut2.thumb.jpg.33afafad6ff91231572fc1b38a5259fd.jpg

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2 hours ago, 55trucker said:

a 1st gen car doesn't make use of a *readily replaceable* front strut, if one needs new shocks one replaces the *cartridge* , the main strut body remains on the car. The ball joint is attached to the strut, it is inverted. The GTP or an LQ1 car will have the large dia anti roll bar up front, 13mm bar at the rear, SE's will be smaller. 

 

1814656909_wbodyfrontstrut2.thumb.jpg.33afafad6ff91231572fc1b38a5259fd.jpg

My '96 L82 SE had the larger sway bars since it has FE3 suspension

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The aftermarket ball joints come with bolts to attach them, but it seems the one on my car (presumably factory) is fixed in place.  How do you swap them out?

I found FE3 in the RPO codes so it appears I have the upgraded suspension as well.

 

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oldmangrimes
16 hours ago, quakerj said:

The aftermarket ball joints come with bolts to attach them, but it seems the one on my car (presumably factory) is fixed in place.  How do you swap them out?

I replaced mine last year, I had to drill out the rivets on the factory ball joints.  A pain to do at home, it's probably much easier for a mechanic with the car up on a lift.  Make sure you have good drill bits and get the car up high enough so you can get the drill underneath the ball joint at the proper angle with good leverage.    Installing the new ball joint was easy, but make sure you get the nuts tight.   I forgot to tighten mine on one side when reassembling, and the bolts moved around when I drove it, ruining the thread on the bolts so I couldn't tighten it properly once I realized the problem.  Once I put new bolts in and tightened it up properly it's been fine.   

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Removing those ball joint rivets on my 96 regal was one of the most frustrating jobs ever. The rivets were pressed in so tight that after drilling and grinding the heats off the rivets still would not come out. Had to center drill every rivet with a 1/8 bit before they would come out with a punch.

The replacement ball joints came with 6mm x 1.0 that were way too loose for the ball joints so replaced them with ¼ inch fine thread garde-8.

Edited by ron350
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oldmangrimes

Yeah I just drilled every rivet completely through, I kept using larger drill bits until the hole was clean.   It took a few bits, as I snapped a bit or two when I wasn't careful about the angle of the drill with the small bits, plus I think I dulled a couple.  I did it in multiple sessions over multiple days, it wasn't a quick job at all and it was an awkward angle drilling up from the floor.  I probably should have used a punch after I drilled out the first hole, maybe that would have been quicker.   I'd also recommend using the best drill bits you can buy to make the job go quicker (or pay a mechanic to do it on a lift).   

 

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