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Old 03-09-2012, 10:38 PM   #1
msager
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Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Bellefonte, PA
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2002 SL1
2000 L-Series 3.0L Wagon
Default Replaced a broken rear spring

I finally got around to replacing the broken left-rear spring on my 2000 LW2. The last couple of inches had broken off the bottom of the spring, allowing it to jump off the seat that it has on the shock absorber and rest on the bottom end of the shock absorber. Aside from the left side of the car being about 1.5 inches lower than the right side in the rear, this had no noticeable impact on the car. I was lucky and found a guy selling brand new OEM replacement springs on Ebay for $40 each, which was a lot less than the dealer price of $146 each.

Anyway, what looked like a straightforward operation ended up being quite a mess. The first problem was removing the top nut from the strut assembly. I just could not get the nut to turn without turning the shaft. The 1/4 inch hex end on the shaft is just not strong enough to hold it by. After spending about an hour trying different ways to deal with this, I finally took it to an auto repair shop a couple of blocks away from me. It took the guy there about 15-20 minutes, but he finally got it off by putting a couple of pairs of vice-grips on the shaft and then spinning the nut with an impact wrench. He only charged me ten dollars.

The second problem was putting the bolt in that holds the bottom end of the shock absorber to the knuckle on the control arm. As per instructions, I obtained a new bolt from the GM dealer to ensure that it did not come loose. Also following directions, I attached the top end of the strut assembly first and then put the lower bolt in. The problem is that it just did not want to thread into the knuckle. I compressed the spring a little and jiggled things around and it finally threaded in... or so I thought. It didn't seem to take any more force to turn it in than it did to take it out, but when it finally got all the way in, it just kept turning and metal powder started coming out of the knuckle because it was actually cross-threaded and chewed up the threads on the inside of the knuckle. Have you ever had that sinking feeling?

I talked to the guy at the auto repair shop and he suggested getting a longer bolt and then putting a nut on the end. I went to a few stores, and found what I needed at Home Depot of all places. A grade-8 1/2-inch diameter 5-inch long bolt and matching nuts and washers. This time when I put it together, I did the bottom first so that I could line it up more easily. The five-inch bolt was long enough to come out the other side of the knuckle, and the nut was exactly the right size to slide into the groove in the knuckle. I put lots of loc-tite on it and then also added a second nut. The second nut was not grade-8, but was the kind with the nylon insert to lock it. I put loc-tite on that one also. I can't see any way that this could possibly come apart. The 1/2-inch bolt is not quite as wide as the original 14 mm bolt, but the portion that is taking the load is not threaded, so it is probably as wide as the 14mm minus the depth of the threads, and therefore should be just as strong.

I wrote this for a couple of reasons:

1. If you decide to do any work on the rear shocks or springs, be prepared for it to take longer than it should. When reinstalling the strut assembly, put in the strut-to-knuckle bolt before the four bolts at the top. Doing this allows you to maneuver the strut assembly so that the bolt goes in straight. It makes the top four bolts more difficult, but I was able to do it after compressing the spring a couple of inches. I would much rather fight a little with those than deal with what I just went through.

2. In the event that the threads in the knuckle do strip out like they did for me, you can use the solution above. I am not sure of the exact loads on the bolt, but just to be safe I would make sure to get a grade-8 bolt.

Now I just have to replace the spring on the other side. I think I'll wait until my busted knuckles and sore muscles heal and I forget what a pain in the neck replacing the first spring was.
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