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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys,

I have a 1996 caprice 4.3L in need of some love. I took my baby to the shop to get new tires and the shop owner informed me that I need a new front end. @175k I'm not surprised at all, but the owner didn't give me a breakdown of what that entails. Is that bushings and bearings or swaybars, swingarms, etc? At the price of $1500 I'm suspicious I'm going to get ripped off. Also is this a DIY job for home or does it have to be done in shop? Shocks were recently replaced as well. If there's a thread(s) that can help me sort this out point me in that direction. I would just about do anything to get out of driving that POS Traverse I've had to drive the last 6 mons. (That's a whole nother rant)

TIA!

Tricia
 

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A rebuild kit (centre link, idler arm, inner/outer tie rod ends) is less than 300 bucks and easy enough to do yourself with basic mechanical knowledge, but if it needs ball joints (stock upper b/j's are riveted in) or control arm bushings, that's when it gets trickier and knowledge, safety and specialty tools make it a lot easier. An alignment will be required afterwards so you don't rapidly kill the new tires.
 

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Hey guys,

I have a 1996 caprice 4.3L in need of some love. I took my baby to the shop to get new tires and the shop owner informed me that I need a new front end. @175k I'm not surprised at all, but the owner didn't give me a breakdown of what that entails. Is that bushings and bearings or swaybars, swingarms, etc? At the price of $1500 I'm suspicious I'm going to get ripped off. Also is this a DIY job for home or does it have to be done in shop? Shocks were recently replaced as well. If there's a thread(s) that can help me sort this out point me in that direction. I would just about do anything to get out of driving that POS Traverse I've had to drive the last 6 mons. (That's a whole nother rant)

TIA!

Tricia
For $1500, the owner better give you a breakdown. That sounds high, but I've long lost track of what actual labor costs are doing my own stuff. But I can try and give you an idea of Parts cost. A "New Front End" as you described it, sounds pretty vague. I only say that, cause that can mean a lot of things. The link Fooser posted should give you a good idea of a complete rebuild.

I just did a complete rebuild myself and posted info on this in a thread which has some pics and part numbers. But esentially I would break an entire rebuild down into 2 parts, STEERING and SUSPENSION. I would also only go with Moog or equivelent on the parts used.

STEERING - This to me would include the following parts. Idler Arm, Center Link, Adjustment Sleeves, Inner and Outer Tie Rods, and Sway Bar end links. A complete rebuild kit of these parts in MOOG may run $150 - $250 ....this is just a rough guess.

SUSPENSION - Upper and Lower Ball Joints, Coil Springs, Shocks and Uper and Lower Control Arm Bushings. The Control arms themselves can most likely be cleaned up and reused. Guesstimated costs on all these parts is $250 -$350.

Of course a full FE alignment should also be done at about $75-&100. It may be advisable to also look at new Wheel Bearings, Seals and possibly Front Rotors and new brake pads, which could also lead to new Calipers and Hoses. :):) The Leg bones connected to the Knee Bone, etc. etc kinda thing.:D

That pretty much covers the ENTIRE Front of the car - SUSPENSION, STEERING and BRAKES. This can all be done by a DIYer and I have done many myself. But this also means that there is a certain level of knowledge and specialty tools/tricks to do the job correctly and more importantly....safely. SAFETY - There are serious things that can happen during the repair and after the repair if not familiar with the process and what it takes to do a job like this properly.

EDIT - Here's my rebuild thread...

http://www.impalassforum.com/vBulletin/showthread.php?t=351769
 

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You should be able to hook up with someone on the forum who lives near you, and could be your mentor. Revamping a front end is a weekend job for most DIY people. It can go easier if you have done it before. You can "rent" the specialty tools you need from Autozone. You need a jack, jack stands, tierod separator, center link separator, and a Metric and SAE socket set, pliers, or wire cutters (for cotter pins), for the steering.

For the suspension, you need the *socket set, *jack, *jack stands, *tierod separator, *pliers, or wire cutters (for cotter pins), small heavy hammer, hex socket f(or the brake calipers), pry bar, BJ separator (from Haynes manual), spring compressor or spring controller, 4 plastic bags (for the shim stacks), coat hanger wire (to hold the calipers) and a torque wrench (not absolutely necessary if you have a feel for the torques). You may need a nut breaker for the sway bar standoffs, because the nuts are often frozen to the bolt.
* tools used for both. I may have missed something in the list of tools, but it is pretty much complete.

Make sure you know how to set the preload on the wheel bearings, or have someone who does do it for you. It is easy, but it has to be done correctly.

When doing the entire steering linkage, you can save yourself a little work by removing it as a unit, and not separating the center link/tierod joints.

The caster and camber will probably be within specs, after you replace the BJs, and bushings. If you can accurately measure the tierod lengths, it will get you to a garage to have the alignment done. Remember to grease all of the ball type parts you replaced.

The parts can be purchased from Rock Auto for less than almost everywhere else (use the 5% discount code on the forum). You will probably have to supply the drill and bit for the upper BJs, and read the how-tos here on the forum. You can also pick up a Haynes Manual, because it has a nifty home made tool for separating the BJs from the spindle.

The major concern is the spring. Other than that it is pretty straight forward. You can sub out some of the things you can not do easily, like the upper bushings. It is not hard, but you have to have the right tool. A typical garage would probably do it for about $25 per arm. The rest is a matter of common sense, and a little effort with the rent-a-tools. Until you need a machine shop to work on the part, you can do it yourself. You do not have to worry about breaking the part you are replacing either.

There are a lot of garages that will try to sell you a bill of goods on front end work, because most people know nothing, and it is a big ticket item for them. Be wary, and at least have a second opinion.

I would include the sway bar ends in the suspension aspect, instead of the steering aspect, because if you do not do it all at once, you will have to do the sway bar ends again to rebuild the suspension parts.

Even if you have to spend some money on tools, you get to keep the tools as a bonus. The garage gets to keep their tools, so why not you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I personally have never rebuilt a front end, and when I asked the hubby, he said he's only done the brakes. He said he has never replaced lines or calipers before either so that would be his learning curve there. We have the jacks, and jack stands plus a plethora of metric and sae tools, torque wrenches,etc. I would really appreciate someone giving a hand and mentoring us on the more challenging repairs. It has been my daily driver for 14 yrs and I miss driving it. As someone who is disabled I find it an easier car to get in and out of under my own power than the Traverse that my inlaws forced me into. The caprice doesn't look pretty right now, my husband got careless a couple of times and it needs bodywork. But she's mine and I trust her to not fail me going anywhere. Can't say the same for the traverse, I'm lucky if I can leave the driveway. Long term goals are the bodywork, possibly replacing the rear drums for disc brakes. Possibly a new engine and tranny in the future, and new rear gears. If there's someone that lives close enough when we get ready to tackle repairs that would like to at least do an inspection and guide us through the buying of parts, I will happily cook, offer
a place to cool off, etc. Neither the hubby or I are afraid of hard work, just lack of experience with bigger jobs like this. We routinely work on the motorcycles, but both felt overwhelmed tackling this problem with the caprice, however if we have a mentor and a free weekend, I would feel better tackling this with help than on our own.

Thank you everyone for the advice, it doesn't feel as impossible anymore.

Tricia
You should be able to hook up with someone on the forum who lives near you, and could be your mentor. Revamping a front end is a weekend job for most DIY people. It can go easier if you have done it before. You can "rent" the specialty tools you need from Autozone. You need a jack, jack stands, tierod separator, center link separator, and a Metric and SAE socket set, pliers, or wire cutters (for cotter pins), for the steering.

For the suspension, you need the *socket set, *jack, *jack stands, *tierod separator, *pliers, or wire cutters (for cotter pins), small heavy hammer, hex socket f(or the brake calipers), pry bar, BJ separator (from Haynes manual), spring compressor or spring controller, 4 plastic bags (for the shim stacks), coat hanger wire (to hold the calipers) and a torque wrench (not absolutely necessary if you have a feel for the torques). You may need a nut breaker for the sway bar standoffs, because the nuts are often frozen to the bolt.
* tools used for both. I may have missed something in the list of tools, but it is pretty much complete.

Make sure you know how to set the preload on the wheel bearings, or have someone who does do it for you. It is easy, but it has to be done correctly.

When doing the entire steering linkage, you can save yourself a little work by removing it as a unit, and not separating the center link/tierod joints.

The caster and camber will probably be within specs, after you replace the BJs, and bushings. If you can accurately measure the tierod lengths, it will get you to a garage to have the alignment done. Remember to grease all of the ball type parts you replaced.

The parts can be purchased from Rock Auto for less than almost everywhere else (use the 5% discount code on the forum). You will probably have to supply the drill and bit for the upper BJs, and read the how-tos here on the forum. You can also pick up a Haynes Manual, because it has a nifty home made tool for separating the BJs from the spindle.

The major concern is the spring. Other than that it is pretty straight forward. You can sub out some of the things you can not do easily, like the upper bushings. It is not hard, but you have to have the right tool. A typical garage would probably do it for about $25 per arm. The rest is a matter of common sense, and a little effort with the rent-a-tools. Until you need a machine shop to work on the part, you can do it yourself. You do not have to worry about breaking the part you are replacing either.

There are a lot of garages that will try to sell you a bill of goods on front end work, because most people know nothing, and it is a big ticket item for them. Be wary, and at least have a second opinion.

I would include the sway bar ends in the suspension aspect, instead of the steering aspect, because if you do not do it all at once, you will have to do the sway bar ends again to rebuild the suspension parts.

Even if you have to spend some money on tools, you get to keep the tools as a bonus. The garage gets to keep their tools, so why not you?
 

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First determine what you are going to do. Then get the parts. You can call me if you run into any issues. I will PM you my phone number.

The steering linkage is really simple, if you can work on a motor cycle you can change the linkage. You can use a pickle fork and hammer to separate the steering joints if you do not have the removal tool. You do not have to worry about the parts, because you are going to put all new ones in. When you have the original parts out, measure the tierods, and make the new ones match. If you do that, your toe should be close enough to get to the alignment shop.

Make sure you have all of the tool I mentioned, if you are going to get into the suspension. Do not hook up the tierod ends if you are going to change the ball joints, and/or any other suspension parts. If you are going to do the suspension, you should do the steering at the same time.

Pull the steering parts all in one piece, and put them in individually, not as a preassembled unit. I would start with the idler on the passenger's side frame, then the cross shaft at the Pittman arm, and finally the tie rod ends at the spindles. Just be careful it does not fall on you.

The ball joint disassembly tool is a 1/2 inch bolt 3 1/2 inches long, a nut and washer for it, and a long 15mm socket.

Remove the brake caliper with a hex wrench, and tie it up with a piece of the coat hanger wire. Remove the hub/disk. Then, after loosening the nuts on the ball joints. and turning them until the shaft is hidden. Assemble the BJ tool: put the nut on the bolt, then the washer, then the 15mm socket upside down. put the assembly between the ball joints, and run the nut tight against the washer and socket. Put a wrench one the nut and one on the head of the bolt. Tighten it, until the ball joint pops or until you can not tighten it any further. If it still has not popped you can wait a little or smack the spindle with a hammer at the end were the BJ is mounted. It will probably make a loud bang, so be prepared. Do this for both upper and lower BJs.

Support the lower arm by the spring perch with a jack. Raise it until the pressure is off of the BJ nuts. You can now remove the nuts and replace the BJs.

If you are going to replace the bushings, let me know, and I will give you a write-up on that.
 

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There is more than one way to skin a cat. As long as the weight of the car is on the suspension, you can tighten the bolts.
 
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