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Discussion Starter #1
When I apply the brakes, hard, there's a slight clunk from the driver's front tire. I've gotten under there and poked and prodded and everything looks ok, but something is obviously wrong. The car will also find a groove in the pavement and pull to that side pretty hard - then clear up. Increased tire wear up front is also noticed.

So the short of it, how do I figure out what part up there is going bad? Use a prybar and start trying to move things like balljoints, tie-rod ends, etc? Get it in the air and try to move things by hand?

Thanks for your assistance. Front-end work is not my thing.
 

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I vote failing upper control arm bushing(s) or missing alignment shims, which will result in the UCA moving--ball joint/top of spindle will move forward under braking, which can cause the "clunk"....in normal driving, a bad bushing or missing shim will let the UCA float (pivot forward & aft) by influences like a rut, as you describe.

As the top of the spindle moves, even a very small amount, it will affect the alignment, and will change toe setting, assuming the steering linkage is to specs.

Shims fall out when an alignment is done and the locking nuts aren't replaced, and end up loosening over time--the self-locking design was only meant to last for a couple of alignments, but we're dealing with 20+ year-old vehicles....many which have NEVER had these nuts replaced.
 

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Hint: Noise locations are misleading from the driver's seat. Honestly your symptoms could be as simple as a loose battery or rotted rad support, coupled with terrible alignment. A little further stretch to what Bill listed may be well overdo Idler Arm, or center link. As you proposed, have someone cycle the wheel while you're under it. Of course eagle eye any place you (or especially anyone else) did any recent work.
 

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I had a similar experience with my 9C1. I rebuilt the OEM control arms with Del-A-Lum bushings. Not long after the install, I would hear/feel a clunk when braking.

I ended up taking a good look at the bushing 'ear' of the lower control arms, and saw that the hole in the original arm was worn out, and the control arm was sliding on the bushing housing.

Take a careful look at the front suspension components and see if you can find any fresh scrape marks.
 

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You did not state what the tire wear pattern is. It would help find a more specific issue.


I vote with Navy Lifer. You are too far south to have a lot of rust issues, unless it is a rustbelt car. I had the same symptoms, and it was the upper front control arm bushing. If you are going to replace bushings, You might as well replace the BJs, and you can get the whole arm from Rock Auto as cheap as the parts. You just bolt it on, and get an alignment. If you tap the mounting studs out, the arms are a lot easier to install. Use a regular nut to draw the studs back into the shaft and frame. Keep your shim stacks together for an alignment starting point. Get the MOOG parts/arms.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
You did not state what the tire wear pattern is. It would help find a more specific issue.
Drivers-side inner wear. After getting under it this weekend and pushing / pulling on everything - a close inspection showed space between the bushing and the metal-cup on the outside of the upper control arm. It was either never tightened to spec, or the bushing has degraded over time and allowed slop into the mix.

If you tap the mounting studs out, the arms are a lot easier to install. Use a regular nut to draw the studs back into the shaft and frame. Keep your shim stacks together for an alignment starting point. Get the MOOG parts/arms.
Having never done a lick of front-end work, I suspect that what you've stated here will make sense once I dig-in to the job myself. Bought the Moog upper and lower arms for the driver's side. We'll see how it goes.
 

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Once you have successfully completed the driver's side, you should do the passenger's side as well. I will save you from doing it in 6-8 months and paying for another alignment.


You need to get the spring compressor from Autozone or similar on their loan a tool program. Beware of O'Rilleys, they have a 2 day return policy, or you have bought it.


Compress the suspension (jack the wheel up) before tightening the compressor...it will be a lot easier. The spring does not like to clear the opening in the frame when the arm is in the lowered position, and it will not seat properly at the top. You can also turn the spring to get it aligned properly with the holes on the lower arm.
 

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Another common culprit is broken sway bar link(s). They may not appear to be damaged,except for not actually being connected to anything anymore...
Not a bad idea to replace every couple years anyway. They don't cost much...
 

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Bought the Moog upper and lower arms for the driver's side. We'll see how it goes.
IMHO I would do both sides at the same time

You may also need new spring isolators as yours may be dry, cracked or torn

all the suspension stuff wears out. As noted sway bar end links do also. I got the HD ones from NAPA

besides a BFH, a "pickel fork" is a tool used to separate tie rod, center link ends, etc. A cheap Harbor Freight one will work...or use a BFH alone but beating the crap out of stuff can have collateral damage
 

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In addition to what BALLS wrote, I learned this trick from a buddy of mine. He removed the cotter pin thru the castle nut, and then backed off the ball joint nut a couple times.

Then having the assembly under spring pressure, take a BFH and hit the inner end of the spindle, where the BJ nut passes thru. This will typically pop them apart, saving you the pickle fork maneuver in case you don't own one.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Once you have successfully completed the driver's side, you should do the passenger's side as well. I will save you from doing it in 6-8 months and paying for another alignment.
IMHO I would do both sides at the same time
You know, that makes perfect sense. I went ahead and ordered the pass side components.

(Per another thread) For future searchers, the part #'s for the "problem solver" (higher-end) Moog loaded control arms (1995 caprice):
Driver's upper: MOOG-CK620158
Driver's lower: MOOG-CK620168
Pass upper: MOOG-CK620159
Pass lower: MOOG-CK620169
 

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The Haynes manual has a simple home made tool for separating BJs. A half inch dia. bolt, washer, nut and a 1/2 inch, or 13mm deep socket (fits over the bolt). The length of the bolt is determined by the distance between the BJ studs. Put the nut on the bolt, then the washer, then the socket inverted. Loosen the nuts and reverse them with the end of the nuts even with the end of the studs. Place the stack between the studs, and turn the nut to tighten the stack between the studs. When you have a lot of pressure on the stack, you can tap the arms with a small sledge hammer, and they should pop loose. You may have to adjust the stack if only one pops. It may sound like a gunshot, so be prepared.
 

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You know, that makes perfect sense. I went ahead and ordered the pass side components.

(Per another thread) For future searchers, the part #'s for the "problem solver" (higher-end) Moog loaded control arms (1995 caprice):
Driver's upper: MOOG-CK620158
Driver's lower: MOOG-CK620168
Pass upper: MOOG-CK620159
Pass lower: MOOG-CK620169
It's amazing how inexpensive these parts are. It's much less that buying the components separately, cleaning, blasting, and powder coating the arms, plus install cost at the machine shop (If applicable) for installation of bushings and ball joints. I had no idea, and would have definitely gone this way had I already not be invested in the Del-A-Lum bushings.

The Haynes manual has a simple home made tool for separating BJs. A half inch dia. bolt, washer, nut and a 1/2 inch, or 13mm deep socket (fits over the bolt). The length of the bolt is determined by the distance between the BJ studs. Put the nut on the bolt, then the washer, then the socket inverted. Loosen the nuts and reverse them with the end of the nuts even with the end of the studs. Place the stack between the studs, and turn the nut to tighten the stack between the studs. When you have a lot of pressure on the stack, you can tap the arms with a small sledge hammer, and they should pop loose. You may have to adjust the stack if only one pops. It may sound like a gunshot, so be prepared.
Fred, awesome advice, I never read that before.

The method I use only requires about two good whacks on the spindle 'ear' under spring pressure to pop out.

I forgot to mention in my post yesterday that a jack should be placed about an inch under the arm, prior to doing this.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
A half inch dia. bolt, washer, nut and a 1/2 inch, or 13mm deep socket (fits over the bolt). The length of the bolt is determined by the distance between the BJ studs. Put the nut on the bolt, then the washer, then the socket inverted. Loosen the nuts and reverse them with the end of the nuts even with the end of the studs. Place the stack between the studs, and turn the nut to tighten the stack between the studs. When you have a lot of pressure on the stack, you can tap the arms with a small sledge hammer, and they should pop loose. You may have to adjust the stack if only one pops. It may sound like a gunshot, so be prepared.
Does this do both at once? I think I understand the tool being described here, but not too sure. Is it something like this? (Rigged up for display - not trying to push them out with nuts on)

 

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(Per another thread) For future searchers, the part #'s for the "problem solver" (higher-end) Moog loaded control arms (1995 caprice):
Driver's upper: MOOG-CK620158
Driver's lower: MOOG-CK620168
Pass upper: MOOG-CK620159
Pass lower: MOOG-CK620169
Surprisingly inexpensive considering the entire assy only 3X the cost of BJ alone! I would've gone that route if I didn't already have a spare set of those BJ's.
 

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Does this do both at once? I think I understand the tool being described here, but not too sure. Is it something like this? (Rigged up for display - not trying to push them out with nuts on)

Yes that is exactly what I use. Pull the cotter pins, loosen both nuts till they are near the end of the ball joint stud, hold the center nut and turn the top bolt. Usually the top ball joint will come loose before the lower. Then hold the center and crank the lower bolt. Both joints will POP when they come loose. I have the 5/8" coupling nut and 5/8" dia bolts. Tractor Supply is one source. Could go 3/4" if you wanted. Easier to turn.
Ken
 

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My upper bushings were shot after 23 years/145k miles. Had a light clunk and wandering on the highway as if a tie rod end was bad.

I used rockauto a couple months ago for upper & lower balljoints, upper & lower control arm bushings. It was $100 shipped. I cleaned the arms up with a wire brush and coated in por-15. More time than an arm replacement but worth the money saved vs time. My lower bj's were most likely original and one came out with a few taps of a 3 lb sledge hammer. The other required a pickle fork and around 20 whacks with the hammer.
 
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