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2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling
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menko
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2020 9:39 pm    Post subject: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Hi everyone!

I have a 2003 EV Weekender with about 156k miles on it. We've owned the van a few years, and I have a few outstanding issues with the front end and handling that I need some help diagnosing and deciding on what to replace.

Current plan:
I have a bad ball joint, and went ahead and bought new tie-rods and ball joints and swaybar end links. I have the Upper ball joint press tool so plan to do both upper and lower. Both tie rods show signs of damage to the boot so I was replacing those as well. Here's a video I took under the car

Link


I also have replaced the front shocks with Koni red adjustables.

After looking at the challenge of tackling the upper control arms, I didn't want to get in over my head.

Steering freeplay: I have about 5 degrees of play, have to "correct" the steering wheel to stay straight. This is especially noticeable in corners where the van sways. (Tie Rod ends? Control arm bushings? steering rack?)

Sway Turning: Body sway, feel like the body needs to roll, then catch the steering, and then has pretty large understeer. May feel scarier because of the freeplay doesnít give you a good sense of control. I would love to put a bigger 27mm bar if possible, but at that point I'm all in on replacing the upper arm bushings.

Front wheel groan: under heavy load, especially when turned, there is a groan from the left front that sounds like tire rub, but isnít. Wheel bearing? Drive axle? Transmission? This one started after I got new tires and the load part is what scares me as I worry about the transmission.

My goal is to make the van safer and more confidence inspiring at high speeds and cornering. I'm not expecting it to drive like a car, but I think it can be significantly improved. Thanks!
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BatesEV
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:30 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Well first off congrats at the investigation. I will tell you first hand you donít want to mess with the control arm bushings unless you have to. And by that I mean soaked and deteriorated by oil. Most likely your issue is the front end has sagged and you have to adjust your torsion arms. Thatís what happened on my brothers 03. Itís easy to check by measuring the shock lengths. It should be 263-265mm. If itís less than that your suspension will be soft. You need a deep 27mm. You can buy one from GoWesty or make one like I did. I just drilled out a harbor freight one. Make sure you spray down the threads and suportarla the vehicle as the can slip out.

The control arm bushings would require the subframe to drop. At 190k on my 93 they were fine when I changed them. Ball joints take the most abuse. I bought the special tool to change the uppers on EBay for 60. Steering rack bushings take some abuse but cause wondering on the road. Make sure you have enough clearance between the tubes and exhaust as worn mounts will rub holes in them. You can check the tie rods or ball joints with either a pry and the vehicle lifted to check for movement or very large slip joint pliers.

As the oil. It just appears to be the cosmoline that that cover everything with to prevent rust/corrosion.

I hope some of this helps. Any other questions shot me a PM as Iíve gone through most of my van.
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Stripped66
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 5:28 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

BatesEV wrote:

The control arm bushings would require the subframe to drop.


To clarify, this doesn't require the subframe to be completely removed. YMMV


Menko, you're at 156K on the 24v VR6...do you know when the timing chains were replaced? If they haven't been replaced, I might suggest overhauling the whole front end when you pull the engine/trans to service the timing chains. It makes access to everything much easier...
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Bodacious wrote:
Why not just make a custom set of wires with a Y splice in them. Then you could just run one distributor.

I don't think electrickery works that way
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menko
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:38 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Thanks to you both! That is very helpful and I will try and test the bushings and look at the steering rack.

I did "check" my front end by eyeball, and it didn't look like it was sagged like other vans, but raising it up a little was also on the list. I soaked the Tbar sockets a few weeks back before I decided to wait and go through this a little more thoroughly. I did read about the issue with a mount deteriorating and dropping and wearing the steering rack and trans lines, but I will have to familiarize myself with where all those come together this weekend.

We have not changed the timing chains, and I was just looking for the carfax from when we bought the car. It had all the service records when we bought the van with 130k on it in 2014, but yeah...might be time.

Ok so first step, isolate the joints and and check the steering rack bushings. I am confident the ball joints are done, but I don't want to take everything apart twice. The upper control arm bushings some some rubber cracks, but don't look terrible.
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BatesEV
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2020 7:01 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Sounds like you have a good plan ahead of you. So you can see what the bushing will look like with age Iíll post what mine looked like. Now this van came from the rust belt
Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


And as said the subframe doesnít have to be removed. Just lowered. I pulled mine to refresh everything and remove rust
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menko
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 1:12 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Ok well if the subframe doesn't have to be dropped, maybe I will consider the whole setup. I would really love to upgrade the front swaybar to help but maybe once I get the other parts open, it may be less necessary.

Good news was the front shock length measured out at 263mm or so, so I'm good on that front. Thank you for that very specific detail Wink

I'll update after I spend a little time this weekend under the van.
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Zeitgeist 13
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2020 2:37 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

I honestly don't think there's any reason to go larger on the swaybars with a Weekender. These later model vans have huge brakes and swaybars, and can really run through the twisties with very little lean or brake fade. All that bushing slop is more than likely the cause of your handling issues.
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menko
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 9:12 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Excellent, I am hopeful that will clean it all up Wink

I crawled under this weekend and did some checking on the steering rack bushings. I also took a look at the bushing for the steering lines and the exhaust. While they are close together, I don't see any actual interference.

Steering rack bushings (movement)

Link


Steering Lines

Link


The steering line bushing doesn't look great, and the rack bushings have some movement, so I'd welcome your thoughts.

Sadly, as part of all this fun, the CEL came on with a P0171 air leak code. I didn't find any obvious vacuum lines that have come off, and I replaced the brake booster line last year. I also came across some fluid leaks from the transmission, so that's another post coming. I've never seen any fluid on the ground, but is some around the pan and at the electrical plug. But first, the suspension!

Thanks for your input.

MJ
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menko
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:15 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Any thoughts on the steering rack bushing? Is that a normal amount of play or am I in for replacing that as well? Thanks in advance!
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BatesEV
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 23, 2020 1:14 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

As the rack bushings they look pretty good. You could change them but I think your issue lies elsewhere. I would change your mounts to prevent damage to your rack though. When you grab the wheel off the ground and twist does the tie rods have slack in them? You can put a pry bar under the wheel at the same time to check the ball joints.

Forgot to ask about what tires you installed. I ask because I just got tires on my Audi and the handling is far from what it was. Itís nicer but more sloppy in the turns.
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menko
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:17 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Hi Bates,

Tires: I got Nokian Entyre 2.0 tires. The van has always handled this way, so I don't think its changed with the tires.

Quick question--when you mention the mount replacement, you mean the engine mount and transmission mount and bushings?
Like this: https://vweurovan.fandom.com/wiki/Engine/Transmission_mounts

Left & right transmission mount
Right engine mount
Transmission bushing

I'll get the wheel in the air today and test the tie rod ends. The work is piling up here Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:40 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Well got stuck on the lower ball joint. Can't get it to pop loose. Tried pushing with a jack from under and wedging it. Tried prying with a bar to separate the LCA from the ball joint. I'm going to drip some Kroil down there and take a beer break and see what happens.

Guess the next step is remove the LCA and go crazy on it. Any other hints before I go that route?

These are supposed to be easy compared to the upper ball joints Wink

Thanks!
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:33 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

menko wrote:
Any other hints before I go that route?


IIRC, I put pressure on the stud of the ball joint with a pitman-arm or 2-jaw puller. I can't recall if I had any issue with that, but typically when that alone doesn't do it, I keep the pressure on the stud, then tap on the side of the control arm with a hammer. Don't beat on it...you just want the taps to vibrate the metal enough (resonance!) to loosen the wedge fit.
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66brm wrote:
Bodacious wrote:
Why not just make a custom set of wires with a Y splice in them. Then you could just run one distributor.

I don't think electrickery works that way
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menko
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 26, 2020 8:47 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Thanks, I'll give that a try again. I was using the jack with a piece of wood to pressure the stud, and tried hitting it with ball-peen to loosen it, but had no luck. Also tried prying, but not much to get leverage on.

I also couldn't get it loose with the pickle fork, but I'll let it soak over night and go at it again. Fingers crossed.
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BatesEV
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PostPosted: Yesterday 7:14 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

I was referring to the engine and transmission mounts. The trans mount is t cheap. As the joint goes sometimes it takes some rattling to get it to free up. Now with the torsion suspension you kinda fight against it as itís forcing it down so remember that. My favorite penetrant is PB blaster. Itís easier to find than Kroil. Very amazing things
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ocelotpotpie
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PostPosted: Yesterday 8:06 am    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

It's a tapered fit, so you need to loosen the lower nut almost all the way, but leave it on, then remove the two triple square bolts holding it onto the hub.

Two bolts, one nut.

The two lower bolts can get really stuck, and you want the triple square socket to set VERY well before you try to remove it or you'll strip the head. So clean it really well, Kroil the heck out of it, get the socket seated perfectly, then pull those bolts.

Then put a bit of wood on the nut and whack the wood with a hammer. If you're lucky it'll pop off.

If not, you can put a bit of heat on it to help coax it and try again. Or use a ball joint spreader. Harbor Freight has one for about $20. It's basically a pickle fork on top and a prybar on the bottom, with a bolt to push them apart and apply upward force on the shank.

I did a quick youtube search and found this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUhwIivk3RM

He puts pressure on the shank with a jack and then uses a big pipe to pop it loose. They can be really stuck on there.

But if you haven't removed the two triple square bolts then it isn't going anywhere.
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PostPosted: Yesterday 12:00 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Thanks ocelotpotpie, that's the approaches I've been using. I don't have a 4' prybar to generate the force that guy in the video did, but I'll keep trying.

The triple squares came out without any problem, I just haven't been able to persuade the joint to come out of the LCA. I'm going to try various methods again and see if I can get the ball joint tool on there from a different angle. Yesterday I wasn't able to get the "fork" to fit on the tapered section.

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.
Here's where I'm at currently. Hammering the stud from underneath doesn't do much as the control arm has no real downward pressure. I'll try with the jack again and prybar, and pray the overnight soak helped.
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PostPosted: Yesterday 3:57 pm    Post subject: Re: 2003 Weekender--Help with Front End refresh and handling Reply with quote

Oftentimes I've used a long piece of iron pipe (available at your nearby hardware store and then returned after) or the handle of the jack if it's removable.

You don't need an actual prybar - just something that's long and will hold up!

Iron pipe is great to have handy, though, because you can slide it over the end of a breaker bar for extra leverage on those hard jobs like wheel bearings.

You look like you're in a good spot. I think a prybar/pickle fork combo should get you sorted.
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