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Suspension maintenace - W body

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I've got a few questions on front end maintenance for my 2008 GM W-body. 

The first is:  at what point would you replace the struts all the way around?  About 2 years ago, they were very firm.  Now, there is a little more sponginess up front when pushing down on the car and releasing.  However, it doesn't oscillate or do anything drastic.  I'm thinking of replacing them at 70,000 miles (this has been a low mileage car for me), whether it needs them or not.  I also want to do this to get rid of the OEM ones and keep the newer and second set of tires doing well.  Also, when I first started driving and needed to replace shocks in the rear wheel drive Oldsmobiles, I always turned to Gabriel.  Any thoughts and ideas of which - Gabriel, Monroe, other - puts out the better strut?  And what the ride might be like with these products?

The second question is about the steering intermediate shaft (i-shaft).  The car has no recall on it.  I've read on forums that, on W-bodies, this is not the most long lived component.  It seems that they develop quirky little rattles and whatnot.  They show the shaft as being an assembly that sits way up high and the labor time for replacing them is not especially lengthy.  Have you ever replaced one (on a W-body)?  Do you know someone who has?  I once had an engine mount on my last car, the Regal, that needed to be replaced, but it wasn't overly annoying.  You could tell that the engine would lean just a hair when throttled and then come back.  How does one know how long to wait before replacing a steering/suspension component?

One final question has to do with ball joints.  On rear wheel drive cars, I knew where they were.  Whether RWD or FWD, I've never had them replaced in any vehicle.  Are these easy to inspect (on a W-body) and is it something that a tech could show you when the car is jacked up?

I'm thinking that a fresh set of good struts and the possible replacement of a front end component or two, combined with a wheel alignment, ought to make the car run somewhat close to new.  As for the inner workings of the car, I recently checked the mileage and I exceeded the EPA highway rating by a little bit on several tanks.  I feel pretty good about that.

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In regards to your questions, lets start with where you are located, West, East or mid west in the US? Better question is there lots of salt on the roads from the winters? Salted roads can wear out struts faster than unsalted.

If like me you are on the west coast and not in the mountains, then I am surprised they are going spongy at 70K for a 2008. 

With that said, I have used Ranchero, Monroe, Sears generic and for most applications, everyone seems to make decent struts. If your wanting something a bit stiffer, more customizable that is a different story and I would say Ranchero or Monroe. I like a stiffer performance driver ride, this is really a personal subjective view so you have to think about how you like your car to handle. Driving on rails or lazy boy float, or somewhere in the middle?

Here are some sites that have good product reviews on the struts:



Top 20 Struts for 2017 Review


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In regards to your 2nd question about steering, I have never had one have to be replaced, but then I have had limited experience with the W-body auto's so I leave that to others here that might have more experience with them. Keep in mind if you are bouncing around the road and having to make corrections, then the looseness in the steering might justify replacing linkage or the box itself.

In regards to your 3rd question, ball-joints are easy to see and safety check review especially when the tires are off. Older auto's it was very easy to see when the grease bag had worn out, grease all over and clearly needed to be replaced, todays modern ball joints are a bit more tricky from a visual look but still also easy to check.

This is based on a 1998 Bonniville, but should help you out in regards to GM rear ball joints.

https://www.gmforum.com/howto/1998SM/suspension rear.pdf

This Wikihow is excellent on checking the ball joints with pictures and what to look for:


Also plenty of good videos now on how to check:


This I found to be an excellent ball-joint tolerance and wear sheet:


Good Luck

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I had a 99 Intrigue that had its ISS serviced due to a clunking noise.  Initially they were replacing them but eventually they just greased them.  I'm pretty sure newer W-bodies would not have the same part since they were so problematic, but could have their own set of issues.



Edited by frogger
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David, thanks for that wealth of info.  I will have more to say.  As for the geographic area, I'm on the West Coast and there is no salt to contend with.

11 hours ago, frogger said:

I had a 99 Intrigue that had its ISS serviced due to a clunking noise.  Initially they were replacing them but eventually they just greased them.  I'm pretty sure newer W-bodies would not have the same part since they were so problematic, but could have their own set of issues.

frogger, was it just annoying, did it create steering issues and need steering correction as you drove, and/or could it have broken?  It seems that many replace them because they hate the noise and want their OEM ride back.  I've done some reading and they say that, only recently, have they come up with a design for post OEM that works.  A lot of the older replacement ones eventually came around to the same problem.  I couldn't believe how, on my '92 Regal, the steering wasn't as nicely weighted as it is on this car (the LaCrosse weighs about 300 pounds more) but it remained tight for almost 300,000 miles.

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David, I think I will rank order like this: Gabriel Ultra, Monroe Sensa-trac, and then KGY.  Gabriels used to be a household word.  Now, they seem to have be requested.  They get decent reviews in one of the links.  Monroe is sort of the known name.  As for the Sears generic you refer to, I have talked to Sears and they tend to carry Gabriel as the base line.  The question then becomes the longer term, given that Sears is not doing too well.  I hate to think about that, having grown up with them.  KGY is the brand that Les Schwab, now prevalent throughout the West, seems to use.  The problem is if a person moves out of "Les Schwab country."  Les Schwab used to be really good in terms of honesty and being competitive.  I have really seen them slip over the years.

Thanks for those diagrams on the ball joints.  That one graphic showing how to tell if one is worn was super helpful. 

I'm thinking it will be a fresh set of Gabriels, an ISS, and a 4 wheel alignment sooner than later.  The car rides nicely but, in it's first 3 to 5 years, the ride was almost faultless.

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