Tony’s Garage - April 2014

Tony Huntimer Mar 28, 2014 0 Comment(s)
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Q. Tony,

I have a 1969 Camaro with a 350ci small-block. I replaced nearly all of the front suspension. I performed a disc brake conversion and installed some low-cost tubular control arms that look like name brand parts but were a fraction of the price. The front tires scrub the wheelwell, mostly from the right side when making sharp turns and it appears that the geometry is off. I also can't get the alignment dialed in. I am not sure if the lower control arms are the correct parts. As you can see in the photos I sent, the upper ball joints are getting worn out and the lower control arms are contacting the ground at one point. I have stock springs and shocks installed. Any help or advice would be appreciated. I will be returning home from a deployment next summer and would like to have my ride fixed when I get home.

Upper Ball Joint 2/6

Thank you.

Chris
Camp Pendleton California
Via email

A. Chris,

Thanks for your service in our military.

In the picture of the upper ball joint boot exploded, there's not an ounce of grease around that area. If the installer had pumped grease into the ball joint, grease would be all over the place. When a ball joint is greased correctly, the boot should appear to be bulging and excess grease will seep out through a small channel in the boot around the ball joint. That rubber boot is supposed to hold the grease in and seal out the dirt; this keeps the ball joint from suffering a quick and miserable death. A worn out ball joint is dangerous and will not sustain an alignment.

Your lower ball joint boot looks like it's damaged too.

I also noticed the severe bend in your lower control arm near the inner pivot, which makes that part of the control arm hang down more than it should. That area of the arm needs to have a much larger radius so you have more ground clearance. That's a horrible engineering design flaw made by a company that should not be making suspension parts. That company should stick to making chrome oil pans and valve covers. I've talked to big, name brand control arm manufacturers (e.g., Detroit Speed Inc, Global West, Heidts, etc.) about these cheap control arms coming from offshore. They've seen these arms not fit well and some have even failed while the vehicle was moving. Imagine the damage that could occur if you hit a pothole on the freeway and that arm catches on something solid.

Detroit Control Arms 3/6

My suggestion is to re-install your stock control arms or invest in arms from a trusted suspension manufacturer. You should always try to buy parts engineered, tested, and manufactured in the country you're serving, the USA.

Regarding the ride height, you do have a fairly tall tire on the front and the car does appear to be lower than stock. That could be an additional design flaw in your current lower control arms or the coil spring.

If only the right side front tire is scrubbing the wheelwell, it's possible that your subframe is not aligned with the car's body. Checking the front subframe-to-body alignment has to be done with the car safely raised up on a lift to get access to the center subframe bolts that attach to the body at the base of the firewall. There are alignment holes directly next to the body bolt in the subframe and the underside of the body. Those holes should be lined up. If they are not, you should have a reputable shop align the frame. You'll need to have your front suspension aligned again. If the holes are lined up, you should consider having a frame shop see if your frame or body is bent. The other possibility is that your control arms are causing the tire to hit the wheelwell.

Subframe Aligns With Body 4/6


Q. Tony,

The speedometer on my 2000 Camaro SS appears to be stuck. The needle is on the far right side of the speedometer. Can you offer any suggestions on fixing this?

Steve Worrell
Via email

A. Hey Steve,

This problem seems to be common with late-model GM gauge clusters. The Internet forums give a multitude of repairs ranging from easy to difficult, along with weird. We will list a few of them for the fun of it, but we cannot suggest following these as solutions to your problem. Also, we don't condone driving above posted speeds on public roads. Take it to the track and have fun in a controlled environment.

1. Drive the car fast and the gauge will reset.

2. Remove the cluster, take it apart, and replace the needle motor soldered to the printed circuit board.

3. Drill a small hole in the plastic face of the cluster and use a piece of wire to push the needle back into place.

The majority of these problems are associated with disconnecting the battery. Did you happen to disconnect your battery when this problem occurred?

If it comes down to it, do you feel comfortable replacing or disassembling an instrument cluster?

Steve's Response.

Tony,

I am glad to report that I did not need to use any of these techniques.

The problem originally occurred when I was going through technical inspection before an SCCA autocross. The inspector noted that my battery was not secure and I could not participate. I had tightened the hold-down bolt the night before, so I was not sure what had happened.

I used a device with a 9-volt battery to supply power to my radio to retain my station presets while the battery was disconnected from the car. I discovered that the back of the battery tray was cracked and the hold-down hardware was gone.

The 9-volt battery died while I had the car apart. After I installed the battery and a new tray, I discovered that the radio was locked and the speedometer was pegged to the right. Two days later the speedometer started working on its own. I suspect that I somehow reset the speedometer by accident. I can't remember the code to unlock my radio, but since I really enjoy the sound of my LS1 winding out, I really don't care.

A. Steve,

Good thing that it fixed itself. Rebuilding the cluster doesn't seem like a good time, and drilling a hole in the face of the cluster just doesn't sound like a good idea.


Got a burning tech question? Email Tony Huntimer at camaroperformers@racehome.com

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