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2004 chevy trailblazer_lt
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1,009 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I just finished crawling out from underneath my truck, so the second place I went was, of course, to this forum. (The first place was the beer fridge.) It was a LONG install.

Thanks to this forum, there are numerous threads, many with pictures, on how to do this, but I thought I would add what I learned in the last two days about the installation of the sway bar and the end links.

Here is what I learned:

- Hotchkis makes a quality product and provided perfect instructions. They ship the bar with two sizes of urethane front bushings, one for 2002-2003 and the other for 2004 and up.

- If you live in the snow belt, don't even bother trying to reuse the factory sway bar end links. Just go out and buy new ones before you even start the install; trust me on this one. Once I had the old links off, the new ones bolt up in minutes.

- Removing the old end links is TOUGH. The factory ones use a 6mm alllen key in the center of the bolt to stop it from turning, but those key holes are almost always full of corrosion. The problem is that the nut starts out easy enough but becomes VERY tight as it nears the end of the thread because of corrosion on the bolt. If you are not going to reuse the end links anyway (and you shouldn't) then skip the allen key, grab a big pair of vise-grips and jam them as tight as you can on the side away from the nut. If you lock them tight enough, they will stop the bolt from spinning while you undo the nut. There is not a lot of swing room so be prepared for slow and hard going with a ratchet and 18mm socket.

- You can do the whole rear install with the vehicle up on ramps. You do NOT need to drop the suspension, and you do NOT need to undo a control arm to get the old bar out and the new bar in. (Once it is undone, feed it carefully forward and out the passenger side. You will need a large screwdriver to help bend it past the gas tank, but it WILL go.)

- The new end links usually come pre-greased (I used the Moogs) but I put on the grease fitting before I installed them and topped them up anyway. And, yes the zerk grease fitting is a self-threading design.

- Use a dab of blue loctite on the threads of the end links and tighten all four nuts to 74 ft-lbs. They need to be tight, tight, tight. The Moogs come with an 18mm wrench flat on the ball side, so you don't need to **** with an allen key. (Hooray!)

- Pre-lube the Hotchkis urethane sway bar bushings with the provided lube. They give you two small tubes, and I only used 1 and a bit, so I have some left to regrease them in a few years. Note carefully how they go on (there is a dimple that lines up with a knob on the bushing bracket.) Hinge the bushing bracket in the slot at the top and then push it over the stud. (If it doesn't go at least 3/4 of the way onto the stud, they you have it lined up wrong.) The GM nuts are nylon 'jam-lock' nuts, and although they don't say to use new nuts, it is always a good practice to never reuse jam-lock nuts. It is not that big a deal because there is not as much strain on them as the end link nuts, but Home Depot carries M12 jam nuts and flat washers anyway, so you might as well replace them. Add some blue threadlock and tighten them to 52 ft-lbs. (The new jam-locks were 19mm instead of 18mm, and you WILL need a deep socket to get them on all the way.

- Hotchkis includes new urethane front sway bar bushings. For this, you DO need to droop the suspension, so the best way is to jack it up and let it rest on jack stands. (Shake the heck out of it to be SURE the vehicle is resting firm on the jack stands. NEVER just use a jack!) The tires just need to be off the ground.

- There are two 15mm bolts per side, and they undo quite easily. The purpose of resting it on jack stands and letting the suspension droop will now become obvious; you need the clearance to get the bushing brackets off. Once the bolts are out, just push the bracket towards the outside of the bar around the corner and then pull it and the bushing off. Lube the front bushings, split them and slide them on the bar on the same spot you removed the old ones from. BEFORE you slide the bushings toward the mounting base, put the brackets over them. You will need a couple of hammer blows to get the bracket over the new bushings. Then force them back toward the mounting plate using a hammer or pry bar. You will then need to pry them back and forth until the holes line up perfectly. Start one bolt, then the other and torque all four to 41 ft.lbs.

That's it. The hardest part of the job was removing the old rear end links. I ended up cutting one off with an angle grinder but there is not a lot of room to work and there are rubber brake hoses and plastic gas tanks nearby, so the second one I jammed the ball stud with a VERY hard squeeze from vise grips and simply used an 18mm socket on a ratchet.

Now ... tomorrow I get to DRIVE it!
 

· Registered
2004 chevy trailblazer_lt
Joined
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1,009 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I just got back from a quick test-run. I turned the radio off so I could listen for any ticking or rubbing noises (always a good practice from time to time) and tried some sharp corners.

I was worried the new urethane bushings would make the suspension hammer on bumps but it didn't affect it at all (nor should they, considering when hitting a bump with both tires together, the bar simply rotates on the bushings equally, and there is no twist in the bar.)

My initial impressions were that the bar didn't really change much, and any differences were quite subtle. THEN I took a corner faster than I would usually go, and the Trailblazer stayed ANCHORED to the ground like it was on the proverbial rails. Wow!

(One of these days, I will have to get this thing to the autocross or road track; it corners way better than my old 318i!)

I really like the more neutral feel, and I think Hotchkis nailed it perfectly when they state that the factory front bar does not need replacing because it is already stiff enough. Most vehicles these days come with some built-in understeer (or "push" in NASCAR parlance) because this is safer for the average driver. I prefer vehicles more neutral and I think this is the effect that was achieved. I was hoping it wouldn't start erring on the side of oversteer (or "shove" as the NASCAR boys put it) because the reality is that most drivers think they are better than average (which would be statistically impossible, of course) but I am not really that expert a driver (even though I make part of what my wife laughingly refers to as "a living" by driving and testing police vehicles on race tracks.)

There is little to no effect from the new bar in slow corners, so to those concerned about its performance on snow ... quite honestly, as someone else once said on these forums, if you are driving hard enough to bring the sway bar into action, you are driving WAY too fast for the conditions anyway.

Stiffening the rear is designed to reduce understeer, but the best race car suspension designs for use on street or road courses (not Formula 1 slot cars) use supple soft springs, stiff shocks and VERY stiff sway bars. This allows them to tune the car for individual courses and even for individual turns within a road course by adding or reducing stiffness to the front or rear bars. I therefore think GM did an EXCELLENT job with this suspension design, and with better shocks and a slightly stiffer rear sway bar, this is as good as it gets for a high-ish SUV.

Congrats GM (and Hotchkis.)

By the way, my favourite way to differentiate between "oversteer" and "understeer" for your non-technical friends is to describe oversteer as when the passenger is scared, and understeer as when the driver is scared.
 

· Registered
2002 chevy trailblazer_lt
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63 Posts
I'm not sure what I found more interesting, the fact that you test drive police cars on race tracks, or your "non-technical" version of over and understeer... :crackup:

But seriously, I like your description of anchored and feeling like it's on tracks. No better way to describe it. Just how I felt when I overhauled the suspension.
 

· Registered
2004 chevy trailblazer_lt
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1,009 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I was at Mosport Race Track when GM first rolled out the then-brand-new 2000 Impala Police Interceptor, and we raced it all day against the Ford Crown Victoria and the Chevy Caprice. The Impala was way faster than the Ford and could even beat the Corvette-engined Caprice up to about 100 mph.

I came away impressed at how well GM did in the design of the Impala. Most of all, I came away with an understanding of exactly what a neutral-feeling vehicle drives like on a simulated tight pursuit course. The big Caprice police car was the most neutral car I had ever driven. It took three friends to park it and gas station owners start packing for Tahiti when they see one drive up, but man, could that thing corner.

This is back in 1999 however. In the mean time, we now have a bunch of SUVs who could out-corner any of that generation of police cars on a good day, and even a current Trailblazer could keep up with them on the race track with a few intelligent modifications. This goes to prove that GM purposely under-shocks their vehicles and sets up everything with nice comfortable grandma understeer, because when GM engineers REALLY want to set up a neutral handling car like their police vehicles, they can (and do.)

(And I'm not saying that just because I have a souvenir travel mug from GM with "GM Police Vehicles" on it.)

Sadly, the Impala never caught on with many agencies because as nice as it was and as fast as it was and as tight as it cornered, it was still VERY tight for front seat room, and once you get two well-equipped officers and a laptop in the front seat with all the lighting and siren controls, there is just not as much room as the Ford. Add in winter clothing, and you get to know your partner way better than two people ever should.

I still say the base platform of the Trailblazer could be a good police interceptor. Too bad it's cancelled.

(I do need to point out though, that modifying the suspension components like some ricer just leads to dangerous AND poor-handling cars; modifying them with INTELLIGENCE and an understanding of how they work increases the capacity of the suspension a bit - at least until you butt up against the NEXT weakest link. Right now, cornering with a good basic design, upgraded shocks and a good Hotchkis bar is limited by the quality of the tires. I don't drive fast very much, by occasionally I like to take on-ramps faster than normal and there is no way I would do this without the BEST tires under me.)
 

· Registered
2002 chevy trailblazer_ltz
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30 Posts
Bushing Lower Control Arm

Hi
Where did you buy the kit bushing lower control arm? in every forums.trailvoy.com the people say that this bushing can´t change from the bracket :weird:

Adrian

I just finished crawling out from underneath my truck, so the second place I went was, of course, to this forum. (The first place was the beer fridge.) It was a LONG install.

Thanks to this forum, there are numerous threads, many with pictures, on how to do this, but I thought I would add what I learned in the last two days about the installation of the sway bar and the end links.

Here is what I learned:

- Hotchkis makes a quality product and provided perfect instructions. They ship the bar with two sizes of urethane front bushings, one for 2002-2003 and the other for 2004 and up.

- If you live in the snow belt, don't even bother trying to reuse the factory sway bar end links. Just go out and buy new ones before you even start the install; trust me on this one. Once I had the old links off, the new ones bolt up in minutes.

- Removing the old end links is TOUGH. The factory ones use a 6mm alllen key in the center of the bolt to stop it from turning, but those key holes are almost always full of corrosion. The problem is that the nut starts out easy enough but becomes VERY tight as it nears the end of the thread because of corrosion on the bolt. If you are not going to reuse the end links anyway (and you shouldn't) then skip the allen key, grab a big pair of vise-grips and jam them as tight as you can on the side away from the nut. If you lock them tight enough, they will stop the bolt from spinning while you undo the nut. There is not a lot of swing room so be prepared for slow and hard going with a ratchet and 18mm socket.

- You can do the whole rear install with the vehicle up on ramps. You do NOT need to drop the suspension, and you do NOT need to undo a control arm to get the old bar out and the new bar in. (Once it is undone, feed it carefully forward and out the passenger side. You will need a large screwdriver to help bend it past the gas tank, but it WILL go.)

- The new end links usually come pre-greased (I used the Moogs) but I put on the grease fitting before I installed them and topped them up anyway. And, yes the zerk grease fitting is a self-threading design.

- Use a dab of blue loctite on the threads of the end links and tighten all four nuts to 74 ft-lbs. They need to be tight, tight, tight. The Moogs come with an 18mm wrench flat on the ball side, so you don't need to **** with an allen key. (Hooray!)

- Pre-lube the Hotchkis urethane sway bar bushings with the provided lube. They give you two small tubes, and I only used 1 and a bit, so I have some left to regrease them in a few years. Note carefully how they go on (there is a dimple that lines up with a knob on the bushing bracket.) Hinge the bushing bracket in the slot at the top and then push it over the stud. (If it doesn't go at least 3/4 of the way onto the stud, they you have it lined up wrong.) The GM nuts are nylon 'jam-lock' nuts, and although they don't say to use new nuts, it is always a good practice to never reuse jam-lock nuts. It is not that big a deal because there is not as much strain on them as the end link nuts, but Home Depot carries M12 jam nuts and flat washers anyway, so you might as well replace them. Add some blue threadlock and tighten them to 52 ft-lbs. (The new jam-locks were 19mm instead of 18mm, and you WILL need a deep socket to get them on all the way.

- Hotchkis includes new urethane front sway bar bushings. For this, you DO need to droop the suspension, so the best way is to jack it up and let it rest on jack stands. (Shake the heck out of it to be SURE the vehicle is resting firm on the jack stands. NEVER just use a jack!) The tires just need to be off the ground.

- There are two 15mm bolts per side, and they undo quite easily. The purpose of resting it on jack stands and letting the suspension droop will now become obvious; you need the clearance to get the bushing brackets off. Once the bolts are out, just push the bracket towards the outside of the bar around the corner and then pull it and the bushing off. Lube the front bushings, split them and slide them on the bar on the same spot you removed the old ones from. BEFORE you slide the bushings toward the mounting base, put the brackets over them. You will need a couple of hammer blows to get the bracket over the new bushings. Then force them back toward the mounting plate using a hammer or pry bar. You will then need to pry them back and forth until the holes line up perfectly. Start one bolt, then the other and torque all four to 41 ft.lbs.

That's it. The hardest part of the job was removing the old rear end links. I ended up cutting one off with an angle grinder but there is not a lot of room to work and there are rubber brake hoses and plastic gas tanks nearby, so the second one I jammed the ball stud with a VERY hard squeeze from vise grips and simply used an 18mm socket on a ratchet.

Now ... tomorrow I get to DRIVE it!
 
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