1986 Caprice suspension service question

Ye ole Caprice with only 225,000 original mile needs some suspension work so it doesn't wander around so much around the highway. I was hoping some folks here who appreciate these older smooth rides that old
farts like me like can help. I've got a new steering gear in it, new idler arm and a new centerlink. Most of the drift comes when the road crown changes or when a bump in the road unloads the suspension.
A mechanic friend advises that new upper control arm bushings will make a big difference with this problem. The lower control arm is dented slightly from hitting a curb, so I was thinking of swapping that. I was thinking about replacing all the bushings in the front end, along with all four ball joints. If I can manage this work myself, I should be able to get another 50,000 comfortable miles out of this paid off car.
To remove the lower control arm, can this be done by raising the car and then slowly lowering the lower control arm on a jack, or must a spring compressor be used? There's not much space inside the spring well to get a spring compressor into.
If this approach will work, how high must the car be raised to provide enough travel in the lower A arm so the spring will fall out?
I studied the upper ball joint, and it looks pretty straightforward to swap out... just cut out the four rivits and replace with a new one using bolts. The lower one is not so obvious looking through the years of grease. How is the lower ball joint installed in the A arm? Is it pressed in?
Are there any other pointers that will make this job easier? I've looked around the net, but there are not many entheusiasts for these old boats, so they don't seem to post projects.
Spanky
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spanky wrote:

Should not need compressor.

High enough to get the tires off should be high enough.

They are pressed in. A ball joint press, which looks like a big C-clamp with really fine threads, should be available at a tool rental store, or auto parts store.

Note the position of the bottom coil on the springs. Where the "end" is, is important.

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I was thinking that I don't need to own a ball joint tool. If I can get this stuff outta the car and take it to a machine shop for pressing out/in of the hard parts that I could avoid buying new tools. There are good machine shops nearby, once the problem is presented properly.
Do folks here think that it is possible to raise this auto, then lower the control arms slowly with the jacks... and then bring parts to the machine shop for repairs? (press out and press in)
How far beyond shock limits would I need to raise this auto . I really need to know before I start!
Thanks to all who reply.. from an old fart pgggttttttghttttt. D'oh!
Geoff Welsh wrote:

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wrote:

Considering the price of shocks for the car, I'd just pull those out as well and replace them. I also bought a spring compressor for CAD $5.99. It works well enough that I can pop out both sets of springs for my RWD Regal (though not at the same time).
As for the control arms, I think you have a great money saving idea, but not having done those, I'll leave that arena to those better than I.
And actually, there are many "old boat" lovers out there... you just need to know where to find them
Vuarra
Quid quid latine dictum sit altum videtur. (That which is said in Latin sounds profound.)
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....

you are SOOOO wrong. There are tons of enthuiasts for these old boats. i have one myself and it wanders a bit. i'm not investing money like you are, i'm just keeping it in on the road. the wandering takes a bit of getting used to. i know when i first picked up the car 2 years ago, i was aghast at the poor steering compared to some newer imports i'd been driving. but after a while, it's like driving a boat. let pressure on the wheel keep you there and don't be afraid to wander a bit. drift it. drove 500 highway miles just today and only a bit tired.
anyway, as for enthusiasts check: http://www.chevytalk.com / and do a web search for caprice web ring ...thehick
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On Tue, 09 Sep 2003 19:52:20 -0400, Frank in-toronto

I have 305,000 miles on mine with an original engine and tranny. Last summer I replaced all the ball joints, tie rods,idler arm, center link, pitman arm, sway bar end links and so forth with Moog parts. I did not do the control arm bushings as they still seem fine.
The car is now just about as tight as when it was new and the difference is obvious.
I am now looking to do the timing chain later this week because it is due. I'm also going to have new shocks put in but this time I'm hitting the local Meineke because the rear shocks are a pita to install due to the limited clearance at the top and the fact that the bolts are recessed inside some curved piece of metal. I did it once and swore I would never do it again.
These are great cars although mine is arguably one of the ugliest cars ever made, but there is a reason the NYC cabbies/police and fleets use them.
psycho
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Thought I'd inject my personal experiences here, FWIW. Up until a year ago, I drove a 1985 Caprice Estate as my daily driver for around 5 years. Fantastic workhorse - once loaded a complete Buick 455 + TH400 into the back, without a whimper. Around town, it was a dream to drive, and had an amazingly small turning radius for its size. On the highway, however, it sucked big-time. Mandatory 10 & 2 o'clock wheelhold + constant vigilance to keep it in a straight line at speeds above 80KPH. And that's not towing anything! Throw something on the hitch, and it became Godzilla on wheels. I should mention that it had matching tires on all 4 corners, and I had it aligned at the top-rated shop in my city. I also own a 1986 Caprice coupe, which I bought at a salvage auction with a minor front fender bender. I have no idea about the tires (they held air, what can I say?) or the alignment, or the condition of the front-end components. All I know is, I slapped on a Dealer plate and drove it the 30 (highway) miles to where I store it. Handled like a dream! Tracked like it was on rails. Absolutely an apple/orange comparison between the coupe & the wagon. Mystifies me to this day, since they are basically the same car, with the wagon having a weight bias on the rear, probably.
wrote:

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Wandering can be caused by worn rear arms. The lower arms tend to rust. If properly aligned, the big Chevy is a good enough handler, and shouldn't wander at any speed. Check the frame too, a " soft " frame will cause highway sway too.
Here's a great way to handle lower ball joints ;
Remove front shocks, and ball joint nuts, break upper and lower taper, floor jack under control arm. Lower jack to remove spring. Now that arm is relaxed, place piece of pipe, or block of hard wood between ball joint and upper control arm bracket, jack up car by control arm, weight of car forces ball joint out. To install new joint, clean up hole with sandpaper, prime, and use flat block, press with jack. After fitting pops into place install grease fitting. Seems obvious, but a lot of grease fittings get broken during installation.
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Great advice!!!
I did all 4 ball joints last summer on my 92 Caprice and despite borrowing the press from AutoZone, the lowers were a PITA!!! The press is very heavy and getting it in there with all the correct spacers and so forth is a lot more difficult that it looks. I had to put a piece of pipe on the end anyway and press as hard as I could to get it to budge.
Not a lot of fun!
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hmm, It's always been my thought that if you are replacing lower ball joints anyway, do the control arm bushings. With the control arm off, there are no space limitations for the press. GW
psycho snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:
I did all 4 ball joints last summer on my 92 Caprice and despite borrowing the press from AutoZone, the lowers were a PITA!!! The press is very heavy and getting it in there with all the correct spacers and so forth is a lot more difficult that it looks. I had to put a piece of pipe on the end anyway and press as hard as I could to get it to budge.
Not a lot of fun!

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Surprisingly the control arm bushings were in excellent shape and even more surprising was that the upper ball joints were completely shot, but the lowers (which I think take most of the shock) were in better shape.

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