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Old 02-19-2011, 11:31 AM   #1
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Default Polyurethane Control Arm Bushings on 1st gen W-body

I made this writeup on another site and figured I'd post it here too. This is for polyurethane control arm bushings on a 1st gen w-body, such as a 88-96 Regal, Cutlass Supreme, Lumina, Grand Prix, and 97-99 Lumina and Monte Carlo.


The bushings are part of Energy Suspension Part kit #3.3156R, with the R referring to Red bushings.

The bushings can be purchased directly from Energy Suspension for $65 + shipping: http://www.energysuspensionparts.com...sp?prod=3.3156

As of 01/02/09 the bushings can also be purchased from Amazon.com for $55 shipped (which is where I got them): http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg...X0DER&v=glance

These are indeed bushings for an 88 RWD Cutlass, but they are supposed to work on a 1st gen w-body as the OE bushing part numbers are the same for both.


The 78 RWD cutlass of that generation used a 1/2" bolt, which is about 12.7mm. GM later updated the bolt size for the 79-88 models to 12mm, but Energy Suspension did not. Therefore, the kit you will buy will come with a 1/2" inner sleeve diameter, so you will need to buy new bolts or as Adam did, wing it and hope for the best. Adam noted that there was very little play in those bolts, as the subframe brackets tighten against the inner sleeves when you tighten the bolts. Its your decision entirely on what to do with this.

Basically, the OE bushings have an inner sleeve that the bolt goes through. The subframe mounts for the control arms are only big enough to allow the 12mm thick bolts to go through. On my car, the inner sleeves seized up to the bolts due to rust, and no amount of Bolt Buster or heat with a MAPP gas torch would loosen them, and I did try to heat the sleeve directly. I eventually concluded that my only option would be to cut up the bolts with a dremel. This took an asinine amount of time, so be prepared to have your car out of commission for a weekend if you're as unlucky as I was.

The bolts needed are hardened bolts for automotive use, which I thought were available only from GM. However, upon calling a GM dealer, I found out that these are discontinued. I managed to find replacements here: http://www.boltdepot.com/metric-hex-bolts.aspx I'm sure there are other places online, but this is where I bought mine from.

The OE bolts are 12mm thick, 1.75mm thread pitch, and 92.1mm in length. If you need to order new bolts, might as well go ahead and order 1/2" bolts. I would not advise using anything under a Grade 8 bolt. I used a Grade 8 from a local hardware store as I did not have time to wait to order new bolts online.

Control Arm Removal
Naturally, you will need to remove the control arm. You will need a balljoint removal tool. Be prepared to accidentally damage your balljoint and replace it. If yours need replacing or are very old, this would be a good time to replace those as well.

Remove the control arm-to-subframe bolts and hammer them out if necessary. As I mentioned previously, there is the possibility that the bolts may have siezed to the inner sleeves of the stock bushings. If this happened, your only option is to cut off the ends of the bolts and stretch open the subframe brackets. A very long heavy duty flathead screwdriver or a small cro-bar would help here.

Here'* where things get complicated, so pay very close attention.

On each control arm, there are two bushings. I will refer to these as the Front and the Rear bushings, relative to their position on the front and the rear of the car. The ES bushings are both (for front and rear) longer than the OE bushings and will need to be cut after installation. You can use a rotary tool with a cut-off blade, or a hacksaw.

Front Bushings
The front OE bushings are larger in diameter than the ES bushings. In other words, the ID (inner diameter) of the OE sleeve is larger than the ID of the ES sleve. See here:

Click the image to open in full size.

Luckily, the OD (outer diameter) of both ES and OE sleeves are exactly the same. You will need to have the old ones pressed out and the new ones pressed in by a shop. I took mine to NAPA, and was charged $20 per bushing to press out the old and press in the new.

Rear Bushings
The rear bushings are a different story. Here, the OD of the ES sleeve is larger than the OD of the OE sleeve, so you cannot press out the old one and press in the new one, as it won't fit. However, the OD of the ES bushing itself is identical to the OD of the OE bushing. In otherwords, the ID of the OE sleeve is identical to the ID of the ES sleeve. I say identical because that'* about as close as one can get, but the reality is that the ES sleeve is .5mm thicker. This causes some issues, as the polyurethane doesn't like to flex very much, but we'll get into how to overcome that in a little bit.

The problem you now have is getting the rubber out. The easy way to do it is using a MAPP gas torch. Propane won't cut it, you can ask Adam. It just takes too long. You heat around the sleeve directly with the torch till the rubber sleeve inside catches fire. You then push it out with a stick. It will come out very easy once its melted, so be patient. Adam used propane and wasn't so patient and got rubber all over himself. That **** doesn't come off very easily. Wait for the control arm to cool down, or you'll be scrubbing the rubber off your hands for a while. Once its cooled off, sand the sleeve down like so:

Click the image to open in full size.

Now for pressing in the new bushing...

Adam used a vice, but I used a bolt with a method that I created specifically for this. I spent HOURS trying to figure this out, and so did Adam, till he called me.

In the kit you buy, you will also receive 4 extra bushings, which are used for the upper control arms on the rwd cutlass. You can use the sleeve for one of these bushings to make a press of your own using a bolt as follows:

Click the image to open in full size.

You essentially get the long bolt with two large washers and a nut, and start tightening them. The tan part is the outer sleeve of one of the extra bushings. You need it there so the ES bushing has somewhere to go as it gets pressed through. Press the bushing in WITH the inner sleeve. You will have a hell of a time pressing in the inner sleeve if you don't. VERY IMPORTANT: The kit also comes with bushing grease. Grease up the sleeve and the bushing before you start pressing it in and it will make your life easier.

If you didn't catch it the first time, you cut the bushing down to size **after** you press it in. The reason for this is that because of the difference in diameter, the bushing will stretch longer after you press it in, and will cause you to do double the work. Here'* what it looks like when pressed in:

Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

The second picture shows how much the bushing actually stretches, as it is exactly as long as the inner sleeve before you press it in.

Cutting the bushings
When cutting the bushings, cut the outer sleeve slightly shorter than the inner sleeve. You will be tightening the bolt against the inner sleeve, and the outer sleeve needs room to play. I cut the inner sleeve the same length as the bushing. Measure the lenght of your old bushing inner sleeves and match that to these. I don't have the numbers for that. If anyone does, please post them.

Here'* what your project should look like once you're done:
Click the image to open in full size.

If you're asking yourself if you really need to do this job, the absolute answer is YES.
Here'* the concept:
Click the image to open in full size.

You will notice a HUGE reduction in understeer and will find it very difficult to break your tires loose after this mod. I don't understeer anymore; my whole car slides. This helps balance your car very well.

Here'* the thread where I started this mod, so you know what I had to go through:

Any questions?
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Old 02-19-2011, 07:00 PM   #2
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Thanks, I'll get that to tech info when my head is a bit less fuzzy.
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