I have an 88 Gt that has a 3800 SC III in it with the 4T65E-HD transmission. I also have 18 inch wheels with 225/45/18 in front and 245/45/18 in the back. Ever since I bought this car back in 1999, it has had problems with staying in alignment. I have had it re-aligned many times by many different mechanics and garages. Some did a great job others just adjusted the toe and called it good. However, even when the car is totally aligned perfectly and drives extremely well it doesn't last. One time I had the car aligned perfectly, I was there to see the settings on the machine. I drove it away from the shop and went maybe 20 miles and hit some bumps in the road and it was out again. I took it back and the mechanic re-aligned it and then took a long bar and tightened the alignment nuts down with some huge torque. But, it still didn't last.
Mostly this is a problem with the front and that is because the two nuts and bolts that tighten down in the upper A-arm pin to the cradle end up moving. The last time I had it aligned was late summer last year 2012. The mechanic did a great job getting it right on. I had told him the problem I was having and he really looked it over and told me that the nuts that hold the A-arm pin to the cradle were worn on the edges of the nuts. So when you tightened them down it didn't really grip the cradle slot. Instead it bottomed out on the A-arm pin. So to overcome that he put in heavy duty washers and then at the end tack welded everything in place.
This seemed to work pretty good. I made about a 600 mile cruise last fall with it going on some relatively bumpy road around the top of the mitten in Michigan. This spring my wife and I went to Daytona Beach with the Fiero and it seemed OK, but maybe a little bit out on the way back. I didn't check it out at that time. Last week we went to Watkins Glen, a trip of about 1200 miles. On the Friday we left I had driven about 100 miles in the rain and it was really touchy and I stopped and found the tires were worn down to the cords on the inside of both front tires. I had the tires replaced with some Sumitomo all weather tires which are much harder than the Hankook Ventus V12's that I was running on, figuring that I should be able to make it to Watkins Glen and back with these tires. The Hankooks were worn badly but not completely gone before this trip because of the alignment problems from last year, so I knew they had limited life on them.
Part of the trip to NY included going over about 30 miles of really rough road on Hiway 86. This was a really jarring ride through that spot. I got to the track and it felt somewhat out of alignment because it would jerk and be pulled by the crowns in the roads. We ran on the track three times and then on Sunday we started home. It seemed to get worse and worse as we put on the miles. When I checked the tires around the Cleveland area, about 350 miles into the 550 mile trip, the inside edges of both tires were worn badly with maybe an 1/8" left on the inner most block of tread. I checked the tires about 50 miles later and the inside block was down at least another 1/16", to the point I decided I couldn't make it all the way home without blowing the tires. So a friend brought his truck and trailer and towed it the last 120 miles to my house.
I ordered new A-arm pins, bolts and pan nuts for the front end and will have it aligned sometime next week when they come in. I will also be putting on some new Hankook tires on the front. I can't keep having these types of troubles with this car since I really like to drive it and it is getting quite expensive to have alignments done all the time and the tires get expensive too.
Other than replacing these parts is there anything else I can do?
The 88 up front has an upper control arm shaft, paddle nuts, and paddle nut bolts. The terms you used could be confusing.
Those paddle nut bolts should be tightened to 52 ft./lbs plus 1/4 turn.
If your crossmember (what the UCA attaches to) is all chewed up, that may be your problem.
Make sure your ball joints / tie-rods are tight too, or replace them. Check or replace the steering rack bushing too. UCA and LCA bushings should be replaced too, if you want a perfect front end to perform like its suppose to. Also replace end-links.
Before somebody will shoot ideas / options, check all those components and make sure you do it, not just think they are ok.
What is your wheel offset and rim width like? It's a long shot but excessive camber wear reminds me of the not to distant past when import tuners were putting wheels on that stuck outside of the fender well without proper suspension upgrades to support them and running through tires pretty quickly as a result. A 7" wide wheel up front with a high offset might place enough leverage on the suspension that even properly aligned may still go far enough outside of specs on deflection to cause chronic accelerated wear.
One thing I noticed when moving from 215/60R15 to 225 and 245/40R 18 with 8" wide and 9" on an 86, is that my car is more touchy at higher speeds under hard acceleration, where before it was stable although I admit an alignment is in order for a final assessment.
"Make sure your ball joints / tie-rods are tight too, or replace them. Check or replace the steering rack bushing too. UCA and LCA bushings should be replaced too, if you want a perfect front end to perform like its suppose to. Also replace end-links."
The bushing are all poly and in good shape. The wheels are 18 x 8 inch with a 43 offset. The rack is in good shape, I just checked that this last weekend.
I will be there to check the cross member when it is in the shop. If it needs a new one I will get it.
"Note also that if you have aftermarket paddle nuts and bolts, they aren't all created equal.
Get the ones Rodney sells, they are the same strength grade as OEM and the nuts are pinch deformed to resist loosening. The ones from the Fiero Store are neither."
I ordered the parts from the Fiero Store, but I can also order some new paddle nuts from Rodney. They are not that expensive.
Thanks for the information, some of which I knew, but some is quite useful to me.
The car is not touchy at all if the alignment is good. The problem for me is that it won't stay.
[This message has been edited by MadMark (edited 04-27-2013).]
Well, I first ordered the Fiero Store nuts and bolts along with the upper control arm pins and bushings. Then after reading the responses I ordered the bolts and pan nuts from Rodney. I got the Rodney Dickman paddle nuts and bolts in about two days ago and I was impressed with them. They are quite healthy looking and just as someone said they are crimped on the nuts so that they will not loosen up.
I have not gone under the hood yet, I really don't have a place to do that here, but if my memory serves me well the current bolts and nuts are not the same. I really don't remember having paddle nuts with the interconnect under the front cradle. In fact the mechanic I took it to last to have the alignment done said the nuts were rounded off and not really contacting the edges of the slot in the cross member. I am thinking that someone along the way had the alignment re-done and used normal bolts and nuts, which would be the origination of the problem. Next week I will be taking my Fiero in to have the front end fixed and aligned.
I just got the paddle nuts and bolts in from the Fiero Store and they are definitely not as good of a quality as Rodney's are. The upper control arm pin from the Fiero Store does look good and solves another question I had about the surface of the pin. It has grooves in it to lock it in-place, so this should help too. I could never see well enough with the tire off to see if there were grooves on the pins that are in the Fiero right now.
When I get this fixed, I will have the mechanic save the parts so I can let everyone know if my speculation is right or not. All I really care though is to get this fixed so I don't have this problem anymore.
...but if my memory serves me well the current bolts and nuts are not the same. I really don't remember having paddle nuts with the interconnect under the front cradle. In fact the mechanic I took it to last to have the alignment done said the nuts were rounded off and not really contacting the edges of the slot in the cross member. I am thinking that someone along the way had the alignment re-done and used normal bolts and nuts, which would be the origination of the problem.
Probably so. Yes, perhaps at some point in the past someone aligned the car and used regular nuts without the interconnecting piece. I'm not 100% sure of the necessity of the interconnecting piece (or paddle), but since the car came from the factory with it, its probably needed.
On mine, I'd installed new paddle nuts and bolts one one side only, assuming the other side was OK and didn't need to be adjusted. I was wrong. The alignment shop loosened and then adjusted the second side also, and in the process twisted and broke the paddle like a pretzel. The alignment lasted about three days before the car would toe-in and toe-out every time I shifted it into Drive or Reverse.
So finally I had to fish the twisted, broken paddle out of the crossmember and install a new paddle and bolts from Rodney. I showed the broken piece to the alignment shop and they readily agreed to align it again for free, but still it was no fun trying to get the twisted and broken paddle out in the first place. Yikes!
Glad to hear it sound like your issues are getting sorted out. Keep us posted!
I just got my car back from the mechanic. When they pulled the upper control arms apart to put in the new pins, bushing, bolts and pancake nuts he found the passenger side back slot was busted out the back side. The nuts were some type of pancake nuts, but seemed a whole lot less strength than the ones I bought from Rodney. The bolts too looked a lot less beefy. They installed all the new parts and aligned the car and then welded in the spot that was broken out.
If I have any more problems I am going to buy a new cross member and start on this all over again. I just cannot stand having my Fiero eating tires up and driving like crap.
The nuts need the paddle/dogbone piece to keep them from turning when tightened. Without them and with the non-stock bolts, I doubt they were getting the two bolts properly torqued. So they would hold till you hit a hard bump, then the a-arm would shift. After an alignment, drive home doing your best to avoid harsh bumps. then remove the front wheels and check the torque on the upper bolts. They are M12 bolts and can/should be torqued to about 100 ft-lbs. The service manual states 52 lb-ft + 90 degrees.
The other issue with the cross shaft, is that it is serrated where it bolts to the crossmemeber. So when properly torqued, the ridges will deform the steel on the crossmember and make it difficult to dial in the precise location.
It is a pair of adjusters that thread onto each side of the cross shaft and pushes against the frame of the car. So with this tool, you can loosen the cross-shaft bolts, use the tool to dial in the alignment, then the tool helps hold everything in the right place while the bolts are tightened. Without the tool, the tech is doing a bunch of trial/error bumping things around until he gets it close enough. The tool is only about $30-$40 and worth buying, even if you have other people do your alignment. The tool greatly speeds up the process and the likelihood on them having it is slim to none.
The original nuts were paddle nuts, but they definitely do not look as beefy as the ones I just bought and had installed from Rodney Dickman. The movement you describe is what was happening to my alignment. It has been frustrating to say the least.
That tool looks like a great idea. It certainly would make it a whole lot easier to finish the alignment properly.
I will be taking the wheels off tomorrow to take them in for tire replacement. The car drives alright in a straight line, but when you turn the wheels the wear pattern on the tires takes over. Either way you turn there is a spot where it feels like it locks onto that direction. I believe this is due to the inside edge of the tires being so worn which makes the tires ride on a rib on the outside. Then when you turn the steering wheel one way or the other it will drop down to where the tire is flat and it feels like it locks there. Use a little more force it it will go right through that spot though.
When I have the wheels off I will try to take pictures of what my front cradle ends look like and what the mechanic did to try and solve this problem by welding on this area. Eventually I feel I am going to need to buy a replacement front cradle and get it replaced.
I took the wheels off and had new tires put on. Then brought the wheels/tires home to install. Once on I took the car for a ride and it doesn't have the dartiness that it did with the alignment way out. Now it seems sluggish with hard effort. Maybe it is just my seat of the pants meter being off. I don't really know. The mechanic said he put 0.1% of positive camber in both of the front wheels. I don't know why he did that, but he did and since it was welded in so much I just decided to take it like it was.
The passenger side has a large welded spot that welds the cross member to the Upper Control Arm pin. You can see this in the photo below.
This weld is in the area that broke out of the slot area of the front cross member on the passenger side.
Also, here is a picture of one of the tires. As you can see this tire is completely worn out on the inside surface. When I stopped I had about 120 miles left to drive and I don't think it would have gone that far without wearing through all of the rubber and the cords until it blew out.
I am hoping this fix will last the summer. Then over the winter I will buy one of the reconditioned front cross members from The Fiero Store and have it installed by my friend OleJoeDad. The once that is installed I will put new paddle nuts, bolts on it from Rodney Dickman and a new Upper Control Arm pin from the Fiero Store. That way maybe I can ensure I don't have anymore problems with this.