Suspension problem on '98 Neon

Discussion in 'Neon' started by Glenn Shaw, Nov 16, 2003.

  1. Glenn Shaw

    Glenn Shaw Guest

    Two weeks ago, I posted a message about a problem I'm having with my '98
    Neon leaning in turns, a problem which has led to the car being almost
    uncontrollable in turns in interstate driving. In that post, I suspected
    that there might be a problem in the rear suspension -- namely, a weak
    left rear spring -- that was causing the leaning.

    That Saturday, I took it to a shop where I had some unrelated work done
    on the car, and described the problem to the shop manager. He had one of
    his mechanics take the car on a test drive, but the mechanic could find
    little wrong with it. They did suggest replacing the strut dampers ,
    which I did (cost: $300 including labor), but the strut replacement
    didn't fix the problem.

    So this last Thursday, I took it back and told them that the problem was
    still there. This time, the manager and the mechanic who worked on my
    car before both went out on a test drive, and this time they both felt
    the things I was describing. They then put the car on a levelled wheel
    alignment rack, measured the ground clearance between the rack and the
    car's chassis at several points, and compared the measurements to a
    chart containg the OEM specs for the Neon's ride height. They found the
    car's ride height to be within manufaturer's specifications.

    The manager said all of the fasteners in the rear suspension were
    tightened to spec. There was nothing wrong with the strut dampers (of
    course not, their being less than two weeks old), and the alignment
    geometry was OK (having been aligned twice in two months). Tire pressure
    and apparent condition were OK, apparently ruling out the tires. And
    since the ride height was within spec, the manager thought that the rear
    springs were OK, too.

    He said that there was little that he could do. He knows that a problem
    exists, but all the diagnostics seem to say otherwise. He said that
    something needed to be done to "stiffen the suspension", something to
    keep the car from rolling excessively. He was somewhat reluctant to do a
    spring replacement, saying (IIRC) that the job would require redoing
    some of the work that was done when the strut dampers were replaced.

    I then mentioned that the car could be retrofitted with a rear sway bar
    (my Neon has a front sway bar only). The manager then did a Web search
    for a Neon sway bar kit, finding an Eibach performance sway bar kit that
    listed for nearly $300. (I later found that an OEM sway bar kit costs
    half as much; the reason the Eibach kit costs so much is that it has
    urethane bushings and the bars are thicker than OEM spec.) He mentioned
    that he could order the parts himself (with a slight markup, of course)
    or that I could order the parts myself and he could install them,
    quoting $100 for labor in that case.

    Balking at the apparent cost, even if I ordered the parts, I again asked
    about the spring replacement. He said that he wants to try adding the
    sway bar first; if that doesn't work, then he'd install new springs. (If
    that failed, he recommended having the tires checked.) He even suggested
    that I could install the rear sway bar only (something I don't like
    because I heard that it could adversely affect the car's handling [1]).

    I told him I'd think about it for a few days, then call and let him know
    my decision.

    For the past couple of days, I thought about the suspension problem, and
    a few things struck me as being odd:

    1) The car has had this rolling problem for nearly two months now (I
    first noticed it in mid-September, and it has been getting steadily
    worse since). If the car had been handling fine as recently as two
    months ago *without* the rear sway bar, how would adding one *now* fix
    the problem? My thought: if it handled fine then without a rear sway
    bar, then I seriously doubt that adding one would help.

    2) I don't think that the ride height measurements are a valid indicator
    of the condition of the springs -- the measurements were taken with the
    car in a static, unloaded condition, while the problem is occurring
    under load in dynamic conditions. Could it be possible that the rear
    springs are in fact weakened to the point where they could cause a
    problem in dynamic conditions, but not weak enough to affect the car's
    static ride height?

    3) Why did the manager suggest resolving the problem in that order? He

    -- Adding the rear sway bar first
    -- Replacing the springs second
    -- Inspecting/replacing the tires third

    when IIRC it'd be the other way around (tires first, then springs, then
    sway bar) -- going from simplest to most complex?

    Given these questions, I'm more inclined to have the springs replaced
    rather than adding sway bars. I'd have to hop to it, though -- I'd like
    to visit my folks this Thanksgiving, and my work schedule doesn't allow
    me much time to get the problem fixed. :(

    What do you guys think? :)
    Glenn Shaw, Nov 16, 2003
  2. Glenn Shaw

    mic canic Guest

    at this point i would do neither and find another shop and have the rims
    checked to see if they are bent anywere and then the ball joints shold be
    checked for play now you state it happens in corners. did the brakes and
    rotors check out ??did the rotors get replaced before this happened? why
    does it seem to be from the rear??

    mic canic, Nov 16, 2003
  3. Glenn Shaw

    Glenn Shaw Guest

    mic canic wrote in
    This is the third shop I've gone to to try and have this problem fixed.
    The other two couldn't find any problem whatsoever. I'd take it to a
    Dodge or Chrysler shop, but they'd charge $90 just to look at the
    problem and would probably charge me an arm and a leg on labor. :(
    This would likely have been caught during either of the last two service
    visits. Nothing was mentioned of bent rims.
    Ball joints -- in the front -- were checked two months ago, and the left
    front tie rod was replaced to cure a creaking noise in the front
    suspension. None of the other ball joints were faulty.
    before this happened?

    How would the brakes be relevant to this problem when I'm not using the
    brakes going through corners? They seem to be working fine.
    Because when the car rolls, it also pitches towards the rear of the car,
    particularly the left rear corner -- the sensation is that of the right
    front corner rising while the left rear corner sinks. That suggests to
    me that one or both of the rear springs may be weakening.
    Glenn Shaw, Nov 17, 2003
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