Caravan sway bar

dodge
caravan
suspension
noises

#1

My 1990 Dodge Grand Caravan is still haunted by a suspension noise coming from the right front wheel. The sound is a clunk, usually just one, though multiple clunks do happen. The noise happens most often when the vehicle pitches left or right due to uneven road surface. I suspect the sway bar is involved, and indeed the noise does NOT occur with the sway bar removed from the car.



This same noise was happening a couple years ago. New sway bar bushings did not solve it. With the crank seal leaking, the control arm bushings were failing so were replaced just a year ago by a good shop specializing in front end work. The noise disappeared so I reasoned that those bushings fixed the clunk. But it reappeared recently when I had to remove the axle for an unrelated repair. In the process, I loosened the sway bar to make it easier to replace the ball joint stud in the steering knuckle. The clunk reappeared immediately. Something I did must have affected it, but I can’t figure out what I did wrong. I’ve just replaced the crank seal so the control arm bushings have had about a year of a small oil leak, but they appear ok.



I’ve now replaced the outer sway bar bushings again (they seemed ok, and the inner ones look fine), but the noise remains, I’ve been careful to get the sway bar centered, and I can’t see any sign that it is bumping the frame. So what exactly is it that’s making contact and creating a noise? I wonder about the control arm bushings, but I don’t see anything visually, and if they were the source of the noise, why would removing the sway bar stop that noise? How is it that the noise began IMMEDIATELY after I did the axle R&R? What could I have done wrong? My regular mechanic says not to worry, that it’s obviously just the sway bar. But it sounds potentially dangerous, so I want to solve this one.



Thanks to anyone who has a good idea to offer!


#2

Have you checked the sway bar end links? The ones that go from the end of the sway bar to the strut mounts?

Tester


#3

Hmmm, no. Can’t say I know what these are. The sway bar is a simple one piece bar with four clamps. Nothing else attached to it. Am I missing something? I’ll go look right now though…


#4

I sure don’t see anything I’d describe as a link between the strut and the sway bar…they are several inches apart, with the axle between them. The sway bar attaches to the lower control arm.


#5

Okay, I’m used to the newer Caravans.

And the links look solid between the sway bar and the lower control arms? The reason I ask is, it’s not easy to remove the links from a lower control arm to sway bar. And if you’ve removed the sway bar, you would have had to disconnect the links from either the sway bar or from the lower control arm. Just covering the bases.

Tester


#6

Thanks Tester. I’ve been wondering about that connection, but it’s pretty basic, the bushing pushes into a recess in the control arm and is held by a clamp and two bolts. I just don’t see any way to install it incorrectly, and I don’t see anything other than the control arm itself that the bar comes close to. What I’ve been suspecting is that the bar end is bumping the control arm somehow, but so far I’ve not seen how. But you use the term “links” and I just don’t see anything I’d call a link since the bar just fits into that space in the underside of the control arm. Could it be an entirely different design than you are visualizing? I’m going to go look at my shop manual though to see if I can find something labeled “link”. I appreciate your suggestion…


#7

It is just a one piece bar with no links. The bar just straps to the bottom of the control arm on each end and in two spots in the middle to the frame. Hopefully the pic will work.

I’m wondering whether or not you’ve pulled the bar again after it started again - just to make sure that it is actually the bar - as opposed to a ball joint or something.


#8

I’ve got the Chrysler Factory service manual for this car and don’t see anything labelled “link”. The drawing shows just what I found on the car, which I’ve already described.


#9

Thanks for the drawing. It shows it just right. I do have the factory manual and have checked the diagram there. And yes, I have had the bar off twice since the noise returned, and both times the noise was gone. That bar is such a simple structure, one piece with four pieces of rubber, and virtually no possibility of installing it incorrectly. The shop manual specifies which direction to point the split in inner bushings too, so I know I’ve got that right. I’m no master mechanic, but this is pretty simple, which is why I’m stumped, can’t see what could go wrong. That’s why I’m wondering what effect the bar has on the control arm, thinking maybe the noise actually comes from the control arm but only when the sway bar is bearing on it. Frustrating!