Potential Repairs to Well Kept Park Avenue

buick
parkavenue

#1

My wife and I recently acquired her grandmother’s car, a 95 Park Avenue. The car had under 53K miles on it when we received it from her last summer. We’re not approaching 60K. The car was garage kept and driven very little, obviously. Anyway, when I was under the car a couple months back I noticed a oil like fluid hanging from the bottom of the struts (on both front wheels). I don’t know much about suspension so wasn’t exactly sure what this meant… and wanted to seek advice about it. An incident this past week has spurred this on as I was forced to take the car to the shop.

On Wednesday of this past week I hit a rise in the road (a seem that was turned into a bump larger then than a speed bump due to the wonderful midwest winter temperature changes). Immediately after hitting this bump I had a terrible noise which forced me to take the car to the shop. They said the stabilizer bar end link had broken and needed to replaced… $99.20. Sure, okay, fine we did that… even though I maybe could have done that myself. But they also discovered that the struts were leaking and stated they needed replaced… $750 is the price they quoted me… Yikes! The car drives okay and I think I’ve heard a little bit of noise from the front end… nothing major though.

So now for my questions. How urgent is something like this? Will I have other warning signs? Can I do struts myself? (I’m a reasonably good shadetree mechanic but have never done anything related to suspension). With a car this age, what other major expenses should I brace/prepare myself for and what might those cost (approximately)?

Nathan


#2

@NateTaylor

A strut with slight seepage is nothing to worry about, provided it’s still doing its job

A soaking wet strut is not okay

A strut job might be within your capabilities. This is what you need

Jack stands
Basic hand tools (sockets, ratchets, wrenches, etc.)
A strut spring compressor . . . NOT harbor freight

Whether you do the struts, or pay to have them done, here’s two more things you’ll want to do

Replace the strut mounts
Get a wheel alignment

I advise against Monroe struts

By the way, what suspension do you have . . . base, electronic adjustable?

Here’s an idea . . . put in so-called quick struts. They’re struts, springs, and mounts, all pre-assembled. Slightly more expensive, but less labor. If you go that route, you could definitely do it yourself, and save the expense of the spring compressor.

Rockauto.com is a good website to check out

Good luck, and please keep us updated


#3

It sounds like the fluid you were seeing hanging from the struts was the hydraulic oil that is supposed to be in the strut.

If that is the case then the struts need to be replaced. I’d call it a safety issue, others here may not. But the strut is what keeps the wheel on the ground. Without the dampening effect of the strut the wheel can bounce and hop excessively and the car just doesn’t handle as well as it should. Ever been on the freeway and seen a car with a wheel bouncing like a basketball being dribbled down the court? Do you think a tire that’s not in firm contact with the ground can steer or stop a car very well? You think the car drives fine now but put new struts on and you’ll feel a difference.

For new quality struts, new upper mounts (given that the car is 20 years old), installation and an alignment, $750 is a little high but not crazy.

Or if you’re a DIY guy, have a good floor jack and jack stands (your life may depend on it), and have a Saturday free, buy complete replacement assemblies–strut, spring, upper plate–and do it yourself. You’ll save a couple hundred bucks or more. You’ll still need an alignment though.


#4

The front end won’t collapse if the strut leaks all the oil out.

If the car handles acceptably well there should be no rush to get the struts replaced so be looking for a better price or look into doing the work yourself. Although replacing the struts is somewhat simple for an experienced mechanic in a well equipped shop a beginner DIYer might find the job a problem. Plus, the alignement would need to be checked after replacing front struts.

Also, I am curious as to where the oil was “hanging from the bottom” A worn strut would leak from the top. And could you post the itemized parts and labor on your estimate.


#5

I guess I’d let someone else handle it if you didn’t want to do the stabilizer bolts. The set of bolts is about $15 from NAPA. Replacing struts is a major pain in the neck for a DIYet and compressing those springs is dangerous. I’ve got two sets of spring compressors and use them both and I’ve never had them where I can get all of the tension completely off of the spring. This makes getting the nut back on a little difficult. But after reading the above, and the manual, go ahead if you want to try it. Just be careful and ready. Once you get one off, its pretty hard to tow to a shop so you’re stuck. Might want to get another estimate. That seems a little high.


#6

I think struts that are leaking to the extent that these apparently are should be changed.
But if you wish to keep the car, have it gone over thoroughly, especially the brakes, and expect a few more repairs. The s 19 years old, a time when seals tend to begin to leak from age, and that’s exascerbated by its lack of use. When again used, the shafts that move through seals can develop surfaces in areas that they rarely go that can cause already aged rubber seals to fail. That may be what caused the sudden failure of the struts. And be sensitive for a while to anything that doesn’t feel right, like if the brakes feel funny or don’t return normally. Get any questions looked into immediately.

Shafts and seals in things like struts, master cylinders, and brake calipers & cylinders do better when they’re regularly cycled and subjected to constant lubrication. Years of rare use can leave these hydraulic systems subject to failure. That does not mean the car is dangerous, only that it needs to be checked over and used gingerly until you’re sure everything is working properly.


#7

Unless you are an experienced mechanic I would not suggest changing struts unless it was with preassembled full strut units. By the time you’re done you’ll probably be in it for $400 or more IF you don’t need to buy any tools (like jack stands). If you don’t own an impact wrench and have never disassembled front end components, then a few hours into the job you’ll probably be wishing you had taken it to the shop. But if you do persevere and happen to make it thought, a few days later you’ll probably be happy and have forgotten the annoyance. It’s not theoretically difficult, but it has its practical hang ups if you’re not accustomed to doing such work.


#8

Complete front strut assemblies by Moog are available from RockAuto for $109 unless the car has electronic suspension. Add in an alignment and you’re done for about $300 plus the cost of any additional tools you need.


#9

The car has “gran touring suspension”… whatever that means… I just see this label on the dash by the speedo.

I do have a jack and jack stand. I do not have an impact gun/wrench. Do you still think I can do this if I’m doing the strut assembly?

The drip I saw hanging was just that… a drop hanging from the bottom of the strut… I believe. I’m not sure how else to describe it…

The details of the quote include the following things; the strut assembly (they said they were going to do the quick struts.) - $466.04, Labor - 2.5 hours, and alignment - $39.95.

Tell me more about the stabilizer bolts. I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

Nathan


#10

The stabilizer bolts are the end links. There are some end links that are not bolts, but I’m pretty sure yours look just like these (click).

Those are best done with the car sitting on the ground on it’s full weight. I usually do them on ramps. The links remain passive whenever the car is stable. If you jack it up the suspension is all out of whack because it’s hanging down. The only hard part about those tends to be getting the old ones out just because all of the various elements (bolts, sleeves, bushings, washers) tend to get all fused together into one unit - yet you sort of need the bolt to come out on its own. Cutting and hammering may be required.

If you decide to try the struts, since you said the car has been garage kept, the struts might not be too bad without an impact. How rusty are they? either way I would start spraying the lower bolts down with some PB Blaster and the longer it sits the better.

If the drop from the bottom of the strut was from the leaking strut - that’s a bad leak. A minor leak will not add up to dripping off of the bottom of the strut.


#11

I was wondering if the CV joint boot is split and the drip was CV grease, @cigroller. If a front strut leaked down totally the car would handle baddly.


#12

I remember checking the CV boots and being pretty sure they were okay. The oil on the strut was from not from there.
Okay, so I had the stabilizer bolts replaced by the garage last week… when one of them broke. I don’t need to worry about that job.
And doing the struts is within my capabilities… I’ll just need battle with rust primarily.
Is that’s what I’m hearing from you all…
Nathan


#13

Oh, and the car handles like a boat… but it’s a park avenue… my previous car was a Olds Intrigue so this car feels like I’m just floating down the road on a cushion… but as I said in a previous post… I have heard some noise… kinda like a bouncing/rattling noise on highway straightaways… and a creaking kind of noise when going over bumps at slower speeds.
All in all sounds like this job needs to be done sooner then later… I may just wait till the worst of the winter weather is past us… since I’ll be doing this in my driveway.


#14

Just think, once you change the struts it’ll handle like a car again instead of a boat!

Seriously, I strongly recommend the already mentions process of letting a penetrating oil soak the rusty bolts overnight. It’s worth the extra effort. As a matter of fact, it sounds like you’ll be working on cars long-term, and a compressor and impact wrench would be well worth the cost to you. I’d recommend a 150PSI compressor with a decent size tank, perhaps an “upright”. You can get one from Harbor Freight Tools that’ll do the trick beautifully.

Creaks and rattles usually come from bushings. I’ve found the most common source to be the bushings that hold the antisway bar(s) to the chassis. The bar turns in the rubber bushing with every movement of either wheel, and the holes wear bigger. Grooves can even wear in the bars. New bushings can be ordered dirt-cheap over the internet, and they usually come with little packs of silicone lube for where the bar goes through the bushing. Regular axle grease works great too.


#15

@NateTaylor

It sounds like you might have the high end adjustable suspension

I advise you to find out before buying parts


#16

Be careful. Depending on where you live, this car could still be severely rusted underneath. Have it inspected.


#17

So I finally got the struts replaced today. I went with Moog quick struts off Rockauto for $225… plus I had to buy a 24 mm socket for about $5. Once I get the alignment done this next week I’ll be looking at a total of about $275… vs. the $750 quoted my by the shop… I saved quite a bit using Rockauto too… which surprised me… I think I saved $75 just by using rock auto vs. Advance Auto Parts…

Was very tempted to get the air compressor but decided to simply enjoy the cost savings at it’s fullest for now… I know I’ve now for sure convinced my wife that the air compressor has already been paid for with all the maintenance and repair work I do and have done for us.

The job was snap… I can’t believe how easy it was actually. The car rides much better for sure.
Thanks for all the tips and input everyone.
Nathan Taylor


#18

@‌NateTaylor

Thanks for the update

And congratulations for restoring the ride quality!

Based on the price of the quick struts, may I assume your car does not have the adjustable suspension?


#19

The Gran Touring Suspension was a stiffer “handling” package and not electronic. Rear suspension was usually air-adjustable. Imagine how soft the base suspension was.


#20

Yes, that is correct. Gran Touring for the 95 was the standard suspension. I think Dynaride or something like that was the adjustable suspension.