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DISCLAIMER: I'm not responsible for any damage you incur. This includes your own health, other's health, your property, and other's property. You are responsible for your own actions. This information is provided as information only, I make no warranties or claims of suitability for any particular use, in fact I specifically disclaim them all. This is a vehicle's suspension and braking system we're dealing with here. Don't mess with them unless you know what you're doing. You could put your life or others' at risk.
For your viewing pleasure:
HOW-TO Swap in N-Body suspension with F/W-Body brakes:
The J-Body car. I assume it's all there, you will need some original parts obviously.
N-Body (2000 Malibu):
Steering Knuckle, maybe grouped with item below.
Hub and Bearing Assembly, with ABS plug bracket.
Axle (Half-Shafts), you actually only need the outer CV joint, but most places will not sell just that.
Axle washer and nut, the stock ones don't fit.
New ball joints - Picked mine up on eBay cheap, and they're very high quality.
F-Body (2000 Comaro):
Calipers with Brackets, usually separate items at yards.
Caliper Bolts (F-Body or N-Body will work. Or they're M12-1.75x30 Grade 10.9)
Brake Hose to Caliper Bolt - If they will, just have them chop the brake line, and leave this all attached to the caliper. Or get new ones M10-1.0 thread.
Pads for the calipers, if they don't come with some.
W-Body (2000 Impala):
Rotors, I got mine for $10 at a yard.
Anything you want to replace. I'm putting in AGX and G+B springs at this same time.
Tools and Supplies:
Socket Set & Ratchet, Metric + 3/4 socket
3/8 Allen Wrench
Screwdriver(s) - Big, little, and a few inbetween are a good idea.
Pry bar or other large metal thing
Hammer(s) - Preferably a 2# sledge and a medium clawhammer.
Drill (3/8 or larger) with a good set of bits up to 1/2" or 12mm.
Jack/Stands and Misc - Gotta pick the car up somehow.
An Impact Wrench makes most of this WAY faster.
A cheater bar also makes this faster, read on.
I'll divide this up into sections according to what you're taking apart. The disassembly of the original J takes longer than anything else.
SECTION 1 - Simple Stuff
1.1. Jack the car up. I used jack stands to hold it up. I suggest you do something similar for safety sake.
1.2. Take the wheels off. It's a 3/4 lug nut. You have a tire iron in the trunk with the spare.
1.3. Use an 11mm socket (or equivalent) to remove the brake line from the old caliper. Fluid will drain. Plug it if you can, otherwise be prepared for the bleeding session of your life.
1.3.2 You're going to lose plenty of fluid, get used to it. Do not reuse any old fluid, once it comes out it doesn't go back in.
1.4. Use the 3/8 Allen wrench to back the caliper pins out. Pull them back good and far or they will hold the caliper in place still.
1.4.2 It's useful to compress the caliper piston using a C-Clamp right now. But not necessary.
1.5 Remove the caliper, using the pry bar if necessary, be sure the pins are backed out all the way if you're having trouble. Pull straight out on both the top and bottom or it will get stuck (the reason they discontinued this design).
1.6 Remove the rotor, it's probably rusted on. Beat the @!#$ out of it, you're not going to use it anymore anyway. Or if you want to save it and be gentle while you're beating it.
1.7 Unplug the ABS sensor, that little black thing that was behind the rotor.
SECTION 2 - Pesky Ball Joints
2.1 There is a cotter pin holding the lower ball joint's castle nut in place. Remove it by any mean necessary (you'll not be reusing the ball joint or the knuckle, so whatever goes).
2.2 Take the nut off (15mm or a crecent wrench).
2.3 Separate the knuckle and lower ball joint. I used a pickle fork and my handy 2' section of 2" pipe as a cheater bar. Put the pickle fork straight in from the side (of the car), put the cheater over the fork, push down with all my weight, POP!
2.4 Take the nut off the steering ball joint. It's 15mm.
2.5 Separate the steering from the knuckle. I used a 2# sledge and popped it straight up, gently of course. You don't want to ruin the threads. Take it out and shove it aside.
2.6 I used an impact wrench to remove the 28mm nut that holds the axle to the hub. I recommend you try to do the same. Otherwise its a complete b*tch to remove. Good luck.
2.7 Pop the axle with a hammer to break it loose of the hub, and push it back a bit, not all the way through.
SECTION 3 - Things you could use a 3rd hand while removing
3.1 Use the pry bar, push down on the control arm, and up on the knuckle (easiest to wedge it just in front (front of the car) of the ball joint. Get the two totally separated.
3.2 Remove the two small nuts on the upper strut mount.
3.3 If you have a buddy, find him/her. Hold the strut and knuckle up while you take the bolt out of the strut mount. Do not simply let it drop, you may damage things.
3.4 Remove the strut and knuckle from the vehicle, trying not to damage anything. It's heavy, be careful.
3.5 If your changing anything (springs or struts): Use a spring compressor (I didn't, but you should). Remove the large nut on top of the mount. Separate out all the strut/spring junk. Keep whatever you're not replacing.
3.6 Take the pry bar and get it in between the tranny and the axle's inner CV joint. Pry on that sucker until it pops. Then just pull it out. Do not pull on the axle until it has been released from the tranny, you can/will do severe damage to the inner CV tripod joint.
3.7 On the drivers side only: Take loose the engine cradle (sub frame) to radiator support bar. It has one bolt at either end. 15mm in the front, 13mm in the back.
On the passenger side only: Take loose the lower engine mount (dogbone mount). It has 15mm bolts on both ends.
3.8 The control arm has one bolt in the front (15mm, lateral) and one in the rear (18mm, vertical) holding it on. Take both of them loose.
3.9 Take the ABS sensor wire loose from the little clips. Putting a screwdriver in the end vertically then twisting always works for me.
3.10 Take the control arm off. A few taps of the hammer may be necessary. My car has never seen winter before, so it's not very rusty at all, I could just pull hard.
SECTION 4 - Everything's off the car, but more disassembly
4.1 Take your half-shaft (axle) to a good work space (or the floor if you want to do it the hard way).
4.2 Remove the clips holding the boot on the outer CV joint. It's the side with the threads at the end if you forgot already.
4.2.1 These things really suck. If you want to be cheap and remove them so that you can use them again, read on. Otherwise cut them off and skip to 4.3
4.2.2 Get a screw driver just bigger than the squeezed part of the band, use a hammer to wedge it into that gap. See the picture.
4.2.3 Once you've got it in, give it a good hard turn to open it up a bit. You'll probably have to do this several time before it even starts to loosen.
4.2.4 Once it's loose enough that you can get the band to turn against the axle, take the same screwdriver and work along the end of the band, where the hooks are, see the picture again.
4.2.5 Work both sides carefully and you'll be able to release the hooks without severely damaging the band. You will have bent it up a bit. Use your hammer to straighten it out if you have to. You can do this to both bands on the axle.
4.2.6 Some axles come with solid bands. The axles I got from a Grand AM (N-Body axles above) had solid bands. Technically you can slide these without taking them off. I didn't care, so I cut them with an angle grinder. Use your own discretion. You can always buy new bands (at a couple bucks each).
4.3 Pull the boot back down the shaft so that you have easy access to the CV joint. Don't think you can skip this step, this crap is hard enough with the boot slid down, let alone without sliding it.
4.4 Remove the outer CV joint. Easy, right?
4.4.1 If you have the "proper" tools to remove the CV joints, good for you, you wasted money on a tool you'll rarely use. Be extremely careful doing all this that you don't contaminate or loose the grease. It is NOT normal grease. Do NOT put normal grease back in here. Use good quality bearing grease only. This is a one time deal, don't cheap out on me now. If you're confused, go to any auto store worth it's oats and tell them you need grease for a CV joint, they'll point to you the right stuff. As of Nov 22, 2005 I have 10 tubes of grease I'll sell for $1 + Shipping (~$2) if anybody's interested, e-mail me Chris_At_Stoneyforest_Dot_Net.
4.4.2 Grab the needle nose pliers. Take a good hard look around the axle shaft where it goes into the CV joint. The CV joint is made of a few parts: Outer Housing, 6 Ball Bearings, Race, Cage. The Cage is the innermost part, the race holds the ball bearings in place, and the outer housing should be self explanatory. Take a good hard look at this picture. You can see all the parts, including a snap ring holding the shaft to the cage, the ring ends are circled.
4.4.3 It really helps if you position the axle so the CV joint is hanging over the edge of your work space. So the shaft/boot is supporting the axle, and the outer CV joint is hanging in midair.
4.4.4 With the pliers closed, put them between the ends of the snap ring. Open the pliers as far as you can (about 1/4 inch, 6mm). Take a screw driver, and push on the ends of the snap ring. If you're careful about all this, there will be a little sound, and the joint will move ever so slightly.
4.4.5 Pull on the CV joint and it should pop off the shaft. If it doesn't come fairly easily, try 4.4.4 again. I rarely get them on the first try, it usually takes a few.
4.5 Repeat with the N-Body CV joint. Swap them. Put the N-Body Outer CV on your J-Body Shaft. You can put the N-Body shaft back together with the J-Body End if you wish, they're easier to keep good this way.
4.5.1 Use some new CV joint grease when putting them back together. You only have too much if you cant get it to go back together. Simply push to get the new end on the shaft; no-brainer here.
4.5.2 Push the boot back down the shaft so it is back in its original position.
4.5.3 If you have the original bands, or use new ones, put them back in place. Use wire cutters to crimp them tight again if you don't have the crimping tool. Don't cut them with the wire cutters, in fact dull cutter should be used if you have a set.
4.5.4 Make sure you wipe any grease off the outside. It's flammable, 1" from the 600* brakes, and god knows what else that could light it up. Fire is bad, 'nuf said.
4.6 Thought the stupid axles were going to be the whole section didn't ya? Wrong again!
4.7 Take that control arm over to your work bench. If you have a vise, strap it in.
4.8 Remove the ball joint.
4.8.1 If you've replaced ball joints before, you can just unbolt it, then put the new one in. No prob. I'm not that lucky, I had factory originals, with rivets. Skip to 4.9 if you have bolts.
4.8.2 Use a good drill, NOT a cordless one. And some good high-speed steel bits. Do NOT use wood bits, yes there is a difference, no wood will not work.
4.8.3 Drill a small hole in all three rivets. This will take a while. Take breaks every few minutes and let the drill and bit cool. If you have cutting oil, use it; but it's not necessary. Your bits will be completely dull by the end of this if you don't take breaks or use cutting oil.
4.8.4 If you have a full set of bits this will be easier. Put the next size bit in the drill, and drill out the holes larger. They will drill very quickly if you go one size at a time. Don't forget to take breaks to let it cool. Caution that powerful drills may get stuck as they come through the end of the metal, twisting your arm/wrist/whatever. Be careful using drills.
4.8.5 Keep going until you've drilled a 1/2" or 12mm hole. The bolts are actually 7/16", so you'll have just a little bit of slop, that's a good thing cause your holes probably aren't perfectly centered.
4.8.6 Once you've got them all drilled out the ball joint should come out, use the hammer if it's being stubborn.
4.9 Put the new ball joint (N-Body ball joint) in. Bolt it down 3/4" on both sides for ones I got off eBay (most are the same way). Torque the crap out of it. If you over tighten (without power tools), give yourself an award, it takes like 600ft/lbs of torque to over tighten these things. Minimum recommendations vary by manufacturer, but I would say 100ft/lbs minimum.
SECTION 5 - Reassembly! The easy part, sorta...
5.1 Put the control arm back in place, hammers help here. Bolt it all back in.
5.2 On the drivers side only: Reattach the brace that goes from the sub frame to the radiator support. 15mm front, and 18mm back.
On the passenger side only: Reattach the lower engine mount. 15mm each.
5.3 Put the axle back in. A good hard shove it all it takes.
5.4 Grab the new N-Body knuckle (I assume you attached the hub, or it came attached). Put the axle end through the hub. Put the bottom on the lower ball joint. Put the nut on the axle, don't try to tighten it yet (unless you have an impact wrench).
5.5.1 Reattach the steering end link. Put the nut on, tighten it down.
5.5.2 Put the nut on the ball joint. Tighten it down. Put the new cotter pin in. Bend it up to prevent the nut from ever coming off.
5.6 Reattach the ABS wire in the clips on the control arm. Plug it back into the sensor. It's the same plug, works the same way.
5.7 If you're simply reusing the old strut, take it off the old knuckle, impact wrench and a 2# sledge do this very quickly. If you're replacing anything (I put new KYB AGXs and B+G springs on) do that now. Follow any manufacture instructions that came with your new stuff.
5.7.1 If you disassembled your strut (for whatever reason) they go back in this order: Strut, Bump stop in shield, The bottom hat is attached to the shield (usually), bearing set, mount body, top hat, nut. This applies to 95-99 cars. The 2000+ are slightly different. Learn to pay attention to the order you take thing apart in.
5.8 Grab that buddy of yours again. Put the strut up in position.
5.8.1 Put the top nuts and bolt in loosely, at least two full turns.
5.8.2 Put the knuckle-to-strut bolts in the holes, as far through as you can, give them a good tap with a hammer, but don't try to beat them into place. Put the nuts on and tighten them down, basically as tight as you can, very hard to overtighten these.
5.9 Tighten the top nuts/bolt to 70ft/lbs torque. If you don't have a torque wrench barrow one. Don't just guess. And DO NOT over tighten them. You'll ruin the mount, like they don't die fast enough already.
5.10 Put the new rotor in place.
5.11 Put the new caliper in place. Make sure they have pads...
5.12 Use the bolts that came with the caliper brackets to secure the caliper to the knuckle. This is pretty basic stuff.
5.13 Tighten the bolts down to 50ft/lbs torque.
5.14 Attach brake line to caliper. I highly recommend using new copper washers here. It takes two per caliper. Use the F-Body caliper-to-line bolt. You stock J-Body bolt doesn't fit, don't try to force it!
5.15 Tighten the axle nut now if you didn't have an impact wrench before. Put a screwdriver through the caliper, into the rotor to hold if from turning.
5.16 Double check that everything is tight. Ball joint, Control Arms Bolts, Axle nut, steering end link, Strut bolts, strut mount, ABS Sensor, Drivers Side bracket, lower engine mount.
5.17 Put the new wheel on. You have a 5x115 bolt pattern now. The stock 5x100 wheels will not fit anymore. Don't forget to get a spare from a N-Body, W-Body, or similar; or you'll end up on the side of the road somewhere far from home when you realize you don't have a spare, Murphey's Law.
SECTION 6 - Final preparations before launch
6.1 Your car should look something like this now:
6.2 Time to bleed your brakes.
6.2.1 You need two people OR a vacuum bleeder for this.
6.2.2 If you have a vacuum bleeder, follow its directions.
6.2.3 Otherwise: Open the bleeder valve, push the brake pedal all the way down, close the valve, let off the brake pedal, check the fluid level, repeat for a long time, untill there are no more bubbles coming out. If the brakes feel mushy later, repeat this step.
6.2.4 Remember do not reuse fluid no matter how clean it may look. I highly recommend using DOT 4 fluid. I personally use Valvoline Synthetic DOT 4. I've never had problems with it, always been impressed. Do NOT use DOT 5 fluid of any kind; it's not compatible with our system and will eat it.
6.3 Once that is done, be sure the brake seem to work. Test them on level ground. Test your e-brake before anything else, so you know it works just in case.
6.4 If you have new pads, new rotors, or the rotors have been ground/resurfaced you need to bed them.
6.4.1 Get going 50-60 MPH. Brake hard, do NOT let anti-lock engage. If they do, plan on having the rotors resurfaced.
6.4.2 Repeat this until your brakes stink so bad you can hardly stand it. Usually 4 or 5 times if your quick about it.
6.4.3 After this, drive around for at least 10 minutes without stopping. This is the difficult part; just don't get caught by red lights, etc. As long as you keep rolling you're good. Don't stop for any reason, if you do you'll likely need your rotors resurfaced (they'll warp instantly).
6.4.4 This is a fast way to f*ck up your rotors if you don't do it correctly. Take some time, plan your route, do it right the first time. Your rotors and pads will last longer, will not warp as easily, and will work better. It's really a good idea, just be careful about doing it.
6.4.5 If you have race pads, which most of you don't despite what you may think, bump that speed up to 80+ mph after the first two runs. Race pads take higher heats to bed. Performance pads are not race pads, don't confuse them.
6.5 You're good to go! Enjoy you're new, much stronger, longer lasting brakes!
A detailed HOW TO is coming for the N-Body IRS Swap.