Archive for the ‘1993 Pontiac Sunbird coupe’ Category

J Body Control Arm Refresh.

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Since I’ve done this a few times now, I thought I’d share my experiences with freshening up the Sunbird’s control arms this time around.

Ball joint removal:
If they’ve never been replaced, you unfortunately are going to have to get the factory ball joint rivets out first. You can either attempt to drill them out, or grind the heads and press or pound them out. Each method has its difficulties.

For drilling, one side of the rivets has a center indentation to start the drill. At this age, they may no longer provide a good center to drill anymore due to rust etc. The other tricky part will be setting the control arm up to get a straight hole, since they are not exactly flat on the opposite side. One more thing about this method is, I wouldn’t advise using a .500(1/2)” drill as others do – the hole is actually closer to .453(29/64)” and you want to minimize material loss which may weaken the mounting points. If your hole is not dead center, you’ll want to go smaller still. Only drill out enough just to get it out, and make sure your hole is as centered and as straight as possible and you will be ok. The bolts that replace the rivets are 12mm in the kit I got, so you may have to drill out the hole a bit to fit them, but that is better than blowing the hole out too large and probably also changing its location when trying to get out the rivets.

To be able to press out the rivets, you’re going to have to use a cutoff or grinding wheel to get the head off at least one side of the rivets. The heads on the lower side are shallower than the top side, so to make it a little easier, grind them off. You may want to try to grind the head a little below the surface of the arm if you can, while trying to avoid grinding the arm. Any lip remaining will make it hard to press out, especially if you are going to try to hammer it out. With a hydraulic press, it is not quite as big a deal, it will just fold the small amount of lip over as it goes.  Pressing them out can mushroom the mounting holes in the control arm a bit on the far side. I would suggest you put in some ball joints (new, old, or .281(9/32)” thick material) and vice, C clamp, or hammer them carefully back to flat before putting things back together.

Bushing removal:
You can burn bushings out with a torch, but I don’t find it necessary due to their design in this case. They are somewhat hourglass shaped, so they don’t contact the entire inside of the arm, making them a little easier to get out because they fuse to the arm in fewer places. If you do want to torch them though, I’d keep the heat toward the center of the bushing or the steel bolt tube; these aren’t the most rugged of control arms, and you could probably distort or melt the stamped metal pretty easily. Another word of caution when doing this, and I have a feeling this is pretty rare, but somehow I had one of them build up pressure once and shoot the center tube right out of the bushing. (It wasn’t a J control arm.)

I found on my factory 128k mile control arms that all that had to be done for 3 out of 4 was hacksaw one side of the rubber bushing flange around the outside edge to weaken it enough so it would fold up when I pounded them out the other side of the housing. You also can hack the whole “rubber flange” part off if you like. On the fourth, I had to resort to drilling some holes in the rubber to weaken it and loosen the rubber’s hold.  Just be careful of chewing up the inside of the control arm housing when doing this, the drill wants to walk. Also, when this happens, it may leave some rubber behind in the bore which you will have to find a way to scrape out before installing the new bushings.

Installing the new bushings and ball joints is pretty straight forward. The ball joints simply bolt in with three new bolts (usually supplied with the ball joints,) and the bushings you should be able to push or tap in easily after you’ve greased them, assuming you’re upgrading to polyurethane while you’re in there – which you should, and you won’t have to do this again for a long time, and will also improve handling while you’re at it.

The only other thing of note when going to install the control arm and spindle, is just as you may have already found if you’ve taken them out, it may be easier to install them as a unit. Once the driveshaft enters the picture, there is no room to install the castellated nut on the ball joint, or any way to torque it either.

Diet plan: eat like a bird.

Friday, February 17th, 2012

Among the upsides of shedding pounds are improving power to weight ratio or making better use of the power you have, it is inexpensive until you really want to go crazy, better braking, and gas mileage. If you are one of those anti-NVH types (noise, vibration, harshness,) then this is not for you. Once all your sound deadening, carpeting, and seats are gone, things get loud. It’s a minor tradeoff for the benefits, in my opinion, but you can still get rid of some extra baggage and keep the noise down if that’s the route you want to go.

On my way to completely gutting the bird (yes, I drive it daily this way) I have personally weighed pretty much every piece I’ve removed to keep track of the difference using a digital hanging scale, none of these are guesses or borrowed. As of this writing I’ve removed about 334 pounds and added back in about 43. I’m not going to claim they’re all 100% accurate, but here they are anyway.

The ultimate in quiet and comfort.

The ultimate in quiet and comfort.

The ongoing list of weights of Sunbird parts:
ac, all total 32.75
ac accumulator
ac comp bracket 3.00
ac compressor
ac condenser
ac exchange in heater box 3.96
air filter 0.88
airbox 1.86
amp pyle hydra 1.46
amp stock 1.58
armrest & sm ash 3.48
armrest brackets, door 0.98ea = 1.96
battery 33.24
cam sprocket, steel 0.92
cam sprocket, alum 0.38
canister delete plate
carbon canister, cover
carpet 25.08
cat (w/flanges) 11.06
clock 0.80
center console 1.94
center console rear cover 0.44
kick panel covers 0.30
coolant reservoir 1.10
door panel pockets ph1 1.04
door panels ph2 8.96ea = 17.92
eaton m62 26.00
fuel filler guard 0.20
firewall sound dead
glovebox 3.04
grille 0.48
grille bar 0.52
headliner 3.20
hood steel 43.00
hood z24 37.84
intake tube rubber 1.14
intake/silencer upper 0.92
intake/silencer lower 1.32
jack 4.72
jack bracket .3
latch and front support 4.72
latch and headlight front support only 3.70
latch cable and pull 0.22
latch, hood 1.10
latch, hood mounted catch 0.52
license plate and bkt front 0.88
lug wrench 1.54
mirror drv 1.10
mirror psg 0.80
n2o w/ brackets 14.72 empty, 24.72 full
package tray rear 4.06
pillar trim and sound dead (all) 4.23
pioneer cd 2.92
power lock sol, switch, wire drv 0.92
power lock sol, switch, wire psg 0.92
radio housing console 3.04
rear ¼ plastic & sound dead 5.20
seat belt and buckle, passenger 6.40
seat belts, rear 6.70
seat front drv 38.00
seat front psg 34.40
seat rear back 2d 13.76
seat rear bottom 2d 9.96
seat plastic rail covers 0.58
seat poly summit 14.85
seat bracket for summit seat
seat buckle psg 0.66
shift knob 0.40
sound dead right kick 0.74
sill trim 0.62ea = 1.24
spare tire 24.78
shifter ind./cover 0.58
speaker front 0.58ea = 1.16
speaker rear 2.60ea = 5.20
speaker grilles
splash guard 0.84
spoiler & 3rd 7.62
tach sunpro 2 5/8″ 0.44
taillight, trunk mounted 2d 2.08ea = 4.16
tape deck 2.52
timing cover front plastic 0.62
timing cover rear metal 2.12
triple gauge pod summit 1.02
trunk carpet, panel
under dash plastic horiz L 0.58
under dash plastic horiz R 0.80
visor driver 0.98
visor passenger 0.98
wheel stock alum 14″ 15.00
wheel stock alum 14″ w/ 185/75 31.94 36.96
wheel steel 14 17.32
wiper & arm L 0.88
wiper & arm R 0.92

Drag Bird.

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Below is a modified description of my experience first drag racing the Sunbird at the end of the season in 2011 that I took from a post I put up shortly after.

I pulled in to the dragway and teched in for street night. It passed with no issues, so I got in line, made it to the front, staged, took off, hit 3k rpm and … the nitrous didn’t engage! I ran a blazing fast 17.4 n/a. I’m glad it didn’t because it gave me a good baseline anyway. After some head scratching I realized that I lost the setting for the rpm switch to interpret the tach signal correctly when I last disconnected the battery. So a few button pushes later and I was on my way. Pulled up to the line again, launched (if you can call it that) , wound up to 3k, nitrous engages, and to my surprise the puny 185s lit right up! The result was a 16.2 so I knew there was at least a little potential left. I was pretty happy even with that – my 5.0 LTD ran that when it was close to stock. Anyway, I ran 3 more times keeping the tire spin in check – all 15.5s with the best being 15.52 @ 87.9. Not the fastest thing around by any means, but it’s a lot of fun all the same!

The funniest thing was afterwards a guy came up to me and was looking over the car and said, “My mom used to have a Sunbird, but it sure didn’t go like that! What’d you do to it?”

Drag numbers and rubber chunks.

Drag numbers and rubber chunks.

Nitrous install.

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Installing nitrous on a 2.0L Sunbird gets some puzzled looks and laughs; this is not most people’s first choice of car to do such things to. It does, however, also get some interest being different. That being said, before getting to the install, I will tell you why. First of all, this kit has been sitting on my bench for probably over 3 years, and with the Mustang currently dead in the water, sometimes I just want to put things to use. Second of all, it’s just plain fun.

Nitrous is a great addition to a daily driver in my opinion for a few reasons. It doesn’t have to be permanent and can be moved to another vehicle later, it doesn’t require any major hardware changes if used in smaller doses, you don’t have to use it constantly so your car gets as good of gas mileage and driveability as it did before, it’s pretty easy to install, and it’s a lot of horsepower for not a lot of money. There are a few caveats to consider too, though. Nitrous seems to have a bad stigma, that you will blow up your engine if you use it. This is true if you don’t follow the rules and inject more than is recommended and don’t use any safeguards like a fuel pressure safety switch, rpm window switch, trans cooler, or optionally even an air fuel cutoff switch. The reality is, if you do all of these things and maintain your car well, you should get plenty of trouble free operation from it. Sure, when you add stress things will wear out a little more quickly, but only you can decide if you want the tradeoff. Nitrous or not, your engine will eventually wear out. The only immediate drawback is running out and having to get the bottle filled.

The false minimum of items you need for installation are a switch, the bottle and brackets, lines, nozzle and jets, and solenoids. Once that went horribly wrong, the real minimum items in my opinion are all of the above items plus a fuel pressure safety switch, wide open throttle switch, rpm window switch, nitrous pressure gauge, fuel pressure gauge, a decent scale, and knowledge about your factory horsepower and fuel pump (and probably injectors too if you decided to go the dry route.) These all make sure you’re not injecting when you shouldn’t be, or too much. The scale is for when you get tired of guessing how much you have left in your tank, because the pressure gauge does not give you any indication of that, only the weight of the bottle does.

On to a few install details! I picked up the kit used, so I had to get a few things before I could get started. These included a Summit RPM window switch, fuel pressure gauge, a couple AN fittings to attach the gauge and solenoids, an LED indicator for when the system is armed, some wire, and hardware to mount the bottle bracket. It’s pretty straight forward, I ran the nitrous line through the interior and out the firewall, and mounted the solenoids in the engine bay on the firewall, close enough so the short lines could reach from them to the nozzle. The wiring was the only involved part that required a little planning since there is some wiring to hook up to operate the window switch, and then the inline relay, wide open throttle switch, arming switch, and fuel pressure safety switches. A bottle fill, setting the fuel pressure and rpm limits, and it was spraying in no time! I later added a blow down tube to make the setup dragway legal.

Up-high arming switch.

Up-high arming switch.

RPM window switch.

RPM window switch.

Bottle in the trunk.

Bottle in the trunk.

Nozzle, lines, solenoids, fuel pressure switch and gauge...

Nozzle, lines, solenoids, fuel pressure switch and gauge...

Banishing the blue.

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Ever since I bought the bird, I never really cared for the blue.  Well, to be honest it grew on me a little, but I still wanted something else. It took a couple years, but I finally sprayed it Summit epoxy gray primer.  It was my first paint attempt and the primer went on pretty nice.

I then decided to add some clearcoat over it and chose the pre mix off the shelf Duplicolor stuff. That did not turn out so well at all. I don’t believe I did anything wrong, but it was very hard to coat it evenly, it was relatively expensive, and afterward it started to discolor (turn white) in places. Now, this is no show car so it’s no big deal to me – it was an experiment, but if it weren’t I would be pretty irritated.

All in all, I learned a lot of things such as use lots of light so you don’t miss spots (oops) and use a decent clearcoat.

Bird masked.

Lightweight, unobtrusive audio.

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

It’s not too much to ask!  Although my Sunbird is very stripped down, there are a few things that I wanted to maintain for now given its daily driven status and some semblance of an audio system was one of them. I don’t need fancy speakers or any of that stuff, I pretty much just want it to function and be light and out of the way for a clean/nonexistent look.

My solution to that problem is a hand-me-down ipod and a Pyle PLMRMP3A marine mini amp. I chose it because it’s pretty small, light, cheap, and included a remote aux. input and volume knob which made it perfect for a standalone system with no head unit. The amp is mounted to the housing that used to carry the original amp up inside the dash. With no ipod connected, you can’t really even tell there is any stereo at all unless you look underneath the console where I mounted the knob and input. It only weighs a couple ounces less than the stock amp, but I don’t have a head unit to deal with and the ipod is removed when not in use. It may be a little bit of an unorthodox setup, but I like it a lot.

Not much to see here!

Autozone coil pack: Fail.

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

One week after finishing the head gasket, the car started running like crap again. It took me a while to figure it out, because I didn’t believe that a new coil pack would die in a single week … well, it did. Cylinder 3 stopped firing. Made in Taiwan.

steaming pile

steaming pile

Another bird, another headgasket…

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Disappearing coolant, a worsening hesitation, and a little white smoke led to the realization that yet another head gasket swap was in order. This one just didn’t exit quite as fantastically as the last one. I left everything attached to the head that I could (intake, exhaust, injectors, coil pack, wires, etc.) and pulled it off Fri. after work, put it almost all back together the next day, and then polished it off Sun. morning. Unfortunately, after all that, all it would do is crank. It had spark, fuel, nothing was forgotten, and several days of head scratching and sensor testing turned up nothing. To make a long story short, apparently lining up the cam and crank sprockets was not good enough for this motor. In order for it to run, it had to be a half tooth off … the cam pointer has to point at the valley to the left of the marked tooth on the cam gear. Go figure.  Anyway, the good news is it’s running again!

Please note irony of previous quote from two months earlier, “I didn’t feel like taking the head off since I just did that with the head gasket on the other sunbird…

12/04/09 – teardown
12/11/09 – it finally lives

Headless bird.

Cammed if you don’t.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

When I drove the 93 bird the first time, I knew it had less power than the 91 which is TBI and supposed to have 15 or so less horsepower. The body wasn’t rotten (just lots of dings, but that’s better than rust) so I decided to buy it anyway and if it needs a few things so be it.

Anyway, it turns out the cam and rockers were fried. Missing .100 off the tops of the lobes, scored, ugly.

After flipping through my manual, it said to swap the cam you pretty much have to tear off the whole top end unless you have the special GM tool which they make no other mention of and dive into the teardown instead.

I decided that for one I didn’t feel like taking the head off since I just did that with the head gasket on the other sunbird and for two the chances of finding said special tool were probably about zero… for three the tool would probably cost more than I want to spend anyway.

So I decided I was going to make my own tool. Anyway, it worked well and it’s back on the road and the valves are actually opening now! The trickiest part was probably sneaking the rockers in and out around the cam (the journals hit the rockers if you try to take the cam out with them installed.)