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Bad shocks or bad springs?


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I recently got my 37 Pontiac out of the shop, and I noticed that when I was going say 40 MPH, and going around a curve (to the left) that the entire car would have a tendency to lean to the right quite a bit. I know that I have to replace the king pins, but this leaning I believe is associated with either weak springs, or bad shocks. What would be your opinion on this?

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Although I'm not personally familiar with this era of automobiles, I would lean (pun intended) towards weak springs. The existing springs might be able to support the static weight of the car without

any noticeable sagging, but when the dynamic forces of cornering are applied, the fatigued springs can't support the vehicle weight without leaning.

Before I replaced the rear coil springs on my '84 Toronado, the car did have a slight rear sag. After the rear coils were replaced, the handling improved dramatically with flatter cornering.

The function of the shocks, I believe, are to dampen the natural rhythmic action of the springs. I understand that coil springs oscillate (compress & rebound) more than leaf springs. Years ago, an elderly brake & suspension mechanic told me that leaf springs have a sort of built in dampening. With that in mind, coil springs with bad shocks could be a real hazard and a 'steering wheel full' as well.

Please let us know how you proceed.

Paul

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Is your car sagging or is your car at proper ride? Are your springs sagging? are your control arm bushings in good order? Shocks control is for smoothing out or dampening out impulses between the frame and the wheels. Are your shocks controlling the the rebound of the springs? Your car is equipped with a front sway bar. Sway bars control the amount of body roll. Is the bar there? are the bushings and links in good order? Here is what it should look like with everything there and in it's place;

http://images.nypl.org/index.php?id=481842&t=w

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Thank you for your response Paul. On my car, I have the coil-springs in the front, with leaf-springs in the back. This appears to be more of a front end problem, then the rear (I think). I remember years ago that a person could install a kind of "insert" between the coils of the springs, but I can't remember if this was done to raise the suspension, or to just make the springs a bit stronger. I know that there are places (there is a place where I live) that will re-do the springs to their original tension, but I would imagine that the cost of just removing the springs would be quite high. My car also has the old lever shocks in front, and I need to check these as well to make sure that they are not low in fluid. I believe that you are correct on the springs, as well as the shocks.

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helfen

I had to replace the bushings for the sway bar right after I got the car several years ago. The only sagging I might see is the rear leaf springs, and the shackles are in pretty bad shape, so I picked up some NOS ones, and plan on installing these in the near future. The right/real shackle looks to be coming loose. As far as the front end goes, when I push down on the front end, I can hardly get it to move at all. It seems very stiff, but then again, all I can compare it to are the cars from the 60's and later. All of the front end linkage is packed with dried and hardened grease that looks to have been there for at least 50 years. I also plan on giving everything a good cleaning, so at least I can actually see what is there. It's difficult to tell if something isn't right if you can't see it.

I suppose that the bad king pin on the passenger side could account for some of this, but that would be just an un-educated guess. What are your feelings on this?

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It might just be characteristic of a 1937 car. They did lean a lot more than newer cars due to the height and suspension design. Remember 40 - 50 was highway cruising speed back then.

It could be the springs are sagging but you would see it when the car was sitting still. Can you compare the ride height now with pictures of a new one in 1937? If it is significantly lower or leans to one side it may need new springs.

Your car uses knee action shocks I think. They have a cap on top and need to be filled with oil from time to time. Hydraulic jack oil is a good substitute for the knee action fluid which is very hard to find these days.

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helfen

I had to replace the bushings for the sway bar right after I got the car several years ago. The only sagging I might see is the rear leaf springs, and the shackles are in pretty bad shape, so I picked up some NOS ones, and plan on installing these in the near future. The right/real shackle looks to be coming loose. As far as the front end goes, when I push down on the front end, I can hardly get it to move at all. It seems very stiff, but then again, all I can compare it to are the cars from the 60's and later. All of the front end linkage is packed with dried and hardened grease that looks to have been there for at least 50 years. I also plan on giving everything a good cleaning, so at least I can actually see what is there. It's difficult to tell if something isn't right if you can't see it.

I suppose that the bad king pin on the passenger side could account for some of this, but that would be just an un-educated guess. What are your feelings on this?

Jim, while all things that are worn out of specification contribute to poor handling, please don't disregard the rear of the vehicle. I had one race car that had shifted it's pad ( a bolt on type) for it's coil spring and this really effected the front end handling especially coming out of a hard turn and hard on the accelerator coming out.

As for the front, even though a king pin can be worn the only one real way to determine it is to have the wheels off the ground and pulling and pushing at the top and bottom of the tire, but remember you need to check/adjust wheel bearings first before doing it because wheel bearings are tested the same way. I have see really worn king pins shift around while the wheel is on the ground but usually the weight of the car prevents this from happening-that's why you check them with the cars weight off them.

Remember with the front wheel off the ground pulling and pushing up and down are for king pins, ball joints, and wheel bearings and side to side checks play in the steering components

Edited by helfen (see edit history)
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Rusty

From what I can see, the car doesn't appear to be leaning on one side, but the next time I take it our for a spin, I'll look more closly to make sure. I agree that I need to check the fluid level of the shocks. I may do that this weekend. Thank you.

helfen

I had checked the king pin when the car was jacked up,, and the wheel was removed. There is quite a bit of up and down play on the passenger side, but the drivers side is still tight. I need to replace the rear spring shackles soon, especially the right/rear one. I doen't seem to be a difficult just at face value, but for some reason, it'l probably be a real pain.

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The old shade-tree test for shocks was to push down on the front end, release, when it rose push down again to see if you could "bounce" the front end (not off the ground, just keep it easily going up and down on the rebound of the springs)---"shocks" are put on to "damp" (slow/stop) this "bouncing" effect, so you don't lose control after going over a hole or a lump and have the front wheels losing grip on the up-bounce (as has been already described above)...

Don't be surprised if after cleaning out all the old grease and crud and freshly lubing the front end you don't have more problems, as our first choice cure for worn/sloppiness in the front end was to stop lubing it...old accumulated dried grease/crud can take up a surprising amount of wear....

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Bud

I have tried the "bounce" test, and I can barly get the front end to move at all. There is a local mechanic in the area that specializes in doing front end work and alignments on the old cars. I had spoke wih him, and he told me that he would thoroughly check all the front end, and tell me what parts needed to be replaced, so that I could replace these parts, then bring the car back for him to do the front end alignment. I agree about cleaning all the caked on grease can expose some problems, but that is what I want to do. If there is a problem, then it should be taken care of before something breaks while driving. At least I'll know that the car will be safe to drive when done (I hope).

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I suspect Rusty may be correct that it is a characteristic of a car of that era. My 37 Buick leans on curves much more than cars of the 50's or newer cars. Perhaps you can find some people in your area that have a car from the 30's that can give you a ride in there car so you have something to compare yours with. I consider the handling characteristics just part of the experience. Slow down and enjoy the trip. :)

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The front end should work up and down smoothly like a baby buggy. It sounds like yours needs to be greased. They were supposed to get a grease job every 1000 miles.

If parts are worn or frozen up it will affect your handling. The rear spring shackles, if loose will affect handling too.

It might take 2 or 3 full lubrication jobs before the front end smooths out and works the way it should. Then you should have it inspected for wear, replace worn parts and have an alignment done.

Friends who have done this, with similar type suspension cars of the forties and fifties, were impressed with how smooth and easy they steered and how nice they handled. It took away all desire to convert to a modern suspension or power steering and saved a few thousand $$$$$ bucks.

If you get digging around with a scraper and wire brush you may find grease fittings you never knew you had. Every joint and moving part had grease fittings back then, even on emergency brake cables, pedals and universal joints.

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Rusty

I know what you mean about all the grease fittings. In the service manual, it shows where they are located, and it would seem to me that this will take quite a bit of time locating all of them. Right now, I am in the middle of restoring the east side of my house, so it will be a month or two before I can spend much time "under" the car.

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