The past few days have been very productive. In a combined total of 20 hours between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday I completed the following:
All of the rear suspension components have been replaced - this brings the whole suspension to the point where the only things not brand new are the springs and swaybars themselves.
While none of the parts were screamingly bad (other than those endlinks...) they weren’t in great shape, either. The rubber was cracked, and hardened from age. The new parts went in without any major drama, as it should be. I’m still amazed how not-rusty this car is. Endlinks and sway bar bushings are polyurethane, the rest is rubber.
The rear shocks were replaced (the originals were in there still, and actually in decent shape!) with some not-that-great KYBs, since there are so very few options for this car out there. While taking out the rear trim and carpet to get to the upper mounts, I noticed that the speakers have been replaced - this supports my theory of the radio/tape deck being marginal having been thrown back in by some past owner prior to selling it.
With the rear suspension buttoned up, I procrastinated the hard work coming up, and touched up the only rust on the whole car - the channel at the bottom of the rear window has drains which were clogged when I got the car, and a spot of rust had formed from standing water. Some POR15 and ‘universal silver’ paint took care of that. It doesn’t look perfect, but you can’t even seen it with the hatch closed, so it’s good enough (and better than bare rust!)
I then addressed something that has bugged me as long as I have owned the car. The driver’s side rear-most trim has been missing. I recently got a new/used piece of this trim from the forums, so it was time to fix that.
My car has red pinstripe (which I have found, compared to ones without it, really looks good) which includes a strip down the body trim. I matched it as best as I could on the new piece.
In the meantime, I also drained the oil from the diff, re-re-tightened the housing bolts which seem to perpetually work loose and leak, and filled up with some fresh synthetic 75W-90. I cannot escape the smell of gear oil.
After all that, I did install the trim with appropriate 3M trim adhesive tape, and it looks good (I think). The red is a little brighter than the other trim, and the strip is a hair thinner, but you can’t really tell. I suspect if I got 3M tape it would have matched; this was another cheaper brand.
With all that out of the way (it is the little things, after all), it was time to do the last part of the suspension - the strut cartridges. With a rented-from-autozone spring compressor (I do not have a good reason for not owning one by this point), I set to removing the assembly, disassembling it, removing what turned out to be old Monroe cartridges, and installing low-end KYBs to match the rear.
Fun fact: These cartridges are larger than the old ones, because inserting them into the housing resulted in a geyser of oil. Wonderful.
I also installed new top mounts in the theme of replace-everything-rubber and cleaned up the housings before re-installation in the car, where I already have done the balljoint, bushings, etc. (including the whole steering linkage). If I was able to get appropriate shocks, I would have replaced the springs all around as well, but with the way things go, that will have to wait for some other time if at all. The FB shocks/strut selection is pretty well dried up, especially for any sort of performance dampers. Eventually I hope to get 1 inch drop springs and appropriate shocks/struts to control them. Sway bars are always a future option as well.
By Saturday night I was very tired, but satisfied with the work - because it means today I was able to charge the battery, put oil in it (has been empty since I did the pan gasket in December), and go for a test drive!
No issues starting up after sitting for 4-ish months, and it still runs strong. The suspension is definitely tightened up (though I just drove around the neighborhood a bit, the main roads are dry but still salty), including the steering, which definitely needed it.
Not everything was perfect, though. There are a few things still needing looked in to: The radio, which previously was “barely working” is now silent (I was planning on looking into this anyways), the rear brakes need turned pretty badly, and the oil pressure gauge pegged (positive) while warming up (I think I know where the problem is, though).
Overall, it’s still so good and I can’t wait for spring to arrive to drive it some more.