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Thread: Trailing arm bracket repair

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Northwest Lower Michigan
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    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door 3.1, 1989 Cutlass Cruiser 2.8
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    13

    Default Trailing arm bracket repair

    The trailing arm bracket rust seems to be what puts many good running a-bodies in the junkyard. I've repaired 3 of mine and while I don't have access to most of my photos, I have photos of what I did to the Celebrity. In 2013 the driver side separated, 10 miles after I put new tires on it. I also did an 89 wagon around 2010, and a 90 wagon in 2005.

    First I used a come-along to reset the wheelbase to 104.9 inches, and matching the other side. I tried soaking some muriatic acid to remove the rust, doubtful it really did anything besides make horrid fumes.

    The steel pieces I had made at work, since we have a plasma table. You can see the strips which the axle bolts go through. This would be my point of solid attachment, so first I welded the inner vertical walls solidly to the strips, right over the bolts. I don't care about ever taking the axle bolts out, I want it welded good and solid. Then I boxed that in, bent the baseplate as necessary, and welded that to the inner walls. Then I added the outer vertical walls. Then once it was welded fully, I welded on the top plate. Then I welded on an additional flange toward the middle of the car. Essentially I rebuild the box with 11 gauge steel. On the passenger side I rewelded the exhaust bracket to my new box.

    Even on the horribly rusted out 89 wagon, the side rail under the door was still solid at the top, at the door seal. That seems to be the common scenario. These brackets are only attached to the bottom of the side rail and floorpan from the factory, not a lot there really. So I pack a steel strip and weld it solidly to the side rail at the top, filling the gap. Then add an additional strip and weld that again to the side rail. The box never moves after that when bouncing the car and watching the bracket. For extra insurance, I added some strips I had left over to tie the box to another solid piece of the car behind the back seat, that resists any future flex from the side rail.

    Afterwards I skinned the rusted out section of floorpan with scrap stove/dryer metal. Afterwards I cleaned the spatter from the welds, and went over all the seams (75% of the area) with automotive seam sealer. I didn't get a pic of that, probably because my hands were sticky nasty after that.

    I've never had one of these jobs come back apart. No way will I let this send my a-bodies to the junkyard.

    Word of caution, if you do this, always be prepared for the factory seam sealer and undercoat to catch fire. I keep sopping wet towels on hand and check the backside of what I am welding with every weld bead, and put the fire out. Also don't do it if you have any gas leaks. I also put the wet towels over the fuel lines (which I had previously replaced with high pressure hose).

    http://tinypic.com/a/abqfjq/4
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 2.8 MPFI (future 3.1), 4 speed auto, future summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several A-bodies & 2 U-vans



  2. #2
    Senior Member Century7667's Avatar
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    Dec 2008
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    Sugar Land, TX
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    1996 Buick Century Limited 3100 V6 / 1995 Buick Century Special 3100 V6 / 2001 Chevy S-10 LS 2.2L
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tlc1976 View Post
    The trailing arm bracket rust seems to be what puts many good running a-bodies in the junkyard. I've repaired 3 of mine and while I don't have access to most of my photos, I have photos of what I did to the Celebrity. In 2013 the driver side separated, 10 miles after I put new tires on it. I also did an 89 wagon around 2010, and a 90 wagon in 2005.

    First I used a come-along to reset the wheelbase to 104.9 inches, and matching the other side. I tried soaking some muriatic acid to remove the rust, doubtful it really did anything besides make horrid fumes.

    The steel pieces I had made at work, since we have a plasma table. You can see the strips which the axle bolts go through. This would be my point of solid attachment, so first I welded the inner vertical walls solidly to the strips, right over the bolts. I don't care about ever taking the axle bolts out, I want it welded good and solid. Then I boxed that in, bent the baseplate as necessary, and welded that to the inner walls. Then I added the outer vertical walls. Then once it was welded fully, I welded on the top plate. Then I welded on an additional flange toward the middle of the car. Essentially I rebuild the box with 11 gauge steel. On the passenger side I rewelded the exhaust bracket to my new box.

    Even on the horribly rusted out 89 wagon, the side rail under the door was still solid at the top, at the door seal. That seems to be the common scenario. These brackets are only attached to the bottom of the side rail and floorpan from the factory, not a lot there really. So I pack a steel strip and weld it solidly to the side rail at the top, filling the gap. Then add an additional strip and weld that again to the side rail. The box never moves after that when bouncing the car and watching the bracket. For extra insurance, I added some strips I had left over to tie the box to another solid piece of the car behind the back seat, that resists any future flex from the side rail.

    Afterwards I skinned the rusted out section of floorpan with scrap stove/dryer metal. Afterwards I cleaned the spatter from the welds, and went over all the seams (75% of the area) with automotive seam sealer. I didn't get a pic of that, probably because my hands were sticky nasty after that.

    I've never had one of these jobs come back apart. No way will I let this send my a-bodies to the junkyard.

    Word of caution, if you do this, always be prepared for the factory seam sealer and undercoat to catch fire. I keep sopping wet towels on hand and check the backside of what I am welding with every weld bead, and put the fire out. Also don't do it if you have any gas leaks. I also put the wet towels over the fuel lines (which I had previously replaced with high pressure hose).

    http://tinypic.com/a/abqfjq/4
    That's pretty intense. I would imagine a battery tray replacement would be nothing for you. This is pretty good inspiration for me. I need to address what's gone in my battery tray of my '95.

    Did you have the car put on an alignment rack to see how things looked relative to "thrust angle?"


    Ken T.

  3. #3
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Northwest Lower Michigan
    Vehicle
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door 3.1, 1989 Cutlass Cruiser 2.8
    Posts
    13

    Default

    I didn't put it on a machine, but I centered the wheel and measured the wheelbase to the nearest 1/16" of an inch, and confirmed I matched both sides. Actually I haven't put one on a machine in over 20 years. Michigan roads are so bad that to me it's not worth it. Between using a digital level for camber, and sighting down the car to match up wheel shadows, I can get it within a half turn of the tie rod. To where it doesn't pull and my tires don't wear badly. Till the next time I need to replace something.

    Being an engineer for a metal fab shop for 20 years, some things are easier than others. I've done many odd welding repairs to my cars over the years. Latest was rebuilding the rear wheel housing/shock mount on an 05 Escape (not mine). I've just got an old Century 130 flux core welder, but I understand the process to make good welds. Mine has infinite adjustment for both heat and feed. I find that infinite adjustment on both of these is crucial for welding such thin metal.
    1989 Celebrity CL 4 door, 3.1 MPFI, 4 speed auto, summer daily driver
    1989 Cutlass Cruiser wagon, 2.8 MPFI (future 3.1), 4 speed auto, future summer ride
    1996 Cherokee XJ 4 door, 4.0, 5 speed, winter daily driver & towing vehicle
    1991 Tracker 2 door, 1.6, 5 speed, needs work
    Previously several A-bodies & 2 U-vans

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