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Troubleshooting

You can find hundreds of sites describing different mods for the various B-Bodies, and they really depend on the taste of the individual. I decided to go with some write-ups on common problems and how to fix them. I will add to this as often as I can, and try and keep it updated. If you have a problem/solution you would like to see here, please email me.

Wrench

AC Drip Hose Extension (Mike Lukens)

Parts Required:
9- or 10-inch piece of clear tubing, 9/16 O.D. or 3/8 O. D. from Home Depot. About 20 cents per foot
A small type cable tie, preferably black.
Tools Needed:
Scissors or a knife to cut the tubing.

Step 1: The stock air conditioning drip elbow drips right on the front ABS connector. You can see the situation by looking into the right front wheel well at the rear of the tire. Look onto the frame. You should see a black retainer and a white connector. If you have had the air conditioning on recently, you will probably see water ON the frame (causing rust) and around the connector.

Step 2: Go to the passenger side of the engine compartment (with the hood up). With your left hand reach under the air conditioning tubing AT the firewall. (Be careful if the engine is hot. For those of you with headers, it may be darn near impossible to do this mod!) You should feel a rubber elbow coming out of the firewall. Gently rotate and pull on the elbow until it is loose. It is NOT glued on. (Of the 30 or so cars done at Bowling Green, 3 of them did NOT have the elbow, and one had a broken pipe coming out of the firewall.)

Step 3: Cut the clear tubing to 9 or 10 inches. Put the tubing into the rubber elbow and angle it so that when the elbow is back on the firewall, the tubing will point to the inboard side of the frame. Ensure that when you put the tubing up into the elbow that you do NOT insert it so far that you would cut off the water flow!! Use the cable tie around the elbow midway between the bottom of the elbow and the inner bend of the elbow. Snug it down just enough to apply some squeeze on the elbow to keep the tube in place.

Step 4: Double check that the water flow is not restricted and that the tubing will point toward the inboard side of the frame. Take this assembly and put the end of the hose BEHIND the wire bundle that is low on the firewall. Again, for those of you with headers, this may not be possible.

Step 5: Once you have the tubing behind the wire bundle, attach the elbow back onto the drip pipe coming out of the firewall. Note that you can't see this connection so you have to "let your fingers do the walking".

Step 6: With the assembly back in place, you should be able to see the end of the tubing hanging off the inboard side of the frame. A cautionary note: If you buy tubing that is at the end of the roll, the curl may be too round. I believe the tubing will droop with heat and time, but if you have a sharply curled tubing, be sure to check that the drip water is indeed falling out the tube and not just collecting in there.

Wrench

Electrical/Battery Post (Rob Cheek)

Q: My 94 Impala has intermittent electrical problems (flickering instruments or lights, engine hesitation or stalling), or the cover to the auxiliary battery connection has melted (near the underhood electrical center). What's up?

A: Under certain conditions, the battery cable connection at the underhood electrical center stud may overheat. This may cause melting of the plastic batter cable cover, the plastic stud housing, or the stud itself, resulting in intermittent loss of vehicle power. This is more likely to occur if extra electrical loads are added to the car. The fix (edit: go to link below, Technical Service Bulletin 94C59)

Technical Service Bulletin

Wrench

Dirty Wheels(Rob Cheek)

Q: After I drive my car, there are spiral "arms" of dark brown substance that looks like grease coming from my center caps. What is this, and how can I stop it?

A: This can be one of two things: brake dust or wheel bearing grease. You can determine this by attempting to wash it off with a garden hose: the brake dust will come of somewhat easily without a lot of scrubbing (edit: if the brake dust is 'baked on' use a SOFT brush and WD-40), but the grease will smear around and take some work to get off.

The brake dust seems to happen more often when driving in humid environments. It also may be related to the particular type of tire dressing that you are using.

If it is grease, you should get your car into the dealer to have them check to see if the bearing are lubricated and sealed properly.

One last possibility is that you used oil on your lug nuts when mounting your tires. You should not do this! Try to clean off the oil with brake parts cleaner and remount the rims.

Note that applying a good coat of wax on your rims when you wash your car makes it much easier to get all of this gunk off when you wash it the next time. The brake dust also seems to stick less to freshly waxed wheels.

wrench

Fuel Gauge Not Accurate(Rob Cheek)

Q: My Impala ran out of gas the other day, and the gauge still said I had some and the low fuel light wasn't on. (Edit: Or my fuel gauge suddenly drops as I'm driving)What's up?

First, it's not a good idea to run the gas tank too low (into the red). The fuel pump in most modern cars is cooled by the gasoline in the tank, and if it is not submersed, it will overheat and burn out. You can still have gas left and uncover the pump due to fuel sloshing.

TSB 67-65-19 describes a condition where the vehicle stalls or runs out of fuel while gauge shows fuel remaining. The fix is to repair or replace fresh air hose/canister and bracket. The fuel vapor canister fresh air system may be restricted. Basically, if there is a kink in the fresh air hose to the purge canister or if the canister itself is plugged, you'll draw a vacuum on the gas tank and fuel won't be able to flow. It's kinda like trying to pour gas out of your gas can without opening the little vent.

wrench

Exhaust Manifold Broken Bolt/Leak (Glen Hogan)

I have an Impala SS (95) and had replaced the waterpump and wires at 50K. I also discovered that I was hit with the infamous "breaking bolt problem". Well, the best I could do with the dealer, or should I say GM (the dealer's discretion to pay for warranty work ends at 50K) was for GM to cover half the cost of my "broken bolt" problem. That would require me to pay $700, US. This was not an attractive option. So I chose a quick and easy fix, one that is much more successful than drilling and using an EZ out, and certainly cheaper and less complicated than buying headers.

I dismantled the driver's side manifold. In addition to the last bolt being broken, the next to last bolt snapped off with no effort at all, indicating it was hanging by a thread. I went to a local welder who happens to be an excellent fabricator, but is also a master at removing snapped-off bolts from heads, blocks etc (especially marine applications-you know how rusty they can get). He accomplished this with an arc welder and stainless steel welding rod. He welds onto the broken bolt in the head, building it out with stainless until it protrudes from the boss. Stainless steel will not tack to cast iron, and the intense heat from the weld allows the bolt to loosen. Next, he welds a small steel slug onto the stainless slag protruding from the boss, lets it cool, snaps on some Vise-grips and voila! out she comes. There wasn't one mark or scratch to the head and no damage to the thread. He charged me $50 ( I did all the disaassembly at his shop) and the bolts, manifold gasket, flange gasket and studs ran me $30. My own labor and $80 ain't bad. Its a lot cheaper than the other alternatives and I highly doubt that anyone will be able to drill and EZ out one of these things without making a total wreck of the head. Any good welder worth his salt can do this...he just has to use stainless rod or other metal that won't tack to cast iron. So save yourself some money if you've got the leak.

wrench

Horn Problem(Rob Cheek)

Q: I have to press very hard to get the horn to work. Is this normal?

A: The later models received a revised horn pad. This pad can be identified because it has two "bugles" on the cover rather than one. It is much easier to activate the horn using this design. A technical service bulletin exists to have this fix applied to '95 Impalas if they suffer from "tilt-n-toot". This means that the horn activates when the tilt steering is released forcibly. With a little coercing, most dealers will put the new horn pad in any Impala as a safety item.

wrench

Reset Check Oil Light(Rob Cheek)

Q: How do I reset the Change Oil light? Or, I've just changed my oil and the light comes on. Do I need to change it again?

A: The '94s (Edit: Impala) have a button behind the panel on the left hand side of the dash. Open up the panel, and with the car in the "On" position but not running, press and hold the button until the light goes off.

All Impalas can use the next method. With the car in the "On" position but not running, press the accelerator to the floor three times while the instrument panel is going through the bulb test stuff. The Change Oil light will blink indicating that it has been reset.

You are supposed to reset the light manually after each oil change. If you do this, you'll probably never see it. However, if you don't, it may come on after a certain number of miles indicating you need a change. Just reset it: your oil is fine. Also, keep in mind that most mechanics (GM service technicians included!) do not reset this light when they change oil!

wrench

Windows Fall Off Track(Rob Cheek)

Q: My rear windows keep falling off of the track. What's wrong?

A: What comes stock on the Impala is a plastic piece that goes in the window channel and has a recepticle for the ball on the end of the lifting arm. The main feature of this plastic piece is that it is designed to break if tremendous pressure (i.e. human arm caught in the window and switch activated) was put on where the lifting arm ball snapped into the plastic piece. It is shaped oblong, and is about 1 1/4" long with rounded ends. If the window sticks, this piece probably will break, and then the window will fall off of the track.
If your windows have come off track before, you have probably broken this piece, and you are now only able to roll your rear windows up by putting the metal ball at the end of the lifting arm into the window channel. This works fine to get the window up and keep them there but it is by no means a final soloution as the window channel opening is about 5/8" wide and the ball at the end of the lifting arm is about 1/4". So when the window is all the way down, the metal ball on the lifting arm usually pops out or pops out when you hit a bump. This usually results in the metal ball at the end of the lifting arm scratching your tint as the window falls down crooked into the door.
There are a total of three of these plastic pieces in each door. Two are in the window channel (one for each lifting arm) and one is in a channel (or track) that is attatched to the inside door skin and is used to adjust the geometry of the lifting arms.
When GM Parts looked up the plastic part, what came was a perfectly circular plastic piece that looked like a donut (hole in the middle for the metal ball of the lifting arm). It doesn't look like it would work but it fits in the channel OK and, with a little grease and a pair of vice grips, it pops onto the metal ball also. The part number for this plastic piece is 9666748 BEARING, $2.99.
This part looks like it is NOT designed to break under heavy pressure like the old ones It is perfectly circular and not oblong, so it slides better in the channel than the stock piece. Also, this perfectly round piece comes standard on newer GM models, Impalas specifically.
BTW, if the safety break pops and you roll the window all the way down, you risk shattering the window with the scissor mechanism as it will ride out of the track and up against the window as it comes down into the well.
(Edit: The NAISSO SuperStore sells a fix kit for windows, see link below)

NAISSO SuperStore

wrench

Differential Cover Gasket(Rob Cheek)

Q: Is there some sort of problem with the rear axle bearings and/or the differential cover gasket?

A: If you look at the rear differential cover, you will notice two small indentations on either side directly in line with the axle tubes. These indentations are to direct the flow of oil through two holes in the differential case which then flows down the axle tubes to lubricate the axles and the outer axle bearings. The differential cover gasket is also supposed to have two holes in it, which line up with the holes in the case as well as the indentations to allow oil to flow down the axle tubes.

Starting in the 1990 model year, GM has been improperly installing differential cover gaskets THAT DO NOT HAVE THE LUBRICATING HOLES!!! If you do not change this gasket to one that has the proper holes, your outer axle bearings, as well as the axles themselves, will be destroyed by around 70K miles. The damaged (under lubricated) bearings will wear grooves in the axle shafts, requiring that they also be replaced. If this is left unchecked, the metal bits from the damaged outer bearings and axles will also damage the inner bearings, pinion bearings, as well as cause the spider gears to wear into the differential carrier.

GM has been made aware of this problem, but currently has done nothing about it, and even new vehicles still come with the improper gaskets. I just purchased a new factory replacement gasket over the counter and it also lacks the lubricating holes! The village of Schaumburg now replaces all factory gaskets with a replacement Fel-Pro gasket (P/N RDS 55028-1 which does have the proper lubricating holes)(Edit:You will also need 1 bottle of Limited Slip Additive, both available at the NAISSO Super Store see link above) at the first vehicle service or by no later than 3K miles. Since they have been doing this, they have had no problems with damaged axle bearings and axle shafts, or other excessive wear in these areas.

Be aware that GM does not acknowledge that the rear axle gasket has a problem, and that the technician will not have any idea what you are talking about if you tell him to "just fix it". You must get the gasket yourself and take it in to them (or do it yourself) to get the correct gasket. There is no TSB or recall for this gasket.

wrench

Ball Joint Problem (Rob Cheek)

Q: I've heard there are some problems with the ball joints in the Impalas. Is this true, and is there anything I can do about it?
A: May Impala's and Caprice's come from the factory with improperly torqued upper and lower nuts on the ball joints. In addition, some are not properly greased.

For the upper nut, the proper torque spec is 61 ft-lbs and requires a 7/8" socket. As per specs, tighten until the torque wrench "clicks", then continue the turn until the next notch in the nut comes clear for the cotter pin to go through the knuckle. Make sure not to exceed 60 degrees of additional rotation.

For the lower nut, the proper torque spec is 83 ft-lbs and requires a 15/16" socket. Just like the upper nut procedure, tighten until the "click" and continue to rotate until the cotter pin is cleared, and don't exceed 60 additional degrees.

While you're down there, retorque the sway bar insulator bushing nuts to 18lb-ft. It should help out with steering feel, ride, handling, and the tendancy to "wander" on ruts or crowns.

Here are the quick-reference spec sheet for the of the front suspension, all of which would be advisable to check:

Front Suspension Torque Settings Description Torque
LH/RH lower ball joints nuts 83 lb-ft
LH/RH upper ball joints nuts 61 lb-ft
LH/RH front caliber bolts 38 lb-ft
LH/RH front sway bar nuts 18 lb-ft
Steering gear box bolts 64 lb-ft
LH/RH steering linkage outer tie rod nut 35 lb-ft
LH/RH steering linkage inner tie rod nut 35 lb-ft
Steering linkage relay rod to pitman arm nut 35 lb-ft
Steering linkage relay rod to steering linkage idler arm nut 35 lb-ft


GM made a significant upgrade to the front lower (load bearing) ball joint in the 9C1 Caprice for late '95 and '96 ONLY. This upgrade was ONLY installed in late '95 and '96, and ONLY in 9C1 (Police) and 9C6 (Taxi) cars as well as 1A2 (Special Service) wagons. All other B-cars INCLUDING the Impala were NOT upgraded in a similar manner. The standard Caprice and Impala use a standard 9/16" front lower ball joint. This is the joint that carries the bulk of the front end load, and is highly stressed in cornering and braking as well. Starting in late '95, the 9C1 and 9C6 cars used an upgraded 5/8" ball joint, which was taken from the D-car (Fleetwood) Limo package. This ball joint is significantly stronger and more durable.

The '96 9C1 cars changed to a different lower control arm and steering knuckle which takes the larger (and significantly stronger) 5/8" ball joint instead of the smaller 9/16" joint previously used. The only changes to accommodate the larger joint are the different lower control arm (which comes with the larger joint and nut included) and the steering knuckle (which is modified to accommodate the larger 5/8" stud). As such it is possible to upgrade a car originally equipped with the small joint by simply replacing these components.


Part no. Description Price
----------------------------------------------------------
12529790 Lower Ctrl Arm, LH, incl. 5/8" ball joint $150
12529791 Lower Ctrl Arm, RH, incl. 5/8" ball joint $150
18021377 Knuckle, LH, 2nd des. for 5/8" stud $218
18021378 Knuckle, RH, 2nd des. for 5/8" stud $218


Changing the control arm and knuckle are fairly easy, although a special ball joint separator is needed to press the top joint out of the knuckle without damaging it or the rubber boot. Also, the front springs must be removed.
You can easily tell if you're lower control arm ball joints are shot While the vehicle is supported by the wheels, wipe the grease fitting area clean. The grease fitting is threaded into a 1/2 dimeter nipple. When new, this nipple extends .050 inch beyond the ball stud cover (it sticks out a little). As the ball joint wears, the nipple retreats inward. If the nipple is flush or inside the cover replace the ball joint. For the upper conrol arm ball joints, support vehicle on jack stands on the lower control arms near the ball joints, then grab the wheel at the top and bottom and rock it in and out. Horizontal motion at the bottom center of the rim should not exceed 1/8 inch. Be sure to check the wheel bearing adjustment before doing this. There should be .001 to .005 inch end play in the brake rotor.

Terminology

AC-Air Conditioning
ABS-Antilock Braking System
TSB-Technical Service Bulletin