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AMC Pacer, Wheels, Hatchback
#1 of 10 AMC Pacer Front Suspension
Jul 19, 2003 (5:45 pm)
I'm working on a 1975 Pacer for a friend. Today I replaced the rusted-out LF fender with a really nice used one. In order to do this efficiently, I needed to remove the wheel to access the screws that hold down the fender liner. I used a hydraulic floor jack to raise the car by one of the low frame rails. The correct jack point on the rocker panel is rusted away (this car is a real "project", to put it nicely). I kept jacking the car up, and the wheel just kept moving down. It would not come off the ground. Once I had the car at a very steep angle and the tire was still on the garage floor, I just removed the nuts and brute-forced it off. I noticed that the whole front independent suspension assembly seemed to have dropped way down under its own weight, like nothing was springing it up. I also noticed that the tire was VERY unevenly worn. The wear was actually on the outside, but she just had the tires rotated so I think it was really wearing on the inside. When I reinstalled the wheel and lowered the car after finishing my body work, I noticed that the front wheels both showed extreme camber (I think that's the right word). That is, the bottoms of the wheels were splayed outwards. By the way, although the rockers, fenders and quarters are rusted out on this car, the chassis and underbody were undercoated and seem very solid, so I don't think any key suspension components have rusted away from their moorings or anything like that. Does anyone know if this excessive wheel travel problem is related to the camber problem, and what could be causing them? A broken shock, or something with a tie rod or ball joint maybe? I have never done real work on suspension components and I have no clue about diagnosis. Thanks for any help.
#2 of 10 not a real mechanic
Jul 20, 2003 (9:14 pm)
but it seems to me if the ball joints were open, you would (a) have the wheel lying on one side or the other, and (b) would not be able to drive. if the tie rods were gone, similarly, both wheels would be shimmying and the car would be barely controllable, at best.
but there should be a limit to the movement of the wheel assembly within the suspension, so perhaps you didn't have a big enough bottle jack to get there. you may or may not have ever seen folks get into a classic VW bug, and watched the wheels splay out like a swaybacked old horse... one reason the bug was so rough on tires. unloaded, the top of the tires was sticking way out, loaded it was the bottom. the pacer sounds like it's reacting the same way, and it may be acceptable.
you should be able to grab the top of the tire and try to push it in and pull it out... if it moves and clunks, you have a seriously bad bearing and/or ball joint needing real quick service.
I would get the pacer to an alignment rack and get it straightened out. it is very likely indeed that you have something out of range needing parts or adjustment. the cupping could have bad shocks, lousy alignment, or bad ball joints as contributing factors. it's going to ride a bit rough on those cupped tires, but under no circumstances should new (or good used) tires go on that beast until there is a borderline chance that they will wear evenly, and that means trueing up the alignment. they'd just get eaten up.
Jul 23, 2003 (6:37 pm)
I haven't seen one in years, but the excessive wheel travel may be a broken or disconnected shock. Many cars show strange camber when raised then lowered. Roll it back and forth a few feet, and see if it looks more normal. Especially if the suspension over extends, the wheels may be in an unnatural position, and friction with the floor is preventing them from returning to normal. Raise a Ford Twin "I" Beam on a frame contact hoist, and when you let it down the wheel will lean WAY out at the top. Roll five feet, and they are normal.
Jul 24, 2003 (5:47 pm)
Thanks for the answers. I guess it could be anything, so I'll just make sure it gets checked out well when it goes in for tires (and make sure tires are not installed until the problem is solved). By the way, it actually gets worse after you move the car. After I was done installing the fender in the garage, the owner backed it out so I could do a final primer coat, and when she turned the wheels the LF wheel tilted way out and the tire looked like it was going to be pulled right off the rim (checked pressure, correct 25 PSI). Of course, the tires are junk -- they are worn out and they are JETZON brand, which I have never even heard of. But still, something was clearly wrong. I'll try and remember to post the solution if we find one.
Jul 24, 2003 (9:46 pm)
Well don't DRIVE it whatever you do.
#6 of 10 Oh wow...Jetzons!
Jul 25, 2003 (4:53 am)
My '67 Catalina has those! I don't know if they still even make that brand any more, but I've had this car 9 years now, and those are the tires that were on it when I bought it.
#8 of 10 Lemme guess...
Jul 25, 2003 (7:02 am)
is the company president's name George?
Aug 06, 2003 (5:30 pm)
I just heard from the Pacer's owner that it went in and had something fixed in the steering system. I'm not sure what -- she didn't know and she didn't bring the repair order with her so I could see what was done. But the problem is clearly fixed - the wheels turn with no unusual camber at all. It also has a new set of Dunlop whitewalls. This beast is starting to look pretty good - both front fenders have been replaced and painted to match, and today I compounded and waxed the hood, which came out excellent. The car is bright sky blue by the way - the perfect color for a vehicle that looks like a goldfish bowl!
#10 of 10 get thee to a sporting goods store
Aug 10, 2003 (6:21 pm)
and get some fish decals, then, to put on the ample windows