2006 Chevrolet Uplander Front Strut Replacement
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert producer, the Pawlik automotive podcast. And of course we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver servicing and repairing cars for 38 years in Vancouver, 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And of course we're talking cars. How are you this morning Bernie?
Bernie: I'm doing pretty well.
Mark: So we're speaking about a Chevrolet Uplander. This is a little bit of a rare model, I guess, a minivan. What was happening with it?
Bernie: Yeah, well they're not entirely rare, I mean, this was actually the Chevy's replacement for the Venture van, but I think Ventures were horrible vans. They were like one of the worst products GM's put out in a long time and we can talk about those in another situation. But the Uplander is definitely a huge improvement. But yeah, I don't think they sold tons of them. I don't have the specs, but you certainly don't see as many as you did with the Ventures. So this van basically had a really bouncy ride to the vehicle. It's a regular customer, we've been servicing this vehicle for many years. And I do a service of picking this vehicle up at the person's house or the business. So I tend to drive it a little more often, and you notice right away the ride of the front of the vehicle is very bouncy, it just didn't feel quite right.
Mark: You had to replace the struts, is that what was going on?
Bernie: Yeah, exactly. So the front struts were worn out and basically, so I was saying the ride was bouncing. You know, people often wonder, well how do I know if my stress or shocks are warn? And by the way a strut has a shock absorber in it and that's the primary wear component is the actual shock absorber. How you can tell, I mean you can just feel it in the vehicle when you, when you come to a, especially if you come to a stoplight, the vehicle should, you know, you push the vehicle, you hit the brake, you come to a stop light, the front end of the vehicle dips and it bounces up once and stops.
And you know, if it bounces even a slight bit more, you can tell your struts are worn out, but you can also just get a general feel that the vehicle. Just doesn't feel like it's really gripping. I don't say gripping the road, but it just feels like it's a little out of control. Now we've been fixing cars for a long time so I have a feel right away. But if you have a vehicle that feels like that might be an indication your struts or shocks are worn that that extra bounciness is certainly quite noticeable.
Mark: So I'm sure there's probably a recommended interval to change struts, what is that?
Bernie: Well, there used to be an a recommended interval and this came from strut and shock manufacturers replace your shocks every 80,000 kilometres or 50,000 miles. And you know, over the years of working on cars, I've always thought that just seems ridiculous. Like I've had vehicles where the shocks and struts have gone way longer than that for years and years and years. Now of course, because I'm sure they've got a lot of pushback and negative comments about that, the recommendation for the last few years is check your struts at 80,000 miles, you know, have them inspected. So which is a much fairer idea, but really, as I said, you can tell right, most of the time right away by driving the car. There's also the bounce test you can do, which is you basically bounce the vehicle up and down a few times. Difficult to do on an F350, by the way. But on a one ton truck, like if I say not as difficult, impossible, but on an average car, even a minivan, you know, you can bounce the vehicle up and down and if the vehicle will bounce up after you let your hand off the vehicle and it'll drop down to a certain point, if it does any more bouncing then the shocks are struts are worn. So that's a, that's a good test.
But anyways, as far as the interval, you know, I really believe you just need to drive the vehicle and see how it goes. This particular van, it's a 2006 so that makes it 12 to 13 years old at this point and it's got about 150,000 kilometres I believe. So quite a lot over the 80,000 that was recommended. The thing about shocks and struts too, they're not like you know, if you don't do them you're going to create a lot of extra damage. I mean sometimes your tires can wear funny and sometimes you can actually have shock or strut wear and not even be aware of it and all of a sudden you'll have your tire's worn funny. There's some interesting issues that happen. We can talk about that another time.
But that's fairly rare. Not entirely common. So you know, replacing them at a certain set interval, like a maintenance item, it really doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I think you're better to keep your money in your pocket and wait until the time when the wear is actually more applicable.
Mark: What's involved in replacing the struts on this van?
Bernie: So this vehicle, there's a couple of different ways to do it, but let's just get into some pictures while we're at it.
So there's the van, it's an '06 Uplander and that is the strut that we replaced. So there's a couple of ways you can do it, what's pretty common nowadays is what's called a quick strut, that's Munroes brand name, there's other brands around that do the same thing. But essentially what it is, it's a complete assembly. As I said, the main wear part when a strut wears out is the actual shock absorber portion, which is sort of inside this tube in the middle of the tube. This coily piece here is basically a dust protector and if you remove it, you'll see a nice shiny shaft and this is what moves up and down. You can see the the spring and then at the top to the spring seat and strut mount bearing.
That's also another part that tends to wear fairly frequently too, causing on some cars and creaks and clunks and noises and things. So the nice thing about a quick strut, again using that brand name, is you replace this whole thing. There's nothing left over to wear out and it's a little less labour intensive. You just unbolt it from the vehicle, you bolt the new one in and away you go. Whereas if you're just to replace the strut and maybe the bearing plate, we have all the tools to do it, you need to disassemble it because the spring is under a lot of pressure, and then change the parts over and then put it back together. So that's kind of the way it goes. I mean in the olden days too that a lot of struts, you could actually change the cartridge, the piece right inside, so you'd actually keep the tube, that's really old fashioned nowadays. So that's going back at least two or three decades now for that technology, so this is what we did on this vehicle.
Mark: So when you've replaced the struts like that, is a wheel alignment necessary?
Bernie: It is, on the rear, not necessary, not usually necessary. Sometimes it is, but on the front, absolutely because it does affect the steering geometry. Then the MacPherson Strut is one part of the steering geometry, it's kind of like the upper control arm and spring and everything built into one. So it kind of a neat feature, you know, neat design in terms of minimizing the amount of components in a front suspension. But yeah, it's critical to do it in alignment.
Mark: And how reliable are Chevy Uplanders?
Bernie: Well, as we talked earlier, I was talking about Ventures, I mean they're not bad, we've serviced this vehicle for quite a few years. This is a really good maintenance customer. You know, we've had others that we've serviced, they're actually quite a reliable vehicle and you know, GM did a good service compared to the Venture, we can do a whole podcast about all the things that went wrong and those vehicles, but we don't seem to see them as much on Uplander. So it to me this is a pretty decent minivan. Of course getting old now, you know, they haven't made them in awhile.
Mark: So there you go. If you have a Chevy that you need some maintenance on, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment, or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com, hundreds of videos and articles about all kinds of makes models, repairs, maintenance items. As well there's hundreds of videos on our youtube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. And of course thank you so much for listening to the podcast and thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you mark. Thanks for watching. We totally appreciate it.