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Discussion Starter #1
Last time I had my car on the lift for an oil change I noticed the rear shocks have been leaking. Apparently they weren’t completely blown, but were getting there. In the past year I had gotten used to it. But it was noticeable at highway speeds that if I went over a dip the car felt a little unstable. And it would jounce too much also.

Anyways, I have researched the options. And I almost was settled on getting KYBs. I would say most of the shocks available for the rear are in the same price range. But I figured if I was to need to warranty them out for some reason, ordering them online may be troublesome for future warranties. So after contemplating the options I decided I’d get them locally. I usually order parts from O’reilly Auto Parts at work. In fact I used to work for them. But I found that Autozone had the Gabriel brand for only $25.99 each. Which was still cheaper than going to O’reillys and using my account. Reading the reviews, the Gabriels seemed to have better reviews than Monroe. I have used Monroe shocks before on my Lincoln Town Car and my Mercedes. On both cars, I was disappointed because they were too soft. Or at least I was expecting them to firm up the ride.

So tonight I had some extra money to buy the rear pair of shocks. I wasted no time getting them installed. Went to my shop and I would say the shocks were swapped out in about five minutes. That’s doing both sides. Easiest shocks I’ve ever done, and I’ve changed a lot over the years now.

Going for the first drive with them, I could immediately feel the difference going over the speed bumps in our parking lot. Also the noise I would hear is gone as well. I was never completely sure it was the shocks, but I could always hear a muffled rattle over rough pavement, though nothing back there was loose. Getting it up on the highway, it felt way stiffer and in control. No more feeling of body roll. There’s a tight loop that leads to a different direction of freeway and there I noticed the body roll was greatly decreased. So I am happy with the initial installation of these cheap shocks. Just hope they last a few years.

Now I need to buy the front struts. Also in the Gabriel brand, they are $37.99 each which is a hell of a deal. So I may go ahead and get them this week, but really I should wait another couple weeks.

I wonder how well these would take some lowing springs. I know the rear would benefit from a shorter FE5 shock for sure so the springs don’t possibly pop out when lifting the wheels off the ground. Or so I’ve read other people say that was an issue. Although I probably won’t go for a super low drop. Who knows. Also need to either replaced the rear position bushing on the front control arms. Or just get the whole new arm. The bushings are extremely cheap though which is tempting since the ball joints and other bushings are still in good shape.

So the shocks I used were Gabriel Ultra 69587 that Autozone carries. I’ll just have to see how they hold up. I would say I really don’t hear any bad things about that brand. It’s been years since I have bought parts at Autozone though.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Yesterday I bought the matching front struts, also Gabriel Ultras. I had bought them at Autozone for $37.99 each, which is really cheap. Hope they last a while.

I had also bought some new bump stops also. I was pretty certain they had disintegrated. I was right. When I took the old struts apart there was nothing left inside the right side. The left side had remnants of a bump stop sitting at the bottom. They sold just the bump stops by themselves on rockauto for $4.92 each. I had looked at the strut mounts and I thought they were in good shape. After taking the struts apart, I found the strut mounts were still in good shape. I’m not sure if maybe they had been replaced at some point. I know the car has been wrecked in the front years ago.

I probably didn’t need them, but I got the camber adjustment bolts as well when I bought the struts. I could have gotten away without them, but I really didn’t want to have to possibly file the struts out. It made the alignment go fairly easy anyway, so it was a plus.

I usually recommend replacing the strut mounts, but there was really nothing bad about the originals except the paint has come off of them. Might buy some later though. It took maybe 20 minutes per side to take them off and swap the strut out. I have a wall mounted Branick strut compressor so it makes really quick work out of changing them out.

I had the impression that these Gabriel Ultras were going to be much stiffer than the factory struts. Granted they are stiffer than my blow out parts, they weren’t as stiff as some people have said in reviews I had read. They took all of the float out of the suspension, especially noticeable on the highway. And no more bottoming out over deep dips. It would fully bottom out before if the dip was deep enough.

I still have a knocking sound over certain bumps or dips. The sway bar links didn’t have play in them. But I noticed the sway bar frame bushings allowed lots of movement of the bar. They are pretty cheap so I’m going to replace those next. I thought the control arms were going to have super worn bushings, but even those were ok. I still want to replace them for a firmer ride.

So overall, I am happy with the purchase of the Gabriel Ultra shocks and struts. They are priced way below other brands. But seem to be on par with Monroe OE Spectrums, but for a fraction of the price. I would say the struts are a stiffer than the Monroes, but softer than KYB if that makes sense. KYBs seem to be stiff and more of a sporty ride.

I was not really happy with the super soft ride the Monroes gave my Town Car. They were the cheap Monromatic Plus blue shocks. I also was unhappy with the OE Spectrums I installed on my Mercedes 420SEL. They were way too soft and I really think they blew out in about 6 months on the Mercedes. Both cars would bottom out in steep driveways as if they needed a little stiffer shock, both used shocks up front.

The reason I went with the bare strut on my Cobalt was that just about every time I use the complete quick struts, the springs are slightly taller and raise the car up higher than stock height. This was not the case on the Cobalt using the stock springs. If it did, it is maybe 0.5 inch difference. I was almost expecting it to jack the front up. Glad it didn’t since it already rides a little high.
 

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For the knocking sound, sway bar bushings and control arms the usual suspect for clunking on Cobalts.

I see you mentioned replacing control arm bushings. For the vertical bushings many people have switched to MOOG P/N K201285, also you could try the LCA bushing from the SS (FE5 Suspension) ACDELCO P/N 15232501 (mine has held up for 11 years and 135k miles). I don't know which control arms you have, as there were different styles. The SS has aluminum, while my 2.2 had stamped steel control arms. Rockauto has a good selection of control arm bushing for each model.

If you really want a firmer ride, OTTP offers awesome upgrades but they are expensive. I just bought brand new FE5 LCAs to add these bushings to Spherical Control Arm Bushings & Front Leading Control Arm Bushings

Kinda crazy to think that I have 600+ in control arms and control arm bushings.

I know our Cobalts are completely different builds, and I use mine for racing / spirited driving, and you want yours to be more comfortable, but the stock FE5 struts and springs are a really good upgrade for the FE1/FE3 suspensions, probably a little bit more stiff then the KYBs, but while I was on the stock FE5 struts and shocks with stock FE5 springs, the ride felt really soft to me, but the car i drove be fore the SS was an 07 2.2 Cobalt lowered on the FE1 shocks and struts.... that rode like crap.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
My car definitely has the FE1 soft ride suspension. I had wondered about using the FE5 LCAs since they’ll be stiffer, as far as others have said. I just wasn’t sure the ball joint stud was going to fit into the spindle correctly. I have found none at the junkyard either even if I want to just use the arms and press new bushings in and install a ball joint. But I’d consider them if I decide to lower the car. Along with the FE5 struts since they’ll probably last longer on drop springs.

So since I had noticed the sway bar was a bit loose in the bushings, I went and bought some new Moog bushing since they are really cheap. They even looked fairly good when I took them out. But the new ones seemed to be much tighter. And upon driving the car, those bushing were bad enough that they were the source of one of the clunks I’ve been hearing. That took me all of 15 minutes to change them on the lift tonight.

I’m afraid I may have to replace the rack and pinion to eliminate the other clunk I hear. But I may just replace the intermediate shaft first. I can’t really replicate the noise too well with the car lifted. It has to have the weight on it to do it. But the intermediate shaft is a know problem on these cars. In fact almost every Cobalt, HHR, and Malibu of this era I’ve worked on with the electric power steering always has this sound. I can tell it’s outside of the car and not inside up by the column where the power steering motor sometimes has the gear problems. The steering shaft is semi easy to replace and not that expensive, so I may try that next.

At least with the struts and sway bar bushings it has made the front feel more planted. On road manners are better. Braking feels more confident. There is now much less wheel hop when the tires let loose also. And cornering at higher speeds comes with way less body roll. I bet if I let the guy I bought the car from drive it he’d be amazed at how nice it drives now.

I haven’t raced cars in years, but the car is very light and would be a great candidate for an autocross car. Minus the automatic. Really if it was easier to do an engine swap in these cars I’d do one. Like the newer Regal turbo engine. But I do really like the whole high fuel mileage it gets right now. Especially compared to my V8 cars that I’m not currently driving. Probably be better off finding a Cobalt with a 2.4 since I like the four door models.
 

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The FE5 LCAs from 08-10 from the turbo cobalts have a larger stud for the ball joint. the LCAs from the 05-07 are all have the same ball joint stud.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I’ll have to look into them. I was thinking of buying some good quality complete control arms. But now you have me thinking. If the aluminum ones fit, why not just get them instead of the steel units. It’ll tighten the car up a tad. I’m just very surprised at how good the bushings look. Although this could be just like the sway bar bushings and if I replace them, I’ll wonder why I didn’t do it in the first place.

Hey blu3_v1p3r, do you have your suspension specs posted anywhere. I know to adjust the camber in the rear I’ll have to use a shim or make one. I do need to to correct the toe on one side though anyway. It’s off a bit due to probably some kind of collision from the first owner of the car. I ended up putting the camber up front at -0.7 degrees, calls for -1.0 degrees. Didn’t really notice any disadvantage doing so. Although I won’t be hitting the track or cornering too hard on the street. If it reduces front end plow I’d can always go a little farther negative with it. I will likely make a shim to correct the negative rear toe. It’s about -0.38 degrees on the right rear. So I’m sure it’s dog tracking a little. Don’t want it to be doing that since I can help it with a shim. Sometimes I’ll make them out of coolant bottle plastic since it won’t have to move much. I’ve actually had better luck making a shim instead of using a full contact shim that you have to get just right to make them work.
 

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I'm unsure what you mean specs? If you're looking for alignment specs, I just have then get as close to spec as possible. I have adjustable camber plates on my coilovers, so before alignment I zero out my plates, and adjust to my liking. I'm lowered pretty good on BC coilovers with custom spring rates and revalved struts and shock for the spring rates. The SS also had a larger front sway bar, and shorter sway bar endlinks. The FE1/3 endlinks are 11.??" long and FE5 are 9.??" long.

FE1 (2.2)
Camber -1.0*±.75* with ±.75* cross tolerance.
Caster 3.65*±.75* with ±.75 cross tolerance.
Total Toe .20*±.20*

FE3/FE5 (2.4 and 05-07 SS 2.0 SC) front suspension calls for
Camber -1.05*±.75* with ±.75* cross tolerance.
Caster 3.65*±.75* with ±.75 cross tolerance.
Total Toe .20*±.20*

FE5 (08-10 SS 2.0 TC)
Camber -1.25*±.75* with ±.75* cross tolerance.
Caster 3.65*±.75* with ±.75 cross tolerance.
Total Toe .20*±.20*

FE1/FE3/FE5 Rear
Camber -.75*±.80*
Total Toe .25*±.30*
Thrust 0*±.30*

I'll typically increase camber slightly between -1.5 and -2 and bump up air pressure to 40 front and 38 rear.

My reference for the camber increase, comes from the specs for the upgraded steering knuckle service bulletin.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
My Hunter aligner has the factory specs, but I was wondering what you were running with on yours. I’m sure for autocrossing the car it’ll do better with a little more camber for going into corners. I suppose for street use I should just keep it where I have it anyways. At least for the best tire wear.
 

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My Hunter aligner has the factory specs, but I was wondering what you were running with on yours. I’m sure for autocrossing the car it’ll do better with a little more camber for going into corners. I suppose for street use I should just keep it where I have it anyways. At least for the best tire wear.
yeah its probably best for tire wear to stay as close to spec as possible. Like I said I have adjustable camber plates for the top mounts of my coilovers, so I can adjust camber anytime I need to in about 2 minutes....
 
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