Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby paulo57509 [OP] » January 17th 2010, 3:32am

I've read here that Astros and Safaris eat idler arms like I eat potato chips (no bag last more than a few days!). My 2003 RWD Safari is wearing the front tires on the edges. Am I looking at the effects of worn idlers?

BTW, the van has +115k and these are the original idlers.

Thanks.
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby tv8bird » January 18th 2010, 9:55am

They also go through ball joints pretty fast. I had a bad ball joint cause that kind of wear on a tire once. Wore it right through to the polyester, and I had no idea. Kept wondering what that sound was every time the tire made a full revolution, but all the times I looked underneath, I saw nothing wrong until finally I had the van in the shop for something else and the mechanic and I looked at the tire while it was on the lift. But no noise came from the ball joint while I was driving, so I had no clue.
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby GaryZ » January 18th 2010, 9:33pm

I have found smooth outer edge tire wear to usually be alignment (toe-in).
Although Astro/Safari vans suffer from outer edge wear mostly from aggressive driving around corners!

I have almost 180k miles on my AWD and the ball-joints are original.
However, I have replaced the idler arms three times (easy job).
My van has had a "clunk" in the front-end since the day I bought it.
It is most noticeable when backing out of my driveway.
Three or four shops have checked it out (including the local dealer) and found nothing wrong.
When the idler arms are worn the "clunk" gets worse.
A few years ago I started replacing parts in an effort to find the "clunk".
The "clunk" is still there!

Parts Replaced So Far:
tie-rod
tie-rod ends (these were really bad and cheap to buy)
pitman arm
idler-arms (three sets over the years)

My son-in-law had a front-end alignment done by the local Firestone shop and found the upper control arm bolts were left loose!
I will be checking mine as soon as we get a warm day.


Here is how I test . . .

Ball-Joints:
Raise front tire off the ground.
Grasp top and bottom of tire.
Shake tire top-to-bottom.
There should be no movement.
If you have movement, have a second person watch the movement on the backside.
A bad ball-joint will move the spindle at the end of the control arm.
Bad or loose wheel bearing will move the wheel assembly.

Idler Arms:
For this test the van must have weight on the front wheels.
Drive the van onto ramps or slide under the front end.
Locate the tie-rod (it connects the front wheels together).
Push up on the tie-rod at the center.
It should only move less than 1/4".
Any more movement means the idler arms are worn.
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby tedanderson » January 19th 2010, 2:26am

Thanks! I will be sure to check this out myself. I notice this to be the case on my 92 and on my company-owned 99. I had a new set of tires installed on the 99 about a year ago and I am starting to notice that the inside and outside edges are starting to round off.
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby astro355 » January 19th 2010, 2:37am

And most important, once you get those idler arms changed, immediately get an alignment. If the alignment is off even the slightest, the new idlers will go south very quickly.
Diagnose 1st, never be a parts changer!

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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby tedanderson » January 19th 2010, 3:00am

Can I do the alignment in my garage using a tape measure or do I need to take it to a shop?
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby astroturf » January 19th 2010, 3:26am

tedanderson wrote:Can I do the alignment in my garage using a tape measure or do I need to take it to a shop?


Sure you can. Preferred spec for two wheel drive 1992 GMC Safari is 1/8 inch total toed in. Minimum is 0 inches, maximum is 3/16 inches toed in. Hope this helps.
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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby astro355 » January 19th 2010, 4:16am

Here's an interesting read on the subject.

http://www.allpar.com/fix/alignment.html
Diagnose 1st, never be a parts changer!

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Re: Worn Idler Arm(s) Symptoms

Postby tedanderson » January 19th 2010, 4:27am

Thanks! That's good to know. I'm going to check it in the morning to see where I am.
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