Rear suspension work may seem hard, but it really is not. If you can do the majority of the work yourself, you can save a great deal of money. In rear suspensions, the trailing arm in a Saturn can be easily damaged. It does not take much more than that hard contact with either rear tire to fold the link in half.
Replacing the trailing arm, or link, is not difficult. Unfortunately, locating a new replacement part is difficult, very difficult. Used arms can be found at online auctions sites and junk yards. When it comes to this type of part, new is a better choice. It costs about twice what a used arm would cost, $80 or so. The benefit is knowing that you have purchased a part that should last.
I ordered the trailing arm for a LS1 series, 2000 Saturn through a dealership. They obtained the part directly from GM. It took about two weeks from ordering to delivery.
- Jack and tire iron
- Sturdy jack stands
- Assorted metric sockets, 17mm to 21mm
- Socket wrench
- Breaker bar
- PB Blaster
Removing the old trailing arm:
The trailing arm is held in place with two long bolts at the front and one nut at the rear. The tire should be removed from the vehicle for easiest access. Loosen the lug nuts slightly before jacking up the rear end. Always use solid supporting stands and caution when working with an elevated vehicle.
Loosen the nut on the rear end of the trailing arm. This is located at the knuckle attached to the brake housing. This may require the use of PB Blaster; it can be very difficult to remove on older, rusted vehicles.
Loosen and remove the two bolts that attach the front of the trailing arm to the underbody of the vehicle. Use caution when working around the brake line. The brake line is attached to this mounting between the two bolts. The holder for the brake line is simply a clip that attaches to the arm bracket and is held in place with one of the bolts. It may be difficult to see this if there is heavy rust present.
I made the mistake of thinking that I might have to disconnect the brake line to remove the trailing arm. This is not the case. The piece will just slide off. Once you have removed the old arm, prepare the new one by installing the bushing and washer in the correct direction.
Installing the new trailing arm:
Clean any PB Blaster from the two bolts you removed from the front. Insert the rear of the trailing arm into the knuckle but do not tighten. You will now have to pull back slightly on the brake housing to line up the front bolts for the arm. It is best if you have someone to assist you with this. Attach the brake line clip to the front mounting and firmly tighten the two front bolts. You can look up torque specs but these just really need to be tight.
Install the second bushing and washer on the end of the threaded rod from the trailing arm. It should come with a new nut. Firmly tighten the nut into place. The arm and bushings will be at an angle and may not look like they are completely flush. This is normal.
Finishing the repair:
Double check that both bolts and the nut are firmly tightened. Reinstall your tire and secure the lugs. Remember to finish tightening the lugs after the car has been lowered from the jack stands. At this point you may want to consider a rear-end alignment. If no other damage was done, it may not be required.
In the case of the 2000, LS1 Saturn I worked on, the left rear tire had heavy toe-in after the trailing arm was replaced. After examining the situation, I realized that one of the rear links had shifted about ¼” to the outside when the damaged occurred. I was able to loosen this link and force it back towards center. It is still out about 1/16″ but the car drives really well.