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3rd Gen Plebeian
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Discussion Starter #1
So after planning this for several years, I finally started buying parts today to completely replace the suspension on my 1997 Grand Voyager. The $10 ball joints I installed years back are starting to fail, which is what made me finally get this started. Most of the suspension is still original, with 419,000 miles on it. Today I went to the salvage yard and left with a driver side 4th gen strut, spindle, caliper, and rotor from a 4 wheel disc van. Tomorrow I will return to get the passenger side assembly.

Over the past two weeks, I purchased the Eibach Spring Kit from 3 different online retailers, all three emailed me back that they weren't actually in stock and refunded my money. The Koni Strut inserts for our vans are only available from two online retailers who look sketchy at best, so I'm going to have to go another route.

Since plan A didn't work, I now plan on building a set of coilovers for my van. I'm going to cut the damper out of the strut housing, and if the measurements match I plan on rebuilding them with some double adjustable Koni 8611 strut inserts. Since I cant get the Eibach Springs, I'll have to get a set of threaded coilover sleeves attached to the strut so I can fit standard 2.5 inch springs.

I know most of the older members that fiddled around with the 4th Gen swap aren't around anymore, so feel free to chime in if you have any information which may be useful. I think I'm going to buy a complete 4th Gen lower control arm assembly from Moog or Mevotech, it's been stated but not confirmed that they are the same except for the ball-joint. I'm hoping that the 3rd gen brake lines will work because they are flexible instead of having a rigid section, but the caliper mounting is different I think. Lastly, I have yet to determine whether the 15 inch 10 spoke factory wheels will clear the 4th gen caliper, so I'll have to yank a wheel off and see how it works with the assembly.
 

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For our 2002 T&C 3.8L AWD, I have the complete coil-strut assembly. One was $25 from a liquidator and the other I bought for list price, maybe $40 and maybe rockauto. Anyway, you should be able to get the entire assembly cheap, and that would be easier but sounds like you might want to fiddle. Our van has 16" alloy wheels. I doubt 15" wheels would fit because I found the mini-spare wouldn't quite fit on the fronts. I found our van requires a full-size spare, since either the AWD option or perhaps towing package means apparently a larger front caliper. The used car dealer had provided the missing spare. Hope this info helps.

If the only problem w/ your ball joint is a split rubber boot, as a temp repair I just clean and wrap w/ self-fusing silicone tape. I never trust the thin boots that come w/ them and replace w/ a polyurethane boot from Energy Suspension. I usually have some lying around from work on my 1960's Mopars.
 

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4th Gen Swap fiddler here! Lyonkster did the original front swap and documented it, so you might want to look that up for the bits about the front wheel speed senders. I used my 3rd gen ones, but they can crack at the mounting bolt and rotate away from the tone wheel causing loss of ABS and traction control. I just rotated mine back this spring after some snow displaced it this winter, still works great.

Front control arm castings seem to be the same. The ball joint is different, and there were TWO options for the rubber pivot bushing. I believe one is solid and one is fluid-filled or at least softer rubber for a smoother ride/less noise transfer. I used some used 4th gen junkyard arms and put on new Help! Dorman joint boots which disintegrated and fell off. Silicone tape sounds like a win in that situation.

The 3rd gen brake lines do fit (I put brand new ones on mine). If I did it again, I would use the 4th Gen lines because of the solid section of line that eliminates the need for those silly metal brackets that wrap around the rubber line, swell with rust, and constrict the rubber hose causing your front brakes to drag and wear out prematurely.

The wheels: 15 inch wheels DO FIT over the front calipers (since some 4th gen vans came with 15" wheels). Even over the "bigger" bore calipers on AWD. It's the shape of the center of the wheel that can contact the brake caliper (especially when using new pads) and lock the wheel up. I used 5/16" cheap spacers and longer studs to make my chrome 2000 Limited rims fit, and also for the steel 16" spare rim to fit. Any 4th gen wheel with the 5 on 4 1/2" bolt circle will fit over the brake. I even used a 15" alloy 2nd gen Voyager wheel on the front and it BARELY cleared with new pads and no spacer. It's one of those things you just have to try it and see. The front hubs are exactly the same, so can interchange between 3rd and 4th gen as long as the bolt circle is the same. Best of luck to you!
 
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3rd Gen Plebeian
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Discussion Starter #4
4th Gen Swap fiddler here! Lyonkster did the original front swap and documented it, so you might want to look that up for the bits about the front wheel speed senders. I used my 3rd gen ones, but they can crack at the mounting bolt and rotate away from the tone wheel causing loss of ABS and traction control. I just rotated mine back this spring after some snow displaced it this winter, still works great.

Front control arm castings seem to be the same. The ball joint is different, and there were TWO options for the rubber pivot bushing. I believe one is solid and one is fluid-filled or at least softer rubber for a smoother ride/less noise transfer. I used some used 4th gen junkyard arms and put on new Help! Dorman joint boots which disintegrated and fell off. Silicone tape sounds like a win in that situation.

The 3rd gen brake lines do fit (I put brand new ones on mine). If I did it again, I would use the 4th Gen lines because of the solid section of line that eliminates the need for those silly metal brackets that wrap around the rubber line, swell with rust, and constrict the rubber hose causing your front brakes to drag and wear out prematurely.

The wheels: 15 inch wheels DO FIT over the front calipers (since some 4th gen vans came with 15" wheels). Even over the "bigger" bore calipers on AWD. It's the shape of the center of the wheel that can contact the brake caliper (especially when using new pads) and lock the wheel up. I used 5/16" cheap spacers and longer studs to make my chrome 2000 Limited rims fit, and also for the steel 16" spare rim to fit. Any 4th gen wheel with the 5 on 4 1/2" bolt circle will fit over the brake. I even used a 15" alloy 2nd gen Voyager wheel on the front and it BARELY cleared with new pads and no spacer. It's one of those things you just have to try it and see. The front hubs are exactly the same, so can interchange between 3rd and 4th gen as long as the bolt circle is the same. Best of luck to you!
Oh yeah, I have all the previous threads bookmarked.

I noticed on Rock Auto that there is the cheaper "Heavy Duty" solid bushing, and the fluid filled(or something) premium bushing. I was going to buy the solid bushing control arms since that's the same type that we have on our 3rd gens.

I grabbed the Wheel Speed Sensors off of the 4th gen, I figured I would test both versions with a multimeter for resistance. If they match, I'll solder the 4th gen sensor onto the 3rd gen pigtail.



This weekend I scoured through several salvage yards for 3rd gen parts, I was inspired after going last week for the 4th gen spindles. Suspension wise, I got myself a rear sway bar($25) and two Nivomat shocks($10 each). I have to say, the rear sway bar makes an enormous difference in handling, the van handles completely differently at both low and high speeds. The reduction of rear body roll makes the van grip through corners noticeably tighter, the van no longer has a harmonic pitching at highway speeds if you whip the wheel back and forth, and the steering has a lot more feedback now; you can feel the tires bite and trying to spring the steering wheel back to straight.

The swaybar came off of a Sport Trim LWB. I held it up under a SWB Caravan and verified that it will fit on those vans too, but it will not fit on the AWD vans without redrilling the frame mounting holes as the axle is positioned different to clearance the halfshafts. All the 3rd gens I've been under have these same frame mount holes present.
The beam axles on the Sway bar equipped vans have brackets welded to them which are not present on non equipped vans. I was able to use a 2 3/4" exhaust clamp kit from the autoparts store to bolt the sway bar bushing brackets to the axle. It required elongating the holes on the bushing bracket slightly wider, and the 2 3/4" U-bolt is a very tight fit on the axle.




^^Sway Bar




^^Bracket on axle




^^Axle with brackets




^^AWD axle, notice how tubular section is behind wheel hubs/halfshafts




^^FWD axle, tubular section is forward of wheel hubs



After driving around ~100 miles today with the sway bar added, I also put the Nivomats on. They did raise the vehicle significantly, but they seem to be very "springy" or bouncy. I might have grabbed one with a blown dampener but functioning air spring, its going to be harder to diagnose which side it is with the swaybar on. Interestingly, the Nivomats came off of a 2000 T&C Limited with mono leafs, I was under the impression that they were only utilized with multi leaf springs. Also, one of the four shock absorber bolts on my GV was already a longer Nivomat bolt, no clue why.



^^Standard shock on the left, Nivomat on the right




^^Nivomat bolts on the left, regular bolts on the right.
 

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Thanks for the picture of the Nivomat, Ive been toying with the idea of trying them myself but not knowing what they look like makes it hard to find them at the pick a pull yards I frequent.
 

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I've long wanted to add rear sway bar to my 1998 GV 3.8 to improve handling. Can you elaborate on how you mounted the sway bar brackets with the exhaust extension clamps? Did you have to adjust or relocate the parking brake cables or the brake lines? Seems for rear axles without the factory sway bar, the brake lines might interfere with the installation. Are there already brackets on our factory frame to attach the rear sway bar links, or did you get them from the salvage yard?

Thanks for documenting and sharing your mods.

Woof
 

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3rd Gen Plebeian
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Discussion Starter #7
I've long wanted to add rear sway bar to my 1998 GV 3.8 to improve handling. Can you elaborate on how you mounted the sway bar brackets with the exhaust extension clamps? Did you have to adjust or relocate the parking brake cables or the brake lines? Seems for rear axles without the factory sway bar, the brake lines might interfere with the installation. Are there already brackets on our factory frame to attach the rear sway bar links, or did you get them from the salvage yard?

Thanks for documenting and sharing your mods.

Woof

You'll need the brackets that come with the sway bar. I got the Sway Bar, Endlinks, frame to endlink brackets, bushing to axle brackets, and the four bolts that hold the endlink brackets to the frame for $25 total from Pick-n-Pull. I only disconnected the four frame to bracket bolts, and the four axle to bushing bracket bolts, so as far as the cashier was concerned it was a single item(The endlinks and brackets were still rigidly attached to the swaybar). There were several 3rd gens with them in each yard I went to. Every frame I've seen, AWD or FWD, LWB or SWB, have the holes for the brackets predrilled and threaded, but the brackets aren't there if it didn't have a swaybar. It will probably require some fabrication to get it onto the AWD as I said, but it should work on everything else. There is also a nice, meaty loop on the bracket, maybe for towing?


So I bought 2 & 3/4 inch exhaust clamps at Autozone to mount the bushings. The axle is actually 3" in diameter, but the clamps are always slightly larger than the pipe they are made to fit. It is a tight fit, but it should fit onto the axle snugly without any hassle. 3" clamps are too loose. The Bushing Bracket has its holes drilled 2 1/2" apart, so you need to elongate the holes for the bracket to fit onto the exhaust clamp u-bolt. You can just run a 1/2" drill bit through the Bushing bracket holes to get most of the extra width, I couldn't find my rat-tail file though and it would be a better option to just file it wider. Both the exhaust clamp U-bolt and the bushing bracket are 3/8" size holes/bolts. The pictures will help explain it better.


I had to bend the bracket that holds the brake line onto the axle upwards, but only on the passenger side. The bracket is a good inch longer than it needs to be, you should have no problem bending it clear.



Bracket attachment point on all vans, you can see the clean spot where the bracket was on the donor




Bracket attached to my frame




Rear shot of my DIY bushing to axle mounting, you can see to the left of the bushing where I bent the brake hose bracket upwards to clear the clamp.




Same as previous image




You can see the exhaust clamp better in this shot




Driver's side, I didn't have to bend the brake hose on this side, I think it was flexible there




Here is the clamp I got at AutoZone, just make sure it's a 2 3/4" U bolt type
 
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Thank you for going thru the process and sharing the detail with photos. That's fantastic. I will have to remember your 1-peice approach and keep all the brackets + sway bar + links all together at the salvage yard. I assume during installation, you roughly oriented the bushing bracket to reflect the angle you observed on the donor axles, and loosely attached the u-bolt nuts while the van was still up in the air? Then tightened the u-bolt nuts after you'd lowered the van and put the weight on the rear wheels? Any hints on how much to torque the u-bolt nuts?
 

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Looks like what I did back in 2010.

https://forum.chryslerminivan.net/showthread.php/19177-Fixing-rusted-brake-lines-myself/page2 Post #19 shows what I did, using 3" clamps. It's still on the van to this day, though a lot rustier. The U-bolts should probably be replaced. I tightened up the nuts with the rear end in the air, but my stands were on the axle beam so the rear suspension was loaded as if it were on the ground. I also bought the whole unit as an assembly from U-Pull-R-Parts.

The rear bracket "loops" are for hooking/chaining down the van to the railcar when shipped brand new from the factory. Probably also useful when loading van onto a flatbed, to tie down and load the suspension.
 

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Looks like what I did back in 2010.

https://forum.chryslerminivan.net/showthread.php/19177-Fixing-rusted-brake-lines-myself/page2 Post #19 shows what I did, using 3" clamps. It's still on the van to this day, though a lot rustier. The U-bolts should probably be replaced. I tightened up the nuts with the rear end in the air, but my stands were on the axle beam so the rear suspension was loaded as if it were on the ground. I also bought the whole unit as an assembly from U-Pull-R-Parts.

The rear bracket "loops" are for hooking/chaining down the van to the railcar when shipped brand new from the factory. Probably also useful when loading van onto a flatbed, to tie down and load the suspension.
That's a better idea to put the rear axle on jack stands so the rear suspension will be loaded. Will have to remember that.

One more question. Other than the Dodge Caravan Sport, is there any other 3rd gen Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth minivan with factory rear sway bar? I'm doing my homework online checking out different salvage yards' van inventory. I don't seen any vans with Sport trim in my area; just a lot of LE/SE and some Espressos.

Woof
 

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3rd Gen Plebeian
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Discussion Starter #11
I saw a few vans with them that didn't have the "Sport" badge on the door, there was at least one equipped van at every yard I went to out of five to ten 3rd gen vans per yard. Didn't check what trim they were though, I only noticed the two were Sport because they were white and I considered robbing them of their doors.

I was lazy about jacking up the van, I live in an apartment and didn't want to get in trouble for "working on a vehicle" in the lot. So I slipped under the van and did it sneakily. Took about 20 minutes, there's plenty of room for my 175lb frame under the rear of the van.

Advice-
Attach the endlink brackets to the frame first, this way you can rotate the swaybar up to the axle to find where your bushing brackets need to clamp on. Go ahead and torque these bolts down.
Get both exhaust clamp U-bolts over the axle before you attach the swaybar to the exhaust clamps. I bolted one side first, and the swaybar was getting in my way trying to install the other side. After fighting it for 10 minutes I gave up and had to detatch the first side.
Once you have both U-bolts on you can tap them with a hammer to slide them sideways and make sure they're centered on where the bushing brackets go.
Try to put the curved bracket supplied with the exhaust clamp onto the ubolt, you may have to bend the U-bolt inward slightly. I used a massive pair of channel locks to do this. It really depends on how much you widened the bolt holes on the OEM bushing bracket as to whether this is necessary.
Fit both bushing brackets before tightening.
The bushing brackets and exhaust clamp will deform slightly when you torque them down until they become the slightly larger diameter of the rear axle, this is good.

I rarely use my torque wrench, I only dust it off for cylinder heads and engine bearings. I torqued all the hardware to as tight as I could turn a normal 3/8" drive ratchet without bracing myself against something. This was approximately how tight the bolts were in the Junkyard. The Factory Service manual says 45ft/lbs for the frame brackets and 75ft/lbs for the axle brackets.

If the Swaybar is adjusted right, the endlinks should hang perpendicular to the road surface when the rear body is jacked up and the suspension is dangling in the air. I eyeballed the angle that the bushing brackets attached to the axle based on the pictures I took at the salvage yard. Its roughly 30 degrees below parallel to the road surface. I put dielectric grease(its rubber safe) into the bushings before I installed them so it shouldn't matter whether they are torqued at ride height or lifted. If you install them dry, the rubber should grip and flex with the bar, that's when you need to be careful torquing at ride height like with control arm bushings. I think rubber is supposed to be dry and polyurethane is greased, but it hasn't squeaked on me yet so oh well.

@RoadRipper- I noticed that Walker sells Stainless-Steel exhaust clamps, I may have to switch if rust ever becomes an issue, but we get "patina" rust at best in North-East Texas


One last note on the rear end, I noticed that the AWD axle has stamped steel ends welded onto the center tube while the FWD has cast ends. As I posted before, the FWD has the center tube ahead of the wheel hubs while it is behind the hubs on the AWD. I also noticed that the 4th gen has a rectangular tube rear end. When I get the time, I want to compare all these styles in the salvage yard. What interests me is the weight of each unit. I have a suspicion that the 4th generation axle is lighter. The weight of the axle is of great importance because it is "unsprung weight", google that term if you don't know what it means. There is the potential for a significant improvement in ride quality if one of the axles is lighter and the mounting points are the same.


Now for the front suspension. I did some cutting and grinding on my lunch at work Friday.



"DO NOT HEAT OR OPEN" I was never good at following directions...




Fully assembled 4th gen strut





Disassembled





Wont be needing that anymore




One is done









Now I need to scrape together some money to get some Koni inserts, $800 for the pair I want. I've talked to my machinist, we'll see how difficult it will be to secure the inserts and attach some threaded spring perches. The good news is that the Struts are standard inner diameter of 43.5mm, O.D. of 50mm, and length of 350mm. Pretty much anything aftermarket will fit them.
 
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Thank you very much for the details on how to find, extract and install the rear sway bar. Printed a hard copy for reference. Seems like we have a lot of salvage yards scattered in my region, but they are all fairly small mom-and-pop operations with only 2-3 Gen-3 vans. Guess I will just have to find a Saturday to do scour the different yards.

Can't wait to see what you're planning for your front struts & springs.

Woof
 

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Special Edy; said:
@RoadRipper- I noticed that Walker sells Stainless-Steel exhaust clamps, I may have to switch if rust ever becomes an issue, but we get "patina" rust at best in North-East Texas


One last note on the rear end, I noticed that the AWD axle has stamped steel ends welded onto the center tube while the FWD has cast ends. As I posted before, the FWD has the center tube ahead of the wheel hubs while it is behind the hubs on the AWD. I also noticed that the 4th gen has a rectangular tube rear end. When I get the time, I want to compare all these styles in the salvage yard. What interests me is the weight of each unit. I have a suspicion that the 4th generation axle is lighter. The weight of the axle is of great importance because it is "unsprung weight", google that term if you don't know what it means. There is the potential for a significant improvement in ride quality if one of the axles is lighter and the mounting points are the same.
Yeah, with the salt used here the U-bolt diameter is about 2/3 the thickness it started with. By using the stainless steel clamp though, it will cause the rear axle to rust more and act as the sacrificial anode. Some 2nd gen vans here have already had the rear axle break in half because of rust - - just like the Ford Windstars. 3RD gen rear axle is about the same as 2nd gen... Easier to change the U-bolts, or coat the area with paint or if really wanting to prevent rust, coat with liquid bedliner.

When Lyonkster did his rear disk brake swap write-up, I believe he used the entire rear axle from a 4th gen FWD on his 3rd gen FWD, and it pretty much bolted right on. The axle used square tubing rather than round, but the dimensions were the same. So there you go - an axle upgrade with swaybar mounts, and a rear disk brake upgrade at the same time!

Looking forward to your front suspension build. Curious what you are going to use for upper strut mounts, since the stock design is already too flimsy for firm suspension and pokes the strut rod through the upper mounting plate of the mount...
 

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3rd Gen Plebeian
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Discussion Starter #14
Yeah, with the salt used here the U-bolt diameter is about 2/3 the thickness it started with. By using the stainless steel clamp though, it will cause the rear axle to rust more and act as the sacrificial anode. Some 2nd gen vans here have already had the rear axle break in half because of rust - - just like the Ford Windstars. 3RD gen rear axle is about the same as 2nd gen... Easier to change the U-bolts, or coat the area with paint or if really wanting to prevent rust, coat with liquid bedliner.

When Lyonkster did his rear disk brake swap write-up, I believe he used the entire rear axle from a 4th gen FWD on his 3rd gen FWD, and it pretty much bolted right on. The axle used square tubing rather than round, but the dimensions were the same. So there you go - an axle upgrade with swaybar mounts, and a rear disk brake upgrade at the same time!

Looking forward to your front suspension build. Curious what you are going to use for upper strut mounts, since the stock design is already too flimsy for firm suspension and pokes the strut rod through the upper mounting plate of the mount...
The current plan is to find a set of camber/caster plates and fabricate an adapter they can bolt onto that will also bolt into the stock strut towers. There's also the possibility of buying a set of Strut Tower repair kits and using them to weld up a custom mount, reinforce the towers, and maybe even make a strut tower cross brace. I'm not sure that I want to go with Pillow-Ball mounts though, I'd still like to have a smooth ride. The end goal is to put coilover airbags on the front, and to replace the rear leaf-springs with a three-link suspension so I can bag that as well. I want to cruise around on a cushion of air, it's just an added benefit that I can twist a few knobs and dials to turn it into an Auto-X beast.

I've got a new set of rear swaybar endlinks, I just havent had the chance to put them in. Working 80 hours a week for the next few months to have some money to throw at the Voyager. Suspension/brakes first, then the interior, then maybe a DOHC 6G72 with an A543? Its never been done, somebody has to try it.
 

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The current plan is to find a set of camber/caster plates and fabricate an adapter they can bolt onto that will also bolt into the stock strut towers. There's also the possibility of buying a set of Strut Tower repair kits and using them to weld up a custom mount, reinforce the towers, and maybe even make a strut tower cross brace. I'm not sure that I want to go with Pillow-Ball mounts though, I'd still like to have a smooth ride. The end goal is to put coilover airbags on the front, and to replace the rear leaf-springs with a three-link suspension so I can bag that as well. I want to cruise around on a cushion of air, it's just an added benefit that I can twist a few knobs and dials to turn it into an Auto-X beast.
Whoa! That will be awesome. Would love to see our van run autocross. Meantime I just have to make do with my tippy rear axle while for gunning for BMWs on the on- and off-ramps.

Woof
 
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