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Special Projects 101: Part 1: New Car Makeover 2021 – Suspensions

car makeover Proton suspension 2021

Image of the leftover suspension parts changed after they had collected all the old parts and replaced it with brand new original parts. The decision to change all in one go is to save cost and time before it breaks down.

This will be Part 1 of the car makeover project but please expect this series to take some time to complete considering the budget and progress of work in this pandemic. The makeover project actually started back in the last quarter of 2020 and not because I planned for it but it was the other around.

Vibrations at 100 km/h

It all started back in October 2020 when I noticed the steering vibrates whenever the speed reaches more than 100 km per hour. This is not normal behaviour of a car that has been tuned by Lotus. In fact, Protons are well known for the best ride & handling in its class and it is very forgiving even at speeds at 150 km per hour.

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I often drive at more than 100 km per hour on early mornings especially when the highway is empty and the car is solid on the road as a rock. Lotus tuned ride and handling is simply first class. But not this time, it vibrates rather obviously and I know that it has to be the suspension.

Realignment & Balancing

The first option was to get the suspension checked and alignment was done so that the vibrations stop. I hopped over to the tire shop near to the house – they do a pretty good job when it comes to alignment and balancing the tires but they do a bad job when it comes to changing parts (yes, they hike up the price like there’s no tomorrow).

Car Makeover Suspension Rust Proton

Serious wear & tear on the joints with rusts creeping up due to non-original but expensive parts changed over the years. Some due to parts not changed since the day the car was bought some 10 years ago.

The mechanic who was checking the alignment told me that the rear suspension part needs replacements and start quoting me RM300 for the part. Knowing how expensive how these guys charges for 2nd class parts, I politely declined their insistence to change and told them that I will get it replaced at the authorised service centre where I know it will be an original part and comes with a proper warranty.

A Suggestion at Service Center

I kept my speed to be below 100 km per hour to keep the vibrations at check until and when I go to the authorised service centre for the scheduled service. Unfortunately, I was not able to go to my usual service centre due to the lockdown and restrictions on inter-district travels. So I decided to go the one that is nearer to the house – rather dreadfully because it is the same place where I had the problem with the car battery.

But since my schedule service was overdue, I decided to visit them and get them to inspect the undercarriage of the car for any faulty. I had my reservations because these mechanics at the authorised service centre can handle most of the car issues but they are not experts, unlike the other service centre.

Proton suspension center bar makeover

An interesting fact – this is the centre bar is made from solid steel and cannot be formed back into original position using a hammer. It protects the undercarriage just near the gearbox. Mine was bent with a clear knock sign.

But then, my doubts on their capability dismissed when they found a problem that was not detected earlier with the centre bar, just under the gearbox which had bent considerably. I must have snapped the tires into a bad pothole somewhere.

Then they moved to the rear suspension and confirmed that the fact that some of the parts had worn out and needs replacement. They went on to check on other suspension parts from front to the rear and noticed that some of them will need replacement in a couple of months.

So they asked if I want to consider to change these parts at one go which will save time and cost and I don’t have to keep coming back to the service centre to change the parts in future. The idea of getting the suspension to a condition when I first got the car was intriguing and acceptable.

Car makeover suspension Proton

A big difference with brand new, original parts from the manufacturer does not only improve the car’s handling but also improve the driving confidence when taking corners at high speed.

Time to Gather Parts

The problem with a major replacement for the suspension is that this service centre does not have all the parts. They need to have about 30 plus items from large links, joints, rubber washers and screws and they need to order from their HQ.

Further with public holidays looming by, they mentioned that they will collect the parts as and when it arrives from the HQ and once all parts have arrived and ready for change, they will call me.

It took almost 2 weeks for all the parts to arrive and they called me to bring over the car. They requested me to leave the car for 2 days for them to get all the replacements done and test drive the car after the replacement. Good thing, due to the lockdown, I was working from home so there was no need for me to use the car to drive to the office.

Car makeover suspension Proton

The change of suspension does not only cover the rear where the problem first detected but also the front where the parts have started to show serious signs of wear and tear.

I scheduled to drop off the car as early as 8 am so that they can start on the car as early as possible. However, on that particular day, they also had a lot of cars coming in for major repairs so that they were unable to start on the car early in the morning. They worked throughout the night and the car was finally ready the next day afternoon.

Squeaky Noise Nightmare

Before the car was released back to me, the mechanic went through all the parts that they have changed and the problems that they had found during the part replacement. They warned me that since the parts are brand new, the nuts and joints need to be tightened for a final time after a couple of days after the joints have set in.

The car was silent for the first few days but I noticed a knocking sound from the front when I am on the highway and a low squeaky sound from the rear. I went back to the service centre and asked them to check on the sound  – the front knocking sound came from a loose nut at the front which went away after they have tightened the nuts.

For the squeaky sound, they were unable to identify the actual part and initially troubleshoot it as a sound from the suspension spring which I was not convinced (because it is not the first time I had changed the rear suspension). They tightened all the joints and asked me to drive for a few days and see if the squeaky sound is still there. It was indeed there the moment I reached home.

With the squeaky sound still there annoying me, I went back to the service centre and this time, they pointed the cause to a faulty chamber nut which they had to order a new set chamber nuts. Another day wasted and then they finally got the chamber nuts and replaced it, the squeaky sound was gone but it came back the next day.

Car makeover suspension Proton

The culprit of the squeaky sound (this is the photo of the replacement) – a faulty rear arm assembly which initially the mechanics at the service centre did not believe as it is an original part. But it looks like they had a part that somehow passed their Quality Assurance but is faulty, duh!!. 

Final Solution

I decided to get a second opinion as it is clear that the mechanics at the authorised service centre still not be able to put their fingers on the squeaky sound problem and only been trying to fix on a trial and error basis. I found a suspension expert and he checked and immediately told me that it is due to a faulty rear arm assembly (also known as the tulang anjing).

The suspension expert, however, advised me to go back to the service centre and get this replaced. This meant another trip to the service centre and this time, after leaving my car at the service centre the whole day, they concluded the same – a faulty rear arm assembly.

It will time to get the replacement for the faulty part – no cost involved of course due to warranty but I had to wait another 10 days for a replacement. I had no choice but to wait – I could have got the part changed in another service centre but since it on warranty, I did not mind waiting for the final solution.

This time, the squeaky sound stopped and finally I can drive a car that has suspension and feel of a brand new car.

To be continued in Part 2…

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