GM Cavalier/Sunbird/Skyhawk/Firenza 1982-1994

Shock Absorbers



See Figure 1

  1. Open the hatch or trunk lid, remove the upper shock absorber cover, then unfasten the upper shock absorber nut.
  3. Raise and safely support the vehicle. Support the rear axle with adjustable jackstands.
  5. Remove the lower attaching bolt and remove the shock.

If both shock absorbers are being replaced, remove the shocks one at a time as suspending rear axle at full length could result in damage to the brake lines/hoses.

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 1: Shock absorber removal and installation - 1994 vehicle shown

To install:
  1. If new shock absorbers are being installed, repeatedly compress them while inverted and extend them in their normal upright position. This will purge them of air.
  3. Connect the shock absorbers at the lower attachment and install the attaching bolt and nut hand-tight.
  5. Lower the vehicle enough to guide the shock absorber upper stud through the body opening, then fasten the upper shock absorber attaching nut loosely. Tighten the lower shock absorber mounting bolt to 35 ft. lbs. (47 Nm).
  7. Remove the axle support, then carefully lower the vehicle. Tighten the shock absorber upper nut to 21 ft. lbs. (29 Nm).
  9. If equipped, install the retaining nut cover, then install the rear trim cover. Close the trunk or hatch lid.


See Figure 2

The purpose of the shock absorber is simply to limit the motion of the spring during compression and rebound cycles. If the vehicle is not equipped with these motion dampers, the up and down motion would multiply until the vehicle was alternately trying to leap off the ground and to pound itself into the pavement.

Contrary to popular rumor, the shocks do not affect the ride height of the vehicle. This is controlled by other suspension components such as springs and tires. Worn shock absorbers can affect handling; if the front of the vehicle is rising or falling excessively, the "footprint" of the tires changes on the pavement and steering is affected.

The simplest test of the shock absorber is simply push down on one corner of the unladen vehicle and release it. Observe the motion of the body as it is released. In most cases, it will come up beyond it original rest position, dip back below it and settle quickly to rest. This shows that the damper is controlling the spring action. Any tendency to excessive pitch (up-and-down) motion or failure to return to rest within 2-3 cycles is a sign of poor function within the shock absorber. Oil-filled shocks may have a light film of oil around the seal, resulting from normal breathing and air exchange. This should NOT be taken as a sign of failure, but any sign of thick or running oil definitely indicates failure. Gas filled shocks may also show some film at the shaft; if the gas has leaked out, the shock will have almost no resistance to motion.

Click image to see an enlarged view

Fig. Fig. 2: When fluid is seeping out of the shock absorber, it&rsquos time to replace it

While each shock absorber can be replaced individually, it is recommended that they be changed as a pair (both front or both rear) to maintain equal response on both sides of the vehicle. Chances are quite good that if one has failed, its mate is weak also.