Cadillac Escalade Suspension Issues Explained(+Top 7 Issues and Pro Tips)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different Cadillac Escalade Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

Top 7 most common suspension issues in the Cadillac Escalade? 

The most common suspension issues seen in the Cadillac Escalade are:

  • Poor Ride Quality
  • Service Ride control warning
  • Clunking Noise in the Front End
  • Clunking Noise in the Rear End
  • Front Control Arm Failure
  • Front Wheel Bearing Failure
  • Rear Track Rod Bush Failure

What suspension does the Cadillac Escalade have?

The Cadillac Escalade was first launched by GM in 1999 as a Full-size luxury SUV. For the first 3 generations, the Cadillac Escalade shared the same platform as other GM products like the GMC Yukon Denali and GMC Suburban.

Front Suspension

The Cadillac Escalade has a Double-Wishbone type of Front suspension consisting of an Upper and Lower Control arm, Coilover shock absorber strut and Anti roll bar. This arrangement is mounted onto the front subframe.

Rear Suspension

From the 5th generation (2015) onwards, the Cadillac Escalade had a 4-Link independent rear suspension with a Coil Spring, Shock absorber and a Rear anti-roll bar.

Till 2014, the rear suspension was a live axle 4-link type suspension with 2 upper and 2 lower control arms and a Panhard (track) rod.

The RPO code Z55 came with Active Magneto-Rheological Dampers that instantaneously altered damping settings according to road conditions at each individual corner according to the driver selected Drive mode. It is also called AutoRide suspension. Apart from Dampers, the Z55 pack had the rear Self-leveling air suspension with adjustable ride height.

Poor Ride Quality

Symptoms:

  • Ride feels harsh in spite of the vehicle having Autoride Active dampers
  • No diagnostic error codes from the Electronic suspension module
  • Explained as seen in GMT 900 platform Escalade with Z55 RPO Code

Root Causes:

  • Poor ride quality could be due to either Failed shock absorbers, or
  • The Electronic Suspension Control module might be malfunctioning due to some reason

Troubleshooting Poor Ride Quality: Failed Shock absorbers

  • If your vehicle has crossed 50K miles, then it could be due for a shock replacement. Due to long-term internal wear, the shock starts becoming ineffective over time.
  • If the front/rear strut shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective. Shock absorber oil leaks can easily be spotted by looking for oil stains on the bottom tube as well as near to the rod seal.
  • One good way to tell if your shock has failed or not is to do a “Bounce Test”. Put all your weight on one of the front corners of the vehicle pushing it downwards. Keep oscillating the corner till you feel that it has reached its maximum height. Once you take your hands off the corner, observe how it settles. If it takes more than 2 oscillations to settle, that means the damper has failed.
  • Once the Strut Shock absorber has been dismantled, there is one more way to see the shock condition for yourself by way of a ‘Compression’ test. 
  • You can simply apply force on the top of the shock and compress it. If it can come back up on its own, then the shock is in fairly good condition. But if it takes too long or doesn’t expand on its own, it’s confirmed that the shock absorber has failed.
  • The Top mounting Bolts in the Rear Shocks of the Cadillac Escalade are located on the chassis side
  • In the Cadillac Escalades that are Autoride equipped (RPO Z55), the strut top mount has a connector to the electronic suspension control (ESC) system. 
  • Be careful not to damage these connectors during removal because the replacement shock does not come with new connectors. You will need to reuse the old connectors.

Pro-Tip:

  • As per most Shock absorber manufacturers’ recommendation, a new shock absorber must always be ‘Started’ before it is fitted. To ‘Start’ a shock absorber, you must oscillate it 3-5 times by hand.
  • The reason for doing this is that when the shock absorber was stored lying down, in the fully compressed or expanded condition, the hydraulic fluid may not have flowed completely to one side of the piston. When this happens, the shock absorber will jerk during operation. ‘Starting’ will help to avoid this sort of jerky operation.
  • It is always recommended to either loosen or tighten the Lower mounting bolts of the rear shock absorber only when the rear axle has been supported either using a Hydraulic jack or a jack-stand.

Troubleshooting Poor Ride Quality: Electronic Suspension Control Fault

  • Before concluding that the shock absorber is at fault, it is best to verify if the shock absorber is the only faulty component. Check the Autoride ESC and see whether it is showing any diagnostic fault codes
  • The best way to do this is to first plug in a GM diagnostic tool
  • In the diagnostics, within the Electronic Suspension control module, you need to Activate the shock which is suspect and then repeat the Bounce test
  • Check also for electrical continuity by measuring the resistance of the wires that connect to the ESC Module. You can do this while Activating the particular strut using the GM diagnostic tool.
  • Ideally, when the shock is activated, during the bounce test the suspension must become hard and not move at all, indicating that the active damping of the shock is functioning
  • If there was any issue in the ESC would throw a diagnostic code and not be able to activate the shock absorber

Service Ride Control warning Message

  • “Service Ride Control” message appears on the display
  • Compressor does not turn on; no sound, after starting the engine

Root Causes:

  • Newly fitted compressor not recognized
  • Faulty Air Struts
  • Faulty Air Compressor
  • Faulty Compressor Exhaust valve
  • Faulty Compressor Wiring

Troubleshooting Service Ride Control Message

The first step should be to run a diagnostic. Within the diagnostics tool navigate to the ‘Electronic Suspension Control Module’ and look for diagnostic fault codes in the History.

If a diagnostic tool is immediately not at your disposal, you could do the following common sense checks:

Newly Fitted Compressor

  • The compressor does not come on because the new part was not recognized by the ESC. It has not detected the resistance of this component and therefore fails to recognize it.
  • The one best method is to do a System reset
  • Disconnect the battery for about 10-15 minutes
  • Reconnect the battery and then turn on the ignition
  • The error message would mostly disappear

Compressor not Turning ON

  • Check the compressor and visually inspect for physical damage or rust. Corroded compressors tend to fail quicker
  • Check the compressor exhaust valve for damage or dislodging
  • Visually inspect for any broken wiring or connectors

Rear Autoride Air Strut Leak

  • The Rear suspension Autoride Air Struts can be checked by touching the rubber bellow. This check can only be done if the compressor is working. Ideally, the bellow surface must feel tight at all times, indicating a minimum required air pressure retention.
  • If, on touching, the air struts feel loose and saggy, that means a lack of air pressure and possible leakage

Clunking Noise from Front End

  • ‘Clunking’ noise during normal driving especially on bad and rough road patches that cause the vehicle to “Roll” more.
  • The same ‘Clunk’ noise reduces on smoother roads

Troubleshooting Clunking Noise from Front End

  • For most car suspensions, a ‘Clunk’ Noise is more related to the Anti-roll Bar assembly of the suspension
  • The two most probable causes are:
    • Anti roll bar Subframe mounting bush failure
    • Anti roll Bar End-link Ball-joint failure

Anti roll bar Subframe mounting bush failure

  • The Anti-Roll bar (ARB) bushings are the isolators between the ARB and the vehicle’s chassis. The bushings also ‘secure’ the ARB in place and restrict excessive movement so that the ARB can properly function.
  • The ARB-to-chassis bushing is a D-shaped Rubber part that is secured by a C-Clamp both in the Front as well as the rear of the Cadillac Escalade (WK and WK2 generations)
  • The ARB is under torsional loads while the car is undergoing “Roll” motion either during cornering or Rough Roads. 
  • In these situations, when the ARB undergoes torsion, the mounting bushes also share part of the road loads.
  • Bushings that have aged, hardened, or simply worn out and become loose tend to cause noise as they allow unnecessary movement of the ARB.
  • You can easily check for Anti roll bar bush failure using a pry bar. Wedge it between the ARB and the subframe and try to lift the ARB. If it moves without much resistance and also creates a knock sound, then it means that the ARB bush needs to be changed.

Pro-Tip

  • While refitting the Antiroll bar subframe bushing use a good anti-seize paste at the contact surface between the anti roll bar and the rubber bushing
  • Anti-Seize application could be repeated periodically in order to prevent excessive wear, say, every 50K miles or so.
  • For improving handling, you could search in the aftermarket for the same bushing with harder material. The harness is generally denoted by the Shore ‘A’ hardness number.

Anti-roll bar End link Bush Failure

  • The ARB-to-suspension connection is done using ARB end links.
  • On the front suspension ARB end links, rubber bushings are used instead of ball joints. These end link bushings can age and then start to produce  clunking noise. 
  • If the end links’ mounting fasteners have loosened on either end, it could result in clunking noise.
  • The rear ARB end links on the Escalade have ball-joints at either end. The ball-joints are greased front he factory and protected by a sealed rubber boot.
  • Once the rubber boot tears, or ruptures due to age or wear, the lubrication escapes and joint dries up
  • Once the joint has dried up it wears out quickly

Pro-Tip

  • When changing the Anti Roll Bar End Links (also called Drop Links), Jack up both sides of the car. 
  • If you jack only one side at a time, there will be a twist in the anti-roll bar because of which you would find it difficult to align the anti-roll bar and end link at the bolt hole.
  • Aftermarket End-Links with Greasable Ball-joints can be considered as an alternative. These would offer an extended life as compared to the OE sealed type of ball-joints, as they are serviceable.

Clunking Noise from Rear End

Symptoms:

  • Rear Clunking noise while normal driving
  • Noise increases when going over bad roads

Troubleshooting Clunking Noise from Rear End

  • As with front suspension clunking (explained in this section) Clunking noises, in a majority of cases originate in the Anti Roll bar joints
  • The Rear Anti-roll bar can be inspected by using a pry-bar and trying to lift the bar leveraged against the subframe
  • You could also examine the linkages by trying to shake the Anti roll bar drop links by hand.

Pro-Tip:

  • When inspecting for suspension noises and anti-roll bars, always jack the chassis/body and let the wheels hang
  • When jacking up only one side, the anti roll bar applies downward pressure on both side wheels and it becomes difficult to check joints because they become extra tight.

Front Upper and Lower Control Arm Failure

Symptoms:

  • Poor handling; the car seems to be drifting
  • Steering seems vague while Lane Changing
  • Uneven Tire Wear pattern
  • Knocking/Clunking Noises while going over Rough Patches
  • Explained as seen in GMT900 3rd Gen (2007- 2014) Cadillac Escalade

Root Cause:

  • Due to a Tire wear issue, it can be inferred that the alignment of the front suspension is outside of the recommended settings. But this is still a symptom.
  • The cause for alignment change points to the Upper and Lower control arm Bushings and Ball-joints that may have got worn or damaged
  • In some cases rust and corrosion would have affected the bolt as well as the inner rubber, causing the joint to have play

Troubleshooting Front Control Arm Failure: Upper and Lower Control Arm Bushings

  • The Control Arm bushings wear out over time and cracks due to age
  • Use a Pry bar and try to lift or move the control arm at each bushing location and watch how it moves. If the movement is loose then it means that the control arm has failed
  • Also, when inspecting the Lower control arm after removal, tears and cracks in the rubber portion indicate that the bushings have failed
  • A Worn out Control arm bushing will allow the controls arm to move around and sometimes hit the subframe causing noise
  • The Control arm movement due to bush wear-out disturbs the wheel alignment settings.
  • Hence the handling of the car feels poor.

Pro-Tips:

  • For Rusted Bolt connections that are hard to Break-open, do not try repeatedly using hand or pneumatic tools.
  • Always first soak it for 10-15 min after spraying a good Rust-penetrant.

Troubleshooting Front Control Arm Failure: Upper and Lower Control Arm Ball-Joints

  • In any type of front suspension, the control arm ball-joints are subject to wear and tear
  • The deterioration is usually initiated as a crack or rupture in the rubber boot around the ball-joint
  • This leads to loss of lubrication and finally to complete wear out or, in some cases, Rust.
  • The wear out causes play or movement accompanied by knocking noise. The play in the ball-joint is one of the reasons for the vehicle steering feeling vague
  • You can easily check for Ball-joint condition by this simple procedure:
    • Get the car on a Ramp
    • Lock the steering wheel
    • Hold the front tire with both your hands in a 6 o’clock position and try to move the wheel up and down
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in either or both of the Ball-joints
  • Ball-joint failure could also lead to steering shake or wheel wobble at high speeds

Pro-Tips:

  • For Bushing damage, it would always be better to change the control arm since it is complicated to press-fit new bushings
  • For a low mileage (40-50K miles) vehicle it may not be necessary to replace the whole control arm in case of ball-joint damage.
  • Ball-Joints can be pressed-out and Pressed-in using an appropriate size collar and C-Clamp
  • For a high mileage (80-100K miles), it might be wiser to change the whole control arm since both the bushes as well as the ball-joint would have reached the end of their service life.
  • The upper control arm chassis bracket has eccentric holes because this is how the Camber setting is adjusted. So, when removing the Upper control arm, before loosening the nut, make sure to mark the bolt position on the eccentric bracket hole.

Front Wheel Bearing Failure

Symptoms:

  • Droning noise above 30 mph speeds
  • Sound is louder with increasing speed

Troubleshooting Front Wheel Bearing Failure

  • Droning noise is generally associated with one of the wheel bearings depending on where the noise is coming from
  • Wheel bearings generally have a life of 70K miles, after which, on detecting noise issues, must be replaced
  • In the Cadillac Escalade, the wheel bearing is housed within the Knuckle and the Wheel Spindle. It is of a single-piece design.
  • The Wheel Hub assembly comes as a unit along with the Wheel bearing press-fitted
  • In order to remove the wheel hub assembly you may need to use a 3-leg Gear Puller
  • Make sure to properly route the ABS sensor wire while mounting the Wheel hub assembly

Rear Track Rod Bush Failure

Symptom:

  • Rear Tire uneven wear; Cupping
  • Handling is poor; Rear end does not respond well to lane changes
  • Knocking noises while driving over normal roads
  • Explained as seen on the 3rd generation Cadillac Escalade (2007 onwards)

Troubleshooting Rear Track Rod Bush Failure

  • In general, all Control Arm bushings wear out over time and cracks due to age
  • For inspecting a Track rod bushing, use a Pry bar and try to lift or move the control arm at each bushing location and watch how it moves. If the movement is loose then it means that the control arm has failed
  • Also, when inspecting the Lower control arm after removal, tears and cracks in the rubber portion confirm that the bushings have failed
  • Tire wear issues are caused due to this misalignment resulting from control arm bushing failure
  • The track rod takes all the lateral forces from the rear tires. Hence it is a crucial component in handling behavior. Track rod bush failure causes the rear axle to drift and roll excessively resulting in poor handling.
  • The Noise issue is caused by the Track Rod moving excessively and impacting the subframe bracket because of failed bushings.

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the differentCadillac Escalade Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

For any questions or comments, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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