Fiat 500 Suspension Issues Explained(+6 Problems)

In this brief article we are going to discuss the different Fiat 500 Suspension problems, what the causes are, and Troubleshooting Tips.

Top 6 most common suspension issues in the Fiat 500? 

The most common suspension issues seen in the Fiat 500 are:

  • Front Strut Top Mount Bearing
  • Clunking Noise in the Front End
  • Front Shock Absorber Strut Failure
  • Rear Shock Absorber Failure
  • Front Control Arm Failure
  • Rear Wheel Bearing Failure

What suspension does the Fiat 500 have?

The original Fiat 500 was a small car manufactured from 1957–1975. The Fiat 500 was then re-launched in 2007 as a new concept based on the heritage of the original Fiat 500. In 2008, the Fiat Abarth 500 performance version of the Fiat 500 was launched.

Front Suspension

The Front suspension in the Fiat 500 is a MacPherson Strut and Lower control Arm with Anti-roll bar. This arrangement is mounted onto the front subframe.

Rear Suspension

The Fiat 500 has got a Twist-Beam Trailing axle working with coil springs, shock absorbers and anti roll bar. The wheel spindle is integrated into the axle. The axle twists and performs the function of an anti roll bar.

Front Strut Top Mount Bearing Failure

Symptoms:

  • Knocking Noise while going over Rough Road Patches
  • Bumping/Knocking Noises when trying the lock steering in parking

Troubleshooting Front Strut Top Mount Bearing Failure

  • The Top Strut Mount contains a Bushing as well as a bearing that allows the strut to rotate while steering
  • Generally, when the Top Strut mount is damaged, both the bushing as well as the bearing fail and restricts the strut from rotation during steering. 
  • The bearing failure causes the knock and creak noises while locking the steering.
  • The Bushing failure causes the Knocking and Popping noises driving over a rough patch.
  • The Strut Top Mount is assembled with the Front Shock Absorber Strut. So for removing this, you would need to disassemble the Front Strut.
  • Access to the Strut Top Body Mount is located underneath the Windshield Wiper plastic Panel.
  • Unlike many other cars in this category, the Fiat 500 top strut mount does not come with 3 mounting bolts. Instead it has a Mounting Plate on the top side of the body panel that is tightened onto the strut top via a Nut.
  • It is therefore not necessary to remove the spring in order to replace the Strut top mount alone.
  • HOwever, if you find the strut top bearing makes noise during steering, it needs to be replaced. And in order to replace the bearing, you need to compress and remove the spring.

Pro Tip

  • If, after changing the strut top mount, knocking noises still persist, then you need to consider aftermarket solutions.
  • The original design top rubber washer allows for vertical movement in the interest of providing a softer ride quality. But, if you are more focussed on handling, then you could consider replacing the rubber OE washer with an aftermarket solid-type Disc solution.
  • While compressing the spring during the replacement of the Strut bearing, always follow the safe process of using a hydraulic or pneumatic spring compressor removal fixture

Clunking Noise in 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 in normal driving

  • For most car suspensions, a ‘Clunk’ Noise is more related to the Anti-roll Bar assembly of the suspension
  • There are 2 potential causes within the Anti Roll bar assembly
    • Anti roll bar Subframe mounting bush failure, and
    • Anti-roll bar End link 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 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.

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 Failure

  • The ARB-to-suspension connection is done using ARB end links. 
  • On the front axle, the end links use a sealed ball joint design that has a significant range of motion sufficient for the various movements of the front suspension. 
  • The rubber boot that protects the end link Ball-joints can tear, allowing the joint lubrication to seep out and exposing the ball joint to corrosion. The result is a clunking noise from the worn joint. 
  • If the end links’ mounting fasteners have loosened on either end, it could result in clunking noise.
  • On the rear suspension ARB end links, rubber bushings are used instead of ball joints. These end link bushings can age and then start to squeak. 
  • Use of Lubricants could temporarily solve the squeaking sound problem. But it is always recommended that new end links be fitted.

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.

Front Shock Absorber Strut Failure

Symptoms:

  • Rattling Noise going over any rough patches
  • Front end bouncier than normal
  • Changes in handling behaviour; Vehicle not feeling stable at high speed cornering

Troubleshooting Front Shock Absorber Failure

  • The Bouncy Ride symptom points to the Shock Absorber as a probable cause.
  • 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 strut shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective.
  • 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.
  • The Top Strut mounts are accessible only after removing the Windshield wiper Cowl
  • A good quality and safe spring compressor tool is required for separating the coil spring from the strut

Rear Shock Absorber Failure

Symptoms:

  • Knocking and Popping Noises from the Rear going over bumps
  • Rear end feels bouncier

Troubleshooting Rear Shock Failure

  • The Bouncy Ride symptom points to the Shock Absorber as a probable cause.
  • The noises coming from the rear are partly due to the failed shock absorber allowing the bump stops to contact more often. And also the noises partly come from the worn out shock mounting bushes that allow the shock to move and hit against the mounting brackets.
  • If your vehicle has crossed 40-50K miles, then it could be due for a shock replacement. Due to long-term internal wear, the shock starts losing its damping action over time.
  • If the rear shock has started leaking oil due to a failed oil-seal, then it means that the shock will no longer be effective.
  • 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.

Pro Tip

  • While fitting a new shock absorber, always, Tighten the Top mounting bolts first and then the Lower mounting bolt.
  • Also make sure that while tightening the Shock bottom bolt,  the Wheel Hub is supported at its normal ride height. For this you can either use Blocks, a screwjack or a jack stand.
  • If the shock bottom mounting bush is tightened at any other ride height, then when the car is lowered to normal ride height, the Bush will rest in a twisted condition and will have a reduced Bush service life.

Front Control Arm Failure

Symptoms:

  • The car seems to be drifting
  • Steering seems vague while Lane Changing
  • Uneven Tire Wear pattern
  • Knocking Noises while going over Rough Patches

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 Lower control arm Bushings and Ball-joints that may have got worn or damaged

Troubleshooting Front Control Arm Failure: Lower Control Arm Bushing

  • Lower Control Arm’s 2 bushings (fwd and rwd) wears out over time and cracks due to age
  • It would be best to inspect the lower control arm bushes using a pry bar and observing how tight they are. 
  • Also visually, it would be clear as to whether there are any tears and cracks in the exposed rubber portion
  • In the Fiat 500, it is essential to first confirm Lower control arm bushing failure prior to removal, because the procedure for removing the Lower control arm is a rather lengthy and complicated one.
  • In the Fiat 500, the lower control arm bolts are accessible only after removing –
    • The Wheel-well inner plastic trims
    • The Front Bumper
    • One intercooler on either side of the front cross-member
    • The front cross-member
    • Subframe side members

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: Lower Control Arm Ball-Joint

  • In the Macpherson type of front suspension, the lower 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 value
  • 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 and try to steer the wheel
    • If you hear a ‘Knock’ or ‘Click’, then it is very much likely that the noise is due to a play in the Ball-joint
  • The lower control arm ball-joint in the Fiat 500 is a Press-fit integration onto the Lower control arm. It is locking in place by the Circlip

Pro-Tips:

  • For a low mileage vehicle it may not be necessary to replace the whole control arm in case of a ball-joint damage.
  • Use a proper size Ball-joint removal Kit Collar to remove and refit the ball-joint
  • For Press fitting the Ball-joint onto the Control Arm, it is best to use either a pneumatic or hydraulic Press
  • If the press-fitting is done without removing the Lower control arm, then use an appropriate sized C-Clamp or a Leadscrew arrangement.

Rear 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
  • There are cases where a hard impact, like hitting a pothole, might have caused the early onset of Wheel bearing failure.
  • In the Fiat 500, the wheel bearing is housed within the Knuckle and the Wheel Spindle. It is of a single-piece design.
  • The Wheel Hub comes as a unit along with the Wheel bearing press-fitted

Conclusion

In this brief article we have discussed the different Fiat 500 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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