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Old 12-05-2017, 01:12 AM   #1
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Default Sonic Lift Kit How-To

Here is the write up on my lifted setup that I did on my 2012 Sonic Hatch a few years ago as promised.





The goal of this lift was to be a safe and reliable method to raise the Sonic. I’m an ASE certified mechanic and do my best to make sure the things I do to cars will not be dangerous and hope that people who use this method do so responsibly and take the time to make sure everything is installed correctly and tightened to spec to prevent failures. If you install this on your vehicle incorrectly and there is an undesirable outcome, you take sole responsibility.

I sold my old setup to JNizza92 aka Jordan and he was kind enough to provide detailed pictures of him installing it on his Sonic and also another way of installing the rear strut mounts.





Backstory:
The reason I pieced together this lift a few years ago was because I had already lifted my Sonic for the 2012/2013 winter (mainly for Sno*Drift) using Megan Racing adjustable coilovers that I had been using to lower my Sonic (their intended use).





After one Michigan winter the threads on the coilovers adjustable spring perch and knuckle had become so corroded that they were basically welded together. Instead of purchasing new coilovers specifically for off road use I wanted to find a solution that was cheaper in the long run but may have a higher upfront cost. The Chevy Trax came out that year and I was eyeing the suspension, even going into dealer lots and climbing under them to see how everything worked (which they apparently frown upon). It all looked pretty identical so I decided to give it a shot. I looked on the forums later to see if anyone had tried it before I went and spent a good deal of money on it but no luck, this is what I came up with for the 2013/2014 winter. It turned out pretty awesome!

The parts list:
Front
• GM 95218483 – Front Springs - $40~ each
• GM 95022484 – Front Mounts - $30~ each
• 560812 – Right Front Strut - $120~
• 560811 – Left Front Strut - $120~
Rear
• GM 95174968 – Rear Springs - $35~ each
• 5699 – Rear Shocks - $40~ each
• GM 96853910 – Right Shock Mount - $25~
• GM 96853909 – Left Shock Mount - $25~
Wheels & Tires
• LT215/75R-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 - $160~ each
28” Diameter
• 15x6.5 Sport Edition SE-17 Anthracite - $80~ each
• 42mm Offset

The install is pretty straight foreward but technical knowledge is highly recommended.

Tools needed:

Jack and jack-stands
Spring compressors or a shop
Bench Vice and rubber strap wrench (or vice grips in a pinch)
23mm socket (front strut top nut)
21mm deep socket and short socket (knuckle bolts)
18mm deep socket (swaybar endlink nuts and rear shock lower bolts)
15mm socket (rear shock top mount bolts and shock shaft nut)
Large hammer or mini sledge



1) Start off by breaking all the lug nuts loose, raising the vehicle and supporting it on jack stands. Remove the wheels and set them aside.

2) Pop the hood, remove the plastic retainer clips in the rain channel of the cowl, the foam pads on each side, and the small 7mm screw hidden under a cover in the center of the cowl.





3) Pop the caps off the wiper arms, remove the 15mm nuts, wiggle the wiper arms to release them from the splines and set them aside.



4) Remove the two rubber guides that go from the top corners of the cowl to the windshield. They are held in just by rubber tabs and should remove easily.

5) Remove the cowl and set it aside.



6) Remove the 18mm nut from the sway bar endlinks on both sides that attach to the strut assembly, push the endlink through the hole so it is free to move around.



7) Loosen the two 23mm knuckle nuts on each strut. NOTE: the bolt is SPLINED so it will NOT turn. Only loosen the nut! Once the nut is backed off about 3mm, tap the nut side of the bolt to push the bolt toward the other side. This will free the clamping pressure on the strut and allow it to move more freely. Once the bolt is loose, remove the two nuts and bolts from the knuckle. The hub and sway bar endlink should be free from the strut assembly and you should be able to rotate the strut if needed. Don’t forget to unclip the brake hose and abs wire from their brackets on the strut!
a. Tighten Knuckle bolts to 81 lb ft
b. Strut shaft nut to 48 lb ft
c. Endlink nut to 48 lb ft

8) Once the strut is free from its lower constraints, remove the top 23mm nut holding the strut and spring assembly to the vehicle. This nut DOES NOT hold the spring compressed, it just mounts it to the strut tower. Once this nut is removed, the assembly should be easily removed from the car. You may want to hold the strut from the bottom while you take the last few threads of the nut off so it doesn’t fall. If your control arm bushings are stiff, you may need to apply downward pressure on the knuckle to make room for the assembly to come out.

9) If you have a QuickStrut Assembly (where the assembly comes with the spring, strut, and mount pre-assembled), You can just do steps 2-8 in reverse. I sold the kit to Jordan with the fronts all pre-assembled so it was just a matter of taking the old ones out and putting in the new assembly. NOTE: If you value your control arm bushings, Loosen the lateral control arm bolt so the horizontal bushing can rotate freely before putting in the new assembly. Once the vehicle is back on the ground with full suspension weight, re-torque the lateral bushing. This will prevent the bushing from being over-rotated from the ride height and travel and stop it from tearing.
a. Fun fact: You don’t need to lift the vehicle to fit under it with the lift and mud tires! So you can just tighten it from the ground.



10) If you DO NOT have a QuickStrut assembly, you will need to either transfer your old strut mounts or assemble all the new parts.
a. I HIGHLY recommend having a shop assemble the front springs and struts for you. The Buick Encore springs are MUCH stiffer than the Sonic’s and exponentially sketchier to use the Autozone spring compressors on.
b. If you are assembling these yourself: The compressors must be used with the bolt head side toward the LOWER spring perch. The lower perch is too wide to allow the compressors to clamp down without the shaft spinning into the perch and you will not be able to get the upper mount installed. You must have the nut towards the lower perch and basically tighten it by hand to get it compressed enough. An alternative method is to compress the spring before putting it on the strut, install the mount, and back the compressors off by hand. Atleast this way you can compress this springs with an Impact Gun and save some time and muscle fatigue.
c. IF your springs come from GM like mine, the will be slightly bowed out, like the shape of a banana. To compensate for this, the Buick Encore struts have two Seats for the spring end to sit in. You will want to orient the spring so that when it decompresses, the pressure will straighten the spring back out. If you do not, the spring will be bowed out excessively and contact your strut tower with a horrible noise.


Last edited by Totsu; 12-05-2017 at 01:22 AM.
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Old 12-05-2017, 01:13 AM   #2
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11) Remove the rear lower 18mm shock bolt holding the bottom of the shock to the torsion beam. I recommend having a jack under the lower spring perch to counteract the spring force being applied downward. Once the bolts are removed, the torsion beam should swing down a few inches allowing you to remove the springs.

12) To remove the shock, loosen the two 15mm bolts holding the upper shock mount to the car. You may be able to access them without removing the inner fender liner if you are crafty with an extension. Once these bolts are removed you will be able to remove the shock absorber from the vehicle.

13) To remove the mount from the shock absorber shaft, there is a 15mm nut. The method I used was to wrap a rubber strap wrench around the top of the shaft and clamp it in the vice, and use a socket wrench or impact gun to remove the nut. The rubber strap wrench protects the shaft from marring and destroying the shocks seal.



a. If you do not have an impact gun, you can use Jordans’s method of an open ratcheting wrench to remove the nut while holding the flats on the center of the shaft.



b. Tighten Shock Absorber nut to 18 lb ft
c. Upper mount to 43 lb ft
d. Lower shock to Torsion beam to 89 lb ft

14) Once the new shock and mount are assembled, reinstall them into the vehicle.

15) The rear springs will fit in the stock location. The only modifications necessary are to cut the “nubs” off of your lower isolators since the springs have a slightly smaller inner diameter. I had to do this when I first got the Megan Racing coilovers as the lower spring mount would not fit over the rubber isolator with the tabs so the springs fit perfectly on my car.



Once these tabs are removed, the spring will fit into the groove.



a. If you do not already have the modified spring isolators and do not wish to remove the nubs with a razor blade, Jordan came up with the idea to slice the isolator on one side to allow the spring to fit.



16) Once the springs are installed, use a jack placed under the spring perch of the torsion beam to raise the beam enough to line up the shock bolt with the hole in the beam. Tighter the bolt and repeat on the other side.

17) Once the front and rear assemblies are installed, double check that everything is tight.

18) Install your choice of wheels. The tires I had originally installed were the BFGoodrich Mud Terrain KM2’s which were 28” diameter and cleared the fenders and liners just barely without rubbing. The only contact was on full lock where they would graze the inner liner by the frame rail and make a rubber squeaking sound. The Encore struts have a higher spring perch than the Sonic allowing you to run taller tires but I believe this is about the limit without removing or modifying stock panels.





That’s it!
Here is the finished product!









Let me know if you guys want me to add or clarify anything!
Big thanks to JNizza92 For taking install pictures and adding optional ways to remove the rear strut mounts and modify the rear spring isolators!

Last edited by Totsu; 12-05-2017 at 01:28 AM.
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:15 PM   #3
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It looks great! How does the car do in actual off road conditions, like out in the desert, off trail.
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JesusTheAgnostic View Post
It looks great! How does the car do in actual off road conditions, like out in the desert, off trail.
I've not done sand but ive been down two-tracks in northern michigan with a foot of snow with no problem, the limitations really are the engine and not having an lsd.

I always ran a tune and tried winters with no abs and winters with abs on but tcs tuned out and its a bit if a toss up. With tune and stock abs/tcs you can power through stuff but the lack of power when tcs intervenes kinda ruins it. If you have a tune and have tcs disabled, you can power through and stabilitrak will help when one wheel is spining alone.

Also its pretty good at curb hopping

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Old 12-12-2017, 03:15 AM   #5
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I like that you're adding ground clearance without a ton of extra parts and weight.

Great write up! Pretty much what expected, stock parts for the win. I'll be trying out some BCs soon and perhaps build some spacers similar to the Sumo Lift for Subies in the front and spring and shock spacers in the rear. Winter project

I wonder if the RS gearbox would make a better match for the new tire size?

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Old 12-12-2017, 01:46 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carsNskis View Post
I like that you're adding ground clearance without a ton of extra parts and weight.

Great write up! Pretty much what expected, stock parts for the win. I'll be trying out some BCs soon and perhaps build some spacers similar to the Sumo Lift for Subies in the front and spring and shock spacers in the rear. Winter project

I wonder if the RS gearbox would make a better match for the new tire size?

I have the MZ0 trans from an Orlando, also found in the cruze that has closer gearing and a shorter final drive that helped out a ton, its alot nicer not dropping out of the powerband between shifts lol

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Old 12-12-2017, 02:23 PM   #7
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This is a shock and strut DIY all in itself. NICE work!
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Old 01-09-2018, 02:16 AM   #8
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This is my summer projext. I live in northern Michigan so I deal with horrible winters in my little sonic. As we speak i cant even get in my driveway. The lift is exactly what I need, and this thread helps tremendously, thanks!
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Old 01-09-2018, 02:27 AM   #9
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Where would you guys recommend I order the parts from? And as far as tires Id like something among the same lines but more so all season rather then mud tires. I dont plan on doing this set up specifically for off-roading, but rather for reliability during these harsh winters. Please and thank you.
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Old 01-09-2018, 02:38 AM   #10
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Gmpartsdirect, etc. Get the best deal you can find online

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