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Old 04-25-2003, 04:45 AM
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MikeTangas MikeTangas is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: So. Cal
Posts: 4,430
Well, where to start.

I took my time, meaning I only worked a little each day, actual working time I guesstimate about six hours, but I spread it out over several days.

I replaced the upper control arms, lower ball joints, guide rod mounts (rear). I left the front mounts alone since I could only move the rod a little bit laterally, no up/down movement. Also replace the steering damper and inner grease seals on the rotor. Checked and repacked the bearing using MB green hi-temp grease. Cleaned and repainted the battery tray and cleaned out a bunch of rotten leaves and crud fron under same. I did not replace the lower control arm bushings. Only unexpected part: I had to replace one washer pump, after I broke off the attachment tube for the line while removing the washer resevoir .

One lower ball joint was knocked free in just a couple light taps, the other was another story. On that one, the balljoint separator tool did nothing, beating with a sledge did nothing either. I finally resorted to fire. Careful placement of heat, accompanied by two handed hammering finally drove the balljoint out of the control arm. If you have to resort to this tactic, be sure to thread on the bearing nut because when the joint lets go, the spindle will fly. Don't ask how I know. Fortunately I have a thread file with the proper size and any thread buggering I may, or may not have had was cleaned up .

Special tools: a come-along or porta-power, a good 3 pound sledge, an old king pin also comes in handy. Of course you'll need the ball joint tool, or take the easy way out and just deliver the steering knuckles to your local Indie. I had mine pressed in for about $70 (1/2 labor per side). Everything else is stock sizes, 10mm, 13mm, 17mm, 19mm and 22mm, plus a 5mm and 8mm allen.

You'll need the come-along to get the guide rod mounts out. Once the bearing bracket comes free, the control arm wants to shift rearward. That movement and the nearly three inch long adjustment rod make it nearly impossible to get the mount out because the bearing bracket will make contact with the chassis.

Access to the inner bolts for the control arms is pretty straight forward. One the passenger side (LHD) you have to remove the battery, washer resevoir and battery tray. The bolt head is hidden under the wire loom, don't pull out too aggressively on the wires though. The driver's side is simple - if you can make your hand a snake. No need to remove anything on this side, just weave your arm under the brake resevoir and around all the lines and cables. Excellent eye/hand coordination is necessary to reinstall the bolt though.

A few pics

Got a "gahdunk" at your feet? This is the likely cause. I should have grabbed a couple pictures of the replacement process. While most straight forward, there is a rubber "butterfly" that get mounted to the inside cover. The old one has to be cut off and the new one installed. It won't be compressed, so the cover has to be pressed down hard to start the bolts.

The steel shell of the mount was heavily corroded. Not sure if that is from trapped water or electrolysis. Requires the sledge to beat the mount out of the bracket. One of the mounts came out in two pieces, the shell was so solidly seized to the mount that I literally beat the center out of it. The king pin makes a great punch for driving out the reminant shell. Also great for seating the new mount in the bracket.

The bushing on the right is the original. Notice the silvery color. On close examination it appears that the aluminum of the control arm has actually imbedded particles into the rubber, giving the bushing that aluminum sheen. Likely the source of the low speed moan/groan I had.

You can actually see the wear from the constant rubbing of the sway bar bushings. The center line on the old arm was actually worn to a rounded hump, while the new one has a squared off ridge.

New control arm installed and hanging free, bolts are only finger tight until the wheels are on and the car is on the ground. Once the suspension is loaded, then the attachments are tightened to spec.

Steering knuckle back from the shop. New ball joints in and all cleaned up. Didn't even get dirty installing the spindles.

I should have taken a before shot for comparison.

A couple tips I picked up on along the way. Lube the sway bar bushings using a urethane bushing lube. I was also advised to use a little anti-seize on the guide rod mounts, see as how the old ones had rusted up so bad it sounds like a good idea. Good idea to check the torque on the steering box bolts while the left wheel is out of the picture. All three are easily accessed. Per Steve Brotherton; don't clean out the mount seat on the bearing bracket too good, the mount needs to fit tightly - the bracket is aluminum and by over cleaning you could change the dimensions.

I went for my alignment this morning. I got pretty dang close with my trusty tape measure. The left side I had all within specs and the right side I was one tenth of a degree out of the max range on the caster. On the cross camber I was two tenths of a degree out on the low side (-0.5* range [-0.3* 0.3*]), cross caster I was dead on.

My total cost, including alignment was just about $520. I logged about 60 miles today, just driving around enjoying the new ride from the front suspension. I said it before, I was really surprised at how badly everything was worn, yet the car drove so nice.

A couple things I noticed that could be good early warning signs. The worn front suspension parts did transmit road noise. I noticed the same thing with the front sub-mounts on the 4.5. A little wandering on grooved pavement. I had it, but wrote it off to the wider than stock Yokohamas - no wandering after the work. The "gahdunk", dead give away of guide rod mounts, a well documented sound.

I have discussed the job daily with Thomaspin. He will be doing the same job soon. Betcha dollars to doughnuts it'll be laid out much better than I have.
Mike Tangas
'73 280SEL 4.5 (9/72)- RIP
Only 8,173 units built from 5/71 thru 11/72

'02 CLK320 Cabriolet - wifey's mid-life crisis

2012 VW Jetta Sportwagon least its a diesel

Non illegitemae carborundum.
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