Rebuilding the Front Suspension


Rebuilding the Front Suspension



Sooner or later the front suspension on our 30+ year old cars will need rebuilding. If your mechanically inclined, have basic tools including a floor jack, and have time and patience, you can do it yourself. You'll have to "borrow" some special tools though. Autozone has a loaner tool program and they have most of what you'll need. Caution: This is a difficult, greasy, dirty, time-consuming job, and can be somewhat dangerous. Just be forewarned. Following are the general disassembly steps (without great detail) and some helpful tips. Even if you've done it before, this will help make the job go smoother.
Order of disassembly:

1. Remove tires, shocks, and sway bar.

2. Pop loose (with nut still held by several threads) then remove the tie rods, idler arm, and center link.

3. Pop loose upper ball joints first, then lower, using spring pressure to assist. Leave the nut secured by the thickness of the nut.

4. With a floor jack under the lower A arm and a bolted sturdy chain through the spring and the shock hole (to keep the spring from taking your head off if it tries to come out under compression), separate the upper ball joint first and remove the nut. Leave some slack in the chain since the spring will extend.

5. Support the spindle/brake assy so the rubber brake line isn't stretched.

6. With the jack and chain still in place, remove the lower ball joint nut and lower the jack slowly til the spring is extended. Sometimes a spring compressor is required to remove the spring, sometimes not. If used it should be installed before removing the ball joint nut.

7. Remove upper and lower A arms.

8. Remove ball joints and bushings from A arms.

9. Reassemble in reverse order after replacing parts.

Project tips:

1. It helps a bunch to clean the front susp with degreaser and hose or pressure washer before starting.

2. Don't attempt the project with the engine out of the car. The engine weight helps to compress the springs when reassembling ball joints to spindles.

3. Use tie rod and ball joint "forks" to pop loose same. The gear-puller type of tools don't work well.

4. Use a dedicated ball joint press (available from Autozone) to press in the lower ball joints to A arms.

5. Use the compressed spring pressure (with nut still held by threads the thickness of the nut) to help pop loose ball joints from the spindle.

6. Unless you have a press, have a shop replace the pressed in A arm bushings. If doing yourself, freezing the bushings several hours (to shrink) and/or heating the bushing area of the arm aids in installing new bushings.

When the project is complete, use the DIY alignment method described in another TorqueTalk issue to make it drivable to the alignment shop. Then enjoy your safe and "tight" front suspension.