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Installing New Front Springs?

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  • Installing New Front Springs?

    I have read several threads here where they talk about shims between the frame and the lower A arm bushing. I don't any shims on either side. I'm not 100% sure where the shims would even go. Also, my lower A arm bushings don't appear to be pressed in all the way. Is this normal? How would I check the fit to determine if I need to install shims? Also there is a 1/4" round plate on the flat side of the spring (top) that fits between the spring and rubber isolator. Is this normal, or did someone install this to raise the front end?
    I'm also thinking that since I have the front end apart, maybe I should replace the lower bushings. They have been in the car quite a while, but have very few miles on them. I know rubber doesn't care about miles. I've also read about the horror stories of some of the Chinese or India rubber bushings. Anyone had good success with their new bushings.
    Any input would be appreciated. Don't want to tear it apart again.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    yours look fine; there is a raised ridge that stops them from being pressed in further.

    I don't recall any shims being on my car either.

    That plate on top of your springs sounds like someone was being creative in the car's past.

    I believe I bought my front end rebuild kit from Kanter (back in 2010 now) and I have no complaints.

    Maybe the people whose bushings didn't last long were guys who tightened the bolts when the car was still on jack stands; instead of tightening them after the car was back on the ground and at its normal ride height.


    • #3
      Your bushings look fine, Nyles. The tops of your springs should have a RUBBER insulator, not metal. Maybe the reason you found metal is because someone else rebuilt your 'A' arms in the past. This could also explain any missing shims. They need to be there.

      The 'stack' of sheet metal parts is ALWAYS variable, even when consecutive parts are made on the same fixture.

      Different coils of steel have different 'spring-back' and are made from slightly different alloys. I've seen different metal thickness in the SAME coil. Put thousands of blanks in a press and see what comes out over the course of a day or over months. Variation can be huge.

      Since we assemble a car per minute, we must make front and rear frame sub-assemblies even faster. Here's how...

      Ford uses a carrousel (yes, a merry-go-round) of over 50 welding fixtures on wheels, pulled by a chain in a circle. Each fixture is a trunion so it can be rotated. Frame rails, crossmembers and all the detail pieces are loaded, in order, and clamped for welding by hand. When the structure welds are completed, the part is stripped out of the welding fixture and the process starts all over, and over, all day long.

      Welding sheet metal (that already has variation) is never consistent from part to part, even from the same welding fixture. Now, we have fifty fixtures. How on God's earth can we make a car with consistent dimensions? By widening the tolerances and adding shims to fill any variation.

      The Shop Manual instructs us to bolt the bottom 'A' arm to the #2 crossmember, then SHIM the front bolt to fill any gap. It is not uncommon to find different shim stacks on the LH/RH sides.

      Early shims were large squares of mild steel. Later they became round. After fifty years, they commonly rust themselves to the car body and people don't realize they are there because you put the same arm back in the same place.

      Again, you're an Assembler on the line and cars are coming fast. Does it make sense that some lower control arms are so tight, they simply won't fit? You can't stop the line because that is a fire-able offense called, 'interfering with production'. No, every Ford model used shims and they don't take a minute for the guy to insert. Then, all cars' suspensions are the same because they all butt against the #2 crossmember.

      I keep talking about the #2 crossmember because that is where the motor mounts and all dimensions are referenced from. - Dave
      My latest project:
      CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

      "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
      --Lee Iacocca

      From: Royal Oak, Michigan


      • #4
        I loosened everything up and it appears I have about .090" play in the control arm. Guess I'll make some shims unless anyone knows where they can be purchased.
        Thanks for all the info. I did find a couple good threads on this subject also.


        • #5
          The bushings have a ring or 4 nubs to prevent them from going in too far. I've seen some nubs that were not clearly defined (worn die in manufacture?) so be careful pressing them in.
          I had a problem last summer where there would be a loud bang when backing-up ad applying the brakes, another noise when going forward and using the brakes. Turns out the control arm was moving back and forth on the mounting pins. I suspected that the bushing barrels were worn, the control arm was worn, or both. I replaced the arm and was careful to insert the shims which had not been present.

          I only had one Ford shim, but it was easy to match it up from a selection of large washers.
          I have also found large washers above the spring insulator. They are the same OD as the spring coil and the ID is about 3/4" smaller. They do not always fall out so they are somehow retained in the upper spring pocket. Carl
          Attached Files


          • #6
            Originally posted by Tbird1044 View Post
            I loosened everything up and it appears I have about .090" play in the control arm...
            If you can measure ninety thousandths, you need at least .100" shim(s). Here's why:

            The rubber bushings have an inner steel insert, a sleeve with teeth that surround the bolt. When tightened, the teeth mash into the ends, ensuring they will not pivot on the bolt. So, your suspension rotates on rubber, not steel.

            Carl found out that missing shims will allow the bushings to wear. With 0.09" slop, you will too.

            Remember that we're working with rubber. I use a few shims so I can slide the last one in, between the others by simply tapping it in with a hammer. The bushing's inner sleeve will move over but the first time you crank the bolt tight, the teeth will mash a little. This isn't rocket science nor are the tolerances but the final assembly must tighten the bushing against both ends.

            Greg is right about tightening at 'ride level'. So important. Many bushings were tightened when the wheels hung which hyper-twisted the bushings at the first speed bump. I'm sure the ignorant assembler blamed premature failure on cheap rubber bushings as he re-did his work.

            Yes, you can make your shims from mild steel. I like to use steel ~.0.025" thick or one that is 0.050" and two or more skinny ones with a little light oil to help them slide. If memory serves me, the bolt is 7/8" dia. In the past, I wrapped the bolt in Teflon tape to keep water out so rust doesn't start. - Dave
            My latest project:
            CLICK HERE to see my custom hydraulic roller 390 FE build.

            "We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?"
            --Lee Iacocca

            From: Royal Oak, Michigan


            • #7
              Does the large washer that is on the top of the spring go on top of the rubber isolator or between the spring and isolator? I was putting the spacer next to the spring and the isolator on top of the spacer.
              BTW, I was able to get a .125" washer shim in between the front bushing and frame and things seem to be pretty tight. The control arm still seems to move okay. Definitely stiffer than when I took it apart.
              Thanks for all the input guys.
              Anyone found that the front end rides to high with new springs?
              Also, the new springs have the same diameter on the coils, but I do count one more coil on the new springs vs. the ones I removed. Who's to say if the old springs were cut or not.


              • #8
                my front end height didn't seem to change when I put in the new springs; maybe mine weren't bad, but they definitely looked old.


                • #9
                  Well, I got one side done and decided to put the tires back on and put the car back on the ground to see where the car will sit. To my surprise, the car is sitting 3/4" lower on the side with the new spring and seems to have more bounce and compression when I lay on the fender. Since the car was already like driving a boat, I'm hoping the front end isn't a lot softer with the new springs. I'll let you all know when I'm done with the job.


                  • #10
                    Ball Joint Rubber Boots?

                    Does anyone have a source for just the rubber boots for the lower ball joints? I bought a set from Larrys, but they are too small, and most of the sites I can find, that sell the boots, give no dimensions so it's hard to find something that fits. I also bought a set of universal from the auto parts, but I don't feel that they would really work.


                    • #11
                      just looking around, seeing whats going on
                      sigpic"You're never too old to become younger".!(MW)
                      Randy's Save the Bird Foundation
                      In Beautiful Fallbrook California
                      !.This is the Greatest Square on Earth.!


                      • #12
                        You might want to contact Moog directly and / or Energy Suspensions. They may be able to assist you.


                        • #13
                          Get the heavier front sway bar for your car if you don't like the "boat on the water" feel of it. It does help.


                          • #14
                            Thanks Leonard:
                            I did finally find this site which carries Energy Suspension, Daystar, Prothane and Super Pro. The nice thing about this site is that they actually give you dimensions of the dust boots. Very hard to find.
                            The URL is:
                            If anyone needs to replace dust boots, I would say this is a good starting point.


                            • #15
                              There are no shims needed. Only if you have movement.

                              Shop Manual 1960 T-Bird:
                              "..., and install shims as needed to remove fore-and-aft movement, but do not tighten the the retaining bolts.