Rebuilding the front end suspension and replacing bushings
Next on my to-do list is to rebuild the front end. This will entail new ball joints, tie rod ends, all new bushings and new shocks.
I'm wondering if there's anything to watch out for while doing this, especially when installing the springs. I had a heck of a time installing front springs on a '88 Mustang GT last winter.
Also, are there spring isolaters in the front, I can't see any, but that doesn't mean they weren't there to begin with. And what are the options for inner tie rod ends, all the one's I've found seem to be about a $100 or more each.
Infinite, I just went through this, it's actually pretty fun tackling this job and I feel you should be able to do it without issue.
I got my parts from Tee-Bird in PA. http://www.tee-bird.com/
I bought upper and lower ball joints, outer tie rods, idler arm bushing, control arm bushings, sway bar bushings, shocks, new rubber coil isolaters ( i could of re used my old ones ). I like your idea of replacing the INNER rods as well, although they can be a little more expensive as you have mentioned. Typically, inner rods wear LESS than the outer rods, so I reused mine. If it is in your budget however, I would definetly opt to replace them.
It's really not hard at all to do this yourself providing you have a couple floor jacks and jackstands. You do have to follow the shop manual method as it is very informing about the job. Do you have a shop manual handy ? If not I will copy/paste the procedure from mine.
Once i had the upper control arms off, I was able to drill out the massively strong Ford rivets and remove the old worn out upper ball joint. This is a great time to inspect the arm for cracks, abnormalities, etc. I'm not entirely sure of the quality of the ball joints from Tee-Bird outside of they provided all the hardware and grease zerk as you would expect. And they have been great so far. You could potentially sandblast your parts and then paint them if you have access to that which is what I did on my LOWER arms, as I had found small cracks which after sandblasting we welded it back up.
Don't remember the lowers being riveted on, think they were a bolt-on affair. I followed the torque on these.
To lower the coil spring its important you have a good floor jack under the control arm facing the other side of the car, Then you can raise/lower it best.
I didn't really run into any snags during this project, besides forgetting to install the lower control arm shims which I posted about recently. You will find them once you remove your lower control arms and just be sure that you get it shimmed up again good when you go to re install it with the new bushings.
I got some pictures of some of it, im sure others will chime in.
Heres a picture of when I removed the passenger side coil spring. Many of these parts were greasy/dirty and all needed a thorough once over.
As you can see by my position of my jack its real easy this way to control the arm. Make sure your under the notch of the spring pocket.
After you manage the drill the heck out of your original A arms, you can get the new ball joints mounted.
I had some weird cracking on my lower arms which we fixed.
The more room you have to do this job makes it much easier
I'm going to put new front springs in mine, and there are spring isolators (rubber) that go on the top of the springs.
So far I've pieced together most of what I'll need for about $150 on ebay. This does not include inner tie rods and shocks.
Still, this is less than half of what the T-bird vendors are wanting for a "kit" that includes the same parts.
Do I need a shop press to get the control arm bushings installed?
Are there 1 or 2 idler arm bushings required?
try looking at Kanter.com for all of this.
Be aware that some vendors, especially eBay, peddle Chinese parts because the price is much lower. I want to steer you away from buying cheap crap. Use name brand parts whenever you can.
Be selective when buying coil springs and buy them from a reputable spring company because I caution you, many have found this out the hard way. Do the job right so you only need to do it once.
I have a long relationship with Tee-Bird.com (800) 423-3723 in PA. Bill or Ellis know their stuff and are happy to help with any questions. I know, they try their best to offer domestic-made parts with prices are very competitive. Ellis said his bushings are domestic. For awhile, all bushings were made in India.
You need to jack your car high and rest the frame members on jack stands. The body needs to be solid. Before getting under there, give your car a good shake. If it's not solid, make it so.
A spring compressor is NOT needed. As you see in the pictures, the lower control arm must swing all the way down to the floor, so get the body up there. I normally rest the rear wheels on ramps for a good solid base.
The most difficult part is, removing the old bushings after the control arms are out. I use a propane torch (outdoors) to heat the rubber, then it melts right out. What's left is a steel outer shell. I cut a slit from inside the hole with a hacksaw, being careful not to cut the control arm. A slit is enough to relieve any pressure so the shell taps out easily.
I use a 3-4" pipe nipple and a big hammer to drive the new bushings in. The pipe surrounds the bushing and backs-up the control arm as you pound the new bushing in. I have a press but never used it.
Never tighten your control arm bolts until the car sits LEVEL.
Hope this helps. - Dave
I realize the bad reputation ebay parts have, but I have bought 1000's of items on ebay and I am happy with them.
I realize there is a lot of garbage out there being peddled on ebay, so ebay parts get a bad rep. However if you look carefully, you can find the same name brand parts for a fraction of the cost of buying from a parts store. I'm assuming this is because the sellers on ebay do not have employees or rent to pay. So, one can still buy quality parts on ebay and get a great deal. I could not afford to have this car hobby if I had to pay full price for everything I buy.
I think I may need to put the front end on hold for a bit. I pulled the front carpet yesterday and found more rust then I expected. I am now concerned that the rot may go much deeper than I thought and I may be fixing issues on a rotted frame. I'm going to assess the rust first before continuing.
I'll post shortly about the rust.
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