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Thread: DIY LCA's and Tie Rod replacement.

  1. #1
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    DIY LCA's and Tie Rod replacement.

    Well I finally got around to writing this DIY, just havenít had the energy lately. I know there are a couple DIYís out there on the replacement of the Lower Control Arms but I did not see any that talked about total replacement or replacement of the tie rods as well. So I figured id add my story to the board and hopefully it will help others that are debating doing this job themselves. Just want to say thanks to Tommy R and his write up helped me out a lot. Check it out if you havenít read it as well.
    First you will need to collect a few things in order to get this job done. By the way I found this job to be time consuming but nowhere near as bad as the RTAB that I did about a month ago if anybody read about that DIY. Any way the job is very do able as long as you have a few of the right common day tool.
    K quick list of things youíre going to need. Socket set with assortment of metric sockets, a box end wrench set metric size that goes up to at least 22 mm. If I recall correctly you need a 22mm to get on the main ball joint that is hooked to the cross member of the car. Pickle fork is a must canít do this job without it. Sears has a great little set for 40 bucks by lisle I think canít remember the name comes with three forks and two rods that thread into the forks one for use with a hammer and the other an air hammer. Third not 100% needed but by far the best way to remove the bushings is an air hammer. They are cheap and well worth the extra 30 bucks. Just run to home depot and get a little husky. Get some bits for it too flat chisel tip. Hand held hack saw is all you need to cut the bushings out with, and lastly a six pack of your favorite beer. You will need all of them bout half way into the job. Lastly youíre going to need new control arms and control arm bushings. And if youíre doing the tie rods your going to need new tie rods and a thing 32mm wrench to get the inner tie rods off of the steering rack.

  2. #2
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    Okay lets get started First you need to jack the front end of the car up so that its up in the air and securely supported on jack stands. After you have this accomplished take the wheels off of both sides. Now you can see brake rotors and all the inner workings of the front suspension. The first step in the replacement is to remove both of the lower control arms and the tie rods from the spindles that remain attached to each strut.
    The removal process of the control arms is fairly straight forward but I did find it to be a bit of work and took a good hour and half to do both sides. The first step is just spin the nut off of the outside ball joint the center ball joint and take out the two bolts on the lolly pop that is holding the control arm bushing. By now you have probably noticed that the ball joints both outer and center stay right where they are even though the nuts have been taken off of them. This is where the use of the pickle for comes in.
    Take your pickle for and insert it between the control arm and the spindle and just hammer it straight in allowing the fork to separate the ball joint from the spindle by way of using the wedge that is built into it. DO NOT use the fork as a lever and try to pry them apart it will end up bending the fork and you will have ruined your tool and be stuck with a project that is half way done and no tool to finish it. The fork works on the mechanical advantage gained from the use of the wedge. Just pound it straight in with a big hammer. Mine took a crap load of pounding till they finally popped out. You will destroy the rubber booties that are around the ball joints but this is okay because the new control arm has new boots around the ball joints. After a bit of pounding and perhaps attacking the joint from different angles the ball joint will separate from the spindle and you will be done with the outer ball joint. The center ball joint is pretty much the same deal just put the fork between the ball joint and the cross member and go to town on it till they finally separate apart. This one took a while on both sides as well and I came in at it from a couple of different directions till finally it decided to separate. Oh one last thing there are two links that hook the sway bars to the control arms just undo the brackets that hook to the control arms and thatís all I did and left the rest attached and just pushed the sway bar up and out of the way.
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  3. #3
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    After you get the arms separated you have done pretty close to the worst part of the job I think. Now these next few steps can be skipped if you donít intend on doing your tie rods as well and you are just replacing the control arms on your car. The tie rods are held onto the steering knuckle by a ball joint very similar to the control arms. In fact we have to take the tie rods off in the very same fashion that we did the control arms. Spin the nut off and use the pickle fork to separate the tie rod from the steering knuckle. These are no where near as bad to get off though as the control arms were because they donít see the kind of force the control arms do. After you get the outer tie rod ball joints off it will be time to move on to the inner tie rods which are hooked to the steering rack
    There are two rubber booties that protect the steering rack from road grime and what have you, they are held onto the steering rack and tie rod by these metal clamps that are crimped on. I just used a small flat head screw drive inserted it in the crimped portion and twisted it to spread the crimp out a bit which allows you to unhook the clamp and remove it from the rubber boots. DO this for all four. Then pull back the boot on the steering rack side and you will see a nut with the inner ball joint hooked to it and the other end is threaded onto the steering rack. This is the part that you need to remove. You will also note that there is a ring that has a tab bent down against one of the hex sides of the nut. This tab will need to be bent up and straighten before you can remove the nut from the steering rack. Just use a pair of pliers and bend the tab up so its straight and it will allow the nut to spin off. This ring is a safety that makes sure the nut will not unthread just incase it comes loose. Sure would be horrible to have your tie rod fly off and you lose all steering control!!!
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  4. #4
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    Pic of the screw drive seperating the clamp.
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  5. #5
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    Now is the time when you are going to need that thin 32mm wrench. There are a few ways to go about doing this wrench. I personally just made one out of a 1 inch wrench for 7 dollars at sears. I then put it on the mill and milled it out to 32 mm and planed it down so it would be thin enough to fit in the space between the steering rack and the nut. But ive heard you can go to a bike shop and get yourself a wrench that is pretty much just the right tool for this job. I opted to make my own cause I have a mill and it was a lot cheaper this way. Any way just put your wrench on the nut and spin them off. Now remove the whole tie rod from under the car.
    After you have the tie rod out from under the car measure how long they are and try to get the measurements as accurate as possible. Now take the new tie rods that are going in and measure them and thread each one out to the as close to the same length as the original ones, then tighten up the lock nuts on both so they donít move around. By doing this you will get your car pretty close to back to normal when you put it all back together. This crude alignment will be close enough to get you to the tire shop and have an alignment done the next morning or afternoon depending on when you tackle this job. I tend to do them all late at night and they run into early morning (3AM).
    Okay now you are ready to put the new tie rods on the car. First take the rubber boot and slide it over the ring that is on the new tie rod that holds the outer portion of the rubber boot. Then take the safety ring that was on the steering rack that you had to bend the tab up on and make sure itís slid over the threaded part of the steering rack with the little notch that fits into the steering rack that locks it in place. Now thread the nut onto the threaded rod of the steering rack and tighten it up with your wrench. Make sure that lock ring though stays seated in the proper position and the little metal tab is locked in its notch. I did not torque these but just tightened them up so they were good and snug. Be careful not to over tighten I am sure you could break something. After they are tight tap the lock ring back down so a tab is pressed against one of the hex faces of the nut so it cant spin off if it comes lose. Now youíre almost done with the tie rods. Slide the rubber boots over the steering rack and then I just used zip ties to hold them on there securely in place of the metal clamps that were there. I am still looking into replacing the original crimped on metal clamps. The outer tie rods should just be hanging and I did not bother to put them on until I was ready to put the outer control arms on. But if your not doing the control arms just simply put the stud of the ball joint through the steering knuckle and put the lock nut on the other side tighten up to the torque specs in the Haynes or Bentley manual and youíre all done.
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  6. #6
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    <o:p> </o:p>
    Now back to the control arms, the only part that you are going to need to save off of the old control arms are the lolly pops that hold the control arm bushings. To remove the lollypops just simply take your hand held hack saw and cut the tabs of rubber that are holding the center hole to the rest of the bushing.
    <o:p> </o:p>
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  7. #7
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    The bushing cut out of the lolly pop.
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  8. #8
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    Now comes the fun part you need to remove the old bushing from the lolly pop itself. I took a quick measurement of where the bushing sat in the lolly pop first with a pair of calipers. The bushings are easiest removed if you use an air hammer. Simply lock the lolly pop into a vice and then take your flat head chisel and put the corner on the edge of the old bushing. Pull the trigger and bend the metal in. Keep bending the metal toward the center of until the bushing is about ready to just pop out of the lolly pop. I like this method because it doesnít damage the lolly pop at all and is very fast. I got both of the bushings out in about a minute each. Itís actually kind of fun because itís like a hand held jack hammer.
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  9. #9
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    Where to place the air hammer chisel.
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  10. #10
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    how the bushing bends.
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  11. #11
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    Now its time to put the new bushings into the lolly pops. You need to fist line up the arrow on the lolly pop with the two rectangles on the bushing. After you line them up simply put them into the vice and start pressing the bushing into the lolly pop. It goes pretty easy after you get it started. Just press it in till it is flush with the back of the lolly pop. Now you are going to need a spacer of some sort to move the lolly pop away from the back of the vice. I just used two piece of scrap steel, but pretty much anything will work as long as it allows the bushing to move by it and can support the lolly pop under load. Press the bushing through the lolly pop and stop when the bushing is centered. I just checked the center point by that measurement I took with my calipers before I started. After you get the new bushings pressed in your pretty much ready to start reassembly of the control arms.
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  12. #12
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    Measuring bushing depth for center.
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  13. #13
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    The first thing I did was set out the new control arms on the floor and put the bushing the way they should be when they are on the control arms and mounted in the car. This allowed me to make sure all the parts were going to the right pieces when I put it all together in haste. You donít want to get the left bushing on the right control arm or visa versa.
    After I had it all figured out I just took some dish soap and lubed up the hole in the bushing and the peg on the control arm really well. I let the soap sit for about 5 minutes in the bushing then added some more. I then took the control arm put it in the vise and just wiggled the bushing onto the arm and slipped it over the peg all the way down till it wouldnít slide any more and was against the control arm. After the bushings are on the control arms they rotate very easily which means the soap is doing its job. Now its time to put the arms on quickly and get the car back on the ground. You want to try and get the car back on the ground in about 30 -45 minutes so that the bushings donít set up and then when you drop the car there is preload. If its taking you a bit longer just rotate the bushings around a few times every 5-10 minutes that will keep them from getting to set up on the peg and buy you some more time.
    Assembly of the control arms is pretty much the reverse procedure of disassembly minus the pickle for. I used the old nuts and just put thread locker in them figured it would be just as secure as new nuts since I forgot to buy new nuts from the dealer. Oh well ill let you know if anything flyís off in the next 50 thousand miles The center ball joint you will notice the whole stud will start to spin when the nut gets down the thread a ways. This was really frustrating to me but im going to tell you how I got around it. Take a floor jack and put it up under the ball joint and press it into the hole the stud will stop spinning and you can just tighten up the nut. The outside ball joint you can use an allen wrench to hold the stud while you tighten up the nut. Donít ask me why they didnít do this for the center ones too? OH well whatever. I had to unbolt the two lower bolts on the strut and hinge the spindle up a bit to get the outer ball joints in . Then just torque the nuts down to spec and youíre all done. Put the tie rods on before you drop the car back down after you get both sides done drop the car back down the roll it back and forth a few feet to make sure the arms settle into their normal position and leave it for about 8 hours.
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  14. #14
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    Thatís pretty much it now youíre all done, make sure you get the front end aligned before you drive it very far or you will eat up your tires like crazy because your toe will be all messed up. The whole job probably took me about 6 hours just cause of the various little problems I ran into. It put it all back together though in about an hour. The key is just making sure the bushings donít set up, so to prevent this I just moved them around every 5-10 minutes to keep them from setting up. The job is a pain but is not nearly as bad as the rear trailing arm bushings. If you have any questions feel free to ask them and good luck with the job.

  15. #15
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    Awesome, I messed up and did one lolypop backwards, and then one of my LCAB bolt heads snapped off... That really sucked.

    Any more pictures of the tie-rods? You took pictures with the boots still on!!!! I already know what they look like now :P

    Nice writeup

  16. #16
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    Very nice write up. I need to do mine soon but do you know where I can just buy new lollipop with brushing?
    ///M3COSMOS

  17. #17
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    Um not to sure on just the lolly pops with the bushiings already installed. They are pretty easy to press in though. Um yeah the tie rods I wanted to get some more pics of but my hands were all dirty and I dident stop and take pics. Sorry was taking me forever to just stop and wash my hands and take the pics that I did. Tried to explain it as best I could though. Its pretty simple inside there is just two threaded rods on either side of the steering rack that the tie rods are threaded onto. YOu undo them and your done put the new ones on tighten em up and your done.

  18. #18
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    Ok well simple enough :P I'll try to post pics when I do them.

    Can you post the tightening specs for us that are too cheep\lazy to get a bently?

  19. #19
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    Ill do better ill give you the bentley

  20. #20
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    great DIY. gonna tackle this next month. Some people have suggested to use RTV sealant instead of dish soap. any thoughts?

  21. #21
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    Im sure you could. I found the dishsoap to work very well though. The hardest part is starting the bushing on the peg but after it goes, it really goes and is really easy to move around. SLick as snot as they say. And the Dish soap drys out which is waht you want. I thought it worked great but you could give the other a try and report back what you think of it when you do the job.

  22. #22
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    Hey leedawg, nice writeup, will be using it soon.

    Do you have to change the bushings whenever you go from stock to lowering springs or vice versa? I ask because of the bushing preload, it seems to me that the control arm will sit differently than the stock set-up and so there would be some twist there after the swap.

    Will be putting on a lowered suspension on my '92 but may take it off if to put it on my '94 once I fix it.

    Thanks and keep up the good work!

  23. #23
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    oh yeah, and merry christmas to all!

  24. #24
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    Thank you Leedawg!! This will really help me out next week when I do all this on my car.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for the Merry Christmas Um good point Martin no you woudlent have to change them they might just make the bushing wear out sooner. THe preloading is just a measure taken so that the bushing dosent fail prematurly. They are pretty easy to change though if you have to. If you run into any snags feel free to ask though. Thanks for the compliments.

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