Lower Control Arm Howto

writing this up on behalf of Doogie, taken from his forum post around Oct 2011 -- tim

A lot of you with the high mileage cars (+125K) were very curious as to what this would take to rebuild their front end, as lots of you emailed me with “My front ends shakes when I brake also!” emails, and were curious what it would take.

 

The symptoms I had was a severe shudder and what felt like “warped rotors” when braking on my ’01 NB @ 180,000 miles on it. 

Last year I mistakenly R&R’d the front brake system (pads were due) that resulted in no improvement to the “warped rotor” feel.

Earlier this year , I was due for my 2nd  Timing Belt replacement, easily performed by Bruce and his son.  During the TB replacement, Bruce’s son pointed to my driver’s side Control Arm’s rear bushing and showed me a severe crack in the rubber bushing.  He said “This is common at this age, the bushing’s crack, and wobble.  When you come to a stop, it’ll feel like you have warped brakes rotors”

 

Bingo, he nailed it!  Thanks to Bruce and his son for showing me this.

So, I finally got around to ordering the parts I needed.  I decided if I was going to get it apart, I should do the whole job.

 

I got my parts from idparts.com,  I ordered the following:

1 x Ball Joint Left (A4) (a4balljtleft) = $29.95

1 x Ball Joint Right (A4) (a4balljtright) = $29.95

1 x 23mm Sway Bar Bushing and Bracket Set (A4) (meyle_swaybarset_a4) = $20.33

                Swaybar Bracket Bolts

1 x Tie Rod End (A4) Left (a4tierodendl) = $19.95

1 x Tie Rod End (A4) Right (a4tierodendr) = $19.95

2 x Control Arm w/ Bushings (A4) (a4contarwbush) = $146.40

                Hardware Bolts

Basically, both ball joints, both tie rod ends, and both Lower Control Arms with bushing pre-installed.  I don’t have a press, so I decided to just get the LCA’s with the bushings installed. They were only like $20 more (OK, I was feeling lazy J).

All in all, it went very well.  Lessons learned on the passenger side (Thanks Paul for holding that pipe extension!) were carried over to the drivers side, and the driver’s side was completed in half the time (Thanks Tim for taking all the pics!).  All in all, about 2 hours for the passenger side, and only 1 hour for the drivers side. Oh yeah, find a 7mm Allen to remove the brakes…(yeah, 2 trips to the hardware store for these L)

Couple lessons learned:

CLEAN THE THREADS OF THE TIE-ROD ENDS BEFORE ATTEMPTING TO UNSCREW THE TIE-RID NUT!

I didn’t do that on the first one, and got it stuck halfway out, resulting in having to use a wiz-wheel to cut it off) Use a wire wheel or brush to clean the threads, then throw a little oil (WD-40, whatever..) on the threads.  Waayy easier!!!

Get a “pickle fork” (Ball joint separator)  Cost me $9.99 @ O’Reilley’s Auto Parts.  Smack it HARD with the hammer.  You’re replacing the ball joints/Tie-Rod ends…so don’t worry about ruining them!

 

The old control arm has 4 bolts holding it on.  That’s right, only 4 bolts.  The front Bolt screws into the frame, so is well protected (mine came out very easily). 

The rear bolt and nut are very easy to remove. (I used an impact wrench – a simple ratchet works fine also)  Look right above the impact wrench, you can see where the bushing is cracked and basically useless)

The 3rd mounting point is the Ball joint (leave the ball joint attached to the Control Arm, you’ll be replacing the whole thing).  Remove the single bolt that holds the Ball joint to the hub assembly.  Use the pickle fork to separate the two.  Lastly, the Control Arm attaches to the Sway bar with one bolt.  Very easy to remove.

The Ball joint and Tie-Rods can “spin” when trying to remove them.  You can hold them using a Torx-wrench and an open-end wrench to loosen them.  It’s also useful to hold the ball joints/Tie-Rods when tightening them down!

 

 

The new ball joints have to be assembled to the new control Arms.  Super simple to do, pay attention to Right and Left.  The 3 bolts get torqued down to 20 Ft/lbs, then turned another 90 degrees.  I like to use lock-tight on this stuff.  I figure if I’m doing this again in another 125K miles, I’ll go ahead and spring for another control arm! J  Once it’s ready, it’s literally 4 bolts to get it back together. (Trust me, the second side goes back together much faster now that you are an ‘expert’ J

 

WHAT A DIFFERENCE!!!  WOW!! WOW!!! WOW!!

No longer does the front end shake during braking!  On the highway it’s such a noticeable difference I find myself wondering what was wrong J! It’s that’s radical!  It’s a pleasure to drive now.  Thursday I drove from Cincinnati to Celina (2 hours each way) and found it very very nice!

I love the smoothness of it.  I am forever grateful as always to Bruce and Eric for showing me what was wrong, and for the GTG gang for coming out to help and assist.  I know of at least 2 members now , Paul and Tim, that are ready to do their front ends.  So, for about $250, you can get your handling back to where it should be, and get the front end from shuddering whenever you stop.  It’s like a new car gang.

I am more than willing to host another GTG to do front end suspensions if club members want to.  I want to thank Bruce and Eric for pointing out the issue, and from the GTG, special thanks to Tim and Paul for really getting dirty on my car!  (OK, let’s put a pic of them during a break right about here: 

(can you ID the car behind Tim? )

..and lastly thanks to the CinciTDi club for offering to cover the pizza just like the GTG @ DubWerx last year!

So, get your rattle traps fixed by R&R’ing the Front end bushings..it was seriously easy!

Thanks!

Doogie