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post #1 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 02:46 PM Thread Starter
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Simple question...

(Simple questions)

Okay,so I'm getting those familiar knocks on the front left and I took it to a good front end alignment shop and they wanted over 1300 dollars to replace the lower and upper control arms and a couple of strut bushings JUST on the left side.That's obviously parts and labor. I'm in a quandary in that I refuse to get rid of my Thunderbird,but it's also at an age where I refuse to pay that much.

Okay,so I've decided to tackle it myself although I've always had palpitations about doing such important work -- it deals with steering after all,right?

I want to tackle the upper and lower control arms first since they appear the easiest and once I shut down my desktop here,I am gathering my tools and heading to a local bone yard today to take one apart just to see if they do come apart as easily as they do on Youtube.

Any tips on either taking them apart or putting them back on? Caveats?

Do all stock MN12s regardless of year utilize the same bolts,specs,parts,etc? Any brand I should stay away from?

Thank you guys,once again. You've always come through.

"The truth is,everyone is going to hurt you.You just got to find the ones worth suffering for." Bob Marley
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post #2 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 03:44 PM Thread Starter
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...I was just measuring bolt and nut sizes before I leave,and wow,does that upper arm area give very little room to work the bolts and nuts in. My torque wrench will hopefully fit in there.

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post #3 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 04:47 PM
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$1300? sweet baby jesus!

I just ordered upper control arms, lower control arms, inner tie rods, outer tie rods, and strut rod bushings, both side for $350. Then figure about another $100 for an alignment (estimating VERY high).

I have chosen to pay a mechanic to do mine (just charging labor, I supply the parts), but if I remember correctly the upper control arm should use a 18mm ratcheting wrench.

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post #4 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 06:15 PM
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Here's a hint on installing the uppers.

Before you connect the ball joint to the spindle, pull the upper control arm level and then torque the control arm to subframe bolts.

That way, it'll already be at the right angle when you set the car down.

For the bottom ones, don't get them too tight until you jounce the car a couple of times when it's sitting on the tires.

RwP

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post #5 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 07:22 PM
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* I remember that even with a CA car (aka no rust), separating the UCA's ball joint from the spindle took a fair amount of persuasion with a BFH + fork tool I rented from Autozone. That's also after spraying a penetrant (I use PB blaster but WD40 would do in a pinch).

* I purchased DORMAN UCAs b/c I was budget constrained and my tbird is a track only car that sees use for 14-18 hrs a year. I haven't had any issues from them so far. For a DD tbird though, I would spend a few more bucks buy a better brand -- say MOOG.
Find the part # on rockauto and after 5% discount + shipping compare the price to amazon. Sometimes, Amazon will save you money b/c of the free shipping.

* I do remember getting the upper bolts off the UCA was tight on one side -- I think it was the driver's side because of the brake booster. IIRC I managed to do so with a 72T ratchet (so only 5 degrees of movement was needed to loosen/tighten), the socket, and a cheater bar (length of pipe put over the ratchet)

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post #6 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 07:30 PM Thread Starter
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Just got done after a late start. I found a '95 to take apart.

What I immediately discovered was that the suspension is under a lot of tension -- Is there one particular part or bolt that I should remove first to lessen this tension and make removal easier? Will putting a jack on any particular area/part lessen the tension?

I also discovered that all three fastening points on the upper control arm weren't tight at all.Is this due to use? What are the torque specs on these upper arm bolts? I will have my full arsenal of tools when I do it at home, because I barely got in with a socket under the booster.

I loosen what I could,including removing the caliper and the strut assembly.

Okay, I'm heading home,but I might also stop at Harbor Freight for wrenches I might need.

...The one that has me scratching my head, is the little link bolted on to the spindle and connected to the sway bar,I believe. After removing both bolts, I expected it to fall out. It did not,even with me whacking it with a ball peen hammer.

Last edited by FranklinMint; 06-09-2015 at 10:49 PM.
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post #7 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-09-2015, 11:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks,Ralph and S4gunn for your input.Much appreciated.

Ralph,I'm kind of confused on your tip about having the upper control arm level. I'm going to try to return tomorrow or Thursday with the right sockets,etc,so maybe I'll get what you mean then,but can't one just assemble everything first,and then tighten it all down? I don't get the level part given the upper control arm operates in a hinge like fashion.Come again?

Questions:

Okay,so since I can decipher three separate strut rod bushings (this service manager wrote like a doctor btw) as parts that are needed,what do I use? I just read the sticky thread on parts,and the coveted OEM bushings are no longer available.

The stabilizer sway bar link on mine is shot.I can twist it easily with my hand. The T-bird I worked on today at the bone yard had nice straight sealed ones,while mine have an "S" shape to them. If I understood a thread on them here,the straight ones are the original,but there can be some brake line clearance issues. Which type works better,and does brand matter on these?

Okay,so which bushing and which sway bar link?

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Last edited by FranklinMint; 06-09-2015 at 11:32 PM.
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post #8 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 12:12 AM
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I would not even ATTEMPT to change the upper control arms without a ratcheting, closed-end 18mm wrench (I THINK that's the right size, If I remember correctly) - it'll make the job MUCH easier! I changed mine about 5 years ago, and it really wasn't difficult. If I recall correctly, I took that big, square wire harness connector, the one right by the A/C accumulator/drier, apart (removed the bolt and separated it into it's two halves); it made gaining access to the rear bolt on the passenger-side UCA MUCH easier.

My T-Bird was an Ohio car (at least, for part of it's life; it originally came from North Carolina), but I don't remember having any trouble separating the UCA's from the spindle. All it took was a couple of whacks with a good size hammer.

I tried changing my front sway-bar end-links about 6 years ago, right after I bought the car (they were shot SO bad, the car sounded as if the front suspension was about to fall off the car, every time I went over a bump!), but I couldn't get them to budge, either. I think maybe you need to use some kind of a puller to remove them. I had a shop install them for me, along with new KYB struts and new front coil springs (one of them, unknown to me, was broken). Both the springs and sway-bar end-links I had installed were Moog. I wasn't happy with the Moog springs (the front-end of my car "bobbed" up and down too much over dips on the highway), so I ended-up buying and installing Vogtland 3/4" drop springs (MUCH happier with those), but in over 6 years, I haven't had one, single problem with the Moog sway-bar end-links. I'd definitely go with those.

Good luck.

Last edited by dmw_4814; 06-10-2015 at 12:21 AM.
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post #9 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 12:44 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you very much,DMW.

Oh,shoot. You've scared me on those stabilizer sway bar links. Ha-ha. The T-bird's links at the bone yard today had a frozen feel to them and the hole for them seemed very,very tight. I couldn't get them to budge on either end. I hope I won't require a puller of any type to remove them.

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post #10 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 09:01 AM
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Don't over-tighten the sway bar end links. I stripped the threads on one, and next time I changed it I needed a cut-off wheel to cut it in half.

On that same subject, the new end link on that side is a greasable one. First time I have seen one that wasn't sealed. I got that one from Advance Auto. I want to say it was a Moog, but not 100% sure.

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post #11 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 09:27 AM
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I replaced my bar links with Raybestos Professional Grade parts. The studs have a recess for an allen key, which makes tightening them much easier. I used a ratcheting box-end on the locknut, while holding the stud to keep from spinning.

At $50 per side, this is the most I have ever spent on bar links. Must be the little ball-joints.

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post #12 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 10:19 AM
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"Ralph,I'm kind of confused on your tip about having the upper control arm level. I'm going to try to return tomorrow or Thursday with the right sockets,etc,so maybe I'll get what you mean then,but can't one just assemble everything first,and then tighten it all down? I don't get the level part given the upper control arm operates in a hinge like fashion.Come again?"

The reason for getting the arms positioned properly before tightening upon reassembly is to keep from twisting the bushing. This is a procedure for any A-arm suspension. If the bushing is tightened on while the arm is fully extended, the bushing behaves like a little torsion bar and can alter the ride height and feel along with being at risk for early destruction from the twisting force.

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post #13 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 12:56 PM Thread Starter
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Ralph,Weskan:

So I basically want to tighten down the single nut at the top of the spindle with the spindle tip meeting the UCA at a 90 degree angle?
...I think I'm having trouble understanding this assembly tip because I'm thinking that tip,or area,where that bolt is located pivots,so why would it make a difference? I apologize for my ignorance and inability to grasp it. Please tell me the best way to assemble that particular part. What gets tightened first,etc? A Motorcraft upper arm is in route.
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post #14 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 01:02 PM
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No, the spindle to UCA bolt makes no difference, there's no bushing in it. The UCA to shock tower pivots are where the bushings are and those should be tightened with the arm positioned in it's resting place when the car is on the ground.

-Matt
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post #15 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 01:39 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you XR7. I will definitely go today and play with the right front assembly,which is still together,and try to visualize how it operates under the weight of the car.

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post #16 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 04:01 PM
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As Matt (XR7-4.6) said, it's the bushings from the control arm to the subframe, NOT the ball joint.

The rubber has a big of "give" to it, but you want it neutral when you torque the bolts down so that it gives just as much top and bottom. Otherwise, it's not where it belongs, and the ride quality can suffer.

As to the "tension" on it - if you pull the lower shock bolt, it can unload the pressure on the rest of the suspension. That's another point to not tighten until it's on the ground (or driven back up on ramps!) so that it also doesn't bind on you.

For the shock and spring, for someone getting started, I'd recommend the Monroe SensaTrac "Quick Strut" (yah, it's not a strut. Technically, the hydraulic units aren't shock absorbers either, but are dampeners.) so that you can avoid THAT battle.

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post #17 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 06:41 PM Thread Starter
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First off,let me take a second to thank all of you for your knowledge and advice at this point. Thank you all very much! It's one thing to be asking for throttle body cleaning advice on how best to clean it,or how to remove a door panel,etc, but when dealing with brakes or suspension issues,I don't want endanger myself,any of my passengers,or any nearby motorists sharing the road with me.It's important I understand what I'm being told.

Okay,so when my UCA arrives and I'm ready (I'm also waiting for a new torque wrench since my current one is inadequate for some applications) to install it,I basically want to jack this car up by the lower control arm putting all the pressure there; raise it to where it appears "relaxed",and then have the spindle meet the control arm before tightening it all down,right?

I hope I got it this time.

Thanks,you guys.

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post #18 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 06:56 PM
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NONONONONONONO~~~


Tighten the UCA/subframe bolts BEFORE - BEFORE - I say three times, BEFORE - you attach the spindle!

Or put it back on the ground and tighten it up with the weight of the car on the tires, your choice.

Me? I'm lazy, I'd rather do the UCA bolts without the wheel and tire in the way

RwP

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post #19 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 07:08 PM
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Agreed. a jack under the LCA, while the right idea, does not mimic the geometry of it with the car on the ground with the tire installed. There's extra leverage on the spring from the centerline of the tire vs directly under the spring/LCA.

Make note of where the UCA is at rest before you jack up the car and begin any work(measure the distance between the top of the ball joint and the unibody rail) and simply put the new one in that position when you torque it. THEN reassemble it to the spindle

-Matt
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post #20 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 07:17 PM Thread Starter
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Oops,I just saw your new post,XR7.Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RalphP View Post
NONONONONONONO~~~


Tighten the UCA/subframe bolts BEFORE - BEFORE - I say three times, BEFORE - you attach the spindle!

Or put it back on the ground and tighten it up with the weight of the car on the tires, your choice.

Me? I'm lazy, I'd rather do the UCA bolts without the wheel and tire in the way

RwP
Okay,so I can put the control arm unit on snugly (Not completely tightened down anywhere iow) on all points,spindle included,lower the car down with its tires on,and then tighten the bolts to the body? Coming back afterward to tighten the spindle bolt to its proper specs?

This is why I'm confused.Though not the very same suspension,this video at 1:12 is where I thought we were at. Isn't lifting the car with the jack placed under the lower control arm achieving the same result as if it were on its tires as your second option mentions? I'm obviously missing something.Grrrrrrr.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wo6P2HyqYEg

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post #21 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 08:11 PM Thread Starter
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Okay,one more time on installing the driver's side upper control arm on a 1997 Thunderbird.Ha-ha.

So,while I still have some daylight left tonight,I should...

* Look under my car's wheel well and see where the damaged upper control arm is at "rest".

* Measure it from some point(s) (I've got calipers somewhere) to see where it has settled at "rest".

* Attach the new one (when it arrives) and make sure it is positioned in the same leveled way.

* Once in the same position,tighten the new UCA at the body to torque specs.

* Once secured by the two bolts at the body,massage the spindle into it and then tighten down to specs. Done with the upper control arm. (Right,he says nervously?)



Is that it???

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post #22 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 08:23 PM
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That's it, save you don't need to measure the old one - put the new one as level as you can (straight out from the body).

At least, that's what the factory service manual says - and it's what I did on my car.

After it's torqued to the shock towers, then you can, as you said, massage the ball joint into the spindle.

As to the "Isn't it the same to jack under the lower control arm?" the answer is no, because of the different angles produced. I've been away from my maths too long to give you the simple answer, but it's basic trig - the thrusts work on the spring a bit different, so it doesn't sit the same.

RwP

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post #23 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 08:30 PM Thread Starter
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Whew! Thank you,Ralph (and everyone else also). I have a feeling the lower CA will be worse,but we'll get to that bridge eventually.

I don't know when my UCA will arrive,and I'm also waiting on a torque wrench and 3/4 inch breaker bar,so I'll keep you posted.

...I looked into the quick struts. Is there a noticeable difference in ride quality? Those should be replaced in pairs,right?

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post #24 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 08:44 PM Thread Starter
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Lovely. Grrrrrrrrrr

I just received an email from the ebay seller of my Motorcraft Upper Control Arm and as they were about to ship it,they noticed the dust boot that meets at the spindle is torn/off on one side. He provided a picture. He's offered a complete refund or $15 off the price.Is this boot that important?

What to do?

Thanks.

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post #25 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-10-2015, 10:17 PM
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Upper control arm and sway bar end links first is how I just did it. Next week was lower control arm, tie rod ends(the worst for wear) and strut rod bushings and brakes and rotors. I did not have to separate any new ball joints to do this.

Most of my new dust covers are sketchy at best and one upper control arm has a disintegrated boot. I might try some kind of magic tape to hold some grease in. Given that the new parts won't have as much protection from salt and dust as original, I'm not sure how long they will last compared to 24 years on the originals.

A guy might try some kind of lube on the bushings if the ball joints are still tight but mobile and skip the cheap parts for a while longer. The bushing fasteners would need removed and retorqued to get back to new stock handling.

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post #26 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 11:54 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gordonm1 View Post
Upper control arm and sway bar end links first is how I just did it. Next week was lower control arm, tie rod ends(the worst for wear) and strut rod bushings and brakes and rotors. I did not have to separate any new ball joints to do this.

Most of my new dust covers are sketchy at best and one upper control arm has a disintegrated boot. I might try some kind of magic tape to hold some grease in. Given that the new parts won't have as much protection from salt and dust as original, I'm not sure how long they will last compared to 24 years on the originals.

A guy might try some kind of lube on the bushings if the ball joints are still tight but mobile and skip the cheap parts for a while longer. The bushing fasteners would need removed and retorqued to get back to new stock handling.
Thanks,Gordon. I'm heading back to the boneyard today right after breakfast.I soaked the sway bar links with PB Blaster so let's see if it made a difference. That part appeared frozen.

My plan is to do the upper control arm first,with the lower control arm being second,though I am tempted to do both at the same time given I'll have the area disassembled and tools scattered everywhere.

I cancelled the Motorcraft part with the bad dust boot and will opt for the Moog K8596 or CK8596.

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post #27 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 04:22 PM Thread Starter
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I'm at the bone yard for the last time. Every nut for the lower control arm came off easily just as it did for the upper CA two days ago (kind of scary actually),with the exception of the big 21mm bolt to the frame. It won't budge. I was particularly interested in that one due to the notching on both sides of it. I wanted to see how it works in terms of alignment.

I did affirm one thing today: PB Blaster works. I believe two days of allowing it to soak into the spindle, permitted me to remove the sway bar link with relative ease today.

...Now I am wondering how best to remove that particular nut and bolt when I do tackle the job? I had no pipe today to play archimedes,so I'll wait to do that at home.Damn.
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post #28 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 06:23 PM
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RobertP sells poly boots for the UCA joints:

http://www.robstireandauto.com/products.html

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post #29 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-11-2015, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
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Good to know,Grog.I cancelled my order for the Motorcraft and I'm going with the Moog.

I took a walk around the Ford section of the bone yard right before I left,and the last row had three "new" MN12 additions ready for dismantle.They had not been touched.These were on concrete also, which would have made my experience a little cleaner.

I did snag a power antenna off one of them just to make the trip more worthwhile.

...That's like the fourth power antenna I've bought for this car.

They use to have two yards a couple of miles apart.They kept domestics on one,and foreign cars on the other. Before they consolidated,it was not uncommon to see eight to ten MN-12s in a row,with a few others scattered nearby. Today I counted about eight overall.

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post #30 of 34 (permalink) Old 06-12-2015, 04:48 PM Thread Starter
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Question: Do torque specs vary when dealing with any of the aforementioned suspension parts based on the brand? I can see it happening when putting on an aftermarket new aluminum head,but on very similar steel suspension parts? Does the part have the torque specs with the new item?
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