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Discussion Starter #1
(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.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
...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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$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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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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* 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)

-g
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
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.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
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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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.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
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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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.

Al
 

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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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"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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Discussion Starter #13
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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Discussion Starter #15
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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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.

RwP
 

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Discussion Starter #17
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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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 :diablo:

RwP
 

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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
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Oops,I just saw your new post,XR7.Thanks.

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 :diablo:

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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