KongaMan

Recommendations wanted for 1st gen steering/suspension parts

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46 minutes ago, DrP said:

For me this is a timely post: My mechanic suggested I get the following: Inner and outer tie rods. Adjusting sleeves. Center link. Pittman arm and "Idler" arm. Do all these parts come in the kit from CARS? Is there anything else I'll need to rebuild the front end?? Trying to get the car ready for the Reno meet so on a tight schedule. Thanks for any help.

Dunno why you'd need the adjusting sleeves or Pittman arm (do they typically wear out?).  The outer tie rod ends come in the front end kit.  The inners aren't in the kit, nor is the idler arm or center link.  The center link is an animal unto itself.  You'll have time and money tied up in that one.  The inner tie rods aren't cheap either.  You can get Moog outers about anywhere.  The lower ball joints are still available as well.  The center link, upper ball joints, and inner tie rods are the ones that are harder to find.

 

I just called CARS about these parts yesterday.  They said the front end kit drop ships from New Jersey.  A few months ago they said it came from California.  The two aren't necessarily inconsistent, but it is a point of difference.

 

My experience is that if you've got an older car, you can run into a creeping death situation.  That is, you inspect the steering and find that one or two parts are bad, so you replace them.  As soon as they're tightened up, you see a couple of other sloppy parts that didn't show because other pieces were so loose.  Pretty soon, you've made several trips under the car replacing things one at a time, when it would have been far easier to do the whole thing in one shot.  You hate to replace good parts unnecessarily, but your time's worth something, ya know?   IMHO, if you're diving into this, you might as replace all the rubber (LCA bushings, stabilizer bar bushings and links, reaction rod bushings, etc.) while you're at it.  The LCA bushings (and ball joints) ramp up the commitment, though, as you need to tangle with the springs as well if you take them on.

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Last I heard, there were no replacements got the center link.  You'll need to have yours rebuilt.

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1 hour ago, RivNut said:

Last I heard, there were no replacements got the center link.  You'll need to have yours rebuilt.

I keep thinking that if they can rebuild it, you can rebuild it. It's not a mechanically complicated piece.  You might guess that what usually happens is the socket wears and the ball gets loose.  Which means that (theoretically, anyway) you could take off the cap (it's spot-welded on, no?), replace the guts, put the cap back on, and you're good to go.  The trick would be finding the proper replacement parts, preferably ones that don't require any machining.

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7 hours ago, alini said:

I purchased every part for my suspension from CARS except the springs.  I had no problem with them fitting at all and my car drove smooth as silk when done

Thanks Chris. CARS has a "Front End Kit - FEK634D for $365.25 which includes 2 shafts (don't understand what these are) , 2 upper ball joints, 2 lower ball joints, 2 outer tie rod ends, 2 stabilizer link kits (don't understand what these are) and a control arm bumper.

Ready to order but IMPORTANT INFO needed: Kit doesn't seem to include A: Inner tie rod ends OR B: Idler arm OR C:  Pittman arm OR D: The center link OR E: 2 adjusting sleeves. Won't I also need these as well? 

Can someone please advise just exactly what I should order to rebuild the steering assembly? Thanks,

 

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The shafts connect the upper control arms to the frame.  The stabilizer links connect the stabilizer bar to the lower control arm.

 

Do you need those other parts?  Not to be smart, but it depends on if the ones on the car now are bad.  If you just want to replace everything, then, no, the front end kit doesn't have everything you need. 

 

For a complete rebuild of the steering linkage, you need:

- 2 inner tie rods

- 2 outer tie rod ends

- center link

- idler arm

- 2 tie rod adjusting sleeves

 

For the front suspension you need:

- Stabilizer bar bushings

- Stabilizer link kits

- Brake reaction rod bushings

- lower control arm bushings

- upper control arm shafts

- upper control arm bushings

- upper and lower ball joints

- upper and lower control arm bumpers

 

If I may make a general recommendation: get a service manual if you don't have one already.  Read Sections 7 and 8 thoroughly.  Lots of good info and pictures that will explain all of this.

 

The bottom line is that we don't know what your car needs.  Maybe your front end is completely shot and needs everything.  Maybe not.  If you've still got some serviceable components, you can end up spending a lot of unnecessary money in a hurry if you replace stuff willy-nilly.  Look at the list your mechanic gave you: outer tie rod ends ($30 each), inner tie rods ($95 each), center link ($275), pitman arm(?), idler arm ($30), and adjusting sleeves ($15 each).  You're pushing $600 already -- without even touching the rubber parts that are quite likely shot or the ball joints.  You might also have another talk with your mechanic.  When he suggested you get those parts, was he giving you a laundry list or did he diagnose them to be bad?  Because if it's the latter, he said your whole steering system is shot.  And if it's the former, you can possibly save a bunch of money with a more specific evaluation.

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13 hours ago, KongaMan said:

The shafts connect the upper control arms to the frame.  The stabilizer links connect the stabilizer bar to the lower control arm.

 

Do you need those other parts?  Not to be smart, but it depends on if the ones on the car now are bad.  If you just want to replace everything, then, no, the front end kit doesn't have everything you need. 

 

For a complete rebuild of the steering linkage, you need:

- 2 inner tie rods

- 2 outer tie rod ends

- center link

- idler arm

- 2 tie rod adjusting sleeves

 

For the front suspension you need:

- Stabilizer bar bushings

- Stabilizer link kits

- Brake reaction rod bushings

- lower control arm bushings

- upper control arm shafts

- upper control arm bushings

- upper and lower ball joints

- upper and lower control arm bumpers

 

If I may make a general recommendation: get a service manual if you don't have one already.  Read Sections 7 and 8 thoroughly.  Lots of good info and pictures that will explain all of this.

 

The bottom line is that we don't know what your car needs.  Maybe your front end is completely shot and needs everything.  Maybe not.  If you've still got some serviceable components, you can end up spending a lot of unnecessary money in a hurry if you replace stuff willy-nilly.  Look at the list your mechanic gave you: outer tie rod ends ($30 each), inner tie rods ($95 each), center link ($275), pitman arm(?), idler arm ($30), and adjusting sleeves ($15 each).  You're pushing $600 already -- without even touching the rubber parts that are quite likely shot or the ball joints.  You might also have another talk with your mechanic.  When he suggested you get those parts, was he giving you a laundry list or did he diagnose them to be bad?  Because if it's the latter, he said your whole steering system is shot.  And if it's the former, you can possibly save a bunch of money with a more specific evaluation.

 

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Hey all. New to the forum. Picked up a 63 that was lightly customized about 12 years ago. I'm doing lower ca bushings, upper and lower bj's, all tie rod ends and sleeves, springs, shocks (jamco's with a 3" drop) and a Wilwood front disc conversion. Sorry to all the restoration purists. I get it, but I want a bullet proof daily, and someone already molested this one and not in the best way.

 

Upper ball joints are welded in. Took those tacks off with a cutoff wheel. Lower ball joint looks weird to me. It appears as though the bj is almost integrated into the lower control arm. Can anyone enlighten me as to the best way to get those out? I have a bj press, vices, etc. I have a manual. Just looks off to me. Not sure where to shoulder on the pressing (top) side. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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Just press them out.   You might get a clearer view if you pull the boots off so you can see what you're working with. Look carefully, though: when I did mine, one of the lower ball joints was tacked in on the stud side (not like the back side where the uppers were tacked).

 

You sure all these parts are bad?  Most of mine were (all but one upper ball joint), but a lot of these parts can be still serviceable.  I get replacing ball joints because of the hassle involved, but steering parts are easy to revisit later.  Did you check your idler arm and center link?

 

Don't forget: don't tighten the LCA bushings until you have the weight back on the wheels.

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Just press them out.   You might get a clearer view if you pull the boots off so you can see what you're working with. Look carefully, though: when I did mine, one of the lower ball joints was tacked in on the stud side (not like the back side where the uppers were tacked).

 

You sure all these parts are bad?  Most of mine were (all but one upper ball joint), but a lot of these parts can be still serviceable.  I get replacing ball joints because of the hassle involved, but steering parts are easy to revisit later.  Did you check your idler arm and center link?

 

Don't forget: don't tighten the LCA bushings until you have the weight back on the wheels.

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I thought I'd necro this thread to let folks know how things turned out, in case someone finds help, amusement, or a cautionary tale therein...
 
First, I was unable to get any sense of which available parts might be the best, so I ordered a slew of parts so I could do a comparison:  front end kit and idler arm from CARS, front end kit, idler arm, and inner tie rods from Kanter, Rare Parts inner tie rods and upper ball joints from Car Parts Discounts, ACDelco LCA bushings, KYB and Monroe shocks, Moog lower ball joints, Moog outer tie rod ends, and Moog stabilizer bar bushings from Rock Auto, and tie rod adjusting sleeves from the local Autozone (because I forgot to order them elsewhere).  I also ordered new springs from Autozone. I didn't have time get a fitted set from CSS, and these springs were only $32(!) with one of their "20% off and free shipping" promotions.  They couldn't be any worse than what I had, so I rolled the dice.  I figured that whatever I needed, I would have, and what I didn't need would go back.
 
The first step was to see what needed to be replaced.  As it turned out, the answer was almost everything.  The shocks were completely gone (they wouldn't even rebound when compressed).  The steering components looked to be all original parts (with the Saginaw S stamped into the covers), and both outer tie rods, both inner tie rods, and both lower ball joints were shot (as in you hold the shaft and the body flops around).  One upper ball joint seemed OK, one seemed a borderline, and there was some play in the idler arm.  Fortunately, the centerlink looked good.  So, I chose to replace everything and to use one of the front end kits rather than the individual parts I'd ordered. I wasn't entirely comfortable with that decision because of the unknown provenance and quality of the parts, but it would have cost about twice as much to use the ones purchased separately.
 
So, which kit to use?  Not surprisingly, some of the parts were identical: the LCA bushings, UCA bushings, and stabilizer links  looked to be the exact same parts.  I couldn't see any big difference between the ball joints or tie rod ends (or any clues as to where they were made, other than a script D on the cover).  The idler arms, though, were different.  The CARS arm used a ball and socket design, while the Kanter arm used the threaded pivot (like the upper control arms).  I liked the CARS arm better (as there was a little looseness in the Kanter arm right out of the box), so I used the CARS kit.  I should mention that I considered ordering a kit from PST as well, but I got so much attitude from the salesman on the phone that I decided against doing business with them.  I'll also note that some of the CARS parts came in bags marked with part numbers that were identical to the part numbers listed on the PST site.  The CARS kit is drop-shipped from somewhere in NJ, so who knows where these guys are all getting their parts.
 
I decided to use the KYB shocks instead of the Monroes because the Monroes were (IMHO) just too soft.  It took some effort to get the KYBs to compress, but the Monroes would compress with only light pressure, and I wanted something stiffer to get a little firmer ride.
 
The work was straightforward enough: remove the old parts, clean whatever was going back on, get them blasted, paint, and reinstall.  I took the opportunity to clean 50 years of goo off the frame, and to pull and clean the brake components.  The cleaning took longer than the mechanical work. ;)
 
There were a couple of issues when putting everything back together:
-  I discovered that the right lower control arm was different than any other first gen control arm I'd ever seen.  It seemed to be functionally and dimensionally correct, but the "cover" was shaped differently and the ball joint was tacked in rather than being a simple press fit as on the left control arm.  In fact, I had to cut away part of the cover to get the press in so I could install the new ball joint (at least it looks almost like the other arm now).  This control arm had been replaced ~40 years ago; I have no idea what was used or where it came from.
- The angled zerk fittings on the ball joints were problematic.  I just lined up the cotter pin holes front to back and pressed the ball joints in without giving any thought to the fittings.  Most zerk fittings have a taper fit: tighten them until they're snug, then you have some leeway to turn them until they're pointed where you want them.  Not these: they didn't tighten up until they were bottomed out.  And they bottomed out with the fittings pointed into the brake backing plate.  WTF?  There's no way you'd ever get a grease gun on them, so I had to put washers under them so that when they tightened up they were pointing in a accessible direction.  That kind of inattention to detail made me a bit uncomfortable about the level of care and competence assembling the internals.
- The adjusters from Autozone were crappy: flimsy, and with metric nuts.
- I wanted to use the Rare Parts inner control arms -- until I ran into a problem with them.  Specifically, the two arms weren't identical.  One was a Moog part, the other something else.  And that something else was something else entirely: the taper didn't fit the centerlink, and it had metric threads.  I called Rare Parts to ask about this.  I came away with a completely different understanding of their business.  First, much of what they do is reselling parts they acquired through overstocks, closeouts, etc.    You buy a part from them, you might be getting a part from Moog, McQuay-Norris, TRW, etc.  Or you might be getting a part that they've refurbed.  If you get a Diamond Series part, you're getting something they've worked on.  If you order two of the same part, they try to send you two identical parts (e.g. two Moog, two TRW, etc.).  It's kind of a crap shoot, and you won't know what you're getting until you open the box.  In my case, their answer was that I must have received a part that had been refurbed with the wrong components. In any event, I couldn't use those inner tie rods, so I used the ones from Kanter instead.  Even at that, the Kanter parts had different threads than the original parts.
 
Those issues notwithstanding, everything went together smoothly.  I used some thick fender washers over the short arms on the KYB shocks, and I needed to use ratchet straps to pull the control arms into position to attach the reaction rods after installing new bushings.
 
When I installed the upper control arms, I moved all the shims from the front to the back.  I figured this would give me as much caster as possible, which I want because I've installed radials.  I also cheated on the initial positioning of the shafts.  The manual says to center the shaft in the control arm.  I didn't do that; I centered it, then gave it an extra spin towards the rear.  According to rough calculations based on the thread pitch on the shaft and dimensions of these parts, that should provide an extra degree of positive caster.
 
Everything's clean and tight, and with the new shocks and springs the front end is 2" higher (which is right where I wanted it).  I gave it a hillbilly alignment (it goes straight when the steering wheel is level) and took it for a spin.  It certainly seemed to track better, and there was noticeably less play.  I didn't take it in for a real alignment because I ran out of time, and I want replace those adjusting sleeves and see if I can get the scoop on the control arm before throwing $100 at it that I might have to redo.  It will be interesting to see if those upper control arm changes give the extra caster I'm after.
 
Pictures:
 
After the brakes are removed and before everything is disassembled (note the chain through the spring).  It looks better now ;).
 
before-removal.jpg.f46abf9401e3df2d45d8bf72cb12c8ba.jpg
 
Kanter idler arm (left) and CARS idler arm (right):
 
idler-arms.jpg.9ec08291f56df12adc75105a757ad9e0.jpg
 
Mysterious right lower control arm after blasting and painting (note that the opening for the stabilizer link is completely enclosed; it's open on most control arms).  You can also see the marks where the ball joint was tacked in:
 
right-control-arm.jpg.76afa18d46152a4ee991269447ab1909.jpg
Edited by KongaMan (see edit history)
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