Disc Brake Project Update – Plumbing Words

A master mechanic I used to know told me once that suspension work is very therapeutic.  “All you need is a big hammer and a bad attitude,” went the bit of wisdom.  Well, I needed my biggest hammer and baddest attitude, along with the longest prybar I could get my hands on and every toxic verbal epithet I could summon – “plumbing words,” as my grandfather would say – in order to free the upper control arm from the frame this week.  Between rusted fasteners and interfering lower steering shaft and power steering lines, I needed everything I had to squeeze the a-arm over its frozen-in-place retaining bolts.  After one final shove, delivered while I was on my knees with my head braced under the wheel well (always use sturdy jackstands, folks), the offending part finally slid out of position and I was able to liberate it from the car.  I won’t say whether I triumphantly spiked it on the garage floor afterward.

Now peacefully resting next to the car.

Up next was finally finishing the shock absorber removal.  Of course, after several sessions with the vice grips, the flattened part of the shaft was now chewed up beyond recognition and the nut wouldn’t turn – power tools were now a necessity.  Being the conscientious father and husband that I am, I decided that 11PM on a Sunday was not the appropriate time to fire up the angle grinder, air compressor, and impact wrench in my attached garage.  That would have to wait until all my girls were awake.

See that little nut at the top of the frame? It's about to meet its maker.

So last night I ducked out into the garage after dinner to thrash on the car some more.  I flipped on the air compressor and plugged in the angle grinder, still equipped with a cutoff wheel from my late-summer foray into floorpan repair.  It made quick work of the shock absorber shaft, and it was fun watching the rubber bushing underneath swell to twice its size and melt from the heat.  With that accomplished, I used the impact wrench to unbolt the lower mount and drop the wasted shock out of the way.  Without really thinking, I moved on to the stabilizer link, not realizing that it was the last bit holding the lower control arm up against the pressure from the coil spring, and forgetting that I had moved the small jack from under the control arm when I was fighting with the steering shaft.  As the nut on stabilizer link reached the end of its bolt, the coil spring suddenly released its remaining tension, pushed the control arm against the floor, and scared the crap out of me – I was out of the way and it was held back by the frame, but that’s not the way to do things.  I’ll certainly remember that when I move over to the passenger side.  On the bright side, I’ve now completely disassembled the suspension on the driver’s side and can order some parts and start reassembly.

It's not as rusty as it looks, I swear.

Interestingly enough, when I removed the spring, the last coil was broken in the pocket.  I’m not sure if that was causing any problems or is the source of the strange grinding sound I occasionally hear when making hard left turns, but I’m glad I went to the trouble of removing it.

To plagiarize myself, those aren't supposed to be separate.

Finally, having now accumulated some reusable fasteners and miscellaneous pieces from disassembling the steering shaft, I decided it was in my best interest to stay organized.  One of the few things I’ve done the “right way.”

Just like in the magazines!

Up next – using an air hammer and chisel to drive out the old control arm bushings and removing the old ball joints. First, I think I might take some time to clean up, now that my garage floor resembles a Superfund site.

I call this "Still Life - Count the Carcinogens."


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