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Old March 2nd, 2006, 05:33 PM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Sanger, TX
Posts: 2,820
Default ( 1/14/08 link to main pics, will be relinked soon)

I have just completed my build-up of a ball joint beam and wanted to share as much detail as I can for all you crazy guys wanting to do the same.
It's narrowed 5.5 inches and includes avis adjusters, new lowered ball joints and nylon sleeve style bearings.

first things first, drop the front end, strip it down completely and do a bit of clean up to reduce the amount of grease and dirt getting all over the place.

Make sure you get many accurate measurements from the beam. overall width, torsion spring protrusion, location of steering stop assembly from center of beam, steering dampener mount, etc etc. This is extremely important so make sure its accurate and complete. Once it is cut in half you won't be able to measure it again:)

Avis adjusters call for removing 2" even out of the center of the beam. I laid out my marks to remove an additional 5.5 inches to narrow the beam allowing for more tire clearance under the fenders. This 5.5" is useful because you won't have to remove very much of the inner fender area from the car to clear the shock towers, and since we will have to move the steering box outward on the beam, this amount allows the pitman arm to still clear the inner left side of the shock tower (see pics later in the post)

I cut the 'steering stop' assembly off the beam as tight to the tubes as possible.

Then I removed the two vertical mounting brackets being as careful as possible not to remove any material from the actual 'tube' of the beam itself. If you look closely you can see I made three straight cuts along each welded area as tight to the beam as possible. Later I will grind this area out to round it over, matching it to the beam often for fit.

next, I used a large diameter pipe cutter to simply mark a nice perfect circle around the upper and lower beams where they will be cut to remove the center sections, and cut em up. The more accurate you are on this cut the better the fit will be later so take your time.

To assist in reassembly I baught some 2" pipe (thin wall) and cut out 4 peices roughly 3" long.

Now we slip these into the upper and lower beam where the cuts were made. This will assist in holding all of the pieces in alignment and serve to protect the torsion springs from welding spatter later.

On to the adjusters. I noticed they came with a 17th generation zerox of pictures for instructions, so I have taken a few pix to show how to assemble and orient them in the beam.

All the peices included in one adjuster (you will need two total)

First we take the center disc section and install the allen head set screw. Note there are two holes, use the expansion slot to orient which one the set screw goes into.

Now carefully clean, degrease and inspect all of the leaf springs. Make sure there are no cracks splits etc.Stack them back up into thier 'assembled' form and slide them into the center section of the adjusters.

Set the adjuster center seciont over the factory set screw dimple in the center of the springs and tighten it just enough to hold them in place. Don't torque them down until final assembly.

Now take this assembly and slide it onto the adjuster sleeve as shown. (mind the orientation)

Add on all the hardware, again dont torque anything down yet, just enough to hold it all together.

Take a minute to clean out the inside of the upper and lower tubes. If you are using new nylon bearing sleeves, take a long peice of the 2" pipe you baught and a hammer to remove the factory pressed in bearings located out near the end of each tube.

And now for a bit of cleanup... grind down and remove all the bumps and paint...

One of these guys works GREAT for all this cleanup...

Now lets do a dry run... take the two spring assemblies and slide them into the two halves of the front beam.

Get a solid accurate measurement of our new overall width of the beam... subtract from your original stock width, divide by two.

Dissasemble, leaving the springs together in thier adjuster assemblies. cut the above amount (in my case it was 2 and 3/8") from each end of each spring assembly. make sure they are clamped together and you make a nice accurate right angle cut. Clamp the new 'end' together and drill your new set screw 'dimple' in each end. Note that these dimples point in different directions at each end of the springs and are left/right specific so be careful and take your time. the torsion arms are a good reference for this step.

Clean ALL the metal shavings out of the springs, and grease em up with fresh lube. I just smear alot of it on the outside, capillary action will suck it down inbetween the spring plates once its on the road again. be liberal.

Re-assemble the springs adjusters and beam halves. I used a peice of angle iron and 2 hose clamps on top and bottom to hold everything into alignment, as well as a cinch strap from left to right to keep everything pulled together.

Align the adjusters pointing straight out from the front of the beam. I opted the rotate them slightly downward for a bit more downward adjustment. Note that the two adjusters should point in towards each other about 5 degrees, just like a stock beam.

Weld the center sections together, make sure you get it deep and solid. This is one weld you do NOT want to break later on.

Clean up and mount the steering box. I took the time to completely disassemble mine, clean it out and smooth off any bumps or nicks on the gearing with a fine metal file. Reasseble with fresh lube and adjust.

Use your previous measurement from cutting the springs to move the steering box outward the correct amount. make sure to realign the steering box clamp with the small bumps in the beam. Note that I had to remove a very small part of the end of the pitman arm to clear the shock tower (about 1/8"). I also put a properly placed 'dent' into that same area of the shock tower for a bit more clearance.

I modified/cut the steering stop assembly because it has to mount up on the actual shock tower.

Since it is no longer as strong, I added some extra bracing to traingulate it a bit more, I don't want it moving later and getting caught on the pitman arm.

Re-attach the center mounting brackets being very very sure they are placed CENTERED, at right angles to the beam, and the correct diastance apart. I made a small plywood jig with 4 holes in the exact pattern of the bolt holes on the framehead, then bolted the two brackets to it, then tack welded them to the beam, then test fitted to the frame head for fit before welding them on fully.

Re-attach the steering dampener bracket. Make sure to get it as close to the factory angle as possible.

Insert the new nylon tubes. Don't make the mistake I made. Do this AFTER all the welding is done and cooled. These things look great but smell AWFUL :)

Now its on to the ball joints. I opted to replace them myself altho you can find a local shop to do this for you (around $150) This is EXTREMELY dangerous so be warned, if you aren't sure what you are doing or run into a snag, pay a professional. It'll be cheaper than loosing an eye or some teeth.

I rented a ball joint press from autozone (this store carried a metric and an SAE version of this tool, make sure to get the metric one)

I then set it up in my heavy bench vise and ... out with the old, in with the new. Make sure to mark where the little notches are on the old ball joints before removing them and then orient the new ball joints with the same marks. I opted for the Empi 'lowered' ball joints because they offer a wider angle of travel, this way at full lowered adjustment my suspension won't 'bottom out' the ball joint causing it to break. Aneat trick is to place the new ball joints in a deep freezer for a few days before you need them. This causes them to shrink slightly, easing re-installation.

A little clean up and presto!

Now do a dry run assembly of each torsion arm onto the torsion springs. Make sure that the torsion arm goes on completely. If you run into a 'stray' spring keeping the arm from going on all the way, try rotationg the torsion arm through about 10 degrees of travel up and down as you push it on. It should 'catch' the loose spring eventually. Peek into the set screw hole and make sure your new dimple is in alignment with the set screw hole on the torsion arm. If not, you may need to trim a small amount off the end of the torsion arm to get it all the way on, and drill a new dimple. Make this new dimple slightly deeper than the first.

I am using new CB Performance 2.5" dropped spindles (with drum brakes) to get a little more drop in the front. One problem you will run into with a severely lowered front end is a phenomenon called 'bump steer'. This is caused by the tie rods being moved upwards at the spindle, so they sit at an extreme angle compared to stock. When you hit a bump, the tire is now able to push the tie rod and cause the car to swerve slightly. To help elimate this problem, I am mounting the inner tie rod ends in thier stock location (on top of the steering arm) But I am moving the outer tie rod end onto the BOTTOM of the steering arm on the spindles. This will cause the tie rods to sit at a more correct angle compared to stock. The only problem is the hole in the steering arm on the spindle is tapered, so I used a 1/2" machinist's drill bit (designed for cutting steel) and drilled into the narrow end of the hole about 1/4".

The tie rods will also need to be shortened to match the narrowed front beam. Instead of just cutting then rewelding, I wedged a short length of a heavy bolt int othe center of the tie rod... making sure to leave a slight gap between the two tie rod halves, so the weld caught all three pieces. This is also a very critical weld, you do not want this coming apart later!

Install the tie rod assemblies onto the beam...

I used 6 coats of gloss black rustoleum rattle can, assembled the new brakes, drums and put the old rollers back on.

Slipity - bip - bip - *!SLAM!*

Now this is way lower than I intend to keep it, but you can see that it is almost touching the ground on stock 165's! and there is at least 10 degrees of travel left in the ball joints! If you are planning on runnign a fenderless volksrod with big whitewalls, this would work very nicely.

Feel free to private message me here on volksrods if you have any specific questions on the build, and of course make sure to read, understand and follow the instructions for all of your tools! and don;t forget the most important safety tool of all, safety glasses!

Good luck and enjoy!

Last edited by hotrodheb; April 15th, 2009 at 06:57 AM.
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