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© 1998-2008 Joe Weaver

 

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Front

Suspension

Part 3

Refurbishing Individual Components

(continued)

Replacing the Spring Perches

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The spring perches are easily replaced. They are held on with two bolts and nuts. If you are on a tight budget you may want to look into the possibility of a new bushing kit for your old spring perch. Otherwise, replacing the perch with a new (reproduction) one is a five minute job max (assuming the spring and control arm are already removed from the car). The perch comes with two rubber strips which sit between the spring and the perch as an insulator (red arrows in left photo).

If you are going to use your old arms and wish to refurbish them to look better and to reduce the chance for further rust and corrosion, remove all the items mentioned above (the ball joint, the spring perch, and the pivot arm) before media blasting or chemically cleaning and stripping the control arm. Once the arm is stripped of all old paint and rust, inspect it carefully for any cracking or excessive rust damage. If either of these are present replace the arm. Excessive pitting from rust means that the arm is now thinner and thus weaker than the original design. Cracks can be welded, but small ones can be easily missed and they will grow over time. Suspension on a car, especially front suspension,  is critical to the safe operation of the car. If it fails, a serious accident will likely result.

When installing the upper arm in the car, if you are not lowering the front end, be sure to install the same shims in the same places they came from (you can clean them up and paint them or powder coat them if desired but be sure to keep track of which shims went on which stud of each arm). If you are lowering the front end all bets are off on how well the shims used in a previous alignment will work now since you are altering the geometry of the suspension and the alignment will now be substantially different than it was before.

 

Lower Control Arm

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The above photos show the lower control arm, the one on the left shows the new (reproduction) arm, the one on the right shows the old arm still installed in the car, and all the related items still attached to it. The lower control arm is made up of the following components; the arm itself (red arrow in both photos above), a ball joint for mounting the arm to the spindle (blue arrow in both photos above), and a rubber insulating bushing for mounting the arm to the frame (pink arrow in the left photo points to its location on the arm, and in the right photo the pink arrow points to the arm installed in the car and it is easily seen how and where the arm mounts to the frame by use of this bushing). In addition, since the lower arm has just one frame mount location on the inside of the arm, the outside of the arm is held in proper alignment by use of a "strut rod" which is bolted to the arm and to the front frame of the car just under the radiator (the yellow arrow in the right photo shows the actual strut rod mounted to the arm and frame). Although the strut rod is not part of the lower arm there are two mounting holes for it (actually, since the lower arms are identical and interchangeable from left to right and the strut rods mount at an angle to the lower arm there are four holes on each arm, two are used if the arm is installed on the left side and the other two are used if it is installed on the right side, as seen by the yellow arrows in the left photo). There is also a larger mounting hole for the stabilizer link that the stabilizer bar attaches to (green arrow in the left photo shows the hole in the arm, and in the right photo shows the actual stabilizer link and stabilizer bar attached to the link).

If the arm itself is in good shape (not bent, cracked, or rusted), the bushing and ball joint can be replaced and this will restore the arm to good-as-new mechanical condition (if desired, the arm can also be cleaned up and painted or powder coated after the old bushing and ball joint are removed). If the arm is moderately rusted or worse, or the arm is damaged in any way, then the arm should be replaced. New or reproduction replacement arms come complete with a new frame mounting rubber bushing and a new ball joint and is ready to install in the car. The lower arms are easier to refurbish than the upper arms since there is only a ball joint and and bushing to replace. Again, I chose new (reproduction) arms for my restoration rather than trying to save the old ones (they looked pretty rusty and had over 300,000 miles on them). The ball joints on the lower arm are replaced in the same manner as the upper arm ball joints are which has already been covered. The rubber frame mounting bushing is pressed into place so the old one will need to be pressed out and the new one pressed in.

 

Spindle

The spindle is one piece and has no other integral parts (these photos are of a spindle from a 1975 Granada with disc brakes which is part of the Granada disc brake conversion being installed on this car). wpc09f1650.jpg The spindle gets its name from the machined shaft that looks like a spindle and extends outward and to the side (black arrow in photo to left). The wheel bearings ride on this machined surface for support of the brake/wheel assembly.  It also has machined surfaces and machined, tapered holes for the attachment of the lower ball joint from the lower control arm (blue arrow), the upper ball joint from the upper control arm (red arrow), and the tie rod end from the steering system (green arrow). In addition the spindle has mounting provision for the front brakes; the yellow arrows show mounting holes for the disc brake assembly (these are straight drilled holes, not tapered like the ball joint and tie rod end holes are), pink arrows show three threaded holes for mounting of the brake splash shield. (The pink arrows also point to the location where the brake backing plate is mounted to the spindle, with four bolts, on drum brake applications; there are no other brake mounting provisions on the spindle than the brake backing plate in drum brake applications.)

Careful inspection of the spindle should be performed. Although damage that makes the spindle unusable is rare, it is also not unheard of. If the spindle is bent proper front end wheel alignment will be difficult or more likely impossible. If it is cracked it can lead to failure which would most likely result in loss of control of the car. Other more common damage to the spindle can come from a failed wheel bearing which causes damage to the machined spindle bearing shaft where the bearings seat.

 

 

 

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The photos above show where the wheel bearings and seal ride on the spindle shaft. The red arrow in the left photo shows where the seal rides. Make sure this area is undamaged and smooth with no gouges or grooves worn into the surface or wheel bearing grease will leak out behind the wheel which will eventually get into the brakes and reduce brake effectiveness, not to mention the mess it makes of the entire front suspension. The green arrow points to where the inner bearing seats on the spindle. This area must be smooth and damage free. The yellow arrows show where the inner bearing rides on the spindle shaft. The area between the double headed yellow arrow must be damage free (small nicks can be ground smooth so long as the bearing slides back and forth on the area smoothly but also has a tight fit and is not sloppy or loose). The blue arrow points to where the outer bearing rides on the spindle. The outer bearing does not actually seat on the spindle shaft itself, but rides on the shaft and seats in the outer bearing race and against the large washer that rides between the bearing and retaining nut. The area between the double headed blue arrow must be damage free (again, as with the inner bearing seat, small nicks can be ground smooth so long as the bearing slides back and forth on the area smoothly but also has a tight fit and is not sloppy or loose). If the area in between the bearings (brown arrow and brown double headed arrow) is slightly damaged it will be okay since the bearings do not make any contact there; however, make sure that it is not bent or has other more major damage that could lead to structural failure of the part. Any sharp edges from damage should be ground smooth to protect those working on the area later from cuts. Make sure the threads for the bearing retaining nut (pink arrow) are in good shape. The right photo shows the actual bearings in the spindle approximately where they ride when installed. If the spindle passes inspection cleaning it with solvent is all that is required. Non machined parts can also be painted or powder coated if desired. While my spindles were in good shape, I installed replacement ones since I am upgrading to front disc brakes which use a different spindle (as mentioned above the spindles and brake assemblies are from a '75 Granada and bolt right on with no changes to the geometry of the front suspension). Although the photos here are of the Granada spindle and they may look slightly different from stock mid sixties Falcon (or Mustang) spindles, the operation and main parts are the same and the principles discussed here are equally valid for either spindle, as well as for the smaller spindles used on six cylinder cars.

 

The spindle in the photo below and to the left has a fair amount of damage. It is likely the wheel bearing(s) failed and metal parts came wp116333d1.jpg loose inside, or it is even possible the wheel separated the car after bearing failure. The blue arrow shows damage to an area that would not affect the performance of the spindle or the wheel bearings (as long as damage has been ground fairly smooth and there are no cracks that could cause later failure). The green and red arrows, however, show damage that is of greater concern since this is the area where the outer wheel bearing rides. The red arrows show scoring that indicates a wheel bearing was not tightened properly and it spun on the spindle scoring the spindle shaft. Even these alone are not too big a concern if they are smooth and do not bind up the bearing when you slide the bearing on and off the spindle shaft and the bearing has a tight fit and is not sloppy or loose. If such scoring causes the bearing to bind up, you can try gently filing or grinding the rough edges off and check the bearing on the shaft again. If it does not bind up now, and if the bearing is not now loose on the shaft, I'd feel okay using the spindle. The green arrow points to a more worrisome area of damage. Such a ridge on the shaft could prevent the bearing from seating properly in the hub of the brake drum or rotor. In addition such a deep score could be the start of a stress fracture. One could attempt to grind or file this ridge out, but it is likely that doing so would cause the bearing to ride loose on the shaft. I had planned to use this spindle, but after finding all this damage during inspection I decided to locate another one.

 

Spring

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The spring is one piece and has no integral parts, however there is a rubber insulator that is installed on the top of the spring (red arrow in left photo above) where it rides in the top of the shock tower. This insulator is sort of screwed onto the top of the spring so that it actually installs on the spring rather than simply sitting on the spring as can be seen in the right photo. There are also two small rubber strips that sit between the spring and the spring perch (as seen previously in the upper control arm section). If the spring is in good shape (not bent, still has the correct uncompressed height, and not heavily rusted) replacing these rubber parts will return the spring to good-as-new mechanical condition. The spring can also be cleaned up and painted or powder coated if desired. I made the choice to replace my old rusty springs with new ones, which I powder coated after these photos were made.

 

Strut Rod

The strut rod bolts to the lower control arm and to the frame of the car just behind and below the radiator. It bolts to the lower arm with two bolts/nuts and no rubber insulators. The rod has a rubber insulator bushing where it mounts to the frame. The strut rod is designed to stabilize fore and aft movement of the lower control arm, with the majority of its efforts going toward keeping the lower control arm from moving aft (back) as the car hits bumps and potholes in the road. A worn bushing can result in a bad shimmy since it allows fore and aft movement of the lower control arm which changes the steering input to that wheel. As the lower arm is allowed to move forward and aft, the wheel will, as a result, move left and right creating a shimmy. In extreme situations the shimmy feeds on itself and can become uncontrollable. Therefore, unless you are aware that the bushings have been replaced recently they should be replaced whenever you remove the strut rods. If in doubt replace them. As with all the bushings mentioned here, this rubber bushing can be replaced with a Polygraphite bushing to further reduce movement of the lower control arm if desired (at the price of a slightly rougher ride).  If the strut rod itself is in good shape (not bent, cracked, or rusted), replacing the rubber bushing will return the rod to good-as-new mechanical condition. However, if the car has been driven in winter environments it is common for the strut rod to be heavily rusted under the front bushing.wp232a3ebb.jpg As the car is driven where salt has been applied to the roads, the salt gets under the bushing where it isn't easily rinsed off in a car wash or driving through spring-time rains. As a result the shaft of the rod under the bushing can be so badly rusted as to not only make reusing the strut rod undesirable but even make further use a hazard. The photo to the right shows the front end of two strut rods. The top one is a replacement strut rod in very good condition (it came off a car that had been driven in the south its whole life). The lower one had been on my Sprint from the factory. Notice how badly rusted the portion of the shaft is between the threads and the lip which is where the rubber bushing goes. Clearly this rod has lost more than half its strength and should never be reinstalled in a car for safety reasons.  I am not aware of anyone making new or reproduction strut rods so replacements will need to come from a donor car or a used Falcon parts supplier. Rods in good shape can be cleaned up and painted or powder coated if desired. I strongly recommend removing all rust where the bushing goes and painting with a high quality epoxy paint or powder coating the rod to reduce or prevent future rust formation under the bushing. I had my rods CAD plated and then powder coated them for further corrosion protection (CAD plating is an electroplating process -- similar to but more durable than zinc plating -- and it is an excellent base for paint orr powder coating). In addition I put some silicon grease between the powder coated rod and the bushing to help keep moisture out (do not use regular grease for this since it will damage the rubber). If you are required to drive your Falcon during the winter where salt is put on the roads, I'd recommend removing the strut rods each spring for inspection, cleaning, and repainting as necessary.

 

Stabilizer (Sway) Bar

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The stabilizer bar is designed to help reduce the tendency of the car to roll from side to side during moderate to hard turns. The stabilizer bar mounts to both the left and right lower control arms via stabilizer links (as seen in the lower control arm section) and to the frame of the car with bushings at each mounting place. The photo above is looking down through the engine compartment (after the engine has been pulled). The stabilizer bar is seen laying on the floor in the lower-mid section of the photo (the rods in the upper portion of the photo are the steering linkages). The red arrows point to where the stabilizer bar mounts to the frame.

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As can be seen in the illustrations above, if both the left and right suspension moves up or down together in unison, the stabilizer bar has a null effect -- it simply rides up and down with the suspension.

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In contrast, as seen in the above illustration, when one side of the suspension goes up and the other side goes down (as it would in a hard turn) it forces the bar to twist in the middle (much like the torsion bars in our Falcon trunks that hold the trunk lid open). It is easy to see how a larger, beefier bar would resist twisting more than a small wimpy bar, thus, the thicker bar allows the car to sway from side to side less which improves cornering ability. Ford engineers were, in my opinion, a little to far to the "nice ride" side of things when deciding the size of the stabilizer bar on our Falcons.

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The stock stabilizer bar is 5/8" thick (the black colored stabilizer bar in the photos above). Although my stabilizer bar was in relatively good shape, I chose to replace it with a new 1" stabilizer bar (the silvery colored stabilizer bar above). The difference in cornering is amazing while only adding slightly to a harder ride, and that only on uneven roads since the stabilizer bar has no effect on the ride if the bumps or dips in the road are even from left to right. If you choose to keep your original stabilizer bar, check to make sure the bar itself and the stabilizer links are in good shape (not moderately or heavily rusted, no cracks, not bent or twisted, etc.). Often, as the springs begin to sag and the car starts to lean to one side or another over the years, the stabilizer bar can actually get twisted such that one side of the bar sits higher than the other. If this is the case replace it. If you reinstall a twisted or bent stabilizer bar it will tend to make the car higher on one side and lower on the other, and handling will be different turning one way than the other. If inspection reveals that all is in good shape then replacing the rubber bushings on the links and at the frame mounts will return the bar to good-as-new mechanical condition. If the links that attach the bar to the lower control arm are damaged they can be ordered separately (some suppliers include all new link parts with the bushings as a complete kit, others just sell the rubber bushings alone). My new bar came with all the bushings and new links as well. Again, the stabilizer bar can be painted or powder coated if desired (finding an oven for curing the powder coat can be a challenge however since it will not fit in a standard range oven).

As mentioned, all the rubber bushings discussed above are also available in a Polygraphite material which is a somewhat hard plastic and flexes less than rubber, thus giving a more firm feel and at the same time providing more precise alignment the parts. This is one way of helping to improve handling since there is less slop through all the bushings than with the stock rubber ones; however the general feel and ride of the car will more harsh.

 

This is the end of the Front Suspension Edition

Part 3

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Feel free to save this page to your computer for your personal use and future reference--no other use is authorized without prior written permission from me. All illustrations from the 1964 or 1965 Falcon Shop Manuals used pursuant to permission granted by Ford Motor Company. Disclaimer: This site is not intended to instruct or teach anyone in proper or safe methods of working on or maintaining any type of vehicle or use of any tool and the author takes no responsibility for the use of the information contained herein.

If you have comments or suggestions, email me at joe@joesfalcon.com

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