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Replace Shocks, Springs, Sway Bar and Bushings

We Make Child's Play Of Upgrading A '68 Shark's Front Suspension

T.J. Cook Jun 1, 2000

Step By Step

New, upgraded suspension components from Mid America Designs.

Remove the two caliper bracket bolts from the backside of the brake caliper. Lift the caliper assembly off the rotor. It’s not necessary to completely remove the caliper from the brake line, but it does make access easier. Next remove the front bearing dust-cover cap. Then, remove the cotter pin so that you can loosen the center spindle nut and slide the rotor off the spindle.

Remove the dust shield by removing three bolts (one above the spindle shaft which has a lock tab, and two below). This step also loosens the steering knuckle. Removal of the dust shield and steering knuckle is optional but will provide easier access to all bolts and cotter pins.

Loosen the tie-rod tube compression clamp bolts. Expand and remove the clamps from the tubes. Remove the cotter pins from the outer tie rod, then remove the bolt from the tie-rod end. Use a tie-rod spreader to remove the tie rod from the steering-knuckle arm.

Remove the inner tie rod by removing the cotter pin and bolt. Use the tie-rod spreader to separate the inner tie rod from the steering relay rod. Remove the idler arm from the steering relay rod by removing its cotter pin and bolt, and using the spreader tool.

Remove the steering damper from the steering relay rod by removing the cotter pin and bolt, and using the spreader tool. Use caution to avoid damage to the boot and stud on the steering damper. Then remove the set bolt on the steering control valve which holds the steering relay rod in place and unscrew the steering relay rod from the steering control valve.

Position a hydraulic floor jack under the lower control arm and jack it up until it applies pressure on the spring. Remove the spindle assembly by removing the cotter pins and bolts of the upper and lower ball joints. Use the spreader to separate the ball joints from the spindle assembly. Then slide the spindle down and remove. Check the spindle shaft for wear and scoring where the bearings track from the rotor. (A machine shop can advise you if questionable spindles should be replaced.)

Remove the sway-bar endlink bolt from the lower control arm and remove all bushings. Remove the sway-bar mounting bushings from the frame and detach the sway bar.

Remove the two shock-absorber bolts from the bottom of the control arm and the top shock-absorber bolt from the upper frame. Then lower the shock down through the spring. Remove the two bolts from the front of the control-arm shaft. Then remove the single bolt from the rear of the control-arm shaft. Slowly (and we mean slowly if you don’t want to get hurt) release the jack. As the spring tension releases, the control arm will come down, followed by the spring.

Loosen the two upper nuts on the control-arm shaft. Remove the alignment shims from between the frame and the control-arm shaft. We recommend taping the shims together and labeling for same-location reinstall (for example: front left, rear right, and so on). This will not guarantee a correct alignment, but it will give a better starting point for the alignment shop.

Now remove the two upper nuts completely and slide the control-arm assembly off the studs.

From beneath the lower control arm, remove the bolts and nuts from each side of the ball joint. Then remove the cotter pin and bolt on the top side of the control arm to release the ball-joint assembly. It may take a little convincing from a ball-peen hammer to get the ball joint to release.

Remove the lower control-arm bumper by loosening its nuts and bolts.

Depending on whether or not the upper ball joints have ever been replaced, you may find that your assembly is attached by nuts and bolts versus the original factory riveting. If it’s nuts and bolts, simply remove them. If it’s riveted on, you’ll need to grind, chisel—or use a torch if you’re experienced—to remove the rivets. Once the ball joint is free, simply push it through the hole.

Back at the workbench, you’ll need to prep both upper and lower control arms for reinstallation. Remove the bolts from each end of the control-arm stud. The preferred method of removing the control-arm bushings and stud is to press the bushings out with a hydraulic press (machine shops can provide this service) and likewise press in the new bushings at the same time. This is a great time to spend a few minutes cleaning up and repainting the control arms for reinstallation.

In the final step of disassembly, we explained that the preferred method of reinstallation is by using a hydraulic press. Here, we’ve shown the control arm reassembled with the control-arm stud as pressed in by our hydraulic press. Be sure to reinstall and tighten the control-arm–shaft bolts.

Place the ball-joint frame through the upper control arm until the mounting holes are flush. It will be snug because the ball-joint seal rests against the arm. Line up the mounting holes and reinstall the three bolts and nuts. If you had a riveted installation, you might find it necessary to enlarge the holes in the control arms in order to accommodate the new bolts as supplied with the ball joints. Then screw the grease fitting into the top center hole as shown, using care not to over-tighten.

To attach the ball joint to the lower control arm, place the ball joint into the control-arm slot. Be sure to place the ball joint so that the grease fitting will attach to the top of the assembly. Notice the two types of bolts: one with a standard bolt head and one with a metal stop on the bolt head. The bolt with the stop goes toward the front side of the control arm. Attach the two bolts and nuts. Put the nut on the top stud of the ball joint and don’t forget to install that grease fitting. Attach the new lower control-arm bumper by its two nuts and bolts.

Attach the upper control-arm assembly to the pair of bolt studs on the frame from which it was removed and start the nuts onto the studs. Retrieve the shims you removed and marked earlier. Place them back into their original locations, keeping the tabs facing upward. Finish tightening the bolts. Attach the new upper control-arm bumper between the frame and upper control arm by pushing it into the predrilled slot in the frame. To reinstall the lower control arm, simultaneously sandwich the coil spring between the frame and lower control arm by placing the coil spring into its obvious position against the upper frame. Then, hinge the lower control arm upward to sandwich the coil spring between. Use a jack to raise the lower control arm which slightly compresses the spring assembly. (Normally the weight of the engine in the car is enough counterweight to compress the spring; however, our project car’s engine is out for rebuilding, so we had to use a spring compression tool to accomplish this.) Now reattach the control-arm–shaft bolts to the frame. Keep the pressure of the jack on the spring while you reinstall the spindle. The jack may need to be raised slightly to narrow the spread between the control arms. The spindle attaches to the upper and lower ball joints to tie the whole assembly together. Install and tighten the bolts that attach the spindle to the ball joints and set the cotter pin.

While the jack is still in place, install the shock absorber from the bottom of the control arm, through the spring and through the upper frame shock hole. Attach the bottom bolts of the shock first, then attach the top bolt and tighten down. Caught ya! Forgot the washers and bushings for the piston shaft of the shock, didn’t you? Go back and put ’em on.

Reattach the caliper bracket to the spindle by its two bolts.

Reattach the dust shield by its three bolts. Be sure to set the lock tabs for the top bolt.

Screw the steering-relay rod into the steering control valve until it’s snug. Use care to line up the notch in the threaded end of the rod so that the lock bolt can be installed. This may require backing the relay rod off to make it line up. Once you’ve got it lined up, screw in the lock bolt and tighten it. Connect the other end to the idler arm by pushing the idler-arm stud through the steering relay rod. Tighten the bolt and replace the cotter pin. Connect the inner and outer tie rods to the tie-rod tube. Make the new suspension alignment approximate to the old by comparing the lengths of the old and new assemblies. Place and tighten the tube clamps at each end of the tube. Screw the grease fittings into the tops of the ball joints and push the stud on the inner tie rod through the hole in the steering relay rod, tighten the nut, and set the cotter pin. The car will still require a professional alignment, but comparing the old and new assemblies will at least give a better starting point.

Connect the outer tie rod to the steering knuckle by pushing the stud through the knuckle, tightening the bolt, and setting the cotter pin.

Connect the steering damper to the steering relay rod. Place the stud through the steering relay rod, tighten the bolt, and set the cotter pin.

Slide the sway-bar–bushing mounts onto the sway bar so that they are approximately 1-1/2 inches past the bend. (It helps to spray a small amount of lubricant inside the bushing mount.) Cover the bushings with the metal mounting brackets and align the brackets with the existing mounting holes. Bolt the sway bar in place. Next attach the sway bar endlink to the lower control arm with the new bushings in place. Check for the correct order of the components: bolt, washer, bushing, sway bar, bushing, washer, spacer, washer, bushing, control arm, bushing, washer, nut. Got that?

Here’s the completed front suspension assembly for one side of our project car. Of course, for complete reassembly, one would follow this with reinstallation of the rotor with new bearings and seals, calipers, brake pads, and wheel.

You've paid for more alignments than you care to remember. Handling has become so unresponsive, you wouldn't even really call it "handling" anymore. When your shark is no longer the most agile fish in the sea, it's time to rebuild the suspension.

Our project car is undergoing restoration, so this is the perfect time to not only replace suspension parts, but to upgrade to urethane bushings, heavy-duty shocks, performance springs, and a beefier sway bar. This '68 is currently a gutless wonder, as its engine and driveline have been pulled for restification. It won't be gutless in any sense of the word when we're done, though.

These new suspension components from Mid America Designs should deliver a firm, streetable ride with little body roll and better cornering ability. When you've finished upgrading all the suspension components, be sure to have your shark professionally aligned. Now, let's get started--with the help of daddy's little helper, of course.

It's important that suspension components be "locked" in place by securing a cotter pin at many of the connection points. So, you'll find that many steps in this project include instructions for the cotter pin and bolt removal or installation. Don't forget that crucial part. Also, we're illustrating only one side for both disassembly and reassembly. Of course, you'll need to complete the other side as well.

To begin this project, be sure to secure your car on jackstands, then remove the wheels. Never attempt to work beneath a car supported by only a jack.


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