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2.0 LSJ Suspension: control arm bushing replacement lessons learned

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2.0 LSJ Suspension: control arm bushing replacement lessons learned

Old 01-01-2018, 07:07 AM
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control arm bushing replacement lessons learned

I have the 2006 Cobalt ss/sc with manual transmission with >180k miles. Yesterday I changed out my front lower trailing control arm bushings with the Powell spherical bushings. I read as much as I could about this task on this forum and I wanted to share what I learned. I live in Florida, so the car has no rust, and fortunately my 21mm trailing bolt came out freely. I discovered the following details that I didn't think were adequately covered in this forum (unless I missed it). Yes – this is a long read!

1) How to remove the ball joint from the steering knuckle: One of the early control arm bushing (CAB) replacement threads on the forum simply said to “loosen” the ball joint bolt at the bottom of the knuckle. But, I am pretty sure the bolt must be fully removed because the bolt helps lock in the ball joint stub as a safety feature. With the bolt removed, it revealed a pinching type capturing design in the knuckle to retain the ball joint stub. Using a screw driver as a wedge and with minimal persuasion, I enlarged the knuckle opening for the ball joint stub – and only enough to ensure the knuckle wasn't seized onto the ball joint stub. This definitely appeared to loosen the hold on the ball joint. In the end though – after trying various techniques to remove the ball joint from the knuckle what worked easiest by far (and I tried them all - mallet, pry bar, lifting up rotor with jack etc), was to simply remove the 3 bolts holding the control arm onto the subframe. I found this very important because it enabled me to leave the steering angle alone and with no deflection – AND – to easily reconnect/re-install the control arm after replacing the bushing. I found this out the hard way when I changed the driver's side CAB first. Lessons learned from the drivers side resulted in a much quicker and easier passenger side CAB replacement. With the control arm completely unbolted and loose, there was more than enough play – to easily drop the ball joint stub out of the knuckle. Again, my control arm bolts were in pristine shape, and they came out easily.

2) Extracting the trailing arm portion of the control arm from the subframe: this took some fiddling. The trailing arm fits into this subframe cavity that at first appears to have insufficient clearance when trying to extract the control arm. I noticed some people on the forum said they bent or cut a section of the edge of the subframe to pull out the control arm. Extracting the control arm from this cavity reminded me of the children's puzzle of the bent nails that are interwoven or twisted together with the object of separating what at first appears impossible. Suffice to say, with a minimal amount of counter-intuitive repositioning, the control arm slipped out free and clear. Inspecting the original trailing bushings showed they were both cracked left and right sides – and needed replacement.

3) Getting the old trailing bushing out: Yikes. My car is a daily driver, and this was new years eve, and I did not have access to a hyd press. I rented the ball/u joint tool set from AutoZone. This worked, but just barely. This C-clamp tool needs to be a 1/2” larger. Figuring out the combination of fittings that would work was not trivial. Because of the minimal size of the C-clamp, I removed the bushing in 3 stages: 1) pushed out 85% of the rubber 2) dremel out the rubber near lip of the bushing (to get clearance for final stage push-out of the bushing sleeve), 3) push out the sleeve. Stage 3 took myself and help from a neighbor and my 24” breaker bar (impact driver wouldn't cut it). This was a 2 man job.

4) Getting the new Powell spherical CAB back in: more fun. I placed the bushings in the freezer overnight. I greased the bushing and the inside of the control arm fitting. Using an adapter from the rented tool set, hammer, and block of wood (as a base), I hit the bushing sufficiently hard enough just to get it started into the control arm. Then, the C-clamp and another combination of adapters to press the bushing in. Again – a 2 man job.

5) Re-installing the control arm: easy – but only if the ball joint is installed/inserted into the knuckle and the control arm is in the proper general final position/orientation (without any bolts inserted). Initially, I tried snugging up the bolts, but I couldn't get the ball joint to fit into the knuckle. I fought this for awhile, until I removed all bolts and only then could I get the ball joint into the knuckle. With the control arm in the correct general position and with the ball joint in the knuckle (note: the steering knuckle was not moved this whole time) – then - all the bolts went into the control arm easily. Torquing the 21mm bolt to 145 ft-lbs while on your back was interesting- but achievable.

6) Test drive. This appears to generally cure most of the major knocking I had when hitting bumps at low speed. There is still some other noise that I suspect might be a strut mount issue.

7) My wife reminded me that I was at this for 7 hrs.

8) Final note, the Powell spherical bushings are reasonably priced at OTTP.

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Old 01-17-2018, 03:24 AM
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That's why I went to John Powell myself and got him to press his TCABS in for me lol. Even with the drive there, install and drive home, it was quicker than the way you did it.
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Old 01-17-2018, 11:04 AM
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The bushings that Powell sells aren't the same as OTTP, just so you are aware. They are of similar configuration but not exact. I haven't ever heard of one of Powell's bushings failing. The other I have.
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Old 02-10-2018, 06:00 PM
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I'm going through the control arm install right now. Inserting the ball joint into the knuckle is a pain... I got the driver's side in and gave up on the passenger's side. I'll have to try again tomorrow.
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Old 02-10-2018, 06:03 PM
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i tried pressing my Powell bushings in with a manual operated press and was off the floor and couldnt get them in. Had to use a hydraulic press. Went up the road to another shop and they pressed both in in under 2 minutes. Gave them a 20$ and went on my way
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Old 02-10-2018, 07:08 PM
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I still do these from time to time and I've done a run of spherical CABS for the guys over on Sonic forums using the Cobalt joints. This is exactly why I prefer to install them for you, a press makes this a 10 min job once the arms are out, and if you don't have one, there's just no easy way as you found out.

Glad you got it sorted though.
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Old 02-10-2018, 10:17 PM
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I tried to do mine on a hydraulic press myself and the first one worked great. 2nd one I got off just a touch and removed enough alum material from the arm that it made it slip under power. Had to order a whole arm from Powell.
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Old 02-12-2018, 11:24 PM
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Well tonight I learned how much energy is lost through a 2x4 block of wood. I got frustrated and took my sledge directly to the back of the ball joint and it slid in with ease. Didn't end up damaging the ball joint either, just lost some black paint.
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Old 07-15-2018, 01:00 AM
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My ball joints slipped right back in. Getting the bolt aligned that goes through the CAB was.... not fun.
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