ElectroClassic EV
Classic Cars Reborn into the Electric Future

Suspended Animation

While driving the Porsche 914 EV to West Covina, I noticed some shimmy in the steering at freeway speeds. Taking my pal Fordy’s advice, I commenced a complete rebuild of the front suspension. It seems the better part of wisdom to replace everything at once rather than waiting for various components to fail one-by-one. This involves new ball joints, outer tie rod ends, control arm bushings, strut upper support bushings, and strut cartridges. I ordered most all of these parts from AutoAtlanta, and put the front end on jack stands to start dissembling.

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First I removed the wheels, disconnected the brake lines, and removed the brake calipers and rotors. The wheel bearings were brand new and had previously been packed in grease, so I put them in a clean plastic bag for safekeeping.

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I removed the cotter pin from the castellated tie rod nut, and sprayed the whole deal with penetrating fluid to soak for several minutes. After removing the nut, some light tapping on the threaded tie rod end released it from the steering arm.

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The lower strut tapered pin and nut were first sprayed with penetrating fluid, the nut removed and pin drifted out with a punch, releasing the strut from the ball joint.

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The next step was removing the left and right torsion adjusting levers, the front and rear control arm mounts, and then lowering the left and right control arms from the front of the car. The torsion bars were slid from their control arm tubes and labeled per front and rear, so they can be properly replaced. The torsion bar ends are factory stamped L and R to avoid mixing them up.

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Some penetrating fluid was also sprayed on the threaded part of the tie rod ends and left to soak for several minutes. Then the collar nut was loosened and the tie rod end unthreaded from the tie rod, which is still hanging from the steering rack above.

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Next I removed the upper strut camber plate bolts from inside the front trunk, and lowered the strut assemblies down from inside the wheel wells. The right wheel strut is pictured above.

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Some manipulation of the dangling tie rods produced muffled clunking noises from inside the steering rack, and revealed some notching action and unwanted play. I decided to deal with this now, rather than setting myself up for disappointment and even more suspension work down the road. A call to Auto Atlanta confirmed the rack was behaving badly, so I secured a low-mileage used rack from them at a decent price. Above is the old steering rack and dust boot removed from the car.

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The rubber control arm tube bushings in the photo above are supposed to be evenly circular, but instead are very worn and compressed on one side. Going out-of-round reduces the clearance between the torsion rod and the tube, and eventually causes metal-to-metal rubbing. Following a couple different YouTube videos, the bushing mounts were heated with a torch and then twisted off the control arms with a BFS (the “S” stands for screwdriver).

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All of the replacement parts arrived after a week, but I couldn’t start reassembing yet. There were a couple items that could only be extracted with special tools – namely the upper strut bolts, the large ball joint collar nuts and the ball joints. Furthermore, installing new ball joints also requires special tools. The place I turned for help was just around the corner from my workplace: Stuttgart Automotive. Their garage is full of Porsches, they always have a friendly answer for all of my questions, and the shop chihuahua likes to be skritched. If their dog can trust me, I can trust them. The parts were dropped off in the morning, and I had them back the same afternoon.

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Of the jobs I could do myself, the biggest was replacing the front suspension control arm bushings. After watching the Elephant Racing video that demonstrated the installation of their special bushings, I bought a set. Their replicas are as close to OEM as possible and made of rubber, unlike the poly-graphite bushings that are sold elsewhere. Without a doubt, the poly-graphite is more durable, but I felt the rubber would give a better street ride for my daily driver. There are also many online reports that the poly-graphite bushings squeak, which was a deal-breaker for me. The Elephant bushings also come with a set of tools that allow easy installation for a job that would otherwise be impossible without a shop press.

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Here you can see the replacement/used steering rack in its new home. It’s the tube with the accordian sleeves at top and bottom. A new steering shaft bearing and sleeve were installed in the firewall under the former fuel tank bay before the steering rack was raised into its cubby and mated to the steering column. The long tube just to the right is the lower suspension support, which was bolted to the frame and then joined to the steering rack. The orange mystery object at the bottom is the new master cylinder, which already has an oxide layer after a year of sitting. It’s cast iron however, and will offer an entire life of service long before the rust has any effect. Also visible at the top is the round aluminum plate that is stuck to the body with waterproof butyl tape and covers the old fuel tank exit port.

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The torsion bars were greased and properly inserted into the control arm tubes. Here you can see the right control arm bolted in place, fastened both at front and back. The ball joint is at the end of the swing arm, wearing a protective black chapeau. The torsion adjusting levers were seated over the splined end of the torsion bars, and the adjusting screw threaded into position. The new outer tie rod end is visible above, protected by a white plastic cap. Also shown is the disconnected brake line, taped high in the wheel well to avoid brake fluid drippage.

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The new struts were inserted into the top of the wheel wells, and the mounting plates secured per the factory torque specs. The top shot shows the camber plate that is accessed from the front trunk area, and the bottom shot shows the underside of the same plate, with the new cartridge bolted to the upper strut support.

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The bottom of the struts were mated to the ball joints on each side with new tapered pins and locking bolts. The new tie rod ends were threaded into the new steering rack tie rods, and then mated to the steering arm on the bottom of each strut assembly. Next, the wheel back plates, the front wheel bearings and hubs, and the brake calipers were replaced, in that order. Also visible at the upper left is one of the new inner tie rod ends, just under the brake line junction. I rubbed a blob of red bearing grease into the tie rod castle nut to protect it and make it easier to remove in the very distant future.

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Finally, the brakes were bled again for the umpteenth time. This was made exponentially easier by my new pressure bleeder, which screws onto the top of the reservoir and pushes brake fluid through the system without needing to pump the pedal. Afterward, the tires were mounted and the car was lowered from the jackstands.

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To finish the job, the wheel height was set according to the manual using the torsion adjustment levers on both control arms. Once the front axle height was properly set, an ad-hoc driveway wheel alignment could be performed using the specs given in the Haynes manual. For this, I removed the squeegie from the end of my solar panel cleaning tool, and used just the telescoping tube to measure the distance between the front tires. I extended the tube between the front of the tires, locked it at that length, and then compared it to the distance between the back of the tires. After loosening the tie rod collar nuts, I turned the tie rod tubes until the distance was 5mm less in the front than the back, which is about a quarter inch. Once that was accomplished, I tightened the tie rod collar nuts. This adjustment is called the toe-in. To have the camber and castor inspected, I’ll need to take the car in for a bonafide alignment, and then we’ll see how close I got.

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2 Responses to “Suspended Animation”

  1. I’m impressed! I have experienced similar drama pushing king and link bushings out of my old tub and replacing the steering gear. BTW, if you need a hydraulic press, you can take mine.

    • Thanks Joe. I appreciate the offer. In order to press the bushings onto the control arms, all it required was a pony clamp and a long hunk of 3/4″ steel black pipe. Whooda thunk?


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