This past weekend we were working on one of the Jeeps in the fleet. Nothing major just swapping control arms for some new ones to showcase adjustable arms with maintenance free bushings. That’s not the point today. Swapping control arms is a 16 bolt process, that’s it 16 bolts. We had access to the shoplift, plenty of coffee, and all the tools you could want to work on a vehicle. In truth the whole job should not have taken more than 2 hours. 8 hours later we finished up, here’s what happened and what many people don’t realize when they ask someone else to do the work.
A little background before I get into what happened. The Jeep had a complete ICON Vehicle Dynamics Stage 4 lift. So in our case, we were swapping adjustable control arms for new adjustable control arms. This also should have worked in our favor because we could just match the length of the arms we already had on and be right back at the same pinion angles and caster with little to no fuss.
Simple items that can cause massive headaches. We started with the front upper control arms. The first issue we ran into was the new arms used a smaller through hole bushing than the ones coming off. The new set are perfectly designed for stock bolts and not the larger aftermarket bolts that were installed. This meant trying to find the bolts we needed in a bucket of spare parts and a trip to the house to see if we had any there.
The next bolt that became an issue was the front lower shock mount. The IVD setup relocates the shock outboard for the factory location. That uses longer bolt. The new control arms use a billet collar as the pinch to keep adjusters tight. Which takes up space and meant disconnecting the lower shock mount and flipping the bolt. At this point, we had already moved past the two-hour mark. That’s the problem when you start mixing and matching parts from different manufacturers, you create custom problems.
Things move when you disconnect them. The axle rotates and when you go to fit that new control arm you now have to maneuver the axle back into position to get them properly installed. I find it’s actually easier to install control arms when the vehicle is on the ground than on a lift because the axle doesn’t rotate, but the lift makes everything else easier.
Nuts and Torque
I could have put nuts in the category above but on a Jeep, they offer their own special blend of annoyance. The rear axle is my favorite capture nut in all existence. For those that aren’t familiar, the upper control arm uses a nut attached to a bent piece of metal that has to be held in the frame while simultaneously inserting the bolt and holding the control arm in place. That’s also assuming the holes all line up, to begin with. You can lose 20 minutes just trying to get it all lined up.
Lastly, there is that thing called torque. There are 16 bolts that require proper torque, those same bolts we started with. There are also 16 pinch bolts on the new control arms. That’s 32 bolts that require precise torque. Again it takes time.
The next time you go to your local shop or ask a buddy for help and the manufacturer says it only takes 3 hours, remember this article and pay them accordingly. Cash for the shop and plenty of pizza and beer for your buddies!