The Suspension Situation, Part 3

Over the next week my task was to find those elusive castle nuts. Luckily for me, that week my Mazda Motorsports account was opened. Mazda offers racers a special motorsports account where they can get OEM parts at a discount. You have to prove that you have raced twice a year. It’s a great thing and other manufactures should take note of it. They had the castle nuts! I was thrilled. I decided to pick up some new boots for the upper ball joints and tie rod ends since they were badly torn. They were not that expensive either. I wanted to replace the lower ball joints since they take a lot of the suspension load and those boots were ripped also. I figured I would have to do it later do to money constraints. But new lower ball joints were only $36 from Mazda. So I picked them up too! The parts arrived promptly via 2nd day express which was only a few dollars more than ground! Thing were going all too good. So the next Saturday once again I trekked up to Allentown to work on the car.

First thing to do was to separate the tie rod ends. This was not so easy. I used a pitman arm puller to pop the tie rod out of the front upright as I have done many times before. The right one went easily but on the left one the puller slipped off and messed up some of the threads on the stud. Ugggghhhh. Then I could not release the lock nuts and spin the tie rods off the inner tie rods. We had to use heat here again and eventually both broke free. The lower ball joints came off and went on with out too much trouble. Thanks gosh. So then we moved on to replacing the boots. We started with the tie rod that had the damaged threads. You can’t remove the upper ball joints, they are pressed into the upper a-arms. Good thing we did that b/c once we ripped what we could of the boot off we could not get the bottom most of the boot free. We tried prying with small screw drivers and little dentist pick looking things. Steve got the idea that maybe we could burn the rest of the rubber off. We did, after cooking some (probably most) of the grease out of the joint. Once all the rubber was gone we found a steel ring that was embedded in the boot. It was this ring that held the boot on the joint!

Hopefully someone will learn from this. You can pry the boot right off by getting a very small, thin screwdriver under this metal ring and prying it off. Then you just need a big socket to press the the new boot on! Once you know how it works it is pretty easy. Since I messed up the threads on the tie rod and cooked a bunch of the grease out I figured I should replace it. I really thought I was going to get the car together this week. The front suspension got put together with the exception of the one tie rod end. I also replaced the stock front sway bar with a hollow Racing Beat bar I picked up. With the Racing Beat bar it is recommended that you also install the reinforcing kit they sell. The bar being as stiff as it is can bend the stock mounts. The the reinforcing bars are a little tough to get in b/c of the space constraints. And one straddles a power steering line making that one tougher. I had to grind a corner off that one to make it fit right. After that was done the bar went in slowly but surely. The long bolts take a while to thread in. Once everything was tight I noticed the brackets around the sway bar were not flush against the subframe and the bar was tough to turn by hand. This is typical of this bar. This means it is binding some. The easiest fix is to put some washers under the brackets. Or you can shave the bushings. I’d rather go the washer route but don’t feel like taking the thing all back apart so I leave it like that for now. Next week all I need to do it put the tie rod on and the tires back on and she can drive!