Steering and Suspension replacement tips
Here are some suggestions for your steering and suspension replacements -- from control arms to tie rod ends:
Remove, tighten and torque
- Soak the nuts with penetrating spray in advance to make components easier to remove.
- Always use a torque wrench to tighten fasteners to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Never use air or power tools as they could potentially damage components.
- Tighten all wheel bolts to the vehicle manufacturer’s torque specifications.
- Torque components in their loaded position, not wheel-free. This will prevent the components being under additional stress when the vehicle is on the ground.
- Never re-use fasteners. Steering and suspension systems use nuts with a self-locking feature to prevent looseness due to vibration. Most nut locking features are designed for single use only.
- If a control arm is fitted with horizontal bushings, tighten the bolts while the vehicle is at its neutral ride height. Tightening with the vehicle in the air can lead to excessive wind-up of the bushings when back on the ground and under compression.
Check the wheel alignment and set the steering geometry after replacing any steering or suspension component, since the new components will have less play and set the wheels at a slightly different angle.
On a four-wheel drive vehicle:
- Adjust camber on the rear wheels, if possible.
- Adjust toe on the rear wheels.
- Adjust caster and camber on the front wheels, if possible.
- Adjust front toe to match the rear thrust angle
Align the wheels
Make sure the wheels are properly aligned. Check all three angles -- toe, camber and caster -- to minimize rolling resistance, friction and tire wear. Adjust as necessary.
Check the toe:
- Why the toe changes: Replacing tie rod ends, tie rods or a steering rack will alter the distance between the steering arms, which impacts the toe.
- After the parts have been installed, measure the vehicle’s toe. Adjust the tie rods to set toe within the vehicle manufacturer's specifications.
Check the camber:
- Why the camber changes: The constant movement of a vehicles’ suspension system can change the geometry of the control arms and struts.
- The camber is not normally adjustable, so if the measurements are noticeably different either side, check the tires, wheels or suspension for distortion.
- What happens if the camber is not equal on both sides of the vehicle? If the difference is not large, this may mean irregular tire wear. If the difference is large, the vehicle will pull to the side with the most positive camber.
Check the caster:
- Caster can affect the vehicles’ steering stability, effort and return.
- Generally speaking, caster should be within 0.5 of a degree, side-to-side. Any measurement greater than this can cause a drift to one side and will need to be reset.
- Caster is generally not adjustable on modern cars.
- What happens if caster is not equal on both sides of the vehicle? The vehicle will pull to the side with the least amount of caster (which may mean the most negative caster).
Finally, check all of the mounting nuts and bolts to ensure that they are all correctly tightened.