B5.5 Suspension Overhaul advice

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Thread: B5.5 Suspension Overhaul advice

  1. #1
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    B5.5 Suspension Overhaul advice

    Hi everyone,

    My 2003 Passat GLS wagon has had various suspension-related problems that I am going to try and address. It has 155k miles on it, and has never had any replacement of control arms, ball joints, tie rods, struts, etc. I have replaced drive axles on both sides several times.

    The current symptoms are wheel bearing noise, vibration (99% sure its a ball LBJ) and wear on the inside of the front left tire. I figure at this point everything is ready for a refresh, so I went ahead and purchased the following:

    FCP Euro's Control Arm/LBJ kit: https://www.fcpeuro.com/products/vw-...omy-4d0498998m
    2 Wheel bearings
    Bilsteen touring Struts (plan to keep existing springs, what other parts should I replace)

    Was going to follow the instructions on myturbodiesel.com Control arm replacement and steering knuckle removal -B5 Passat and Audi | VW TDI forum, Audi, Porsche, and Chevy Cruze diesel forum and then probably pull the steering knuckles as well to press out the bearings.

    This is the first time I've tried this, so I'm learning as I go. A few questions that I have before I start are:
    1) is there anything else I should look to replace while I'm there?
    2) once its all apart, I need to re-align, but is there a way to ball park that? Since I'm removing the LBJ I figured there was no way to preserve it, but would try to get it close
    3) order of operations?

    Thanks in advance for helping walk me through this. I plan to keep the car for several more years so figured this was worth doing.

    thanks!

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  3. #2
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    Unless you loosen or remove the subframe bolts, a front-end alignment shouldn't be needed. Before you pay for an alignment, ask the technician what steps he would take if the camber is out on one side. (Your average "shop monkey" will not know the correct answer [loosen four subframe bolts then move entire subframe side-to-side to "balance" camber-slightly negative on each side], so use this as a screening tool for BS answers until you find a knowledgeable front-end mechanic).

    You should also look for new upper strut bearings to go between both struts and the shock towers; also, check out your bump stops and reuse those plastic dust covers...the latex foam rubber bump stops have probably disintegrated somewhat.

    Lastly, if you're gonna DIY the entire job...
    DO NOT TIGHTEN THE LOWER CONTROL ARM INNER PIVOT BOLTS WITH THE FRONT WHEELS IN THE AIR OR ANY POSITION OTHER THAN WITH THE CARS' LOAD APPLIED. Sorry I had to shout bolded, but many people here have trashed their inner LCA bushings by tightening these bolts while the front end was still on jack stands (i.e. you're tired, it's been a long day and you just want to wrap things up...but, tighten those last four bolts with the car's front end on ramps).

    If you trash those inner bushings, you'll be looking for four new LCAs...and not at the "kit" price.
    chefro likes this.

  4. #3
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    Thanks Electron Man, I appreciate it. To replace the upper strut bearings I'd want something like this kit then with the bumpstops and boots (https://www.fcpeuro.com/Volkswagen-p...on=Front-Upper).

    Thanks too for the warning in bold All good to be loud and clear and save me the hassle.

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  6. #4
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    The tie-rods are what set the alignment (at least toe, which is what I'm assuming 2 refers to) so you will need an alignment if you replace them since they are included in the kit. You can get it close yourself by counting the number of turns it takes to unscrew the tie-rod end from the inner and putting the new one back in the same number of turns. You can do the same with a tape measure by measuring between the left and right front tires at a specific point and comparing the front and back measurements.

  7. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by camimenko View Post
    once its all apart, I need to re-align, but is there a way to ball park that? Since I'm removing the LBJ I figured there was no way to preserve it, but would try to get it close
    As Electron Man suggested, if the new control arms are identical to the existing ones, and those don't have broken bushing rubber, and the alignment is fine now, then it likely would still be the same with new control arms. The issue of course is if you install the new tie-rod ends which I expect come with that kit, then alignment will almost certainly be different. I've done a couple of A4's and on Saturday will be changing the set on our Passat, and used a simple method to set the alignment. It relies on the assumption that a wire streched alongside the front and rear wheels is parallel to the centerline of the car. Here is basically what I do:

    Drive the car slowly into the shop area, steering wheel centered, then stop the car with the emergency brake only. Next stretch a wire between two supports that hold the wire horizontal at axle level, ahead of the a front wheel and behind the rear wheel. I use jack-stands weighted to keep from tipping over as the wire (I happen to use 26 ga or 28 ga stranded, insullated wire) is made taunt. Adjust the location of the supports until the wire is roughly 1/2 inch from the wheel rims, so you can hold a steel scale or whatever measuring device against the rim to record the space between rim and inside of the wire. Note the difference between the measurments at the front and rear of the rim. If the wheel is toed-out (smaller distance at the front of the rim) then the tie-rod needs to be turned out from the tie-rod threads, and vice-versa if toed-in. The downside is driving the car out and back in to settle the suspension after adjustments, which on a garage floor means jacking the car to access the tie-rod.

    You can figure what the difference between front and rear rim-to-wire should be from knowing the alignment specs and rim diameter, but I ended up setting my B6 A4 with zero difference between front and rear measurments, and have excellent tracking and none of the tire scuffing that it had with too much toe-in on one side.

    One other suggestion about the lower-rear control arm: on the B5 A4 which I had, the two rear subframe bolts needed to be loosened to allow clearance for removing the control arm bolt. I'll be finding out if that is an issue on the Passat.
    chefro and camimenko like this.

  8. #6
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    B5.5 Suspension Overhaul advice

    For the lower rearward arm, if you have replacement bolts, just cut the old ones in half (they can come most of the way out before they hit the floor pan) so you don't have to loosen the subframe. Then insert the new bolts from the opposite direction. Works like a charm.


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    chefro, jjpark and camimenko like this.
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  9. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by ylwagon View Post
    Next stretch a wire between two supports that hold the wire horizontal at axle level, ahead of the a front wheel and behind the rear wheel. I use jack-stands weighted to keep from tipping over as the wire (I happen to use 26 ga or 28 ga stranded, insullated wire) is made taunt. Adjust the location of the supports until the wire is roughly 1/2 inch from the wheel rims, so you can hold a steel scale or whatever measuring device against the rim to record the space between rim and inside of the wire. Note the difference between the measurments at the front and rear of the rim.
    Can you find the time to snap Saturday a few pics of the setup?

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    Sure will, just need to get my helper (22 year-old son) motivated to start the project.
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  11. #9
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    I would assume it's similar to this video here. I was reading the description of the setup, but it didn't click until I saw the video.

    chefro likes this.

  12. #10
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    I'll be with you in spirit this weekend. My Bilstein HDs and sundry strut/shock parts are expected to be delivered today; also from fcpeuro. Wheel bearings, ugh, good luck on that one. I've tried with a hd shop press with no success. I took the spindle to a local garage to have them do it; they ruined 1 bearing in the process and still have some noise in 1 side (not allgned right/backwards?). I have since found a Euro specialist who has the hub-mounted press; said he'd replace them for $200 a piece if ever needed again.

  13. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waggn_vdub View Post
    Wheel bearings, ugh, good luck on that one. I've tried with a hd shop press with no success. I took the spindle to a local garage to have them do it; they ruined 1 bearing in the process and still have some noise in 1 side (not allgned right/backwards?). I have since found a Euro specialist who has the hub-mounted press; said he'd replace them for $200 a piece if ever needed again.
    I had better luck with my wheel bearing replacement, once I finally got the pinch bolt out. I carried the bare spindle and the bearing to a local shop and had them press it in for me. No issues with it so far, cost me $50. The bearing can be pressed in backwards, but the hub will not go in if it is. You'll see in the picture below the hub has a step in it. The wider diameter of the bearing needs to be facing out.


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    thanks ylwagon! I will try that method as I am planning to replace the tierod ends and I'm fine with getting an alignment when I'm all done, but I wanted to get it close when I'm finished to be able to drive it to the shop. I really appreciate the insight and I'll see if the Passat needs those subframe bolts loosened. I'm just going to take my time and see how it goes.

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    Waggn_vdub, can you let me know a little more about the shocks you chose? I was wondering if the Bilstein HDs without any other suspension changes (springs, bars, etc) would be worthwhile over the Sachs OEM style. Thanks!

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    Quick question--is there any point in trying to press the bearing out/in with the carrier still in the car? I have a bearing press kit, but based on the replies here it seems a shop press is pretty much a must.

  17. #15
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    Plenty of people have had success doing it that way. I didn't have the tool already, or the knowledge on how to use it even if i did. Rather than risk it and end up damaging my bearing, I figured I'd just remove the whole knuckle and let a shop handle the press part.

  18. #16
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    I took the whole thing to the local NAPA where they did the press work for $35 each, I think. Since the ball joints are disconnected anyway, might as well hand the whole suspension casting assemblies and new bearings to the machine shop. Just be sure the person doing the job seems experienced with wheel bearing installation, and is aware of the stepped design of the hub and bearing.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  19. #17
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    Great thanks for that, I may well do that. What a nice clean set you have there Well wish me luck and I'll undoubtedly report back when I run into whatever snag arises. I'll try and snap the alignment like you suggest first, but being the first time I'm sure there's going to be something that doesn't come off quite right there.

  20. #18
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    Well, I was planning to keep the stock springs but am now leaning toward the 1BE spring set. The forum folks seem to agree the HDs do work with non-agressive lowering springs; either stock or OE sport. I didn't want to lower too much as I have a set of 17x7.5 Audi wheels I plan to reinstall this summer with 235/45 or 225/50 rubber.

    I got everything pulled apart and realized my upper control arm bushings are going bad. (It has been probably 50k since I replaced them with Meyle HD parts..) So, I'll pull apart the struts to save the spring seats/rubber parts and await a new order of parts. I'll get the upper and lower FCP control pairs and sport bump stops from FCP and the springs from a local dealer.

    For a stock 1BA suspension, I've chosen a 1BE OJH OYD config basing the rear on matching similar axle weight differential as the front. FCP didn't list the spring numbers from parts.vw.com or www.dotamatic.com/1BE (search the forum). The local dealer's online prices were less than ECS and shipping is the price of handling and a drive over there.

    To maybe further answer your question, I wanted more aggressive handling than the OE suspension. That may be the difference between the OE Sachs and Bilsteins HDs.
    Last edited by Waggn_vdub; 02-18-2017 at 05:39 PM.

  21. #19
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    I wouldn't mind more aggressive handling I just didn't think the shocks alone without springs would do it. I also have 17x7 wheel with 235/45 tires on there so I wasn't looking to lower the car. I'll do some more thinking to see if I want to invest the extra money in springs as well once I get into this all. Its kind of a big hit all at once Thanks for the tips I'll read up on the 1BE OJH OYD for the wagon. Mine already looks like its sitting more like the 1BE setup but I'll take a closer picture tomorrow to check that centerline measurement. That is quite the selection of front and rear weight springs for each! Thanks!

  22. #20
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    Bilstein HD drastically inprved my handling on stock springs. Perfect stiffness while compliant, but holds the road great.
    camimenko likes this.
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  23. #21
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    Yeah, the 1BE springs are pricey. I'm considering a look at a local junkyard since I saw a potential donor the last time I was there. I just collected the markings I needed for the front springs and 3 selections for the rear. Hope to get over there today or tomorrow.

  24. #22
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    Well we did the driver's side control arms (and outer CV boot/grease) yesterday, and it went smoothly. A lot of you folks deal with rusty bolts, but this thing is usually dry so nothing was stuck. For the lower control arm bolt, I just loosened the adjacent sub frame bolt about 1/2" then used a pry-bar to flex it enough to slip the bolt out, and later the new one in. Here is the order of steps we took:


    Loosen hub bolt with long breaker bar, and also lug nuts.

    Jack up car and remove wheel.

    Pry out the rubber plug on at the upper rear of the wheel well. Disconnect the ABS connector. Release the ABS cable from the caliper and two body attachments.

    Remove the brake caliper bolts, then suspend caliper from ABS access hole (where rubber plug was) with something such as coat-hanger wire. You may need to lever against the caliper and disk to push the piston in a little, through the inspection opening in the caliper, if there is a ridge on your disk.

    Set the disk aside, then remove the dust shield's three screws, then dust shield (thin sheet metal, so to avoid damage).

    Twist and pull on the ABS sensor to remove, then feed the cable through the holes in the suspension casting to completely remove the cable and sensor, to avoid damage.

    Re-install the lug bolts and with a metal bar against the floor and between two lug bolts to keep the hub from turning, remove the inner CV bolts. Re-adjust the bar as required. If you use a very long socket extension, or several plugged together, then there is no need to be under the car. Just tape your 12-point bit to the socket so it doesn't fall off. There is a very handy notch on the suspension casting, above the hub, to help keep the ratchet extension bar in place as you twist it.

    Disconnect tie-rod end from suspension casting.

    Remove pinch bolt (I know, sounds easy, it was)

    Tap upper ball joint studs out of casting.

    Remove hub bolt then tilt out suspension casting to remove the CV axle.

    Remove the lower shock bolt, then the upper three bolts in the engine compartment holding the shock/control arms. Remove that assembly, but if it was never out before, there is a bothersome little washer-like retainer the factory used during production. Toss that away when you get it off the threaded stud.

    Loosen the nuts holding the lower control arm ball joints to the suspension casting. There is a hex socket in each stud to hold them, just in case they turn.

    Disconnect the sway-bar link at the lower-front control arm, then remove the lower arm bolts. Lower the sub-frame at the rear to get that bolt out as I mentioned.

    The suspension casting and two lower arms will now come out. Back the ball joint stud nuts out until about even with the end of the threads. Now take a hammer and give each a nice whack until the tapered studs are loose. Remove the nuts and toss those control arms.

    Reinstall everything with the new parts, but don't tighten the bushing bolts yet. The arms should swivel on the bushing bolts, not gripped tight. Use thread locker on those CV bolts, and torque to spec (30 ft/lbs I think it was).

    When you get the disk and caliper back on, use a couple of lug bolts with spacers to make up for the lack of a wheel (I use the box-end of a couple of wrenches). Then lower the edge of the disk onto a sturdy wood block until all the weight is on the disk. The suspension will now be compressed to a normal position, so now tighten the bushing bolts.

    Attach the sway bar link bolt.

    Jack the car back up, install the wheel, lower and tighten the lug bolts.

    Tighten the axle bolt using a long breaker bar or a pipe-cheater on a shorter breaker bar to get the required leverage.


    At that point I'd had enough fun, so the other side will wait for another weekend.
    chefro likes this.

  25. #23
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    Thanks for the detailed walk-through ylwagon, that's super helpful! Also thanks VAGguy, I'm sold and will spend for the HDs. Much appreciated!

  26. #24
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    Well, you won't find Passat 1BE springs at the junk yard, as North America never got the option from VW.

    You can get H&R OE Sport or Neuspeed SofSport springs. They will drop you only 1/2" or so, maintaining suspension geometry, and up the rates a bit.

    I'd skip the Bilstien Touring shocks. They got bad reviews for poor performance on the road and shock dyno, reported in the suspension tuning forum on vwvortex back when it was full of quality info. Bilstien HDs are good, as are Koni yellows.

    You need to tighten the upper control arm pivot bolts at ride height as well as the lowers. I put a jack stand under the steering knuckle and lower the body slowly until all the weight is off the Jack.

    The rear track of the Passat is narrower than the front. If you use the string alignment method, make sure you have two strings, each Tied to a length of pipe (one string on each end) the exact same distance apart to form a large rectangle (two long sides are the strings, and the short ends are the pipes). Make sure the strings also end up the same length.

    Then you can place the pipes on jack stands. Put the height of the string at wheel hub height. Equalize the measurements from the string to each rear hub, side to side, then do the same for the front. (The rear distance will be greater, due to the narrower track width.)

    With this set up perfectly, you can measure the distance from the rearmost edge of the rim and compare it to the distance to the front most. Adjust the TRE until they are equal, or the front distance is slightly longer (toe in).

  27. #25
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    I forgot to add, the stock springs are fine and work well.

    Also, the Harbor Freight tool for pressing in and out wheel bearings with the steering knuckle still on the car works just fine.

  28. #26
    I had a steering knuckle in my shed. Really!
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    And if the ball stud turns when you go to tighten or loosen a ball joint of the lower rear control arm, you can jack it up from underneath. The pressure on the balljoint will hold it from turning. The Allen recesses can be hard to access, as the outer CV joint is usually right in the way.

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    Ok, from the Neuspeed website. The Sofsports are not available for the V6 and only the 1.8T sedan: indicates a 20mm drop. The Sport springs indicate a 38mm drop for both wagon/sedan in 1.8T form. Only the Sport spring is available for the V6 Sedan/Wagon: reported drop is 38mm.

    So here is the question. Can the 1.8T Sedan Sport springs be used on the V6 to place the amount of drop between 20 and 38mm; guessing around 30mm? (At least more like an OE sport type V6/wagon spring. Oh, I'm talking V6, FWD wagon.....)

  30. #28
    I had a steering knuckle in my shed. Really!
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    I'd look to see what H&R has in the OE Sport for your car.

    I think Neuspeed realized the SofSport rear springs on a wagon sit at Sport (for sedan) ride height. Which would be too low with SofSport fronts. Looks wise.

    So for wagons, they sell SofSport rears with Sport fronts (calling it a Sport kit), and probably Sport rears with Race fronts.

    Don't let the names fool you. Race springs are way too low for performance. They are only for looks. Sports are really too low as well, though the geometry isn't as compromised as it is with Race springs.

  31. #29
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    B5.5 Suspension Overhaul advice

    Thanks zak99B5! I was realizing the flaw in my logic last night.

    I guess my main concern is about alignment at this point. Can the H&R sports be used with Bilstein HDs and not require adjustable upper control arms for proper alignment?

    Update: after some digging, ECS has H&R Sport for the TDI Passat (H&R 54774-2) which in the fitment says it works with v6 fwd wagons; indicated drop is 1.3" up front. Is this tii much for stock alignment?


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    Last edited by Waggn_vdub; Yesterday at 05:25 AM.

  32. #30
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    Thanks zak99B5! I was realizing the flaw in my logic last night. Part of the trouble is the H&R OE sports are no longer available.

    I guess my main concern is about alignment at this point. Can the H&R sports be used with Bilstein HDs and not require adjustable upper control arms for proper alignment?


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