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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, and thanks in advance for any help you can offer. I'm following this guide (and others) as I replace the front suspension on my wife's 2004 TDI Passat wagon.
http://www.passatworld.com/forums/61-b5-information-base/103600-control-arm-faq.html

Things have gone reasonable well so far, but I'm stuck near the end of the process. I pre-installed the upper control arms on the bracket per the spec in Bentley. (47mm offset) Now that the bracket is back in the car, I don't see how it's possible to just reverse the procedure to put them back into the wheel arm. The distance is so great that when I push the arms down they are at nowhere near the correct angle to enter the holes above the pinch bolt.

I've tried raising the wheel arm, but this is compressing the strut assembly which adds a ton of tension to the system. I got the wheel arm within a couple of inches of the control arm points but everything was so stiff I couldn't maneuver them in. Also, I couldn't determing a great point to lift the assembly from and settled on the point where the rear lower control arm attaches. That wasn't too stable so if the answer is in fact to raise things, please let me know how to do so safely.

Thanks again. I hope I'm missing something simple, but I can't figure it out!

Matt

B5_passat_controlarms.jpg
 

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It's been a while since I've done this job, but it seems to me you need the weight on the wheel hub so that when you tighten everthing down, you'll have the rubber mounts in more or less an unstressed position - especially important when you hook up the sway bar. I can't say how kosher it is, but I've rested the hub on a (very solid and wide) wooden block, with additional supports under the car for safety. That bolt that you can see in your picture just behind and below the brake rotor is what takes the weight. If you use something solid (e.g. cement brick) as your support, put a piece of wood on top to avoid ruining that bolt.

Seeing that you managed to get that stubborn bolt out of the upper part of the knuckle, it seems your doing great. I don't recall any other major frustrations with that job, so I think it'll go together fine once you have the car lowered with the weight on the hub.
 

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No other way. Work the ball joints a little to get the right angle. Jack up the assembly to get it as close as possible Use copious amounts of anti sieze as well. All the installs I've done work out great doing that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
No other way. Work the ball joints a little to get the right angle. Jack up the assembly to get it as close as possible Use copious amounts of anti sieze as well. All the installs I've done work out great doing that.
Thanks, any advice on where to support the hub when lifting it? I tried lifting from the bolt under the lower front control arm but the hub turned away from the upper control arms and I couldn't wrestle it back into place. Also, I posted the wrong link for the howto. I'm looking at this one.
Control arm replacement and suspension removal VW Passat Audi A4 A6
 

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that's pretty much it. Wrestle it back into position.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
that's pretty much it. Wrestle it back into position.
Thanks, I'll go after it again tonight with renewed vigor. I have a couple of other questions on how to finish this up based on your experience:

- Do you just center that nut under the hub directly on a floor jack? Do you put a piece of wood between or no?
- For the lower rear control arm, do you lower the subframe? (I've seen that bolt just hammered in)
- For the lower suspension parts with rubber bushings, can they be hand tightened while raised and torqued to spec after the car is lowered on its wheels? (control arms to subframe, strut bolt)
 

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  • I don't put anything between the jack and hub, but you can if you want. I have actually worn a hole through the rubber pad on my jack from it.
  • I cut the old bolt in half to remove and then insert the new one from the other direction through the access hole in the subframe. A little finalging, but not bad. I do not loosen the subframe bolts.
  • Once you raise the hub up with the jack to the point that the car lifts ever so slightly off of the jack stand (springs are carrying full weight) then you can tighten the lower bushing bolts and uppers, if you didn't preset them to the bentley prescribed height.
 

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I recommend bringing the mountain to Mohammed--support the wheel hub at it's normal driving height above the ground with blocks, and lower the car untile the control arms line up. This is how I did it, and I don't recall any wrestling match. If you have a decent jack (and some safety blocks), you should be all set.

And if you don't own a good hydraulic floor jack, I recommend the words, "Honey, I need to run to the auto parts store to get something for the car, I'll be right back!"
 

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I recommend bringing the mountain to Mohammed--support the wheel hub at it's normal driving height above the ground with blocks, and lower the car untile the control arms line up. This is how I did it, and I don't recall any wrestling match. If you have a decent jack (and some safety blocks), you should be all set.

And if you don't own a good hydraulic floor jack, I recommend the words, "Honey, I need to run to the auto parts store to get something for the car, I'll be right back!"
it's easier to just jack up the bottom of the hub, like VAGguy suggested. it will compress the spring as it comes up. sure, the entire assembly may twist away a bit from lining up with the upper control arms, but it isn't that hard to pull it back into place.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
  • I don't put anything between the jack and hub, but you can if you want. I have actually worn a hole through the rubber pad on my jack from it.
  • I cut the old bolt in half to remove and then insert the new one from the other direction through the access hole in the subframe. A little finalging, but not bad. I do not loosen the subframe bolts.
  • Once you raise the hub up with the jack to the point that the car lifts ever so slightly off of the jack stand (springs are carrying full weight) then you can tighten the lower bushing bolts and uppers, if you didn't preset them to the bentley prescribed height.
Thanks VAGguy. I love the idea of cutting the subframe bolt on the rear lower control arm! Do you have a preferred method? I got a generic hacksaw blade on it tonight and it didn't make a scratch. I assume these bolts are hardened somehow. I might be able to get a dremmel in there if I back the bolt out far enough.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Appreciate all the great guidance and multiple ways to attack this challenge. It's less daunting with support. (really) I had planned to skip the lower rear control arms since I didn't want to drop the subframe. Now that I've got a way to get after those I'm going to back up a step and get them installed. Minor bummer because I've got to take some stuff back out but it makes sense to get the full suspension refresh.
 

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It's best when doing this job to do it all at once. What was the reason you decided to do this job? Feeling vibrations or hearing noises? I'm hearing some slight front end clunks now, and I've been hearing creaking from passenger side rear LCA for almost 2 years now and I think it's likely time to replace all the control arms and TREs. Just deciding if I want to tackle this or have a shop do it, and what parts to buy. I'd prefer something German with HD TREs but unsure of which brand/kit to buy.
 

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Thanks VAGguy. I love the idea of cutting the subframe bolt on the rear lower control arm! Do you have a preferred method? I got a generic hacksaw blade on it tonight and it didn't make a scratch. I assume these bolts are hardened somehow. I might be able to get a dremmel in there if I back the bolt out far enough.
Pull the bolt out as far as you can, then carefully dremel through it with a cutting wheel attachment wherever you have the most clearance so as not to nick anything else. I got most of the way through, then bent the bolt at that point provide clearance to remove. About 5 mins of work.
 

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I'm in the middle of replacing all 8 front control arms on my '03 Passat sedan. I started on & am currently working on the passenger side. Here's what I did for the uppers. Because I'm also doing the lowers, I didn't reconnect the strut at the bottom. First, I wedged a short, stubby flathead screwdriver into the front split of the clamping bolt area (this worked perfectly because it didn't block insertion of the clamp bolt or the balljoint stud). I partially inserted the clamp bolt almost to that split. I left the upper strut bracket bolts threaded but loose and was able to lift up on the axle, supported it on my knees, pulled the front UCA balljoint down to its hole. While firmly holding it there, I used a hammer to lightly tap it in. As soon as the groove in the stud lined up with the clamp bolt hole, I pushed the clamp bolt further in and it held while I threaded the fastener on. The rear UCA went even easier, but it's very important to wedge something in the splits. Some people use washers or chisels.
 

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I got on here to also ask for help on my CA job (see post #14). I saw this (mgoff5000's) post, so I think I'll ask it here cuz it will probably help him/her, too.

I'm having trouble getting the new front LCA's ball joint to go into its hole in the wheel bearing housing. I tried to put its balljoint in there first thing before anything else but without success. Essentially, with the angle the balljoint hole is at, the CV joint is in the way keeping me from tapping the control arm balljoint end in the direction of its hole with a wood dowel or hammer. Now, I currently have the CA's pivot end connected to the subframe with its bolt inserted and the balljoint taper entry sitting on top of the hole. Am I on the right track? Any ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I'm in the middle of replacing all 8 front control arms on my '03 Passat sedan. I started on & am currently working on the passenger side. Here's what I did for the uppers. Because I'm also doing the lowers, I didn't reconnect the strut at the bottom. First, I wedged a short, stubby flathead screwdriver into the front split of the clamping bolt area (this worked perfectly because it didn't block insertion of the clamp bolt or the balljoint stud). I partially inserted the clamp bolt almost to that split. I left the upper strut bracket bolts threaded but loose and was able to lift up on the axle, supported it on my knees, pulled the front UCA balljoint down to its hole. While firmly holding it there, I used a hammer to lightly tap it in. As soon as the groove in the stud lined up with the clamp bolt hole, I pushed the clamp bolt further in and it held while I threaded the fastener on. The rear UCA went even easier, but it's very important to wedge something in the splits. Some people use washers or chisels.
Thanks for the process. I'm assuming you've got the lower front control arm off? Or did you just move the strut fork to the side when you lifted the hub? Let me know if you have any problems getting the lower front control arm in place. If I'm thinking of this correctly, the hub assembly is going have to pull the upper CAs pretty far down to get the lower front CA below the strut fork.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I got on here to also ask for help on my CA job (see post #14). I saw this (mgoff5000's) post, so I think I'll ask it here cuz it will probably help him/her, too.

I'm having trouble getting the new front LCA's ball joint to go into its hole in the wheel bearing housing. I tried to put its balljoint in there first thing before anything else but without success. Essentially, with the angle the balljoint hole is at, the CV joint is in the way keeping me from tapping the control arm balljoint end in the direction of its hole with a wood dowel or hammer. Now, I currently have the CA's pivot end connected to the subframe with its bolt inserted and the balljoint taper entry sitting on top of the hole. Am I on the right track? Any ideas?
I'm pretty sure I had the axle back in (I put new Raxles axles in during this job) before I installed that lower front CA. I definitely put the ball joint in before the rubber bushing side. I think I angled the ball joint shaft back towards the arm, hooked it into the housing from the side opposite the CV joint, captured the end with the nut and then rotated the bushing end into place. I have noticed that relative spacing changes a fair bit as you raise/lower/rotate the hub so that might be an option too. (I had a lot more trouble with the bushing end. It basically took me an hour to get comfortable that it was going to take a hammer to get the bolt "aligned properly" with the rear subframe hole. I hate using a hammer on threaded hardware but I needed the same approach with the strut fork bolt.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It's best when doing this job to do it all at once. What was the reason you decided to do this job? Feeling vibrations or hearing noises? I'm hearing some slight front end clunks now, and I've been hearing creaking from passenger side rear LCA for almost 2 years now and I think it's likely time to replace all the control arms and TREs. Just deciding if I want to tackle this or have a shop do it, and what parts to buy. I'd prefer something German with HD TREs but unsure of which brand/kit to buy.
I didn't like the way the car seemed to "float" when hitting dips at freeway speed. I don't know how these cars handled new, but I get the sense that people actually like this suspensions performance. (if not the fragile design!) I assumed at least shocks were needed on this car. It's got 145k miles and I know nothing of the history before I bought it at 120k. A shop looked at it and recommended shocks and control arms. There was also a torn axle boot and horrible vibrations when stopped in drive. Those symptoms combined with general forum advice led me to decide to swap it all out.

Axles: Raxles.com (I found no credible alternatives other than VW parts)
Shocks/Struts: Koni STRT (from idparts.com)
Control arms: Meyle HD (from fcpeuro.com , they have and economy set for much less, but I wasn't sure on quality)

I ended up having Pep Boys swap out my struts for $20/side. I tried an OTC 6494 clamshell compressor from amazon but returned it. Tool has a max torque rating of 30 Nm. I took it to 40 and it wasn't compressed enough. I know people throw air tools on these but I didn't want the epitaph "Ignored manufacturer's safety precautions"

Hope this helps. I can't comment on the time because you may be more/less adept at this than I am. But aside from time I've just been stumped on stuff I've already put about 20 hours into this and expect I've got ten more to complete it. Shop time on this is about 10-12 hours depending on whether they account for overlap in the work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Pull the bolt out as far as you can, then carefully dremel through it with a cutting wheel attachment wherever you have the most clearance so as not to nick anything else. I got most of the way through, then bent the bolt at that point provide clearance to remove. About 5 mins of work.
Nice, this totally worked. I didn't hit the five minute mark and had to cut twice, but it worked. It wasn't even as bad as I expected getting the (reversed) bolt through. When it comes to torquing stuff down, am I correct that we only have to worry about pre-loading on the bonded rubber bushing side of control arms? I torqued the ball joint on the rear lower control arm with the outer end of the axle removed and the suspension hanging down because I don't see how the ball joint pin could be pre-loaded. Am I missing something there?
 

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Nope. Just the bushing end. You're good to go.
 
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