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Old 10-23-2008, 11:51 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Read this fully before you start.

Tools you need:

Sockets and extensions
Universal Joint
Breaker bar
Ratchet
150lb. + torque wrench
Propane hand held torch
Tuning fork style or C-clamp style ball joint remover (edit:don't use fork style- get the correct c-clamp style one, also the one from Harbor Freight style won't fit on the lower)
Anti-seize
Longest Craftsman crowbar sears has.
Another person to help.
Heavy Duty Impact Gun (optional)
Two jacks
Jackstands

There are 3 control arms on each front corner of the car. One upper and two lower ones. The front lower is straight, has a rubber bushing on one end and in the center of the arm and a ball joint on the other end. The rear lower control arm is bent and has one oil filled bushing on one end and a ball joint on the other. The front control arm outer bushing was destroyed on my car. I purchased my new aftermarket control arm assemblies thru ebay and an online source.(edit- only get them if you are on a budget or don't plan to keep car for much longer, oem lasts longer)

1. Measure from the center of the hub in front wheel to bottom of center of curved surface of front fender. This is your stock ride height.

2. You need to jack up the front of the car and put it on jackstands.

3. Remove the front wheels.

4. Remove the nuts holding the ball joints. This is where your helper comes in. Get the crowbar and position it between the ball joint and steering knuckle so it doesn't rotate on you when you are loosening the nut. Hold the crowbar so that you don't put stress on the upper control arm bushings. You need a breaker bar or an impact gun to loosen them since its about 145 ft.lbs. For those using a breaker bar, get a pipe and use it over the breaker bar so you don't kill yourself trying to loosen it (extra leverage). If the ball joint spins with the nut, you can stick a metric allen key on the end of the ball joint to hold it from spinning while you loosen the nut. Do not throw these nuts out. You might have to reuse them like I did. There is a sleeve in the steering knuckle that the ball joint goes in. If you hit the end of the ball joint to pop it out, the sleeve will come out with it. Don't do this. I learned this the hard way. Get the propane torch and heat the ball joint and nearby area up. (edit: do this as a last resort, get the correct c-clamp tool) This will expand the metal and make it easier to come apart. Get the ball joint remover and hit it to remove the ball joint. Most likely this will destroy your grease boot, so if you plan on just replacing the bushings and reusing the arms, get some replacement boots. New control arms should come with everything needed. Remove the bolt holding the front control arm center bushing to the shock. Get a jack and support the steering knuckle so it doesn't drop.
Be careful of the brake line and ABS cable.

5. Disconnect steering shaft from steering rack. Remove plastic cover to expose universal joint of the steering shaft from inside vehicle. Put a mark where the universal joint and steering rack are. Remove bolt and lift steering shaft from steering rack. Remove plastic ring around where steering rack sticks out.

6. The reason you need to drop the subframe is because the exhaust manifold gets in the way of the bolt that holds the passenger side control arm IIRC. Also the bolt that holds the rear control arm is not removable because the bolt is long enough that you can't remove it with the subframe in place. Remove the bolt that holds the wishbone engine mount to the subframe. There are plastic clips that attach the splash guard to the subframe. The manual says to remove the transverse member which looks like a minisway bar between the two triangular pieces , but I don't recall doing that. The rear of the subframe is held by a triangular piece on each side. Remove each triangular piece by removing the two bolts and the nut. Place a jack under the subframe to support it so it doesn't come crashing down. Loosen the nuts holding the front of the subframe and leave a 1/4" of thread showing. This should give you enough play to drop the subframe.

7. Once the subframe is dropped, you can access the front control arm bolt from inside the subframe. Remove the front control arm. You can remove the rear control arm bolt and remove the rear control arm.

8. Put some anitseize on all nuts and bolts removed. Install the two control arms and bolts for the subframe. Tighten these bolts slightly because you need to load the suspension to close to stock height when you tighten any rubber bushing in the suspension. Install the center bolt for the front control arm to the shock. Install the ball joint ends to the steering knuckle. The nuts that came with my new control arms were too small so I reused the old nuts. Tighten the nuts to about 145 ft.lbs. using the crowbar to prevent the steering knuckle from rotating. Using the jack on the rear of the subframe, raise the subframe up. Tighten the front nuts holding the subframe up till it touches the subframe to reduce play. You cannot raise the subframe all the way up because you cannot tighten the control arm bolt in the subframe. Raise it enough to be able to tighten the bolt holding the control arm. You might be able to tighten the rear control arm bolt with the subframe all the way up using a universal joint. Raise the subframe. Tighten all hardware slightly because the steering rack bolts are next and you need to be careful here. Use your finger or the universal joint if you can't reach it and tighten it by hand. Do not force it because you might ruin the threads. If it gets tight real quick, that means the threaded hole is not lined up and you need to move the subframe slightly to line the holes up. Raise the suspension up from under the steering knuckle to the premeasured ride height. The control arm bolts should now be tightened to about 85 ft.lbs. Tighten the transverse member (bolts are 65 ft.lbs.) and triangle pieces and tighten all nuts to 100 ft.lbs. and bolts to 85 ft.lbs. to the subframe. Tighten the steering rack bolts to 75 ft.lbs. Install plastic clips to splash shield to subframe.

9. Install endlinks, battery and battery tray and front wheels and you're done! (edit: Remember to tighten all fasteners with the car on the ground. You can put them on ramps, cinder blocks, heat treated wood blocks to give you more room to tighten bolts)

It's been a few months since I did this, so hopefully I didn't forget anything. I am not responsible for what happens to you or your vehicle if you follow this procedure. If you find something to add or is wrong, please contribute. Torque specs were from a shop manual for a 4 cylinder, but should be the same for a V6. I spoke with a member that had a 4 cylinder and he said you didn't need to drop the subframe. This might be possible since there is enough clearance and if you're only replacing the front lower control arm. Sorry about not having pics. Never done it before. If I have time I'll load some up.
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Old 10-24-2008, 02:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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how long did the job take?
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Old 10-25-2008, 12:37 AM   #3 (permalink)
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QUOTE (its rayden @ Oct 24 2008, 07:45 PM)
Quote:
how long did the job take?[/b]
It took about 6-7 hours including the upper control arms.

Also, the symptoms of worn control arms are pulling of the car when braking and creaking noises. Side effects include worn tires because of misalignment.
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Old 10-25-2008, 09:42 AM   #4 (permalink)
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i just got back from my mechanic whose diagnosis confirmed everything here.

question, where can i get the parts? i saw some sites online to order OE parts but i can't remember them..
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Planned for the future: RB front/rear sways
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Old 10-25-2008, 10:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I purchased my new aftermarket control arm assemblies thru ebay and an online source. For OE, try our sponsor www.onlinemazdaparts.com

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Old 10-26-2008, 01:40 PM   #6 (permalink)
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See if we had a bushing kit then you would only have to do this once. You can be sure you will have to do this again in about another 3 years.
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Old 10-26-2008, 02:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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QUOTE (chilimax21 @ Oct 23 2008, 10:51 PM)
Quote:
Read this fully before you start.

Tools you need:

Sockets and extensions
Universal Joint
Breaker bar
Ratchet
150lb. + torque wrench
Propane hand held torch
Tuning fork style or C-clamp style ball joint remover
Anti-seize
Longest Craftsman crowbar sears has.
Another person to help.
Heavy Duty Impact Gun (optional)
Two jacks
Jackstands

There are 3 control arms on each front corner of the car. One upper and two lower ones. The front lower is straight, has a rubber bushing on one end and in the center of the arm and a ball joint on the other end. The rear lower control arm is bent and has one oil filled bushing on one end and a ball joint on the other. The front control arm outer bushing was destroyed on my car. I purchased my new aftermarket control arm assemblies thru ebay and an online source.

1. Measure from the center of the hub in front wheel to bottom of center of curved surface of front fender. This is your stock ride height.

2. You need to jack up the front of the car and put it on jackstands.

3. Remove the front wheels.

4. Remove the nuts holding the ball joints. This is where your helper comes in. Get the crowbar and position it between the ball joint and steering knuckle so it doesn't rotate on you when you are loosening the nut. Hold the crowbar so that you don't put stress on the upper control arm bushings. You need a breaker bar or an impact gun to loosen them since its about 145 ft.lbs. For those using a breaker bar, get a pipe and use it over the breaker bar so you don't kill yourself trying to loosen it (extra leverage). I fthe ball joint spins with the nut, you can stick a metric allen key on the end of the ball joint to hold it from spinning while you loosen the nut. Do not throw these nuts out. You might have to reuse them like I did. There is a sleeve in the steering knuckle that the ball joint goes in. If you hit the end of the ball joint to pop it out, the sleeve will come out with it. Don't do this. I learned this the hard way. Get the propane torch and heat the ball joint and nearby area up. This will expand the metal and make it easier to come apart. Get the ball joint remover and hit it to remove the ball joint. Most likely this will destroy your grease boot, so if you plan on just replacing the bushings and reusing the arms, get some replacement boots. New control arms should come with everything needed. Remove the bolt holding the front control arm center bushing to the shock. Get a jack and support the steering knuckle so it doesn't drop.
Be careful of the brake line and ABS cable.

5. Remove the battery and tray. This will help gain you access to the two steering rack bolts when you drop the rear of the subframe. You need to use a universal joint with long extensions to loosen the steering rack bolts. You might need the breaker bar since mine were super tight. Leave bolts in place.

6. The reason you need to drop the subframe is because the exhaust manifold gets in the way of the bolt that holds the passenger side control arm IIRC. Also the bolt that holds the rear control arm is not removable because the bolt is long enough that you can't remove it with the subframe in place. Remove the bolt that holds the wishbone engine mount to the subframe. There are plastic clips that attach the splash guard to the subframe. Disconnect the endlinks from the front sway bar. The manual says to remove the transverse member which looks like a minisway bar between the two triangular pieces , but I don't recall doing that. The rear of the subframe is held by a triangular piece on each side. Remove each triangular piece by removing the two bolts and the nut. Place a jack under the subframe to support it so it doesn't come crashing down. Loosen the nuts holding the front of the subframe and leave a 1/4" of thread showing. This should give you enough play to drop the subframe.

7. Once the subframe is dropped, you can access the front control arm bolt from inside the subframe. Remove the front control arm. You can remove the rear control arm bolt and remove the rear control arm.

8. Put some anitseize on all nuts and bolts removed. Install the two control arms and bolts for the subframe. Tighten these bolts slightly because you need to load the suspension to close to stock height when you tighten any rubber bushing in the suspension. Install the center bolt for the front control arm to the shock. Install the ball joint ends to the steering knuckle. The nuts that came with my new control arms were too small so I reused the old nuts. Tighten the nuts to about 145 ft.lbs. using the crowbar to prevent the steering knuckle from rotating. Using the jack on the rear of the subframe, raise the subframe up. Tighten the front nuts holding the subframe up till it touches the subframe to reduce play. You cannot raise the subframe all the way up because you cannot tighten the control arm bolt in the subframe. Raise it enough to be able to tighten the bolt holding the control arm. You might be able to tighten the rear control arm bolt with the subframe all the way up using a universal joint. Raise the subframe. Tighten all hardware slightly because the steering rack bolts are next and you need to be careful here. Use your finger or the universal joint if you can't reach it and tighten it by hand. Do not force it because you might ruin the threads. If it gets tight real quick, that means the threaded hole is not lined up and you need to move the subframe slightly to line the holes up. Raise the suspension up from under the steering knuckle to the premeasured ride height. The control arm bolts should now be tightened to about 85 ft.lbs. Tighten the transverse member (bolts are 65 ft.lbs.) and triangle pieces and tighten all nuts to 100 ft.lbs. and bolts to 85 ft.lbs. to the subframe. Tighten the steering rack bolts to 75 ft.lbs. Install plastic clips to splash shield to subframe.

9. Install endlinks, battery and battery tray and front wheels and you're done!

It's been a few months since I did this, so hopefully I didn't forget anything. I am not responsible for what happens to you or your vehicle if you follow this procedure. If you find something to add or is wrong, please contribute. Torque specs were from a shop manual for a 4 cylinder, but should be the same for a V6. I spoke with a member that had a 4 cylinder and he said you didn't need to drop the subframe. This might be possible since there is enough clearance and if you're only replacing the front lower control arm. Sorry about not having pics. Never done it before. If I have time I'll load some up.[/b]
One suggestion, learned from doing the front swaybar install: You can get to the driver's side steering rack bolts thru the fenderwell. It's not easy but IMO easier than going thru the hassle of removing the battery and tray and trying to fish a socket and universal on a long extension down from the top.
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Old 10-26-2008, 04:42 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I tried that as well. There isn't much room to get to the inner steering rack bolt. That's why I went from the top.
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Old 10-27-2008, 12:00 AM   #9 (permalink)
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is there any difference between the oem parts that onlinemazdaparts.com and the DORMAN products being sold on rockauto.com? the price difference is pretty insane.
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Old 10-27-2008, 10:47 AM   #10 (permalink)
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The aftermarket parts I ordered looked pretty much the same. The only differences were that the nuts for the ball joints were locknuts with the plastic inside them. I couldn't use them for the lower because the nut was too small in diameter to lock the ball joint to the steering knucle. You need to add a washer or reuse the old nut like I did. The grease boot looked slightly different, but everything else looked the same. I decided to go aftermarket since I already know how long the OEMs lasted plus they were significantly cheaper in price.
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