paddedwall.org
where your opinions are noted, and then summarily ignored

Suspension

Click image for full size version, and more pics.

Instruction videos/pages used:

I wanted to lower the car a bit from it's stock stance in order to get the top of the tire closer to the top of the wheel well. At the same time, I didn't want to go so low that the pinion angle required changing, or the car developed too harsh of a ride since it is a daily driver. Beyond lowering, I wanted better shocks to prevent bounce in the suspension, and to mitigate front end dive and life when accerlerating/braking. Again, this is a daily driver with no real chance of seeing track duty, so I had no immediate need for better sway bars or bushings (which I later replaced anyway - grin).

I chose Roush DUB springs (Eibach Pros in all actuality, purchased from Roush Overstock), and Koni STR.T shocks/struts. To avoid alignment problems, I also purchased a set of Maximum Motorsport Caster/Camber plates.

With the help of a friend, I installed the rear shocks and springs, but when it came time to do the front, I couldn't get the jack far enough under the car without possibly tearing up the new side skrts, so I took it to Murillo Motorsports here in San Antonio, and they did the fronts for me. They're a real nice bunch of guys over there, but I'm somewhat put off by their apparent lack of knowledge of the S197 platform. First, they initially didn't use the CC plate strut spacers when they installed the struts (even though I gave them the MM instructions with the plates). Second, they didn't transfer the OEM spring isolators to the new springs, so I'm almost sure this is going to start squeaking in the near future.

After all that, the front is noticeably lower, but I'm not sure you'll notice the drop in the rear end. I really wanted a bit more drop in the back.

Final note - if you have a 2011+ car,do NOT get the Koni shocks. Get the Eibach instead, because the Eibach are actually made fpor the 2011+ cars.


Adjustable Panhard Bar

Click image for full size version, and more pics.

The panhard bar's primary purpose is to keep the rear end from deflecting too far from side to side in cornering situations or on uneven road surfaces.

Why do you want to install an adjustable panhard bar? As delivered, a Mustang may or may not have the rear end centered perfectly under the car. You can determine this by simply observing how far the tire are from the edge of the fender well. When you lower your car, and install wider tires, the problem will be more pronounced (and obvious).

Fortunately, this is the easiest suspension part that you can change on your car.

0) Jack up the car and secure it on jackstands.

1) Remove the panhard bar bolt (18mm wrench) from the driver's side axle bracket.

2) Loosen the panhard brace nut (18mm wrench) on the passenger side. It's located above the panhard bar. You don't have to remove it completely, just loosen it enough so that it's about 1/8 inch away from the bracket surface.

3) Remove the panhard bar bolt on the passenger side. Be ready to catch the panhard bar in case it decides it wants to fall and hit you in the head. You can now remove it from the car.

4) Get your new bar, and adjust it to be the same length as your OEM bar. To ease this task, lay the bar on the ground, and push a panhard bar boltup through the hole at each end. Then, addjust the new bar until it lines up with the bolts.

5) Install the new bar. You'll have to do the drivers side frist because of the way the bracket is made. Push the bolts through the holes, and tighten them up.

6) Re-tighten the panhard bar brace nut.

7) Adjust the bar so that the rear end is center under the car., tighten the jam nuts, and you're done.

J&M Aluminum Adjustable Panhard Bar

I originally chose the J&M Aluminum Adjustable Panhard Bar because it was aluminum and because it could be adjusted at both ends of the bar. Had I known then what I know now about the chassis configuration on my car, I would have chosen a different bar. In fact my general advice is to BUY A DIFFERENT BAR!!

The lock nuts are at the very end of the bar (which seemed like a better idea to me). However, once I got under the car, I found that the lock nuts cannot be turned or tightened with the bar in the car. What fuckin' good is that? It was difficult to adjust the bar without having it in the car as a result, and in the end, I'm not at all happy with it.

Well, the panhard bar passenger side jam nut came loose (or was never tight enough to begin with, depending on your outlook), and it started making a rattling noise. The guys at Murillo said they tightened it up, but I guess it needs some pursuasion to stay put, so I applied some blue loctite to see if that doesn't address the issue once and for all. The rear end also "adjusted" itself more to the drivers side, so I actually have to adjust it again (make it shorter).

If you insist on buying this bar (which I advise AGAINST doing) Here are some install hints.

  • Before installing it, send it back and get something else. The jam nuts are too close to the end of the bar, and once in the car, can NOT be tightened. Barring that...

  • Before putting it in the car, make it the same length as the factory bar. Do not tighten the jam nuts at this time.

  • Install the bar in the car, and secure it to the drivers side of the axle with the OEM bolt/nut.

  • Push the other end of the bar up into the bracket mounted on the body, and push the bolt through the bracket, but do not put the nut on.

  • Turn the bar until the rear end has been moved into the correct position under the body of the car. Once it's centered, tighten the driver's side jam nut on the panhard bar.

  • Pull the bolt out of the body bracket, and pull the bar almost all the way out of the bracket. Tighten the jam nut, and push the bar back up into the bracket and align the holes as best as you can. If you have a helper, he/she may have to bump the drivers side tire toward the passenger side of the car until you can push the bolt back through the bracket/bar.

  • Tighten the passenger side bolt, and you're done!

I eventually replaced this bar with the one from Ford Racing (because I got it for $99). Any single-adjustable panhard bar with the adjustment well away from one end of the bar should work fine.

Panhard Bar Brace

I chose the Whiteline panhard bar brace, purchased at American Muscle (#54105) for $110. All aftermarket braces are pretty much the same, so any of them should do the trick for you.

Why do you want to replace the OEM brace? I'm glad you asked. The OEM panhard bar brace is made of thin stamped steal, and is prone to bending and flexing. Aftermarket panhard braces are all made from tubular steel and are inherently stonger than stanmped parts. This means no flexing/bending during spirited driving. This will, in turn, add a bit more rigidity to the rear end.

To change out the panhard brace, you'll need a 18mm wrench, a 15mm socket, 12-inch extension, and ratchet. It shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to do this.

0) Loosen the panhard bar bolt (18mm socket) on the passenger side of the car. The bolt head is facing the front of the car. You just have to loosen it enough to take the pressure from that bolt off the mounting bracket.

1) Using a 18mm wrench, remove the panhard bar brace bolt on the passenger side of the car. The nut you'll be removing is on side of the bracket facing the rear of the car. You may be able to use a ratchet/socket for this but I couln't because of my Eibach sway bar links.

2) On the driver's side of the car, you'll see two 15mm bolts holding up the other end of the brace. Remove them, and the brace should pretty much fall out of the car. Remove the brace and put it aside.

3) Insert your new brace where the old one was. It should be pretty obvious how to do that.

4) Line up the driver's side of the brace with the two holes in the chassis, and run the bolts up just shy of finger tight.

5) Line the passenger side up with the hole in the bracket, and push the bolt through from the FRONT side, and thread the nut onto it (on the rear side of the bracket) as far as you can with your fingers.

6) Tighten all of the bolts (don't forget to retighten the panhard bar bolt as well), and you're done.

Whiteline Lower Control Arm Relocation Brackets

Click image for full size version, and more pics.

Even if you're not a drag racer, you still want your rear suspension to be as stable as possible, and on a lowered car, wheel hop can be a problem. The lower your car is, the more likely it is that you'll have it. The solution is to change the rear suspension geometry to restore the lower control arms to a more appropriate angle. Lower control arm relocation brackets are the way you accomplish this.

I chose Whiteline relocation brackets, mostly because they were reasonably priced, but secondly, because Whiteline has a good reputation for making quality parts, and finally, because I could make this mod myself in my driveway.

Installation is a simple affair. Simply remove the bolt that connects the existing lower control arms to the rear axle, install the brackets, and reconnect your lower control arms. The instructions that come with the brackets are detailed and include pictures. I advise that your read them a couple of times BEFORE your start work.

Special Notes

You're going to need a 22mm wrench and a 22mm socket. I had the socket, but when I went to buy a wrench, I found that nether Lowes nor Home Depot had them. I had to go to Napa.

You're going to need a torque wrnech that goes to 150 foot-pounds. These torque wrenches are pretty big, and only come in 1/2-inch drive, so make sure your 22mm socket is also 1/2-inch drive.

Tips

When you're putting the silver bolt into the passenger-side bracket, it can be problemantic to get the nut up into position and started from inside the bracket. I used some blue painter's tape and taped the nut to a 19mm box wrench, and threaded the bolt into it.

If you're adding relocation brackets, you must either also install an adjustable upper control arm, and/or adjustable lower control arms. This is because using the OEM lower control arms will change the pinion angle, and you'll need a way to correct that angle. Adjustable control arms are your only solution here.

SR Performance Adjustable Lower Control Arms

Click image for full size version, and more pics.

To compensate for the need longer control arms due to installation of LCA brackets, I chose to install adjustable lower control arms. I chose the SR-Performance arms because of price and the kind of turnbuckle they use.

I have a few complaints about these arms. The complaints are minor, but I have them none the less.

  • The instructions supplied wit these arms appear to for the non-adjustable version. They make no mention of the almuinum bushings.

  • The end of the arm with the poly bushing is a VERY tight fit. It goes in the chassis bracket towards the front of the car. The reason this is a problem is because the arms come with NO GREASE. The arms really need a couple of packets of grease.

  • The reason it's such a tight fit is because I think the bushings are too thick. I think that if the bushings were 1/16 inch thinner on both sides, the fit would be a lot better.

Special Notes

For these control arms, the end with the red bushing goes into the bracket that's attached to the chassis. It's a VERY tight fit, and the only way I was able to get it into the bracket as to use a floor jack with a socket on the pad, lube both the bracket and the bushing with silcone grease, center the socket under the zert fitting, and jack the arm into the bracket. When it got to the appropriate height, I used the arm's length adjuster turnbuckle to line up the holes. It also helps if you have the other end in the LCA bracket on the rear end housing.

You're going to need a torque wrnech that goes to 150 foot-pounds. These torque wrenches are pretty big, and only come in 1/2-inch drive, so make sure you also have 1/2-inch drive sockets (15-19mm).

I search all over San Antonio for appropriate grease (silicone). Nobody had any in a 14.1-inch cartridge, so I had to orders some from Hotchkis suspension grease from Summit Racing for $25 (including shipping).

Steeda Front Lower Control Arms

When you open the box, you are greeted with what appears to be OEM control arms. Well, in a way, that's exactly what they are. They have "Ford" and Ford part numbers stamped all over them. Despite appearing to be just like your OEM control arms, there are several aspects of the Steeda parts that you should be aware of:

  • Since they're Ford control arms, you can be guaranteed that they'll fit your car with no issues. In and of itself, yhis is a "good thing" (TM), because the last thing you need when you've got your car torn apart is to find out that the part you're installing is juuuuust a little different than what you took out, and that this little difference is enough to delay the installation process.

  • The bushings are polyurethane, which makes for a more predictable feel. We all know the benefits of poly bushings on other suspension components, and using them on the control arms as well just makes sense.

  • The ball joint is about a 1/4-inch taller than the stock ball joint, and when you install it, you'll see that the height is added at the shoulder of the joint just above the boot. This also means that if you change out one arm, you need to do the other before driving the car because the handling will be affected by this variance in geometry between the two side sof the car.

  • If you're road-racing, or if your car is a street car, you need an arm that's not going to bend/buckle when you encounter a less then optimal road surface. Yess, these arms weigh more than the tubular arms available, but I think they're stronger. If you're drag racing, there's a lot to be said about making the front of the car as light as possible, not to mention thae fact that you're not likely to encounter any pot-holes in your typical 1/4 mile run.

  • I *think* these are the Boss 302 control arms with the bushings replaced (but of course, I could be wrong). The arms are from Ford, but the part numbers are different from my OEM ones.

Installation Notes

Installing the Steeda front lower control arms is a one-man do-it-yourself process. It's just four bolts per side, and when you get right down to it, it's a fairly simple mod that can be done in your driveway. However, there are some things you might like to be aware of before starting the job. Apologies up front for not having any pictures, but it was too freakin hot to keep getting up to find the camera and then get situated for the next step. Anyone that is even slightly self-aware should be able to envision what I'm talking about, especially if you're under the car, asking yourself "WTF is he talking about?"

  • You cannot use a ratchet on the inner front/rear bolts (the ones that connect the control arm to the frame). The ONLY place you can use a ratchet is on the bolt that connects the controil arm to the spindle, and even then, you need a 15mm wrench to keep the bolt itself from spinning as you loosed the nut with the ratchet.

  • You need a standard 21mm box/open-end wrench for the two rear frame bolts, and you can only loosen these bolts from the top so that precludes using a ratcheting wrench because you need the wrench to tilt down a little so you have room to turn it (Ford could not have made this any harder).

  • You CAN remove the front control arm bold without removing the steering rack. Follow these steps:

    • Loosen the front bolt until it's complete unthreaded from the nut.

    • Remove the rear nuts/bolts (there are two, and the inner one is a bitch because you only get about 1/4 turn on the wrench at a time).

    • Disconnect the tie-rod from the spindle.

    • Disconnect the control arm from the spindle. You have to *completely* remove the bolt before the control arm can be disconnected. When you slide the bolt out, the control arm will drop a little (the bolt is what was keeping the control arm in place).

    • Use a set of pliers to loosen the bellows clamp on the steering rack, and compress the bellows toward the rack.

    • At this point, you can push the spindle end of the control arm toward the back of the car which will angle the bolt just enough to be wiggled out of the bracket while you manipulate the bellows and the tie-rod out of the way.

  • There is little/no chance that you'll require an alignment after replacing your front LCAs, but you should take it in to a shop first thing to get the tow checked. This is the only alignment aspoect that you could possibly screw up.

Time to complete the mod is about three to four hours if you're working by yourself and don't take too many breaks.

Fays2 Watts Link

The kit arrived, and I was surprised to find a check-off sheet verifying that all of the necessary parts were included in the small parts box. This means that it's a good bet that I don't need to be making a phone call because of missing pieces. Thanks, Jim!

Installation

Click image for full size version.

The first thing I did was read through the instructions a few times. Since I'm very familiar with the rear suspension of my car, the only thing I really needed to verify was the proper assembly sequence of o-rings, washers, and spacers. If you've done ANY work on the rear suspension of your car, putting a Fays2 watts link in your car should only take 2-3 hours.

Jacking Up the Car

I know, it seems weird to have a section just for this step, but I wanted to illustrate a point. I first put jackstands at the pinch weld so that the suspension was unloaded. Removal of the existing panhard bar and brace is a litle easier, and after they're taken out, it's easier to center the rear end under the car than to center the car over a loaded rear suspension. Centering the (much lighter rear end before installing the prpoeller bars is CRITICAL in the installation process.

The Steps

  • Jack up the car and support the car with jackstands in such a way as to let the rear end hand free (unloaded).

  • Remove the existing panhard bar and brace.

  • Install the Fays2 frame (per the instructons in the install guide).

  • Install the axle tube clamps (per the instructons in the install guide).

  • Center the rear end under the car

  • Install and adjust the propeller (per the instructons in the install guide).

  • Apply blue locktite to all the axle clamp bolts and tighten to final torque specs as listed in the install manual.

The One and Only Problem

The kit comes with two axle clamps. One of these clamps is intended to go around the vent fitting on top of the passenger-side axle tube. There's also a note in the instructions that mentions that the vent fitting may be onthe driver's side of the rear end on 2012 and newer cars, and that's where mine was. The instructions say that in that situation, I was supposed to simply switch the sides that I put the axle clmaps on, and put the passenger side clamp on the driver's side instead, which I did.

What I found was that the clamp was so close to the center of the rear end that I couldn't make the watts bar short enough to bolt on. My improvisation was that instead of using the vent fitting as a key to placement, I made the watts bar a comfortable length, connected the propeller end, and then adjusted the clamp to the appropriate position and angle.

Kit Weirdness

Here are some things that struck me as odd about the kit.

The body of one watts bar was about 1/4-inch longer than the other. This isn't any big deal, because it's the overall length (hole to hole) that matters.

The propeller bolts had (non-locking) nuts on them that were not used in the final assembly, andthe locking nuts were in a separate bag.

The kit includes some 1/4-inch spacers for the grade 8 bolts that thread into the axle tube clamps. No mention of them is made in the instructions that I can see, but I did use one of them.

Special Tools

You will need two 1-1/8 wrenchs to assemble the watts link.

You should get a digital level (Home Depot sells them for $40 or so) so you can make sure that the watts bars are level.

Steeda Bumpsteer Kit

A bumpsteer kit is used to alter the steering geometry as it affects to in/out as the suspension deflects up and down. This is especially critical on a lowered car, and if you're going to road race, a bumpsteer kit is almost a requirement.

There are several bumpsteer kits available, and they're all essentially the same. I chose the Steeda set because Steeda has an excellent track record regarding customer service, and I think that after fit/performance issues, customer service is the single most valuable commodity when purchasing performance parts. If there is no post-sales service, the parts are a waste of money, and Steeda delivers customer service in spades. If you have to make a choice, go Steeda.

Final note - you MUST have 18-inch or larger wheels on the car to install a bump-steer kit.

Installation Notes

This is a fairly straightforward install, and there are instructions all over the internet that describe how to install a bumpsteer kit. It takes about an hour to do, and I only have one piece of advice regarding the installation - proceed DIRECTLY to a local firestone and get a lifetime alignment on your car after installing this kit. In fact, you only need to have them check the toe if all you did was add the bumpsteer kit. This should only take them 30 minutes or so.

Funny Story - After installing my control arms and bumsteer kit, I went to a local Firestone for an alignment. On the way there, the tires started complaining in the form of a high-pitched squealing. The sound would come a n go, and appeared to be a direct result of them heating up because the toe was so far off. It also seemed that the road surface was instrumental in determining the volume of the squeal. I was crossing an overpass with an SUV in the next lane with a woman in the passenger seat of the SUV. As the road surface transitioned from asphalt to concrete, the tires immediately started wailing, and at such a high volumn that I swear the lady in the SUV jumped into the driver's lap from fright.

It was painful to drive the car just seven/eight miles to the nearest Firestone, and after everything was said and done, my tires were toed out by 5.5 degrees. I could tell it was bad when the steering wheel was turned 45 degerees to the right while the car was going straight. I should have made an attempt while the car was in the driveway to correct the toe as well as I could, but I figured that the short drive wouldn't do anything worse than scrubbing a little tread life off the tires. Thankfully, I dind't have to exceed 40 MPH to get to the shop.

OEM Boss 302 Strut Tower Brace

The reason I got this was because it was the least expensive one out there. It's there to serve a purpose other than aesthetics, so I don't reall care what it looks like (it's not the one I wanted, but paying over $175 for a strut tower brace is beyond rediculous. Essentially, you're paying for a name rather than something that does a tangibly better job than the cheapest part.

My only problem with the install was with regards to a stripped strut mount nut. It simply would not come off, so I went to AutoZone and purchesed a nut splitter (not to be confused with a "ball-buster", which might be what you call the woman you live with, or your boss).