Lower control arm removal, bushing or ball joint replacement

difficulty: 3/5
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This article shows how to remove the lower control arm (LCA) and replace the bushings on a VW Jetta TDI, VW Golf TDI, or New Beetle TDI.

If you are doing a basic suspension overhaul, a new rear bushing on the lower control arm is highly suggested since it wears out fairly fast.  If you examine the pictures below, the rear LCA bushing has big spaces in it to allow movement.  I suggest using the Audi TT rear LCA bushing as a replacement since it will firm up handling without taking away comfort.  The bushing is a direct fit on all mk3 and mk4 TDI passenger cars.  The front bushing on the lower control arm does not wear out as fast since it's a solid rubber bushing. 

The ball joint can be replaced without removing the lower control arm but I would remove the driveaxle and the 3x 13mm bolts holding the ball joint.

Your car will need an alignment after bushing replacement.  Drive around for a day or two to let the suspension settle in.

Caution: Always tighten all suspension components in their normal resting position (not extended or fully compressed)!  Install suspension bolts hand tight, rest the car on ramps, then tighten the bolts to their final torque.  This prevents the bushings from being preloaded and wearing out prematurely.

Related links:  1000q: sway bar bushing replacement , 1000q: strut install writeup 1, 1000q: strut replace writeup 2

Parts (quantities are for 1 LCA only, click links to compare current prices)

reusable bolt: 16mm sway bar endlink-LCA bolt VW# n 104 176 01
ball joint lock plate (reusable) VW# 1j0 407 175

must replace bolts:
18mm front LCA bolt VW# n 904 840 03
18mm rear LCA bolt/nut VW# n 102 622 01/n 015 081 4
13mm ball joint bolts (quantity 3) VW# n 101 277 06

bushings or ball joints:
please note the brand: Genuine VW/Audi, Lemforder are very good quality.  Meyle are sometimes built in Turkey, Hamburg Technic do not get good reviews

stock rear LCA bushing VW# 1j0 407 181
suggested upgrade Audi TT rear LCA bushing VW# 8n0 407 181 b
stock front LCA bushing VW# 357 407 182
left ball joint VW# 1j0 407 365 c
right ball joint VW# 1j0 407 366 c

If you're in the UK Seatman found R32 bushings at murraydirect

new LCA with new stock bushings already in it (left and right are the same): VW# 1j0 407 151 c
new LCA with Audi TT bushings already in it (left and right are the same) from kermatdi

if you wish to buy a bushing replacement kit here's the link from kermatdi

Control arm bushing replacement procedure

CAUTION - do not rest the weight of the car on the suspension or rear axle.  These are not stable and can act like a fulcrum or move and cause the car to move and fall down.  You need the suspension to be able to move while you work on it.  Always use the factory jack points as specified in the service manual.  Then chock the wheels, apply the parking brake, and make sure the car is safe and secure before working on it!  Never get under the car while it's supported by hydraulic jacks since these can fail - these are for raising the car only.  This article is not a substitute for the factory service manual or the services of a professional mechanic.  See the TOS Agreement for the full legal disclaimer.

Safely raise and rest the car on jack stands and chock the rear wheels and apply the parking brake.  See 1000q: jack stand mk4 Jetta to see where I placed the jack stands.  Take off the front wheels.  Put a few drops of PB Blaster around the bolts/nuts listed in this procedure and let soak.  This will make it much easier to remove them.

Remove the lower 16mm bolt (yellow below) to disconnect the sway bar endlink.  The sway bar bushings tend to wear out quickly, while you're in there you may want to replace them.  See 1000q: sway bar bushing for more details.  Remove the LCA's 18mm bolt and 18mm bolt/nut.  Also remove the 3x 13mm ball joint nuts.  All these bolts/nuts are one use only, replace them with new after removal.

As outlined in green, an offset 18mm wrench can counterhold the 18mm nut on the rear of the LCA while you loosen its bolt.  I know I'm not using an impact wrench socket but it's a craftsman w/lifetime warranty and have another car to drive to Sears to get a replacement if it breaks.  Don't do what I did - if you use an impact wrench, use an impact wrench rated socket.

Here is the LCA with the TDI rear bushing.  If you are using a stock rear bushing instead of the Audi TT bushing, note the orientation of the spaces in the bushing.  If you are using an Audi TT bushing, there is no up/down, left/right of the bushing.

Here is the LCA with new bushings.  The rear bushing is the solid Audi TT bushing.

There is a shoulder on the LCA so you can only push the bushing out in one direction.  Again, if you are using a stock rear bushing instead of the Audi TT bushing, note the orientation of the spaces in the bushing.  If you are using an Audi TT bushing, there is no up/down, left/right of the bushing.

I suggest using a press to remove the bushings.  If you don't have access to a press, use 2 sockets as drifts, between a vise, to push out the small bushing.  The larger bushing can also be pushed out with sockets and a vise.  You could also use a hole saw to cut most of the bushing out.  Then use a saw to cut the metal shell of the bushing, taking care to not damage the LCA.  Then use a punch to deform the metal bushing shell and it should fall out.  The new LCA can be pushed in.

Installation is the reverse of removal.  Just remember to tighten the suspension to the final torque in the loaded position.  To do this, install suspension bolts loose (not even wrench tight), rest the car on ramps, then tighten the bolts to their final torque.

If the LCA is hanging extended when you tighten the bolts, the bushings will wear out prematurely because they are preloaded when sitting in the normal resting position.  As a generic rule suspension bolts should be tightened with the car's full weight on its wheels.  If you don't, the bushings are tightened in a twisted position and will wear out.  To load the suspension, rest the weight of the car on ramps or wood blocks.  You could use a hydraulic jack to raise the suspension arm in relation to the body (this also puts the arms in the correct position) but be very careful to not carry the weight of the car on the jack - this could cause the car to shift or fall down!

Ball joint replacement

The 3x 13mm ball joint nuts are already off.  Loosen the 18mm nut on top of the ball joint.  It will hit the driveaxle, keep loosening it and it'll pop off.  Otherwise, remove the axle and use an impact wrench to blip it off.  If you don't have an impact wrench, use a socket and counterhold the shaft with an allen wrench to prevent spinning.  These tend to hold up well so to test for a bad ball joint, check for play by shaking the wheel in and out and checking for play at the ball joint.

Torque specs:

front and rear LCA bolts: 52 ft-lbs + 1/4 turn
3x 13 ball joint nuts: 15 ft-lbs + 1/4 turn
18mm ball joint nut: 33 ft-lbs

sway bar bolt: either upper or lower are 11 ft-lbs


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