1963-1982 Corvette Front Suspension Rebuild

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Posted May 15, 2013 by Zip Corvette in Corvette Technical Articles
Corvette Front Suspension Rebuild

We will be focusing on the front suspension in this article and will be replacing all of the major components in a 1978 Corvette. The good people at Zip Corvette Parts, 8067 Fast Lane, Mechanicsville,VA 23111, 1-800-962-9632, were able to supply us with every part we needed. Everything was of excellent quality and fit just as it should.

As with any major rebuild, you will need more than average mechanical ability and some specialized tools along with factory shop, component and assembly line manuals. These manuals are a must because they will supply you with removal and installation procedures along with all of the correct torque specifications. Now with all of the parts, tools and manuals in hand, let’s get started:

Click on the images for expanded views – it’s much easier on the eyes. 
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Step 1

01: Here are all of the components that Zip supplied for the front suspension rebuild: Springs, power steering pump, ram, valve, hoses, idler arm, drag link, tie rods, sleeves, control arm bushings, bumpers, stabilizer bar bushings, end kits, shocks, and all of the mounting hardware kits. You will also need a shop, component and assembly manual for your year Corvette, a hydraulic jack, jack stand, and tools.
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Step 2

02: Jack the front of the Corvette up and let the front suspension hang. Remove the wheel, caliper and rotor. If you are not replacing the caliper, you can make a hook out of mechanical wire (or a coat hanger) and let the caliper and hose hang from the frame.
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Step 3

03: We are going to remove the entire steering linkage as one unit. It is much easier to do it this way. Start by using a tie rod separator to separate the outer tie rods from the spindle arm.
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Step 4

04: Loosen the power steering pump hoses from the control valve and let them drain into a container. 
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Step 5

05:  Remove the power steering ram retaining nut from the mounting bracket.
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Step 6

06: Disconnect the idler arm bracket from the passenger side of the frame and then use the tie rod separator to remove the control valve stud from the Pitman arm.
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Step 7

07: After the Pitman arm has been separated from the control valve, the whole steering linkage will fall to the floor in one unit. You will see later why we did it this way.
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Step 8

08: The front shocks can be removed.
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Step 9

09: The stabilizer bar end links can be removed along with the stabilizer to frame bushings and brackets. When this is done, the sway bar can be removed.
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Step 10

10: To remove the upper control arm, start by placing a jack securely under the lower control arm as support. Loosen the upper ball joint nut. Now use a ball joint separator to loosen the ball joint from the spindle. Sometimes this sounds a lot easier than it actually is. When they have separated, remove the ball joint nut and pull the control arm out of the spindle. Be careful because the spindle will only be attached at the bottom ball joint and it will try to flop down. Make sure to keep the jack in place securely under the lower control arm.
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Step 11

11: Loosen the upper control arm mounting bolts and carefully remove the shims. Keep each set together and mark them for each side along with either front or rear. These shims will have to go back in their same location to keep the front end aligned.
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Step 12

12: Now remove the retaining bolts and take the upper control arms out.
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Step 13

13: With the jack securely in place under the lower control arm, slowly lower the lower control arm. Remember the coil spring will be pushing down on the control arm with tension. Do not stand in front of the spring. Coil springs can do a lot of damage if they pop out of the control arm. When all of the pressure is off the spring, pull the control arm down as far as it will go and remove the coil spring. SAFETY NOTE: To minimize any danger, you may want to use a coil spring compressor tool available at any tool rental or auto parts store to help with the coil spring removal.
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Step 14

14: Loosen and remove the lower control arm retaining bolts and remove the lower control arm and spindle. You can now use the ball joint separator to separate the spindle from the lower control arm.
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Step 15

15: The upper ball joint can be removed by using a drill bit, chisel or die grinder to remove the rivets. If you find that the ball joint was bolted in place, then you know the ball joint had been replaced sometime in the past.
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Step 16

16: After the ball joint is removed, drill the mounting holes out with a 21/64” drill bit to accommodate the new mounting bolts.
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Step 17

17: On the lower control arm, remove the rubber bumper and mounting plate. Then unbolt the top of the lower ball joint and drill, cut or grind off the rivets to remove the ball joint.
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Step 18

18: To remove the control arm bushings, start by removing the end cap bolts, lock washers and collars.
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Step 19

19: Install a 3/8-24×2 1/4” cap screw in one end of the shaft. Place the control arm in a press and support the other end of the control arm shaft with a 1 11/16” socket. Press out the bushing into the socket. Invert the control arm and repeat the process on the other bushing. Both of the old bushings should now be out of the control arm. The lower control arm shaft and bushings remove in the same way except you will need a 7/16-20×2” cap screw to install in the end of the shaft.
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Step 20

20: If you want to freshen up the control arms for a new look, thoroughly clean them and spray 2 or 3 light, even coats of Eastwood’s Underhood Black.
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Step 21

21: To make the bushing installation easier, place all of the bushings in a freezer overnight. This will make the metal contract and make installation much easier.
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Step 22

22: Coat the bushings and the shaft ends with white lithium grease. This will ease installation.
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Step 23

23: Place the control arm in the press and install one bushing using a 1 5/16” socket to press the bushing into place. Now you will have to support the inside of the control arm to keep it from collapsing. The easiest way to do this is to make a support using 1 3/4” or 2” pipe (fence post will work). Cut it to fit between the inside flange of the control arm. Then cut approximately a 1” slot into the pipe. This will allow it to fit around the shaft and bushings. Now you have a special control arm support tool. After you have installed the first bushing, install the cross shaft into the arm. Invert the arm in the press. Then press the second bushing into the arm or onto the shaft. Check and make sure you can turn the shaft by hand. It should not bind after installation. The lower shaft is installed in the same manner although you will have to make another longer control arm support.
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Step 24

24: When installing the shafts in the lower control arms, make sure that the two mounting holes in the shaft are on the same end as the stabilizer bar end link mount. If not, you will not be able to install the lower control arms.
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Step 25

25: After the shaft and bushings are installed, screw the cap screws, lock washers and collars into place. Snug but do not torque them at this time.
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Step 26

26: Install the new ball joints into the arms and torque them to specs.
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Step 27

27:  The power steering pump was badly leaking so we asked Zip to send us a brand new one. All new pumps come minus the pulley so you will need to use a puller such as this to remove the old pulley from the pump without damage.
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Step 28

28: The new pump came with a pulley installation tool. This tool will seat the pulley onto the pump shaft. When the pump shaft is flush with the inner lip of the pulley, it is seated. Now install the new pump, new hoses, and then tighten the belt to specs.
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Step 29

29: Start the re-assembly by installing the lower control arms first, then install the upper control arms and shims and torque the mounting bolts and nuts to specs on both control arms. Do not torque the end cap bolts on the shafts yet.
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Step 30

30: Install the upper control arm bumpers. Use a 2×4 or its equivalent to hold the upper control arm up out of the way as you install the rubber bumper. Spray the flared mounting end with silicone to make installation easier.
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Step 31

31: Install the spindle onto the lower control arm and tighten the nut. Now position the jack under the control arm as you did before. Place the new coil spring into the lower control arm seat and frame bucket. Make sure the spring’s coil ends are positioned in their respective slots in the frame bucket and control arm. Slowly raise the jack making sure the spring stays seated in the control arm. As you raise the jack, position the upper ball joint into the spindle. When the ball joint is aligned, continue to raise the jack while pushing the ball joint stud through. When the ball joint stud threads are exposed, install and tighten the nut. After the nut is on fully, slowly remove the jack and torque both ball joints to specs and install the cotter keys. The control arms, spindles and springs should now be in place.
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Step 32

32: Now we can start assembling the steering linkage. Start by installing the control valve onto the end of the drag link. Screw it on and line up the slot in the valve with the groove in the threads. Install the screw and tighten to specs.
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Step 33

33: Mount the idler arm to the other end of the drag link. Make sure the sponge washer is installed.
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Step 34

34: Install the new rubber insulators and sleeve into the steering ram frame mount.
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Step 35

35: Assemble the tie rods and sleeves. You will notice that there are both right and left hand threads on the tie rods. There is one of each screwed to each sleeve so be careful and do not try to force a tie rod onto the new sleeve. Just try one with a different thread.
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Step 36

36: With the new steering linkage assembled, measure the length of one side of the old tie rod assembly. Transfer this measurement to the corresponding new tie rod assembly. Do this to both assemblies. That way when the linkage is installed, the front end alignment will be close enough for you to be able to drive to your local Corvette alignment shop without doing any damage to the front end or tires. Now tighten all of the nuts.
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Step 37

37: Mount the entire steering linkage assembly to the steering arms and Pitman arm. Now torque to specs. Attach all of the power steering hoses.
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Step 38

38: The front shocks can now be re-installed.
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Step 39

39: Coat the inside of each stabilizer bar bushing with white lithium grease. Slide the bushings onto the stabilizer bar and into place. Now mount the stabilizer bar and brackets to the frame.
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Step 40

40: The stabilizer bar end link kits can be assembled and installed. Remember that the threaded end of the link kit must point up.
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Step 41

41: Re-pack the front wheel bearings and install them into each rotor along with the grease seals.
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Step 42

 

42: Install the rotors and calipers and tighten the wheel bearings as per the instructions in the shop manual. If you removed the calipers from the brake hoses, you will need to bleed the front brakes. 
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Step 43

43: Lube the entire front suspension ball joints, tie rods, idler arm, power steering control valve, etc. After this is done, you will need to bleed the power steering system.
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Step 44

44: After the car is sitting back on the ground, you will need to torque the upper and lower control arm bushings, cap screw and collars. This has to be done with the weight of the car on the suspension. Remember to do both the upper and lower control arm bushings.
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Step 45

45: The last thing you will need to do is to check the toe-in of the front suspension. The front wheels should have a toe-in of 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch. (This will allow you to drive the car without doing any real damage to the front tires and suspension.) After this is done, your first stop should be the local Corvette alignment shop. With all the new parts installed, you want to have your Corvette’s front suspension set to factory specifications.
Front Suspension: How To Rebuild Your 1963-1982 Corvette Front Suspension

Source: Zip Corvette Parts
8067 Fast Lane | Mechanicsville, VA 23111 | (800) 962-9632

Bleeding The Power Steering System:

  1. Fill oil reservoir to proper level and let the oil remain undisturbed for at least two minutes.
  2. Start engine and run only for about two seconds.
  3. Add oil if necessary.
  4. Repeat above procedure until oil level remains constant after running engine.
  5. Increase engine speed to approximately 1500 rpm.
  6. Turn the wheels (off ground) right and left, lightly contacting the wheel stops.
  7. Add oil if necessary.
  8. Lower the car and turn wheels right and left on the ground.
  9. Check oil level and refill as required.
  10. If oil is extremely foamy, allow vehicle to stand a few minutes with engine off and repeat above procedure.
  11. Check belt tightness and check for a bent or loose pulley.  Pulley should not wobble with engine running.
  12. Check to make sure hoses are not touching any other parts of the car particularly sheet metal and exhaust manifold.

 

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