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autodoc_2000, Auto Technician
Category: Ford
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Experience:  ASE Master Tech W/Advanced Engine Performance, Ford Senior Master Certification
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1997 Ford Thunderbird LX: V8..bushings..ball joints..Lower Control

Resolved Question:

I have a 1997 Ford Thunderbird LX, 4.6 V8. I am replacing the front suspension parts listed below and I need detailed instructions for the removal of the old parts and installation of the new parts.

2 Upper Control Arms w/ bushings and ball joints
2 Lower Control Arms w/ bushings and ball joints
2 Outer Tie Rods Ends and the 2 Inner Tie Rod Ends

Thank you
Submitted: 10 years ago.
Category: Ford
Expert:  autodoc_2000 replied 10 years ago.

Upper Control Arm




See Figure 1

The following procedure is the same for both the right and left side upper control arm.

  1. Raise and safely support vehicle on jackstands.

  2. Remove the tire and wheel assembly.

  3. Remove and discard the upper spindle-to-ball joint bolt and nut. Slightly spread spindle at the slot opening to remove the ball joint from spindle.

  4. Lower vehicle enough to gain access to the upper control arm pivot bolts.

  5. Break off the small metal flags from the pivot bolt heads.

A 6-point socket must be used on the bolts due to the fact that the corners of the heads have been shaved off. Discard the nuts and bolts after removing them. Replacement bolts do not require metal flags.

  1. Remove the upper control arm/upper control arm bushing joint bolts, then remove the control arm from the vehicle.

Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 1: Upper control arm, also referred to as the upper front suspension arm bushing joint, removal


To install:

  1. Position the upper control arm and install new bolts and nuts. Holding the control arm in the horizontal position, tighten the nuts to 65-87 ft. lbs. (113-153 Nm).

If nuts cannot be torqued due to limited access on some models, tighten the bolts to 81-88 ft. lbs.

  1. Raise and safely support the vehicle.

  2. Attach spindle to to the upper control arm/arm bushing joint. Install a new bolt and nut (install the bolt through front to rear), and tighten nut to 50-68 ft. lbs. (68-92 Nm).

  3. Install tire and wheel assembly, then carefully lower the vehicle.

Lower Control Arm

See Figure 1

  1. Raise and safely support vehicle on jackstands.

  2. Remove the tire and wheel assembly.

  3. Loosen the lower ball joint nut 3 or 4 turns.

  4. Rap on spindle with a heavy hammer, just enough to separate the ball joint from the spindle. Leave the nut on the ball joint.

  5. Support the spindle by a wire or other means to prevent excessive sagging of the upper control arm.

  6. Matchmark the position of the camber adjustment cam.


  1. Hold the lower control arm strut by the flats with a wrench, then remove the nut retaining the lower control arm strut to the control arm bushing joint and discard.

Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 1: Do not hold the strut, with a wrench on the curved part of the strut


  1. Remove the lower shock attaching bolt and nut.

  2. Remove the pivot (camber) bolt and nut.

  3. Remove the nut from the lower ball joint, then remove lower control arm.

To install:

  1. Position the lower control arm in vehicle and loosely install the pivot (camber) bolt and nut.

  2. Install the tension strut insulator bushings and loosely install the attaching nut.

  3. Install the ball joint nut loosely.

  4. Install the lower shock bolt and nut but do not tighten at this time.

  5. Tighten the ball joint nut to 83-113 ft. lbs. (113-153 Nm) and install a new cotter pin.

  6. Tighten the tension strut control arm nut to 83-113 ft. lbs. (113-153 Nm).

  1. Remove the wire or other type of support holding the spindle.

  2. Install the tire and wheel assembly. Tighten the lug nuts, with a torque wrench, to 85-105 ft. lbs. (115-142 Nm).

  3. Carefully lower the vehicle.

  4. Push down on the front of the vehicle and release to neutralize the suspension. Tighten the lower shock nut to 125-170 ft. lbs. (170-230 Nm).

  5. Align the camber marks at the pivot bolt and tighten nut to 83-113 ft. lbs. (113-153 Nm).

If the lower control arm was replaced, the alignment must be checked.



See Figures 2 and 3

  1. Remove the lower control arm as outlined previously.

  2. Press out the lower control arm mounting bolt bushing with Bushing Remover T78P-5638-A5, Receiving Cup T78P-5638-A4 and Forcing Screw T78P-5638-A1.

Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 2: Use the specified tools to press the bushing out


To install:

  1. Install a new lower control arm bushing into the lower control arm from the front of the control arm using Bushing Replacers T78P-5638-A and T89P-5493-B, Forcing Screw T78P-5638-A1 and Forcing Screw Washer T79P-5638-A6. Turn the Forcing Screw until it bottoms.

Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 3: After installing the tools, turn the forcing screw until it bottoms


  1. Install the lower control arm, as outlined earlier in this section.

  2. Have the front alignment checked by a reputable repair shop.




Tie Rod Ends


  1. Raise and safely support the front of the vehicle with jackstands.

  2. Remove and discard the cotter pin and nut from the worn tie rod end.

  3. Separate the tie rod end from the steering knuckle (spindle) using Tie Rod End Remover TOOL-3290-D or equivalent.

  4. Holding the tie rod end with a wrench, loosen the tie rod end jam nut.

  5. Note the depth to which the tie rod end was located by using the jam nut as a marker. Grip the tie rod end with a suitable pair of pliers, then remove the tie rod end.

To install:

  1. Clean the tie rod end threads. Thread the tie rod ends to the same depth as the removed tie rod end.

  2. Place the tie rod end into the steering knuckle (spindle). Make sure the wheels are in the straight ahead position.

  3. Install a new nut on the tie rod end. Tighten the nut to 39 ft. lbs. (53 Nm), and continue tightening the nut to align the next castellation of the nut with the cotter pin hole in the stud. Install a new cotter pin.

  4. Tighten the jam nut to 35-50 ft. lbs. (48-68 Nm).

  5. Have the front end alignment checked at a reputable repair shop.


See Figures 1 and 2

  1. Disconnect the negative battery cable, and turn the ignition key to the ON position.

  2. Raise and safely support the vehicle on jackstands.

  3. Remove both wheels and tire assemblies.

  4. Disconnect and remove the outer tie rod ends.

  5. Remove the four clamps retaining the bellows (rubber boots) to the gear housing and the tie rods. Discard the clamps if damaged or corroded.

  6. Remove the bellows along with the breather tube, using care not to damage the bellows.

  7. Remove the coiled lock pins from inner tie rod ball joint, using a locknut pin removal tool D81P-3504-N or equivalent.

  8. Turn the steering towards the right enough to expose a few rack teeth. Hold the rack with an adjustable wrench (on end teeth only), while loosening tie rod ball joints with a nut wrench T74P-3504-U or equivalent.

Some gear assemblies may contain one or two rack travel restrictors on each side of the rack. The restrictors are split nylon washers and, if required, can easily be removed from the rack following tie rod removal. Restrictors may be reused unless heavily worn.

Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 1: Inner tie rod end removal/installation tool


Click image to see an enlarged view
Fig. 2: Inner tie rod end installation



To install:

  1. Turn the gear against or near left side stop and hold rack with an adjustable wrench nearest the rack end. Tighten each tie rod ball joint separately, using nut wrench T74P-3504-U or equivalent.

  2. Thoroughly clean the rack and housing of any foreign material. Any abrasive material is extremely harmful to the high pressure oil seals in the rack.

Apply some gear grease to the groove on the tie rods where the bellows clamp to the rod. This allows for toe adjustments without damaging the bellows (rubber boots).

  1. Install the breather tube and the bellows into position on the housing and tie rods.

  2. Install new clamps onto the bellows.

  3. Install the jam nuts and place a small amount of grease on the threads of the tie rods.

  4. Install the outer tie rod ends.

  5. Install the wheels and tires assemblies.

  6. Carefully lower the vehicle, connect the negative battery cable, and have the alignment checked at a reputable repair shop.

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