Monday, August 26, 2013

Installing KITT's Front Sway Bar And Steering Brace

We had a heat advisory all weekend, but I decided to attempt to work in the garage yesterday anyway. It was not quite as hot as Saturday, but still one of the hottest days we have had all year. It was 84 degrees and very humid in the garage (about 12 degrees cooler than outside). I decided to leave the overhead door closed to keep the heat out. I started by re-installing the K-member support bracket.

The bracket just cleared the welds along the corner edge of the frame. I did not grind these down as I did not think they would interfere. Luckily they did not. :)

Then I installed the steering gear box bracket. 

This bracket also installed without issue next to the repair welds.

With both brackets in place I installed the steering brace (aka Wonderbar) from Top-Down Solutions. This brace provides two critical reinforcements. First, it ties the left and right sides of the frame together under the front of the car, which maintains the correct geometry of the Pitman arm and idler arm during cornering. Second, it strengthens the chassis and takes stress off of the steering gear box mount. In theory this would have prevented the stress cracks I had to repair in the frame where the steering gear box mounts. My hope is that with this brace in place and the frame repaired, I will not have any further issues in this area.

Here is the steering brace in place under the car.

All of the existing steering brace (aka Wonderbar) designs mount between the sway bar mounts and brackets that are bolted to the frame. The newly redesigned version from Top-Down Solutions includes a third mounting hole that takes advantage of another threaded hole, allowing the brace to be bolted directly into the frame itself so it no longer relies solely on the strength of bolted-in brackets. You can see in the pictures below that I have the brace installed using the third bolts that tie it directly into the frame.

Here is the 32mm front sway bar and the Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings and end links.

After seeing how nice the rear sway bar end links turned out painted with POR-15, I decided to do the fronts right away, too. I cleaned all of the hardware off with MarineClean.

Then I soaked it all in Prep and Ready. It is really sad to me how easily the zinc plating dissolves away. I am glad that I am protecting these with POR-15 because although they looked nice I do not think the zinc plating would have done much for them long term.

Because I did not want to use enough Prep and Ready to submerge the bolts and sleeves, I just used enough to let them soak one side at a time and then used a tooth brush to thoroughly coat them and remove all of the zinc plating.

While the hardware was soaking, I greased the interior of the bushings with the Energy Suspension Formula 5 Prelube.

With the bushings in place I bolted up the sway bar. You can see in these pictures how the bolts for the sway bar mounts go right through the steering brace and into the brackets above. This gives the steering brace the final two of the three mounting points I mentioned above.

Once the end link hardware was completely prepped, I set it outside on the brick retaining wall at the side of our driveway. In the sun these bricks are so hot they literally bake the hardware. You would be hard pressed to find a quicker way to dry them.

I was starting to feel sick from the heat. It was 93 degrees in the garage and the humidity was through the roof. I was just about to call it a day when Cary stopped by. He was at the air show in town and wanted to see what I was up to. We talked for awhile, but in the end I cut our visit short and went inside to take a cool shower. I just do not handle the heat very well and actually prefer the cold. Besides when it is cold there is more you can do to keep warm. ;)

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