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Rusty's Offroad: Adjustable Control Arms
Some Beefy Adjustable Control Arms
After installing Nth Degree track bar into my jeep along with Dick Cepeck control arm drop brackets, the front differential housing started hitting the track bar bracket under compression. Instead of bottoming out on the bump stop, the jeep would bottom out on the bracket and the axle first! Now that is a big no no.
This is happening because when I installed the Dick Cepek brackets, the control arms pushed the axle forward. On the picture on the left, the red lines (same length) basically reflect the eye to eye length of the stock control arm. You can imagine the position of the axle when I didn't have the drop bracket at the end of the top line. It was pulled about 1 inch towards the center of the vehicle.
When you install a lift kit without modifying the control length, you are decreasing the wheelbase of the jeep. This is true because, when you move the axle down, it will not only move down but will also move towards the center of the vehicle due to the control arms being pivoted towards the center of the frame. When I moved that pivot down by installing the control arm drop bracket, with the fixed control arm length, I ended up pushing the axle forward compared to lift with stock control arms. This caused the axle to bottom out on the Nth Degree track bar bracket (Part #: TFTJ)
To resolve this issue, I decided to pull the axle towards the center again so the differential can clear the bracket under compression. To pull the axle in, I needed a set of control arms that can adjust shorter than stock.
There were many brands that will allow you to adjust longer than stock. In fact, all control arm manufacturers designed their arms so that it will adjust longer than stock. However for me, I needed them to be shorter than stock.
JKS manufacturing had a set that I can adjust shorter than stock but the cost was a bit too steep, like twice as expensive than other brands. So I searched and ended up with Rusty's. It is one of the few offroad product manufacturers in the deep south and it was only a state away! I called and Rusty told me he would make me a custom length for the cost of his mass produced control arms. I had the pairs of upper and lower front control arms made right around $350 shipped to my door. I had him made the arm so that I can adjust 1 inch shorter and 2 inch longer than stock, safely. The 3 inches of adjustment is plenty for what I am trying to do.
The combination of 4 arms weigh about 50-60 lbs. They are heavy. The design is that you don't need a jam nut to run the two pieces of the control arm together. This will allow better articulation of the arm while retaining the factory rubber bushings for better ride.
Tools & Parts Needed
Control Arms from Rusty's along with 4 jam nuts (~$350)
1. First park the jeep and let it cool down to prevent burns as you will be working near the exhaust system.
2. Without jacking up the jeep, mark the location of the cam bolts on the axle bracket then I removed the lower driver side lower control arm first. Then measure the length of the stock control arm and make the Rusty's arm about .75" shorter.
On the left, you can see how the control arm compared to the old one. On the right you can see the close up of the new bushing vs. 8 years old bushing. To shorten turn the arm clockwise and to loosen turn it counter clockwise.
3. Install the Rusty's arm. You will have to rotate the axle to pull in the axle mount closer to accommodate shorter length of the arm. I found it easier to bolt down the axle side of the control arm first. To rotate the axle, just use the jack up near the pinion seal. And watch the holes align then install the bolt through them. ** Do not tighten up the bolts and nuts just yet. We will tighten them all up when we are done with all 4 arms. Just put them in place and so that they don't come apart.
4. Move on to the passenger side remove the stock arm then install the Rusty's lower control arms for the passenger side.
5. For the upper control arms, you won't need to mark any locations of any bolt. Just remove and install one control arm at a time. I shortened the length of the upper to be about 1/2" shorter than stock.
6. To install the upper control arms, you will have to rotate the pinion side of the axle down to accommodate the shorter length. I used the factory bottle jack on the engine mount on the frame and the axle to rotate. Just be creative with the bottle jack and/or the floor jack. ;) You should be able to rotate the axle without much of grunt work.
7. When you have install all the bolts through the aligned holes, you can finally torque them down. I torqued mine around 100ft-lbs for the lower and 80ft-lbs for the upper control arms. For the cam bolt, use wrench to tighten down the nut, not the bolt to keep the spacer from rotating. You will see what I mean when you are actually do this.
8. Once everything has been torqued down. The jeep was test driven to confirm there is no more "bottom outs" or any vibration! It will eventually get aligned.
If you have any questions or recommendations, please let me know!!
Written on 6.8.2006. by Michael
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