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#1 2013-08-07 14:33:45

From: San Francisco
Registered: 2008-01-22
User Number: 2503
Posts: 11467

Front End Refresh DIY

I just did a major refresh on the front end of my car.  I had a very small but odd vibration at highway speed that came and went regardless of speed, or turning, or going straight.  Sometimes it was there, sometimes it wasn't.  I also wanted to learn more about the front end, so I decided to undertake this job.  I did new wheel bearings, new hubs, new inner and outer tie rod ends, new ball joints, and new front and rear bushings for the front control arms.

This DIY is seriously lacking in pictures because, well, I didn't feel like taking them.  This text should be really helpful, though, if you decide to do all or part of this yourself.

Here we go....get ready for the wall o' text!

Knuckle Disassembly/Reassembly

Initially, I was planning on using a press to both remove the old hubs and wheel bearings and install the new hubs and wheel bearings.  I was going to follow the procedure outlined here, starting with step 6/post 3:

I found this tool at Harbor Freight, and I really liked it because it was so much smaller than a press.

Unfortunately, it can’t be used to remove the hub. Removing the hub is nearly step one, so I figured I couldn’t use it.

Then I realized I could just hammer out the old hub with a socket and a sledge. The tool could then remove the old wheel bearing race, press a new wheel bearing race in, and press the new hub in.  This video shows how the tool works (this is obviously a different car, but it's the same idea.  Skip to 9:10):

So here’s how I did it:

1.    Remove the brake dust shield from the knuckle assembly.
2.    Remove the old ball joint.  This will most likely suck to do.
3.    Remove the inner rubber dust seal that covers the wheel bearing.
4.    Use a flat head screwdriver to pry the circlip out.
5.    Support the knuckle in such a way that the studs on the hub are dangling straight down.  I used some jack stands and a stack of boards to support the knuckle at three spots.
6.    Place against the hub, and hammer the hell out of it.  The hub will slide out, along with one inner bearing race.
7.    Grease the threaded rod that comes with the wheel bearing tool.  If you don’t, you’re likely to strip the threads on the rod.
8.    Use the bearing tool to press out the old bearing race.
9.    Use the bearing tool to press in the new bearing race.  It goes from the inside of the knuckle toward the outside, and will bottom out against a lip in the knuckle.
10.    Replace the circlip.
11.    Grease the outer surface of the outer oil seal, and use the bearing tool to press it into place.  It will bottom out into its spot.
12.    Use the bearing tool to press the hub into place, from the outside in.  It will bottom out as well.
13.    Use the bearing tool to press the inner seal into place, and bottom it out against the circlip.
14.    Put a new ball joint into place.  Be sure to slather it with anti-seize.

Control arm refreshing

I also wanted to install new bushings on the front control arms.  I was debating between rubber and polyurethane, and came across this thread: … thane.html

And decided that because the control arm bushings fall into the rotational category, rubber was the way to go.  Polyurethane would require ongoing maintenance to keep them greased so they don’t squeak (at best) or get shredded (at worst).  I went with stock front bushings (part # 20204FE010, same on both sides), and I decided to upgrade to Group N rear bushings (part # B0200FE000 passenger side, part # B0200FE010 driver side).

If I could do it all over again, Here’s how I would press out the old bushings and press in the new ones:

1.     Take everything to a shop and have them do it.

Should you decide to risk your life like I did, here’s how you remove the old bushings and position the new ones on your own:

1.    First, examine your old control arms.  All of the bushings are placed in a specific orientation. 

        a.    The front bushings have what appear to be breaks (for lack of a better word) in the rubber.  These are oriented roughly vertically when mounted on the car. So before you remove anything, mark the orientation of the old bushing with a paint pen or something.  Just look at where the breaks in the rubber are, and put a marking on the control arm in line with those breaks. Here's the illustration in the manual:

        b.    The new rear bushings also need to be oriented correctly. So before removing anything, mark the orientation of the old bushing.  Here’s the illustration from the manual:

(The lateral link is the control arm.)

2.    Double-check to make sure you marked everything correctly.
3.    To remove the rear bushing, simply remove the large nut and everything will slide off.  That sucker is torqued on there pretty good, so be ready for it.  Once the nut is off, everything just slides off.
4.    To remove the front bushing, you'll need a press.  I used a 27 mm 12 point impact socket under the bushing.  This size will brace the control arm, but allow the bushing to slide out. The socket you use to press the bushing out will depend on the sockets you have.  It needs to have an outer diameter that will press on the outer sleeve of the bushing, but fit into the opening on the control arm.
5.    Position the control arm in the press so you can remove the old bushing, and put a bit of pressure on it so it's all staying in place.  Make sure everything is aligned.
6.    Torch the shit out of the control arm around the front bushing to expand it, then start pressing.  Respect the press.  It's definitely the most dangerous tool I've ever used, and I wouldn't have guessed that prior to using it.  I read around online, and found a great quote: "A hydraulic press is a mean ass motherfucking piece of heavy machinery."   I agree.  It was scary to use.  Imagine a stack of about ten saabs all balanced on top of one another resting on a 27 mm socket. 
7.    Let everything cool down.
8.    Gently sand the inner surface of the control arm where the new bushing will go.  Nothing crazy here, just make sure there are no rough spots or anything.
9.    Make sure the new bushing is oriented correctly, according to the markings you made earlier.
10.    Press the new bushing in.  I heated the control arm a bit, but I didn't want to damage the rubber of the new bushing, so I only did it for literally a second or two.  If I could go back, I wouldn't have done it at all.
11.    The rear bushings have a driver and passenger side version.  The inner sleeve is cone shaped, and is oriented in opposite directions on each bushing.  The large metal tabs are also slightly different on each side.  Make sure you have the right one on the right side.
12.    Slide the large rubber washers and new bushing onto the control arm.
13.    Make sure the new bushing is rotated into the correct orientation according to your old markings. 
14.    Tighten the large nut to 140 ft/lbs.  Make sure the bushing doesn't rotate out of position when you do this.  This would be an awesome time to have an extra set of hands.

Once all of those things are done, we get to the actual job itself. Here we go!


1.    Jack up the car and safely put it on jack stands.
2.    Remove the front tires. 
3.    Remove the plastic undertray.
4.    PB Blast the castle nuts on the ball joints and the tie rod ends; the nuts and bolts at both control arm bushings; the stopper nut on the outer tie rod; and well, everything else just for good measure.

Removing the knuckle

5.    Remove the brake caliper bracket assembly and tie it up out of the way.
6.    Remove the rotor.  You may need to use two 8 mm bolts to press it off the hub.
7.    Unbolt the ABS sensor from the knuckle.
8.    Take pictures of the old tie rod ends so you know how far they were threaded on prior to disassembly. Also take pictures of where your camber bolts are positioned. Make sure you know which is driver and which is passenger side. This will allow you to get everything close to aligned so you can get yourself safely to an alignment shop when you're done.  Here's what my pictures looked like:

9.    Unbolt the end link from the control arm.
10.    Unbolt the castle nut from the outer tie rod end.
11.    Use a ball joint removal tool (like this one) to disconnect the tie rod from the knuckle.  Don't just crank and crank and crank on that, as you may strip the bolt.  Tighten it down, then hammer a bit on the top of the tool to knock the threaded portion free, then tighten some more, then try and hammer it again, then tighten, then hammer, it'll eventually come out.)
12.    Unbolt the castle nut on the bottom of the control arm.
13.    Push the control arm down and free the ball joint from it.
14.    Push the axle out of the hub/slide the hub off the end of the axle.
15.    Make sure you know how these bolts were oriented, then remove the two large bolts holding the strut to the knuckle.
16.    Remove the knuckle assembly from the car.

Remove the control arms

17.    Remove the nut from the front control arm mounting point, but leave the bolt in place.
18.    Remove the plastic cover that covers that rear control arm bolts.
19.    Remove both bolts from the rear control arm mounting point.  This will require an impact or a gorilla or something.**
20.    Remove the bolt that is still sitting in the front mounting point, and slide the control arm out of the car.

Remove the tie rod ends

21.    Loosen the nut that is jammed against the outer tie rod.  NOTE: If you are replacing the tie rod ends, don't spend a long time on this: just cut the nut off if it's seized.  I spent quite a while torching and wrenching and PB Blasting over and over and over, and it didn't do anything.  I got the dremel tool out and cut through both sides of the nut and then pried the halves off in about 60 seconds.  I should have just done that in the first place and not wasted time.
22.    Remove the boot clamps on the inner tie rod end boots.
23.    Remove the boot. I just sliced it open because I had replacements.  I think it would be extremely difficult to get those off without cutting them.
24.    Use an inner tie rod end tool ( like this one) to remove the inner tie rod.  NOTE 1: I saw all sorts of conflicting numbers on what size of wrench end you would need on the tie rod tool for this.  For my tie rods, it ended up being a 1 -3/16"  end.  NOTE 2: Some model years have a lock washer that is staked in place to hold the inner tie rod in position.  I had read that this was not used on the 2005 model year, and I can confirm that at least my car, which is a turbo, did not have any lock washer. According to the manual, though, non-turbo cars do have this lock washer.  Make sure you have what you need for your car!

Replace the tie rod ends

25.    Install a new inner tie rod end.  The manual doesn't say anything about using thread locker, but I decided to.  I put a dab of blue loctite on the threads.  Torque the tie rod end to 65.1 ft/lbs.
26.    The inner tie rod ends that I bought included a little packet of grease.  This grease was to be applied around the ball-joint-portion-of-the-tie-rod (not the ball joint way out on the knuckle).  If your tie rod ends include this in the package, don't forget this step!
27.    Apply grease to the surface where the new tie rod boots will sit.  This picture shows where:

28.    Slide a large band into place so you can secure the tie rod boot to the steering rack.  There is a metal clamp that Subaru uses, but you need special pliers to tighten those clamps.  I tried to use these clamps, but I didn't have the special pliers needed.  I tried screwdrivers, needle nose pliers, and a bunch of other stuff, and nothing worked.  Lots of people have simply used zip ties.  I used zip ties and a heavy rigid aluminum wire that I use for other projects.  Just make sure whatever you use won't tear the boot up.
29.    Slide the boot into place, and make sure it isn't bizarrely inflated or deflated or anything.  NOTE:  The boots on the driver and passenger side look almost identical.  The difference is in the size of the sleeve that slides onto the steering rack.  For some reason, the end of the steering rack is bigger on one side of the car than the other.  The boots will fit snugly on each side of the car.  If a boot isn't even close to fitting (because it's too big or too small), it's on the wrong side.
30.    Tighten the large inner boot clamp (whatever clamp you've decided to use).
31.    Make sure the boot is sitting in the correct groove on the tie rod (see the above picture), and put the small boot clamp in place.
32.    Thread the jam nut and outer tie rod end into the same place they were upon disassembly.
33.    Tighten the jam nut against the tie rod end to 61.5 ft lbs.

Install control arms: Part 1

34.    Make sure the sway bar is pointed up in the air.  It's probably swung down by now, and if it stays down, you won't be able to rotate it back up into place once you have weight back on the car.  You aren't doing anything with it yet, just swing it so the ends are pointed up.  If you don't do this, you'll have to backtrack to a point where you can get the control arm oriented correctly again.  Anyone wanna guess why I know you need to do this?
35.    Slide the control arms into place.
36.    Thread the two large rear bolts into place, but don't torque them down.  They should be snug, but you don't fully torque anything down until the weight of the car is back on the control arm.
37.    Install the bolt through the front control arm bushing. Thread the nut into place and snug it, but don't torque it down.

Install knuckle

38.    Put the knuckle back in place and use the two strut bolts to hold it in position.  Don't worry about orienting these correctly yet, just thread the nuts onto the bolts so the knuckle doesn't fall out.
39.    Slide the axle into the hub and thread the axle nut into place.  Don't worry about torquing it yet.
40.    Align the camber bolts to their original positions, and tighten to 129 ft/lbs.
41.    Connect outer tie rod end to knuckle.
42.    Tighten castle nut to 19.9 ft/lbs, then tighten it a bit more so you can get the cotter pin in place.
43.    Install cotter pin.
44.    Install brake dust shields to knuckle.
45.    Slide rotor into place on hub.
46.    Attach caliper bracket to knuckle, and tighten bolts to 59 ft/lbs.
47.    Put a weight on the brake pedal or have a friend press it.
48.    Tighten the axle nut to 162 ft/lbs.  Do this with no weight on the wheels, or you can damage the wheel bearings (i.e., don't put the wheels back on, lower the car, and then tighten the nut).
49.    Stake the axle nut in position.
50.    Install the ABS sensor to the knuckle, tighten the bolt to 24.3 ft/lbs.
51.    Insert ball joint into the hole in the control arm.  Tighten the castle nut to 30 ft/lbs, then tighten a bit more so you can get the cotter pin into place.
52.    Install the cotter pin.

Install the control arms—Part 2

53.    Attach the end links to the control arm.  Snug the bolt down, but don’t tighten.
54.    Install the tire.
55.    Lower the car, then drive it up on ramps.  Remember that everything up front is yet to be tightened down, so drive as little as possible and be gentle.
56.    Tighten everything in this order:

a.    Tighten the end link bolt to 33 ft/lbs.
b.    Tighten the front bushing bolt and nut to 92 ft/lbs.
c.    The manual then says to do this:

I couldn’t move anything. I think they just want to make sure the bushing is centered (I mean, who the hell could accurately adjust the thing so one side has a gap of 1 mm, and the other has a gap of 1.5 mm?) It all looked pretty centered to me, so I left it as is, and my car seems fine.  YMMV.

d.    Tighten the rear bushing bolts to a whopping 184 ft/lbs.  My torque wrench only goes to 160.  After much struggling, I got it to finally click up to 160 ft/lbs.  This was with much straining, because you’re on your back without much room to work.  I then hit it with the impact gun with as few impacts as I could.  I just barely hit the trigger on the gun, and it impacted maybe two or three times.  Again, everything seems fine now. 

57.    Replace the plastic covers on the sub frame.
58.    Replace the plastic undertray.
59.    Have a beer.  embeer
60.    Go for an alignment.

At this point, a huge chunk of the front end is refreshed!  My car is now very smooth and the steering feels a good bit tighter than before.  However, I would not say that this is worth all of the work, unless you really want to do this (which I did, for learning purposes, and to get rid of that intermittent vibration issue).  The difference is definitely there, but it isn't earth shattering.  embeer

**The manual says you need to remove the sub-frame to do this.  There is an opening in the sub frame that lets you get a socket in there, so I didn’t have to remove the sub frame.  It was a tight fit on one side, so I used a dremel to open the hole up a bit (it was like a millimeter or so of metal that I had to remove, so I was comfortable doing this).  There was no issue with getting at the other side.  If you need to do any grinding as well, do so at your own risk.

Last edited by kornfeld (2013-09-20 17:48:22)

Der Schuh



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#2 2013-08-07 14:42:22

Former Site Owner
Registered: 2006-02-22
User Number: 1032
Posts: 25000

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

How much did all these parts run you?

P.S. Thank you, dickface.



#3 2013-08-07 14:43:24

Worst ninja editor, ever.
From: South Carolina
Registered: 2007-04-06
User Number: 1944
Posts: 8204

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

embeer embeer embeer embeer embeer embeer

2005 Aero 5MT
2014 Ford Mustang GT Premium 6MT - Sterling Gray Metallic



#4 2013-08-07 14:45:38

From: San Francisco
Registered: 2008-01-22
User Number: 2503
Posts: 11467

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

iamchris wrote:

How much did all these parts run you?

P.S. Thank you, dickface.

Shit.  I dunno.  Several hundred dollars?  This was all lots of little orders, because I was originally going to do ball joints; then I thought, while I'm in there, I'll do this other thing, and then while I'm in there I'll do that thing, on and on.  Some stuff was bought online, from ebay, some online from, some in person from a dealer in San Francisco, some at a dealer in a neighboring city.

So, in summary, I don't know.   sad  You're welcome, butt breath.

Der Schuh



#5 2013-08-07 16:43:14

Former Site Owner
Registered: 2006-02-22
User Number: 1032
Posts: 25000

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

For under $1000 and to avoid a lot of small jobs here and there in the future, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.




#6 2013-08-07 23:19:10

From: San Francisco
Registered: 2008-01-22
User Number: 2503
Posts: 11467

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

Lemme root through my orders.  I would guess it's in the $500 range, not counting tools.

Der Schuh



#7 2015-11-22 13:03:25

Throbbing Member
Registered: 2014-01-31
User Number: 13976
Posts: 66

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

Handy thread, this.

Hers: 2006 MBM 5MT 9-2x Aero / 81k miles / Premium, Cold, Sport / Cobb APV3 Stage 1 on WRX Option Forged BBS / Staying Stock & Happy! big_smile
Mine: 2008 DGM 6MT Legacy spec. B / 175k / Tuning Alliance S.2+, Cobb TBE, PW TMIC, RCE Tarmac (KW), SSR Comp, Brembo F/R & DBA 5K/4K...



#8 2017-01-04 13:19:24

long live R0LO!
From: Fair Oaks, CA
Registered: 2011-10-06
User Number: 6094
Posts: 4966

Re: Front End Refresh DIY

Phil, if you're still subscribed to this - question for ya.

Do you think it would be worth DIYing the control arm rear bushings? When I had my car in at a subie shop for the alignment following my lateral link replacement they noticed that these bushings were pretty well shot so I want to replace them with Group-N bushings. My understanding is that the rear bushings can be done w/o a press so thought it may be worth doing myself - only thing is the crazy amount of torque on those bolts. Do you remember if you were you able to get a socket on all the nuts/bolts? Or did you have to torque with a wrench and a pipe? ha.

2005 Saab 92x Aero 5MT | The basic mods, Stage 2.04
1968 Dodge Charger 383 | WIP, restored almost everything but body work
2014 Subaru Forester | Wife's car



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