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I am going to be replacing my power steering rack, tie rods, and the front lower control arms later this week. I need to know what tools I will need to do this.

Do I need a pickle fork to separate the spindle from the lower control arms and the tie rods from the spindle? Do I need flare wrenches for the power steering hoses? Do I need anything special for reinstallation?

Thanks,
Eric
 

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You won't need a pickle fork...jsut put the castle nut back on loose to protect the threads and hammer on it. Sometimes hitting the tie rod end itself also works.

Here are two writeups I've done that will cover all the bases. The first one is the SPring Install which will walk you through the hardest part about swapping the A-arms. The second is a rack install. Flare nut wrenches are desired but not mandatory.

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This is the procedure I’ve used to change front springs in a Fox-body Mustang without the use of a spring compressor, which due to packaging of the front end components is often a source of frustration. And unlike other methods that require disconnecting the struts and actually prying the springs in and out, this one lets the spring completely decompress so that no unsafe prying is required.

Bear in mind that compressed springs contain a lot of stored energy. I am documenting the steps I took to perform this operation and although I am comfortable performing this task you should know that as with any job if you do it you do so at your own risk.

Required tools:

- Floor jack
- a 2nd jack, a bottle jack is preferred (and cheap) but a small floor jack will suffice
- 2 Jackstands
- some blocks of wood or other stand for the bottle jack
- A roofing bar (preferred) or other crowbar-type thing
- A good socket wrench is preferred, with the following sockets mandatory, box wrenches a less attractive alternative:
--- 21 mm deep
--- 24 mm deep
--- 15 mm deep
- penetrating oil
- a "persuader" made of a roughly 12-inch length of roughly 2-inch pipe. Slipped over a wrench and used to effectively lengthen it, it is invaluable when it comes to applying real torque to really tight bolts.
- a small hammer
- a medium sized flat blade screwdriver

Now on to how I've done the install:

Block the rear wheels, raise the front, and place jackstands in the inboard ends of the K-member, inboard of where the control arms attach. Keep in mind you'll want all available floor space to place the jacks under the inner side of the A-arm so the stands will need to be pretty close together.

Remove the front tires. Undo the lower swaybar end links (15 mm deep).

Spray some penetrating oil on the nuts and bolts that attach the inner end of the A-arm to the K-member.

Loosen the inner a-arm bolts but do not remove the bolts yet. You won't be able to, but don't even try. Breaking these loose will require a lot of torque on the 24mm. The bolt on the other end is 21 mm, put a wrench on that for leverage.

With the nuts loose, place a floor jack at the inside lip of the A-arm, between the mounting ears.

Raise the jack until you can see the tension taken off one of the bolts (probably the rearward one first). Punch the bolt out with a small hammer and jockey with the jack until you can remove the bolt. You may want to insert the screwdriver to keep things roughly centered while you remove the other bolt, just don’t forget to remove the screwdriver before lowering the assembly.

Place the second jack so it will raise the other ear of the arm while you position the rest of the arm with the first jack. The arm will bend a bit if unsupported so you need the second jack for the second bolt.

Notice that the spring is in a perch and can't squirt out. Notice it's in a perch at the top too. Notice that when you lower the jacks, the spring will decompress vertically and that thanks to the strut and the tie rod still being attached it is very unlikely the spring will ever squirt out. But don't have your head in the wheelwell nonetheless and if you're the real nervous type tie it to the K-member with a piece of rope or something. Lower it until the spring is fully decompressed, which will happen well before the jack gets to the bottom of its travel.

With the jack lowered and out of the way, swing the A-arm to the rear and the spring will practically fall out.

Cut the insulator off the bottom lengthwise so it will come off, then wind it onto the bottom of your new spring.

Clean off the crud out of the lower spring perch.

Position the spring so the bottom end (the one that isn't flattened) ends up between the two holes in the spring pocket. Position it in its pocket at the top, which may require raising the jack a bit just to hold it in place, and then get the jack positioned so the A-arm is roughly lined up.

Raise the jack and guide the A-arms into place. A little WD-40 type stuff on the pockets in the K-member eases the positioning process.

When you get at least one of the ears situated roughly (probably the rearward one), you'll probably have to pry on the ear out a bit to get the boltholes to line up. Insert the prybar from the bottom between the K-member pocket and the ear on the A-arm and you can move the arm in and out pretty easily. By being precise with the jack and prying a bit if necessary you'll be able to slip the bolt right through and seat it. Place the nut on it for safekeeping but don’t tighten it down yet.

Place the second jack under the other ear just like you did to remove its bolt, and positioning the jacks and wiggling things around as necessary, pop the second bolt through and install the nut but don’t tighten it.

DOUBLE CHECK that you haven't bumped a jackstand out of the way in the process. It’s easy to do because raising the A-arm will probably lift that side off the stand and it’s easy to bump it out of the way when you move the jack around. So easy you might not notice you moved it so trust me on this, before you lower the jacks, double check the placement of the jackstands.

Lower the jacks and put one under the balljoint and raise it until the assembly simulates ride height position. This is so the bushings get torqued down in their natural position (If you don't do this you'll be "preloading" the bushings when at ride height). This will probably raise that side off the jackstand a bit again but that’s OK, leave it right where it is for safety. Tighten the nuts down now. I don't have a torque reading but suffice to say it's tight as hell.

You're about 1.5 hours into the job and you're done with that side.

Don't replace the swaybar end link nuts until you finish with the other side.

Now do the other side as outlined above. Reattach the swaybar endlinks when you’re done. You may have to pry on them a bit to give yourself enough clearance. When all is said and done you should be about 3 hours down with the whole front done.

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No special tools required. If it's possible, determine whether the rack bushings on the car are 1-piece or two-piece by loosening the rack and trying to pull it forward enough to tell. It makes a big difference when you buy the rack. If you can, .take the rack with you to the parts store, or at the very least the big rolled steel pins that locate it. You'll know what I mean when you get the rack off, they're the sleeves the bolts run through. Take them to the parts store and test-fit them into the rack they try to sell you. They list 4 different racks when in fact there should only be one for a 5.0 Mustang. The rack I bought first was for "performance suspension" and listed a 2-piece bushing. The rack was a dead ringer for the one on my car but the bushings were too small to get over the locating pins. The one I ended up with has a slower ratio but damn sure fit back on the car, so there it stays.

It is not a very hard job, and doesn't require anything special, it's pretty straightforward wrenching and muscle. If all goes smoothly you'll be driving the car again in 3-4 hours.

One thing that really helps is get a can of degreaser and go to the quarter car wash. Spray the whole rack and crossmember area and get it degrunged. It makes things a lot easier to work on when it's clean.

You'll need to undo the tie rod ends by taking the castle nut off the spindle and then give the tie rod a hellacious solid whack with a hammer. It'll pop right down and out of the spindle. Just DON'T hit the threaded upright that the castle nut goes on or you'll wreck it.

You undo the mounting bolts, undo the steering pump lines (wrap them in a baggie or htey'll never stop dripping), undo the collar that locks the steering shaft to the rack's input shaft, and tug and pry until the rack pops off.

The teflon washers are an absolute pain in the ass, but they are necessary. Heat them in hot water to get them pliable and then get them over the line fittings. The trick is they cool off and get stiff very fast so you have to work fast and you have to have a good tapered tool (they sujjest a silicon tube applicator nozle but none of mine were big enough). You'll roll the hot teflon seal up the taper to stretch it, then pop it down onto the fittings. Don't let your neighbors see you becuase you WILL get pissed and you WILL swear like a sailer before you're through.

Next hardest part is getting the steering coupler hooked back up. You have to align the flats, then get the bolt started in the collar again which can be hard becuase you've probably had to spread the ears of the collar to get the old rack off.

Then you carefully weasel the rack back into place and fit the lines. I had better luck undoing one of the PS lines where it switches from metal to rubber to go to the pump, connecting the hard line to the rack, then reconnecting the rubber line. It was the only way I could get things oriented properly.

You'll need to flush and bleed the system too. You'll have to flush the pump BEFORE you hook it up to the rack or any nastiness in the pump fluid will get into your nice new rack. You can do that by pouring fresh fluid in the top while either cranking the motor with the coil wire undone or by rotating the pulley by hand. Do NOT overtighten the fluid lines, and do NOT cross thread them, which is easy to do because the fittings are brass and the housing is soft aluminum.
 

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I am of the mind that the more ways there is to do something quickly and safely the easier it is for people to find THE way that works best for them. I agree with all of the CAUTION notes you gave. Careless action could result in severe injury.

My Method

Removal is all very standard.
  • Raise car and support of jack stands (leaving control arms free rotate to nearly vertical position downward)
  • Disconnect tie rod (remove nut then thread nut on several threads and apply hammer wrench to free the ball joint)
  • Support end of the lower control arm with floor jack
  • Loosen (2ea) lower strut attach bolts
  • Slightly compress spring with jack under control arm
  • Remove lower strut attach bolts
  • Slowly...very slowly...no even slower release pressure from jack
  • Allow lower control arm to fully extend
  • Remove old spring when full extension is reached (stock length springs will still remain slightly compressed but a small length of wood will dislodge the spring from its mount) this will not be much of a pop IF the control arm is fully extended

Installing new springs, especially if close to stock length, can be a exercise in frustration. A short pipe nipple and cap removes the frustration and eliminates much of the danger.l
  • Tape the upper spring isolator to the spring
  • Install lower isolator to the lower end of the coil
  • Lift lower control arm to horizontal position and make note of how the spring needs to be rotated to allow the lower coil to fit with one drain hole remaining open
  • Return lower control arm to a vertical position resting on floor jack pad
  • Install upper spring into the upper receptical assuring correct rotation of lower pigtail.
  • Insert a 1.5" dia by 3.5" long iron pipe nipple with a cap on the bottom end in through the bottom center of the lower control arm (depending on the length of the new springs a slight amount of upward pressure on the spring may be required...this can be easily accomplished with a 3 foot pry bar placed in lower control arm and pulled upward to slightly compress spring)
  • The nipple and cap will prevent the spring from popping off the perch on the lower control arm and will automatically center the spring in the control arm and then fall free when no longer needed as control arm is raised into position by jacking. This is similar yet easier to the technique used in... http://www.fordmuscle.com/archives/2000/12/frontsprings/index.shtml
  • Raise control arm until bolts align in lower strut and install
  • Attach ball joint
After much frustration I arrived at this idea and my springs (750lb H&R's)went in place quickly, effortlessly, and most important safely.
 
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