The neglected step child of Justin's mind
Working on the Suspension
Working on the Suspension

Working on the Suspension

This isn’t so much a tutorial or how-to, as a this is what I’ve done to my daily driver.

This 2005 Ford Crown Victoria LX has been my daily driver since December 2019. It’s a car I’ve wanted for ever, and an inexpensive play thing. I bought it with 82K miles on the number thing under the round thing with the needle. It had worn out things everywhere too. Like the brake light on, windshield cracked, really bald tires, brakes completely worn down to the rotors, cracked hoses and belts under the hood, hood struts absolutely shot (broom stick please), blown fuses all over the place, pretty horrific scratches, and some rust spots showing up on the roof.

This post is all about suspension. Quite a bit of what I’ve done to it, and what I need to do it still.

Looking back, the ride height was actually really good when I bought it (it just handled like absolute dog shit). Not knowing this car from Adam (that means it was a stranger to me), I decided to change out all the suspension pieces, and put new rubber on the wheels it came with (Even though I HATED the wheels). Here is what it looked like with the new wheels, original suspension, and fresh rubber (The wheels were an online classified bargain off of a Honda S2000).

New Tires Original Suspension
New rubber with original suspension

I replaced all moving suspension parts except the lower “A” arms (They’re huge aluminum pieces with replaceable bushings and ball joint). Shocks, struts, springs, ball joints, control arms, watts link, new sway bars, all bushings, and fresh mounts all new. It rode much better and felt like a small car when turning. Before the suspension update and rebuild, it was a bit sketchy on the freeway to say the least. Now it was firm, not harsh, and precise. Unfortunately it was also pretty high up. I really REALLY didn’t like how high up it was sitting. I put new wheels and tires on it shortly before the suspension upgrade, and probably should have just replaced all but the springs because it really did sit well. Even with the new much taller wheels and tires (from 225/60R16 (all 4), to 235/60R17 front and 255/60R17 rear), it made the wheels look like they were hanging out from under the car like small ball bearings.

It went pretty smoothly (Thank you for letting me steal your ant seize dad), and other than leaving a tie rood loose, I got it back together pretty painlessly. How do you know you left a tie-rod loose? Well, when you get up to speed, the car will try to rip the steering wheel out of your hands until you come to a stop. Ran home, tightened it up, and it has been pretty good since.

Anyhow, it handled wonderfully with the replacement springs, upgraded suspension, and monster sway bars. I simply didn’t like the height, and it seemed to lean towards the driver’s side. After researching for over a year in the forums related to my car, there were three suggestions. 1st and worst was to cut the springs. I really don’t like that idea, and as it turns out, I couldn’t have cut the rear springs anyhow. You can only cut springs that do not have a pig tail, or flattened section at the end of the spring. 2nd, and the way I was going to go initially, was to buy some brackets that lowered the bottom eyelet of the front Struts about an inch. An inch at the spring/strut on the front equals twice that at the body. The issue with this (and I did order the parts), was that I could not use my 17 inch wheels due to interference turning. I did pick up a set of wheels that I “thought” would work on my car, but just yesterday, I found out they’re the wrong bolt pattern. They are 5x108mm (5×4-1/4) instead of the 5×113.4 (5×5-1/2) that “most” Ford 5 lugs on cars use. Needless to say, they’re on the classifieds now since I literally own nothing that they would fit.

Here are the best examples of where my car sat with the new suspension, and stock replacement aftermarket springs, vs the new lowering springs.

My plans moving forward, are to replace the front struts and springs with Coilovers, and replace the rear springs with an adjustable post, and coilover springs. I can choose the spring rating (600lb front and 250lb rear) to get the car ride more form, and adjust them up or down to get the car to sit where I want. I know this isn’t a Mustang, but it sure handles like one sometimes.

Some things I’ve learned from doing this suspension a few times now.

1st, you don’t need to pull the entire front end apart to get the struts out. Simply remote the tire, pull the caliper, Rotor, sway bar nut (either one), and top ball joint nut. Move the upper a-arm out of your way and snug it up so it stays up. Then undo the three nuts on top of the strut, undo the large nut from the bottom of the strut, then stand on the lower A-arm while you pull the bottom bolt out of the lower strut (I pulled it out first because I did it alone). With some wiggling, you should be able to pull the strut free.

Tight upper Ball-Joint anyone (this was when I did my suspension the first time, cost me three Allen wrenches, bitch was TIGHT!

2nd, if you are going to replace the springs on your strut, or use your current springs on a new strut there’s my suggestions. Use good spring compressors, and clamp them down each side at a time, little by little. Once you can spin the spring easily, you can start to losten the lock nut at the top. If the spring is snug at all, use extreme caution, the strut and spring are under quite a bit of load, and that nut is all that’s holding it from blasting apart and taking your teeth with it. Once the its all loose, slide it all apart, and put your new spring on. Undo the compressor from your old spring, put it on your new spring, and get it crunched down enough you can get the big nut on top back on (I did mine finger tight, then loosened the spring compressor so I could index the strut.).

I leave the top nut finger tight so I can adjust where the bump on top lines up with the bolt at the bottom. The bump will end up pointing to the outside of your car (towards the person installing the strut). If this is off, then you can not get the three bolts at the top to go in AND the bottom bolt to go in (let alone get the strut to fit in the A-arm). The top three bolts aren’t equally spaced. They’ll only go in one way. Once things are lined up on your strut, tighten that top bolt down good and go put the strut back in your car.

Here’s the steps I took as simply as I can say them.

  1. Securely get the front in the air (I use a jack on the frame under where the door hinge is, then stuff a jack stand right behind the front tire where the frame has a big area (called a torque box)).
  2. Pull your wheel off (19mm. I try to keep it under my car somewhere to add a touch of safety).
  3. Undo the two large bolts behind your caliper (I think they’re 17mm, and pretty snug if you haven’t touched them in a while).
  4. Lay your caliper on something or hang it by a wire so the hose isn’t pulled tight (I laid mine on a large paint can, but I normally hang them by a coat hanger, or safety wire).
  5. Pull your rotor off, and set it somewhere safe (I just lean mine against the jack stand).
  6. Undo the top sway bar nut and work it out of the steering knuckle (15mm I think. I choose to do the top cuz it is in the way of the top ball joint nut).
  7. Undo the top ball joint nut and make sure it moves freely (19mm I think).
  8. Pop the holders loose for the ABS wire and move it out of the way (just be careful not to snag it too hard when removing the strut).
  9. Loosen the upper A-arm nuts on either side, push the A-arm up all the way, and snug one nut down to hold it there (24mm I think, maybe 21mm).
  10. Loosen the three nuts from the top of the strut (13mm. You can take them all the way off if you want, I usually left one a few threads on).
  11. Undo the nut at the bottom of the strut and pull the bolt out if you can (21mm I think – maybe 24mm. You’ll have to stand on the lower A-arm a little because it holds some serious up pressure otherwise).
  12. Take that hand tight 13mm off the top of the strut, and start maneuvering the strut free (if you’re alone, it’s going to be a struggle standing on the lower A-arm, and moving the strut around to pull it free – but it’s even harder putting it in, but it’s not “that bad”).

Taking the strut apart requires a spring compressor, 19mm socket, 18mm socket, and a library of cautionary tails.

  1. Set up your spring compressor how ever it works. Mine has a top, bottom, threaded shaft, and pins to keep it on the spring. I try to keep them about 3 or 4 spirals apart, and crank it down about an inch or so each side at a time (mine uses 19mm sockets to spin it tight, and I use my rattle gun).
  2. Once the spring is sloppy loose, undo the top nut and pull the strut out of the spring (Top nut is an 18 or 19mm. That spring needs to be sloppy loose, or at least nice and loose, or you’re going to get punched in the mouth when that top nut finishes doing its job).
  3. Undo your spring compressor a little at a time and get ready to crunch your new spring down (if you’re just swapping struts, then stuff your new strut in there, and get to putting it back together).
  4. Get the new spring set into the spring perch at the bottom, put the top nut on (I choose to put mine on finger tight (until the anti loosen portion hits the threads), loosen your spring compressor a little at a time until you can remove it.
  5. Find the bump on the top plate of your strut and line that up with the flat side of the lower strut bolt (it’ll be pretty stiff, but you can move it pretty accurately until the big nut on top is tight).
  6. Snug that big locknut on top down being mindful to not let the top plate spin with it (I used a large screwdriver wedged between the top posts to hold it while I snugged it down).

When putting the strut back into your car, it’s pretty much reverse of how you pulled it out. I found that it’s easier to get the strut kind of wedged up in “near” where it’s going to live THEN start to fight with that lower A-arm.

If your top posts line up, put some nuts on them right away (loosely). It’ll help you out when you’re lining up the bottom. When lining the bottom up, if it goes into the slot in the lower A-arm, you’re in like Flynn (Just have to jiggle the bolt in). If it is off a little bit, you can put a large screw driver through the bolt hole, and twist it to line up (it’s not easy, but it’s not too bad if the top studs and nuts are threaded on).

Don’t forget to drop that upper A-arm down, put the top ball joint back in, then snug down the nuts (two on top of the A-arm at the body, and one on your ball-joint). Then do your sway bar, snug it up, and start putting your ABS line back, rotor back on, caliper on, look it all over one last time, and toss your wheel back on.

It’s up to you if you want to lower your car down off the jack stands. I find it damages a lot less things if I get my car back on the ground before I back up, but that’s just me.

Out back is MUCH easier. Pretty much, ass up, jack stands, tires off, loosen shock bolt (top or bottom, you pick), compress spring, remove spring, compress new spring, install new spring, remove compressor, replace shocks, put tires back on, and away you go. In my case, I had to go back in, and put a 1/2 spacer under the driver’s side spring to help level it out side to side. It didn’t really help, so now I’m going to go Hulk on my car, and put a blended Coilover/Adjustable rear suspension under the ass end. I’ve got hundreds of pounds of audio equipment behind the back seat, and in the trunk, so I need more gusto than the Moog CC501 springs can give me.

I also changed the upper and lower control arms. Added a new watts link, then stuck a new rear ADTR sway bar under there (to match my ADTR front sway bar), along with new KYB shocks.

My to-do list is a lot deeper than my shallow finances will allow. Hopefully by winter, the front will be Coilovers (from Team321 if they answer me), and the rear will have a 200 lb. adjustable setup for a 2005-2014 Mustang.

Until then, I may throw some different spacers at the ass end, or drive it till I can throw more money at it. Driving at night makes me feel like a redneck in his “leveled” pickup with bright LED headlights. I bean everyone in the eyes since my nose is pointed skyward.

I need to get my kid’s GMC Suburban done – Warped heads from running it hard when it was leaking water (I FUCKING hate working on chevy stuff, and the incentive to give my son another working vehicle isn’t very high since he tends to break them like they’re free and easy. I can’t say “Be nice to this one” in many different ways). My back has been a holly terror, and leaning over a fender seems to be the worst for it. With my suspension, I’m laying down, or kneeling. Spinning bolts, loosening nuts, and running a screw driver over a fender, kill me now please.

Until next time, I hope everyone is well, and if I remember, I’ll try n get more pictures as I do things to my stuff.

Take care, ~me

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