Changed my drop links on the front of my car a little while back and ordered some rear ones as well but never got round to it for those reasons that only life throws at you. Had to get the car back on the road quickly and just never had the chance to put the rears on. So, today was a nice day, and seeing we had a member asking how to change these, I thought I would take the chance to make a DIY to help him out.
- Difficulty Level:
(We at Honda Karma are nice like that)
Sorry some of the pics are a bit blurry, phone didnt like focusing on some of the things I was telling it to focus on.
Anyway, the rears and the fronts are EXACTLY the same to change procedure wise. What the manuals etc tell you would be great if it actually worked like that, but it doesnt. Chances are, you will have to cut the drop links off, fight a bit with the ball studs, a bit more cutting, and then you are done.
This is my journey. They are really easy to replace. The hardest part is that on each position of the car, you will be faced with manipulating tools around suspension and brake components to try to get a decent cutting angle and tool positioning. This guide shows the offside rear being completed. The others are the same in principle but you will need to take the above sentence into consideration.
This is a realistic set of tools required, not those that a manual would tell you to get.
- Jack and stands
- 14mm socket set
- Pliers/ Stilson wrench etc - tools of this nature.
- Cutting wheel (dremel or grinder). You could use a hacksaw, but you will be there all day.
- Googles/glasses to protect your eyes when cutting.
- PlusGas ( or equivalent penetrating fluid )
- Around 2-3 hours per side depending on how much the old links decide to be stubborn and misbehave. If they don't misbehave, you could do a side in 30 mins.
A manual will tell you to use allen keys and undo the old bolts that way. Realistically, this won't be possible as the allen key bolt will be rusted and the 14mm bolts will also be rusted onto the threads of the ball stud so you just strip the allen key bolt anyway.
Jack up the ENTIRE rear (or front if you are doing the fronts) of the car. This is to release pressure on the anti roll bar. If you are doing the rear, both wheels off the ground completely and likewise with the front. If you cut through the drop links when there is uneven pressure on the roll bar (for example, you still have an opposite wheel on the ground), it will ping up at you with a fair bit of force, which makes you jump a bit when you are using a cutting wheel in a small space. Needless to say, this isnt particularly safe to have a fright when you are in the middle of grinding. (Learnt this the hard way, almost lost a finger, on a car I did a few years ago)
Remove the wheel obviously and check you have the right part before you start cutting. Each part is position specific so make sure you get the right ones as each one will have their own part number.
Here is the OEM drop link. Rather dirty and worn after 93k miles.
Here is the section where you would put the allen key in to hold the drop link still whilst you tighten and loosen the bolt.
As you can see - the metal just isnt there anymore to get a decent grip on it.
Spray some PlusGas (or equivalent) on the lower and upper nuts at this stage to give it some time to penetrate. Must get on my soap box a bit here - WD40 is not a penetrative solution - its a water repellant. (WD40 - Water Displacement 40 - This means it was successful on the 40th try). It was designed in the 50s by an aerospace company to prevent rusting and corrossion. Great on electrics, useless on breaking down rust to relieve siezed bolts.
By all means, try to undo the nuts now with your 14mm socket, you may get very lucky.
Get cutting. I used a dremel as firstly, my grinder is broken as I asked it to cut concrete slabs well beyond its design capability and secondly, because its easier to handle a dremel in such a small space what with brake fluid lines and ABS sensor wires just inches away.
Literally, cut straight through the middle.
On the above picture, you can see 4 round circles on the rear of the upper drop link. These are plastic and just hold that cup in place. Cut/Grind these plastic tabs away. This is so that it makes it easier when you pop the cap off, which you need to do next.
Grab your pliers or whatever you find necessary, and just bend these caps away. I used the jack handle, put it on the end of the part I just cut off and just levered it 90 degrees away. These will rotate within themselves. All that is under that cap is a ball joint which seals into a plastic cup full of grease. This is why you also cannot just undo the nut as it just spins within itself.
You are now faced with the plastic cup.
This will be very loose, you can try levering it off with a screwdriver or whatever, but personally, as its plastic, I just put the Dremel to it and cut straight through the plastic thereby relieving any tension holding it onto the ball joint and broke it off with a screwdriver.
You can see the cuts here on the ball joint from the Dremel removing that plastic cup.
This is the hardest part of this job
You now need to hold onto the ball joint so that you can loosen the nut a bit. You can't just cut through it at this time as there is a lip preveting it being pulled through, so you need to loosen the nut a bit, get a bit of space and then cut.
Before anyone shouts at me, yes, I know that the following picture is inappropriate use of tools. I challenge anyone to try holding it with your hands....
To my surprise, this just worked straight away and I managed to just remove the nut without any problems and pull the ball joint straight out. This was the first time this had happened out of all 3 of the drop links I had changed on the car. This guide was made changing the last one.
Note the lip on the above picture. This prevents you pulling it through.
Anyway, repeat step 4, 5 and part of 6 to the upper drop link section as shown above.
This one gave me the same trouble as every other nut did on every other side of the car. The nut was seized on so tight, that the wrenches just kept losing their grip. I managed to get it to undo a few threads which gave a bit of movement before the nut just seized completely. Yes, you could use heat etc, but no need to. The new drop links come with new nuts etc. Just cut it off.
The lip above - this is why you cannot just cut straight though and need to relieve some tension first to give yourself some space to get the cutting wheel in there.
On the right, is a 14mm socket, and you can see I have cut halfway through the thread here. Obviously, it gets hot and you need to constantly push it away from the metal bracket to keep the gap exposed for the cutting wheel, hence the reason I use a 14mm socket - rather that get hot than my fingers. Also, the only thing stopping that cutting wheel from hitting your fingers is a small lip of metal, so I prefer having that socket there.
Health and Safety Executives have just had a heart attack reading that.
Either cut it all the way through or cut it almost all the way through and just break it off which is what I did.
It is now ready for the replacement drop link. As mentioned at the start, each drop link is specific (front left, front right, rear right and rear left), but you could accidentally put the rear right into the rear left, it will physically fit but it won't be right, so make sure you get the right ones in the right place obviously.
This takes 30 seconds, literally, just bolt it back up, make sure you put each section in straight and not at an angle, as they will turn as designed,
Job done - this took me almost an hour and a half with taking pictures. If that lower nut caused the same problems as the top one, it would have added an extra 30 mins or so at a guess.