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Project Camaro
Trials & Tribulations of Car Modifications - Suspension Install

October 1, 2018
By Scott Lewis

I know it has been a long time since I posted an update on the Camaro. I have been quite busy the last few months... and always near the time I should post something.

With the QA1 coilovers & shocks in hand I had to wait until I returned from a trip to Dallas to start working on the car. Here is a day by day of the swap.

Day 1 - Sunday

I had hoped I would be able to complete the R&R of everything in a single day. I borrowed a spring compressor to make removing the front springs safer and easier. When the coilovers arrived they had warning messages everywhere to use anti-seize on the threads or void the warrantee. That meant at least one trip to the auto parts store.

I started the morning by jacking the car up on jack stands (all around). I removed the wheels and soaked all the bolts I would need to work on with WD-40. Then off to the auto parts store to get the anti-seize. While I was there I also picked up a thermostat. The car ran a little hot a few days prior so I wanted a 180 degree thermostat. Since I knew I would be unbolting the sway bar end link bushings I asked if they happen to have end link bushings for a 68 Camaro. They did... in polyurethane (though they turned out to be about 2 inches too long, but we will get to that).

Back to the house and time to start wrenching. I removed the end links on the passenger side followed by the shock. I have this shock removal tool that makes it easy to remove shocks. It fits over the top of the shock and allows you to put a ratchet on it. My using a box end wrench on the nut, and a ratchet to turn the shaft of the shock itself, it twirls right off (see picture at right).

Then I got in position to loosen the two lower control arm bolts. One of which was inside the cross-member in an access hole. You know why I mentioned that, right? Yep, I lost a socket in that hole. Back to the auto parts store to get one of those magnets on the end of a long gooseneck to fish the socket out.

I had the control arm nuts off the bolts and then had to play around with the spring compressor. It kept popping off. On about the 4th try it suddenly started getting easy to do. I just kept tightening it. Then it shifted and my ratchet/socked could no longer fit on the end inside the control arm (it no longer lined up with the hole the shock came out of). I used an open end wrench between the coils and kept going. Then it stopped. I had reached the end of the threads of the spring compressor. I was worried. Was this enough? I put a floor jack under the control arm and started to raise it. I saw a tiny bit of movement on the front bolt and noticed I could pull it out by hand. Sweet. The other looked like more trouble. I left the easy one in and moved the floor jack to see if I could find a position to allow the rear to come out as easy. I did, and took it out. Going back to the front it was a little harder to find that sweet spot with the floor jack now that all the pressure was on the front bolt. It did come out by hand after a couple of minutes. I lowered the jack and everything was drama free and the spring with the compressor attached came out.

When I went to remove the spring compressor from the spring it popped out. Yikes! No harm, just a little scare.

Time to tackle the two nuts that are tack welded to the control arms at the factory. These are the nuts that the stock shock absorber bolts to. They are not used with the coilovers. This is where all my trouble really began. I tried pounding on it with a hammer and chisel. Nothing. I went back on YouTube where I saw someone do this. They used an air hammer with a chisel in it. Hmmm. I checked my tool box and I did have an air hammer from long ago (never used). I did not have a compressor.

At this time I messaged my brother-in-law and asked for his help in shortening the end link bolts (and sleeves) and the u-bolts for the lowering blocks. He said I could bring the stuff over after dinner. Great. Off to Home Depot to buy a compressor. I bought the smallest compressor still rated to work with an impact wrench and a die grinder (maybe I could cut the bolts shorter myself).

I got home and there were no fittings to attach the hose to the compressor or my tools to the hose. Back to Home Depot where I got a fitting kit that included a hand blower and almost all the fittings I needed. I did get a couple of extra fittings that screw into the tools, so I won't have to swap any. Every tool has its own fitting now. Time to try out this air hammer/chisel. It does not work! Didn't seem to budge the nuts.

I figured I would try the cut off discs. Go figure, I don't have an arbor for the cut off discs, and the one for the sanding/grinding disc doesn't fit. The sanding/grinding discs themselves are sandpaper-like and will not cut anything. Looks like I am going to Home Depot for the 3rd time in one day.

On the way back from Home Depot with an arbor (and vice grips in case the cut off wheel can work on the U-bolts) my brother-in-laws texts me to come over. I get home, measure 1 U-Bolt, grab the end links & u-bolts and head to my brother-in-law's house. While we were cutting the bolts I asked if I could do this with a cutting disc with my air grinder. He said it would take a very long time and would go through a lot of those little discs. His full size electric grinder and cut off wheel went through the bolts like butter. Also, the bolts for the end links were only threaded near the end, so we could not cut those down. Instead we just cleaned up the original bolt (I only has the one from the car, the other was still on the car), but cut down the sleeve/spacer to match the original.

Back home I found out that the arbor they sold me at Home Depot does not fit the cutting discs I bought (and yes... I showed them exactly which disc I bought, so this was on them). Joy.

At this point I am trying to cut my losses. I decide to work on the rear shocks. That will be easy, right?!? I decide to try my new compressor with the air ratchet in my toolbox. Twirling the shocks with my shock absorber tool should be a piece of cake. Well, not so fast speedy. The air ratchet would spin as soon as I attached the air hose. Pulling the trigger on it made it turn faster. But it would not stay still while air was attached. OK, put my 9/16" box end wrench on the nut, put my tool on the top of the shock, put the 1/2" socket on the air ratchet, put the ratchet/socket onto the tool... and then attach the air hose and let it go. It worked. Not great, but definitely faster than a regular ratchet.

I used my impact wrench on the bolts holding the bottom of the rear shocks. That was cool. I had not used the impact wrench since 2009! Worked perfectly. I went to put in the new shocks. They are just like regular shocks, except they have an adjustment knob. I initially installed the shocks with the adjustment knob facing inward. This would allow me to crawl under the car and adjust the knob without having to take the wheels off. Alas, the knob pressed against the shock bracket. So, turn the shock around and the knob faces the wheel/tire. I think I can still reach it without removing the tire. But that will have to come later.

The instructions say that for street driving with good ride and handling set the shocks to 0-6 clicks. I went with 4 clicks in the rear and 3 clicks in the front. Since the front is also getting new springs, I assume it will not have to rely as much on the shock for roll stiffness. Of course, this could all change when I test drive it.

Day 2 - Monday

Day 2 begins with stopping off at Home Depot on my way home from work to get the cut off discs for the arbor I bought. I will try to use it to cut the bolts on the lower control arms. Well, cut them enough so the air hammer/chisel can finish it off. I am also wondering at this time if the cut off discs and air chisel can work to help remove the part of the leaf spring bolts that seem to be permanently attached. I might have to borrow my brother-in-laws real grinder. NOTE: I never got around to the lowering blocks, but the friend that lent me the spring compressor says those are carriage bolts, not some welded or pressed in thing. When the time comes I should be able to just unbolt them and pop them out.

By The Way...

Did I mention that I forgot to order the spanner wrench for the coilovers. I never even thought about it. I kind of assumed it would be in with the coilovers. I did try to see if the auto parts store had one. They did not (at least not one that fit). So, at best I can put the car back together, but I can't adjust the springs until that tool arrives. Here's hoping it comes in time. I wanted to drive the car on a Ferrari Club drive on Saturday. I want to have the coolest, cheapest car there.

I started feeling a cold coming on Monday during the day at work. I didn't want that to stop me. I got in the garage, and it took 2 cutting wheels and a lot of air chiseling to cut the 2 nuts off the lower control arm. I then put the new spring/shock assembly in the car. I was stunned that it went as easy as it did. The only real trouble was the fiddling with the lower control arm to get the bolt holes aligned so the bolts could go through.

It also took its toll on me. By the time I got the passenger side together it hurt to swallow so bad I knew I was going to be sick the next day. Unfortunately, I had no idea how bad. I literally was in bed with a cold until 4:00 PM Wednesday when my fever broke and I started feeling better. I had to take 2 vacation days just to be sick. I hate that. Oh well, I still have 20 vacation days left for the year.

Day 3 - Wednesday

I was barely feeling better, and tried to take apart the driver's side front spring. I did a better job with the spring compressor knowing its quirks. Plus I was able to just sit and rest (or lay flat on the floor and rest) every few minutes. It was not too bad. I got the old spring and shock out, and determined that the threads on the end of end link bolt were no good. I could not get the nut back on it. Since I was going to need more cutting discs, I stopped there and waited until I would be able to go to Home Depot... again.

Day 4 - Thursday

I stopped off at Home Depot and picked up an 8 inch bolt and nut for the end link bushings. I needed a 7 inch bolt. I bought a handful of cutting discs this time. When I got home the first thing I did was cut that bolt down to about 7-1/4 inches. I left it just a tiny bit longer that the original because the polyurethane bushings really fill out the space and the first one was a pain to get started.

Next up is to get my air hammer loaded with a chisel and my drill loaded with a fresh cutting disc. It took 2 & 1/2 discs to get through both bolts this time. A little more than last time. Once that was done it was similar to the first side and things kind of went together reasonably easy. For the life of me I don't recall exactly how I managed to get the coilover aligned on the passenger's side. This time I remember. I just rested it into the control arm and raised it so that I could get the top shock bushing in place and bolted it on. Then I lowered the control arm and put the bolts in place on the bottom holes of the coilover. I then wrestled with the control arm and the jack until the bolts came through the holes in the control arm. It seemed to take longer than the first one. I finished bolting everything together. Since the springs are at their absolute lowest setting, I decided to try the spanner wrenches out and initially raise the spring to some starting point. At this point I realized I made a mistake getting the "smaller" spanner wrenches. These are designed to work with a ratchet, and fit in tight places. Seems like a win-win to get them instead of the long handle versions. Well, that was not the case. Unless you have a ratchet that has a lock position it is a royal pain trying to keep from ratcheting the ratchet out of position (and then reversing the ratchet to get it into position, etc.). I hate them. However, I am likely not going to need them again once it is set. So I will just have to live with them.

With the driver's side adjusted about 1 inch up from the bottom I went over to the passenger's side. It was a little harder to do. And the spring seemed like it was moving around. Then I took a closer look, and looking back at the driver's side. Yea... I put the spring seat spanner on upside-down. What an idiot. At this point I realized in my slightly weakened state (still getting over a cold, remember) I would never get the car on the road this night, so I stopped.

Day 5 - Friday (Lunch Break)

I was working from home so I used my lunch break to get started on the car. I swept the garage floor so I would not get as dirty. I did a quickie to replace the thermostat and top up with coolant.

I tried to see how far I could get in an hour. I only loosened the end link bushing (hoping that gives enough room) instead of removing it. I took off the top shock bolt/bushing, and pushed the shock down to make it easier to take out. I loosened the lower bolts to the shock assembly, and then attacked the big control arm bolts. I get the nuts off and use the floor jack to move them around so I can get the bolts out. Not too much trouble at all.

Quick, take the spring and spanner off, flip the spanner and reapply some more anti-seize. I stretch the shock to its full height and stick it in place. Jack up the control arm with the shock just resting on it and attach the top bushing/nut. Down with the jack and hand tighten the nuts for the shock to the control arm. Time. Lunch time is over.

Oh, and the thermostat is leaking. Damn. When I took it off there was no gasket, just RTV. Now I know why. I will have to run by the auto parts store to get some RTV after work. And drain the radiator, etc., etc., etc.

Day 5 - Friday (After Work)

I get off work at 5 and rush to the auto parts store to get the RTV Silicon and a drain pan so I can redo the thermostat. Back home I have to finish putting the passenger's side spring together. It seems to take longer this time to line up those control arm bolts. I was using the pointy air hammer attachment. Not the air hammer, just those pointy attachments. They could slip into the holes in the control arm if there was a tiny gap showing, then I would pry and wiggle them to help get the bolt holes aligned to fit the actual bolt.

Again, this seemed to take longer this time than any other. Maybe because I was a little frustrated with myself since this time it was all my fault why I was doing this again. Plus I was hoping I could get the car together in time to take it to Biff Buzby's, a burger joint about 12 minutes from my house that hosts a car gathering every Friday night. It meant I would have to finish while it was still light out.

OK, I finally get the control arm bolts in. I tighten them up. I tighten up the lower bolts to the shocks. I tighten the bolt/bushing at the top of the shock. I tighten the end link bushing. I get the spanner tools and my ratchets and start raising the spring.

I am a little concerned as I think how this thing works. The top of the spring is in the factory pocket so the height adjustment comes from the overall height of the shock/spring coilover. So as installed with the spring at its lowest possible setting (to make it easy to fit into the car without a spring compressor) means it would likely be laying the car almost on the ground. I better raise it up a decent amount. I cranked up the spring to have about 1-1/2" to 2" of threads showing. Back to the drivers side to raise it to match. At this point I am just eye balling it. There is no way I will get it right the first time.

I then go to drain the radiator and noticed that there was no "cap" for the drain pan I bought. It is supposed to hold the fluid so you can take it in and dump it at their store when you do oil changes and such. Oops. I'll deal with that later. Drain the radiator enough that the thermostat housing will not leak when I take it off. I do, and I throw the gasket away. I put the RTV on it and read the instruction for how long to wait. It said to install the housing hand tight immediately then wait an hour for it to cure. WHAT? An hour?!?. I am minutes from going to Biff Buzby's. OK, hand tighten it and finish cleaning up.

I get the wheels on the car and start cleaning up my tools. It is about 30 minutes or so in and I tighten the thermostat housing and top it with coolant. It looks a little wet, but I can't remember how dry I got it before removing it. Oh well, if it leaks I can take care of it when I get home from Biff's.

I drop the car on the ground and take a quick drive around my neighborhood. All is pretty good. There is a nice little twisty road a mile or so from my house and it handles that well. I pull into my garage and grab my tape measure and see what the height is. I ended up lowering it only 1/4 inch. :-( Never mind. Time to go to Biff's. I go there and run into some people I know and mostly people I don't. I had a nice time and enjoyed a couple of beers and some fries as I walked around.

I got home at 10:00 PM and said to myself... I have to do it... I am going to adjust the spring height. I back the car into the garage and jack up the front. Wheels off and pull out the spanner wrenches and ratchets. I reduce the height by moving it down half way of the threads left, about 1 inch of threads left to go down. Again, this is eye balling. I drop the car down and check the thermostat. It is dry. Yay!

I take a quick drive around the neighbor hood again and pull into the garage. I get out the tape measure and the front is down exactly 1.5 inches from before I started. Sweet!

Day 6 - Saturday... The Drive

I went on the drive to Luchenback with the Ferrari Club (you do not have to have a Ferrari to be a member of the Ferrari Club). The car was a hit. Most of the members there had not seen the car yet. The car drove great for the most part. So, how does it look? Check out this photo I took at Luchenback:

I did have 3 issues.

1) The car scraped the ground with "spirited" driving on the Hill Country roads. The scraping was rather mild. It did not bottom out. I looked at the car when I got home and I could not see where it scraped... it's too low!!! I will jack it up and look for signs of scraping later. However, I did notice that the lowest point seems to be the exhaust crossover pipe that runs under the engine. If I find that to be where it scraped I will not worry as I will eventually install a dual exhaust that will eliminate that crossover pipe.

2) The "GEN" light came on during the drive home. I was driving pretty hard going to Luchenback. This was also the longest drive I have ever taking with the car. And literally the day after a fairly major upgrade. I assume at this point I am running off the battery. I will have to look at that later.

3) We took the wrong way back into San Antonio and got stuck in some pretty severe bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic. The car started getting HOT. On the hard drive to Luchenback the temperature gauge never went over 190 degrees. Is this normal with a 180 degree thermostat? When the car hit 220 degrees we pulled over to let it cool off. I had coolant, gloves and shop towels in the trunk... just in case. I waiting long enough that I could open the radiator (with a glove on) and top up the coolant (there is no overflow tank on my 68 Camaro). It took maybe a quart of coolant. Not a lot, but not an insignificant amount either. The car finished the traffic and got home never going above 190 degrees.

Conclusion

The GEN light means either the alternator or the regulator are not working. I took the alternator out and took it to the auto parts store where they tested it and found it not working. They did not have one. So I went home and ordered one online. I also ordered a 160 degree thermostat. I saw a video of someone that puts in 160 degree thermostats in all his cars and never has a problem. He specifically mentioned that "it gets hot here in summer." Really? Hotter than San Antonio? The car was off the road waiting for the alternator. We will pick up there with the next column.

Until next time.

Running Total
Previous Total $28,093.82
End Link Bushings $21.98
Thermostat $8.39
   
Current Total $28,124.19
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