How to Install Front-End Adjusters
The spring setup in the front end of the VW is a stack of torsion leafs. Each one is a long, flat piece of spring metal. Sandwiched together, they make for some pretty strong torsion to keep the front wheels down.
The stock VW front end has this bracket built into the middle of each tube. It's a square cutout, of sorts, to hold the torsion springs into a static position, and "sandwich" them together.
Front end adjusters replace this bracket, provide a square cutout of their own, and sandwich the springs together, also. The difference is: they rotate! So adding lift is as easy as loosening a couple of lockdowns, tightening the sandwich of springs, and forcing the rotation over a little bit harder. See the Cheap Drawing.
- pair front-end adjusters
- Pickle fork (ball-joint front end)
- cutter of some sort (hacksaw will do, sawzles are better)
- complete set new front-end bushings
- jack stands
- slide hammer, or long metal rod (drift)
: if the front end is even a little bit bent, your first step is: Buy A New Front End. Reassembly is nearly impossible if the front end is bent at all!
Put the front of the car up on jack stands, and don't use the front end for support. Don't use the floorboards either - they're only sheetmetal. Remove the front wheels.
I hope you have a fiberglass nose on your baja. Remove the nose. If it's still sheetmetal, consider getting a fiberglass nose (bug-eye is my favorite) 'cuz it's such a pain in the *** working under that front nose.
Ball-joint front end: pull the nuts from the ball joints, and use your large pickle fork to pull the ball joints from the trailing arms. This can be done without a pickle fork, but believe you me: you'll probably wish you'd spent the $10 for one of the most amazing tools available! It's a drift, it's a wedge, it's a pry bar, it's a hammer, it's a club, and it pulls ball joints too! King&Link: Disassemble the linkpin assembly & remove it from the trailing arms. I've done a King&Link front end before, but it was so long ago.... I do remember, though, that the shim setup is your camber adjustment so don't lost count of those shims. So anyway, the entire drum & backing plate assembly will hang from the tie rod with no trouble.
Note the angle of the trailing arms with the front end. You'll want to know this when it's time to weld in the new front end adjusters.
Remove the front end from the car. There's 4 large bolts coming in from the front, two from the top, and look out for the steering damper. You may have to loosen & raise the gas tank a couple of inches to get to the top bolts. Don't let the front end hit your toes on the way down - it weighs more than 50 pounds.
Remove the lockdown from the center brackets on both beams. Remove the trailing arms. The leafs will probably come out, too - that's OK, remove the springs one way or the other. Just be sure to note the depressions in the ends and middle of the leaf springs - the direction is special.
On one beam, mark the position of the old lockdown nut with a nice long mark, then cut out the old center bracket, exactly as wide as the new front end adjuster.
Now it's time to pull the old front end bushings. Using the long metal rod, work from the other end and tap them muthers out. You can use a slide hammer & pull them out, but it's aggrevating either way, and I'd just as soon be hitting something when I'm aggrevated. Drift 'em out. It may be necessary to take a file & touch up the end of your metal rod for a good bite against the bushing.
Install the new urethane front end bushings. Lube the **** out of 'em! It's common to get squeaks. If the bushings come with a tube of superlube, use it. Use it all.
Less we forget - broken balljoints are a royal pain in the ***! Consider replacing them while the trailing arms are still out. You can take 'em to the shop and have them pressed.
Position the front end adjuster in the cutout of the tube. Remember your direction of lift!
A fellow baja maniac by the name of Plahn sent these tips from Australia: when welding in the adjusters, try clamping a piece of angle to the tube, either side of the adjuster, in order to keep thing true. And be sure to note that lifting the front end when installing adjustors may create the need to replace the shocks in order to obtain the required lift. When the front end is out you may want to seam weld around the shocky towers to add strength.
Now for the fun part: using your old center bracket for reference, position the front end adjuster and weld it in. It has something like a 30-degree range of motion, so it's not an exact measurement, but you'll probably want the adjustment available in the lift direction instead of the lower direction!
Repeat the above for the other tube. If you were to cut both tubes at once, you'd need a jig to get 'em welded together straight again. You failed to make a jig - so don't do that!
If you're ambitious, or especially rough on your front end, get a piece of 3" by 6" sheet steel, bend it into a half-tube shape, and weld a gusset over the bottom of the bottom front end adjuster. This will keep you from breaking your front end in two on a big rock someday.
Install the leafs & at least one trailing arm. Feed the leafs through the center of the front end adjuster. This is easier said than done: Point #1, the leaf springs have these depressions drilled into 'em, edgewise. Trailing arms have these cool allen-head lockdown bolts that sink into this depression. Thus, there's a right way and a wrong way to install the springs. Furthermore, there's two lockdowns on the new center piece of the adjusters - one is a little short allen screw, the other is the long sucker, and they're 90 degrees apart. The allen screw goes into the depression in the middle. So, you gotta be sure which direction you're installing!
TIP: Use the old center sections as a broach (holding bracket) to line up the springs & try to get 'em all in at once. You can weld one end of the springs together, this helps too but the weld will break instantly. You can use a dremmel tool to shape the ends of the springs a bit & get 'em to line up a bit easier.
Final check time: Is the smallish allenhead nut locked in to the depression in the center of the springs? When you turn the broach to line up the other hole (long sucker) are the depressions in the ends of the springs lined up in the correct direction? Hammer in the trailing arms, and tighten 'em on. Reassemble the front end (don't forget the steering damper). If the balljoints try to turn instead of tightening, put a jack under the offending component & add pressure to force the balljoint into the trailing arm harder. Or use a 2x4 as a lever arm, depending on direction - the effect is the same, and it's only temporary, it'll quit being difficult after a few more turns of the nut.
(Almost) final step: adjusting the adjusters. Do so in this order: First, tighten the springs together (that torsion sandwich is more effective when tight). Then, tighten the adjustment screw to force the springs to turn. Tighten the bottom tube hard, tighten the top tube less enthusiastically, due to the direction(s) of force on the balljoints / link pin. Finally, tighten the lockdown nuts.
Oh yeah - remember to reinstall the nose!