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> GTI Suspension Refresh, Stage 3: Trying It Out
clarkma5
post Aug 17 2012, 08:27 AM
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Howdy everyone. Been a long time since I've done anything in user's rides because, well, I don't do a helluva lot with my car besides drive and enjoy it and keep the oil changed and gas tank full. Over the last couple years I went back to school, got my master's, moved to Washington state, bounced around a couple different living situations and am now moving from an area where I can't really work in our garage and have to park on the street to a new place where there's work and indoor parking space! Hallelujah I can wrench and spitshine the GTI to my heart's content!

I'm coming up on 77,777 miles and in the last couple days I've noticed I've got the characteristic moaning groaning of tired upper front strut mounts and the fact that they're riding high confirms it, not to mention how bumps on the road make the front end feel a bit disconnected. I've been pondering shocks and a suspension refresh for awhile but now I'm making it my first priority after the move is wrapped up and we get a washer and dryer. I read a lot about MkIV suspension tech and there's several things that stand out: stock-ish ride height is best for preserving roll centers and front-end attitude, careful about what bushings you put where, etc.

A couple other factors: I'm starting to do research into track day options here in the Seattle area and, though they're hard to find, there seems to be some opportunities for track time that are damned affordable, and a roommate of mine is interested in getting his car out on the track too, so I think I've still got a couple excursions in me. Also, I intend to be decently equipped with tools to do mechanic work in our garage and part of this project is also getting a set of tools together as a starting point for such work. I've got wrenches and sockets (probably have a few gaps in the lineup to fill), I'll need a jack and jackstands, a vise for the workbench, and a couple other things to get started on this and other projects.

So here's the plan!

H&R OE Sport Springs with Koni STR.T shocks
The price is right and I've been intrigued by STR.Ts since they debuted...described as the quality of Koni Sports "on their second lowest setting" for half the price, good for mild lowering, they seem like a great pairing with the OE Sports. The OE Sports, unlike Eibach Pro-Kits or Sofsports, are linear rate and a good enough spring rate to prevent bottoming with lowering and they really are the right ride height reduction for me (subtle enough to give it a stance, not noticeable enough to really see without looking at it, and maintaining the factory suspension geometry that works so well). Reviews for Koni FSDs paired with the OE Sports are ravingly positive, here's hoping that skipping the FSDs doesn't compromise the setup but they are still Konis.

ECS Tuning stage 2 suspension refresh kit
Tie rods, ball joints, strut mounts, bolts and nuts, and R32-spec LCA bushings. Seems like a good idea to get all that handled while I'm in there. It means I need to press bushings which I've never done before but it doesn't look too crazy to do with a vise and some brains and patience. Also involves some sort of ball joint pulling tool and a tie rod separator (which I want anyway because the BF's Del Sol needs tie rods too).

Also going to do front and rear bump stops and rear shock mounts too (not part of the refresh kit). Plus I'll need to acquire a spring compressor and a couple special VW tools for removing the strut from its mounting bracket.

All together, this setup looks like it'll run $900-$1000 shipped to my house, not including a few hundred for tools that I really want and need for other things anyway. This is something I hope to do in a weekend and have a very complete set of tools and parts before I start so I'm hoping you guys can find anything I've missed, any input on the hard points of such a job, and any advice on nice tools to acquire for chassis work. cool.gif
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fiber optic
post Aug 17 2012, 08:56 AM
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I can't offer any kind of suggestion on the suspension parts.

For the tools, I'm saving my coin for a nice Wilton vise. They range from around $150 to $1100 depending on the size/type. I'm looking at the $400-ish area. One from Harbor Freight could suit you just fine. I can't imagine pressing bushings would require anything too fancy as long as the jaws could spread far enough apart and were deep enough for it to fit.

I used a Harbor Freight pickle fork and a 3 pound dead blow hammer to separate the ball joints from the steering knuckle. It was a pain in the ass. The pickle fork was mangled and the hammer's soft faces were gone. I found out later you can use a metal sledge and hit the knuckle where the ball joint goes into it and it shocks it free. Oh well. When I buy stuff at HF I assume it will be worthless after a single use.

I was ditching the control arms to remove the 'lowering' from my truck and putting in stock. I didn't take the balljoints out of the control arms and the new ones had the balljoints already installed so I can't recommend anything there.


I did new tie rod ends as the old ones were worn and loose. I tried to roughly align it in my garage but I was WAY off. It squealed horribly on the 3 miles to the alignment shop and was darting all over the road. Get a 2nd pair of eyes on it. Put the steering wheel straight and look down the side. Adjust as necessary to get the face of the wheel to disappear simultaneously front and rear. Repeat on other side.

Whoa, wall of text.

Pic
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clarkma5
post Aug 17 2012, 09:24 AM
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Yeah, harbor freight is more my price range right now sadly, I know what you mean about them selling a lot of junk. I read about the pickle fork-and-sledge method for ball joint removal and it was described as "more difficult", so I'm glad to confirm that that means "yeap, it's a bitch". Probably will get something like this http://www.amazon.com/Vw-audi-Ball-Joint-S...r/dp/B0038P32AY

Tie rod alignment is something I'm aware of, using a tape measure and eyeball and maybe marking old threads I think I can get it in the ballpark, would definitely arrange to have it professionally aligned immediately after the fact with so much suspension stuff changing (and maybe a follow-up alignment a couple months later when it all settles)

Thank you for the input that was exactly what I was looking for!
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fiber optic
post Aug 17 2012, 11:16 AM
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QUOTE(clarkma5 @ Aug 17 2012, 12:24 PM) *
Yeah, harbor freight is more my price range right now sadly, I know what you mean about them selling a lot of junk. I read about the pickle fork-and-sledge method for ball joint removal and it was described as "more difficult", so I'm glad to confirm that that means "yeap, it's a bitch". Probably will get something like this http://www.amazon.com/Vw-audi-Ball-Joint-S...r/dp/B0038P32AY

Tie rod alignment is something I'm aware of, using a tape measure and eyeball and maybe marking old threads I think I can get it in the ballpark, would definitely arrange to have it professionally aligned immediately after the fact with so much suspension stuff changing (and maybe a follow-up alignment a couple months later when it all settles)

Thank you for the input that was exactly what I was looking for!



I know how the "HF sized budget" goes. My wallet has been thin for a couple of years now. I've embraced it to some degree. It's really close to work so I stop in during lunch break from time to time.

For $50-ish that tool from Amazon.com looks like a winner. It doesn't look too VW/Audi specific too which could be useful in the future for other vehicles. I'm guessing you can run down the threaded part with a regular wrench and not need an air tool. May need a section of pipe for some extra torque.

I got my tie rod ends from Autozone. I think just their house brand, duralast. They were made in Taiwan but they did have grease fittings AND a flat section to put a wrench on for the adjustments. As far as I know the ones I took out were original Ford and they had neither, though they may have been part of the lowering kit that was installed.

Good luck with it. I'd be interested in knowing what you decide to go with tool wise and how it pans out.
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clarkma5
post Aug 17 2012, 11:50 AM
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I'll definitely do a write-up when I do it, probably in this thread. Sometime in September is my plan.
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Aircooled
post Aug 17 2012, 09:18 PM
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Yeah i did some research when I had my Jetta and read that lowering it screws up the front end suspension and/or steering geometry. I remember seeing someone selling "lowering spindles" for $$$$ to counteract this. I know in the e30 community H&R sport or race springs with Bilstein sport shocks are extremely popular. My car is to the point where it needs the suspension refreshed but I'm just going to do the bushings when I put coilovers in next year.
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b0mb3r
post Aug 18 2012, 09:02 AM
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I used a generic looking ball joint separator that I had to grind down to fit my MKV suspension. Oh and by the way, my Koni sports finally blew after 100K. Koni replaced them without any complaints thumbs_up.gif
Good luck with the work, suspension work is a PITA.
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clarkma5
post Aug 20 2012, 07:15 AM
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I've always found suspensions the easiest stuff to work on with a car *shrug* At least, it makes the most sense to me.
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b0mb3r
post Aug 20 2012, 05:46 PM
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Perhaps you are right, timing belt on my GTI was worse.
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clarkma5
post Aug 23 2012, 06:09 AM
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Parts have been purchased, garage is slowly being cleared of boxes, hopefully this is on track to happen in a few weeks smile.gif
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fiber optic
post Aug 23 2012, 07:26 AM
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QUOTE(clarkma5 @ Aug 23 2012, 09:09 AM) *
Parts have been purchased, garage is slowly being cleared of boxes, hopefully this is on track to happen in a few weeks smile.gif


Did you go with the parts as described originally? Also, did you get that Amazon.com balljoint tool?
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clarkma5
post Aug 23 2012, 07:56 AM
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Yes and yes, the only thing I didn't get is the ECS tuning strut nut tool because I went with the open-sided socket special VW tool from another place instead (it's a 21 mm socket that has one side open so you can get a 7mm hex key inside it, basically so you can hold the outside of the strut nut with the socket and turn the inside with the hex to detach the top of the strut mounting).

I also got a 5" HFT vise and a set of jack stands, which I needed. I have a low profile bottle jack already, I might pickup a rollaround too. Otherwise need to go through the tools we already have at the house and fill in any gaps.
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clarkma5
post Sep 1 2012, 05:01 PM
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So gave the GTI a long, long overdue all-day detail. Snapped a side-on pic for its "pre-lowering" ride height. Watch this space!

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clarkma5
post Oct 24 2012, 07:42 PM
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Heh so suspension refresh in september plan obviously fell through (friend I was going to do it with double booked himself on me, though it will be happening as the parts have been sitting in my garage for a month and a half)

But there are developments! For one, I decided to go the route of dedicated winter wheels and tires this year, which arrived yesterday. 205/55R16 Dunlop SP Winter Sport 3Ds mounted on 16x7 Sport Edition F7s from TireRack:



Also, the 80,000 mile service is almost upon me and my order of spark plugs/air filter/fuel filter (really that's about all the 80k service REALLY is on my car, despite it being considered a "major service") arrived today. Since I've been experiencing some high throttle/low rev hesitation issues that I've suspected was due to my fuel filter never having been changed (another instance of me trusting VW's service intervals and being kinda burned by it, since they never even mention fuel filter replacement) and it was an easy job I just went ahead and did that right now. This is what 80,000 miles worth of fuel filter grime looks like!



Unfortunately, while I was under there I discovered that my rear axle beam bushings are splitting. :/



They're not terminal or anything, but this has caused some project creep for my suspension refresh. Since I have to unbolt the shocks (which are getting replaced anyway) from the axle to drop it to replace these bushings, I'm just going to do the whole thing at once. Also dropping the axle means undoing brake lines and I'm due for a brake flush AND want to do stainless lines, so that's going to happen too. Argh to project creep but yay for "getting it done while I'm in there"
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clarkma5
post Oct 25 2012, 09:25 AM
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So the last several months, particularly in 3rd or 4th gear, the car has stumbled when I've asked for appreciable acceleration from about 2000 RPM, which would then smooth out as the engine approached 3000. With the new fuel filter this hesitation is gone and the throttle picks up beautifully from low revs smile.gif
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350Z
post Oct 25 2012, 11:32 AM
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Hmmm I have been having a similar problem, looks like a new fuel filter may be worth my time.
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clarkma5
post Oct 25 2012, 01:46 PM
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Most VW guys say to change it every 20,000 miles, though that seems a little obsessive to me. Maybe every 40,000. In any case, it was a $14 part and a ten minute job involving jacking up the back of the car (just for space to get under there) and two flathead screwdrivers. Would recommend it!
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fiber optic
post Oct 25 2012, 03:45 PM
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Not that it's related but I change the fuel filter on my truck every 30k. I think that's what the manual says.
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dukenukem
post Oct 25 2012, 10:20 PM
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Speaking of fuel filters, I need to replace mine as well. Of course, the fuel filter in my car is in the fuel tank connected to the pump so the rear seat and all will have to come out.
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fiber optic
post Oct 26 2012, 05:02 AM
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QUOTE(dukenukem @ Oct 26 2012, 01:20 AM) *
Speaking of fuel filters, I need to replace mine as well. Of course, the fuel filter in my car is in the fuel tank connected to the pump so the rear seat and all will have to come out.


I'd take that over needing to drop the tank any day.
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