Tools: socket wrenches, rubber hammer, pry bar, pickle fork (ball joint removal tool), drill with bit for drilling steel, grease gun, grease.
Tinware: front 1-1/2” lowering springs, KYB gas shock absorbers, tie rod ends and polyurethane bushings, upper and lower ball joints, shock mount retainers (if not included with shock kit).
Tip: Always support lower control arm when removing coil springs. If you have access to a hoist (or lift), take advantage. An impact wrench can save you time.
Performance gains: 1-1/2” lowering springs will drop the car’s center of gravity, offering vastly improved handling. Not to mention the cool, lowered stance!
Ever notice how the topic of road handling never seems to crop up when people start talking about their muscle cars? Most older street machines do real well as long as they’re going in a straight line. Get into the corners however, and a lot of these cars simply give up; some of them even become downright dangerous. Very few cars from the late sixties and early seventies exhibited any kind of ability to tackle corners without excessive body roll, mostly due to the lack of attention paid to the car’s underpinnings. After all, the name of the game was quarter mile domination. Well, in this You Can Do It we’ll cover the basics of installing a new set of lowering springs and shocks. Our project car was a big-block ’69 Chevelle.
What’s the big deal with lowering springs? The whole idea here is to slightly lower the car, giving it a better center of gravity. The springs used in this feature will lower your vehicle by approximately 1-1/2”. When you’re done, you’re going to have one mean lookin’ road machine with greatly improved road manners.
It’s important that you start with good solid suspension parts to begin with. Make sure the upper and lower ball joints are in decent shape, as well as your tie rod ends. Ours were in pretty rough condition, so we decided to replace both. You can work with your vehicle raised on a hoist, or with a quality set of jack stands. Take the necessary precautions while working under any vehicle.
Since you’re going to be removing the original coil springs, you’re going to need to support the lower control arm. This can be done with a heavy block of wood and whatever further support is available (jackscrew, etc). Remember, the spring is under great pressure, and once the spindle assembly is removed, it can be literally launched into the air. Use extreme caution here! To avoid damaging the brake flexible lines, we disconnected them at this stage.
With our car up on a lift, we’ve removed the front wheels. This shot shows us removing the cotter pins. You’ll need to remove them from the upper and lower ball joints, as well as the tie-rod ends.
Unless your upper and lower control arms are severely bent or damaged, you will be using your existing parts. As shown in our first photo, we’ve removed all the front end cotter pins.
In this shot, we’re removing the sway bar from the top of the end links. An impact wrench speeds up the process.
Next, we removed the sway bar and end links using standard socket wrenches. An impact wrench saves time and effort.
Here’s where the “pickle fork” comes in handy. You can use it to “bust out” old bushings (like we’re doing in this shot) and ball joints. Bushings can also be cut or sawed out.
The old rubber bushings on the tie-rod ends can be cut, drilled or punched out. Then, we removed the old shock absorbers.
With the lower control arms (and that coil spring) fully supported, we removed the castle nuts that secure the ball joints, then pulled the spindle/brake assembly. At this point, it’s a good idea to check the upper and lower ball joints. Take the threaded pin that fits through the spindle and try to move it with your fingers. If it’s loose and moves from side to side, it’s time to replace them. The originals are riveted into place, so you’ll have to drill them out and install new ones. New ball joints are affixed with nuts, and cannot be riveted back in as the originals were.
We then gently release pressure on that support under the lower control arm. Go slow, the object here is to GRADUALLY release the spring. Stand clear of the spring in case it “pops” from the “pockets” in the control arms. You may need to use a large screwdriver or pry bar to coax the spring finally out. As stated before USE EXTREME CAUTION!
Our new 1-1/2” lowering coil springs and KYB Gas-A-Just shocks.
Next step is to insert the new springs. We used 1-1/2” lowering springs. There are applications for most classic Chevrolets. These are specially developed variable rate springs, which actually do a couple of things. The original springs on your car are variable rate, as opposed to today’s much stiffer progressive rate. These new springs are designed to offer a much more comfortable ride, at the same time providing excellent road feel and control.
IMPORTANT: Make sure the end of the spring sets into the lower most portion of the spring pocket. The holes in the pocket are for water drainage. If you’re having difficulty getting the springs to set properly into the upper and lower control arm spring pockets, hold the lower arm up in place with one hand, then rotate the spring until you feel it move into position. Tighten your support under the lower control arm until you can fit the spindle/brake assembly over top of the ball joints. Install castle nuts and secure with new cotter pins.
On the lower control arm, you’ll need to replace the the lower shock mount retainers. The old ones will be damaged after you remove your original shocks. The KYB gas shocks are inexpensive and help provide excellent control. Push them up through the bottom of the lower control arm. Fasten at the top of the shock mount...Then attach the lower portion of the shock to the lower control arm. Follow the manufacturer’s enclosed instructions.
Remember to re-lubricate the upper and lower ball joints using a grease gun.
Next, we attached new tie rod ends and bushings. Before securing them to the steering knuckle, coat with grease. Don’t forget to reattach brake lines.
Final step is to reattach the end links and sway bar. A typical upgrade would be to move from a 7/8” up to a 1-1/8” bar. Brake fluid should be checked and brakes bled.
IMPORTANT: We highly recommend following through with rear suspension modifications, including installation of the rear sway bar. A car with a beefed up front end and a factory stock rear can experience severe control problems during moderate to hard cornering. The rear of the car is very likely to loose road adhesion and may come around 180 degrees under certain driving conditions!