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Old 08-19-2010, 03:07 AM   #1
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Default Balljoint Spacers for Lowered 1st Gen W-bodies

I have a modification I've decided to make for 1st gen w-bodies. However, all knowledge and advice would be appreciated, even if you don't or have never owned one of these cars.

The problem we have with our balljoint to strut angle is a result of our effective shortening of the strut when our cars are lowered. The consequence of this is presumably an undesirable wheel angle during travel. To describe this in more detail, imagine that our control arms and balljoints are at a near 90 degree angle when the car is lowered. As a result of this, during cornering, suspension travel will result in positive camber, which can compromise traction.



The only two solutions I can possibly think of are balljoint spacers and relocation of the control arm mounts. The latter will require fabrication and re-welding of said fabricated mounts to the subframe at a higher location. Knowing that some of our cars are lowered as much as 4" from factory ride height, both of these solutions may need to be used. For the time being, given my lack of welder, balljoint spacers will have to do. This is also a more universal solution and requires little modification by comparison.

But first I need some information.

1. (For w-body.com guys) I need to know the clearance from the balljoint bolt to the inner rim on a GP crosslace rim. That will determine the limitations in thickness of the balljoint spacer I intend to design and fabricate.
2. In addition, I need to know both the size and the hardness grade of the bolts. My understanding is that SAE Grade 5 bolts are equivalent in hardness to Metric Grade 8.8 bolts, and the same can be said for Metric SAE Grade 8 and Metric Grade 10.9. Rob mentioned to me that the factory replacement bolts are SAE Grade 5. I'd like someone to confirm this.

My understanding is that balljoint spacers will add stress to the balljoint bolts. With the assumption that they are indeed SAE 5/Metric 8.8, these would be replaced with hardened SAE 8/Metric 10.9.

In addition, I have an idea I'd like to bounce off of people.

Factory balljoint:


My proposed modification (the addition of two bolts):


At this point I'm playing with numbers from 0.5" to 1.0" in regard to spacer thickness. This would compensate for just that much in ride height, so if you're lowered 2", a .5" balljoint spacer would, as far as suspension geometry is concerned, increase the length of your strut by .5". These balljoint spacers would be made of aluminum and would come with 6 hardened bolts, hardened locknuts (nylon inserts), and if we deem it necessary, lock washers.

Does anyone have any concerns with the use of these balljoint spacers? As I understand it, it is a commonly used modification. Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated.
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Old 08-19-2010, 07:54 AM   #2
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I'm a bit confused. We are talking about the lower balljoint, right? If so, spacing that off the control arm would raise the knuckle and lower the car. I know a lot of other guys use crash bolts etc to correct camber. Is that not an option for us?
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by BillBoost37 View Post
I'm a bit confused. We are talking about the lower balljoint, right? If so, spacing that off the control arm would raise the knuckle and lower the car. I know a lot of other guys use crash bolts etc to correct camber. Is that not an option for us?
On 1st gen w-bodies, the balljoint bolts to the knuckle. The problem I'm describing is only with lowered 1st gen w-bodies, which there are a great deal of.

Here'* a quick sketch I drew up:

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The first picture is a representation of our stock suspension; control arm, strut, and wheel. What angle does the wheel assume under travel? The second picture is a representation of our stock suspension. Keep in mind both of these are inaccurate to any degree and are here to simply illustrate a concept. What difference is there now in the angle of the wheel under travel?


The stock suspension will have negative camber under travel, which is essentially what you want as the car is leaning anyway. The lowered suspension, if low enough, will have positive camber under travel, which is what you don't want. Balljoint spacers effectively increase the length of your strut without affecting ride height, and therefore alleviate this problem to some degree.
What my buddy said:
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Originally Posted by mra32 View Post
If youre using coilovers or lowering springs, you are essentially shortening the static length of the strut. These spacers work to take what you took off above where the wheel mounts and put some of it back on the strut below where the wheel mounts, more or less moving the hub mount up relative to the rest of the suspension.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:40 PM   #4
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I'm following and recently lowered a car. Most people don't add space of any sort to the bottom of these to fix the shortened area from strut mount to knuckle. They align things and move on. If your tire is aligned properly for camber, then there shouldn't be a push/pull issue on it. That'* why I suggested the crash bolts, they allow the knuckle to be moved more indendently from the strut in a way. This allows the issue you are mentioning to be corrected, in most cars.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by BillBoost37 View Post
I'm following and recently lowered a car. Most people don't add space of any sort to the bottom of these to fix the shortened area from strut mount to knuckle. They align things and move on. If your tire is aligned properly for camber, then there shouldn't be a push/pull issue on it. That'* why I suggested the crash bolts, they allow the knuckle to be moved more indendently from the strut in a way. This allows the issue you are mentioning to be corrected, in most cars.
We're not dealing with alignment here. We're dealing with geometry, and the change in camber during travel, such as hard cornering. When your left wheel takes on a positive camber during travel while taking a very hard left turn, you're compromising traction. You can't just ignore this problem, align things, and move on. Its not a matter of push and pull issue on it, its a matter of dynamic camber.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:15 PM   #6
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Then maybe I'm a retard, because the center of the wheel is still the center of the wheel and all adding a balljoint spacer is going to do for you is lower the control arm back down and keep your total distance from strut mount to control arm equal to where it was when you started by moving the wheel up in the mix. Probably putting more stress on some parts.
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Old 08-19-2010, 02:26 PM   #7
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Then maybe I'm a retard, because the center of the wheel is still the center of the wheel and all adding a balljoint spacer is going to do for you is lower the control arm back down and keep your total distance from strut mount to control arm equal to where it was when you started by moving the wheel up in the mix. Probably putting more stress on some parts.
Lets take an extreme scenario. Keeping the control arm length the same, say we manage to get 2 feet more of travel, and the strut is extremely small. How will camber be affected as a result?

This is what'* going to happen. First picture is with the car at a rest, second picture is an extreme and unrealistic situation (drawn to make a point), of what the wheel'* camber would be if the strut length (as a result of travel during hard cornering) were to significantly decrease.

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Now, for ideal handling, you want negative camber during travel, not positive camber, as the car will lean ever so slightly. Increasing the effective length of the strut will improve the angle of the control arm. Here'* what our cars look like when lowered:

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Imagine that I'll be lowering the car an additional inch on top of that, my strut to control arm angle will be just about 90 degrees. That will, for the remaining travel that is available, definitely create a positive camber under travel, even if it is slight.
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Old 08-22-2010, 03:13 AM   #8
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I get what you're saying.. On a slammed car, the control arm will actually pull the bottom of the knuckle inward during suspension travel upward.. resulting in positive camber. A spacer at the ball joint would start the throw of the control arm lower so that upward suspension travel results in the bottom of the knuckle moving outward.

I had thought about doing this for bump-steer correction but I don't really have an issue with that. I haven't thought about it for camber correction though.
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Old 08-22-2010, 05:45 PM   #9
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I get what you're saying.. On a slammed car, the control arm will actually pull the bottom of the knuckle inward during suspension travel upward.. resulting in positive camber. A spacer at the ball joint would start the throw of the control arm lower so that upward suspension travel results in the bottom of the knuckle moving outward.

I had thought about doing this for bump-steer correction but I don't really have an issue with that. I haven't thought about it for camber correction though.
Thanks. I just wasn't sure about whether or not it would be safe to space out the balljoint another inch or so using a drilled aluminum block.
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