Sunday, August 30, 2015

Front Subframe Removal

Now, I have to say that when I set about getting the engine bay ready for a nice new engine, at no point did I think that I'd be taking the front subframe out! However, when I looked down at the bulkhead, there were parts that clearly needed work that were just inaccessible with the subframe in place.

As I examined further, I also spotted that the drivers side front subframe mount has sheared and would need replacing anyway. So after weighing up all the work that would be needed to get the subframe out and do a proper job v's leaving it in and doing a lame, half-arsed job, the decision was made. It was coming out!!

Rather than waste time researching the task at hand, I though I'd just dive in like a proper 'have a go hooligan!' I mean, given the fact that the engine is already out, along with the brake and clutch hydraulics, there's not a whole lot left holding the subframe to the car! Is there!!

Before we start, let's have a quick summary of what's already done and what still needs to be done. In the post 'Unplugging The Old Engine', everything that was attached to the engine was removed and the engine taken out. The post 'Clutch Cylinders - Overhaul' details how all the hydraulics for the clutch were taken out and 'Brake Cylinder and Limiter Valve - Demuckification' does the same for the brake hydraulics. So where does that leave us? 

Well it leaves us with this list of things, although not in this order as you'll see, are:
  • Undo the front subframe mounts
  • Undo the cable from the battery
  • Undo the rear subframe mounts
  • Remove the shock absorbers
  • Remove the tower bolts
  • Detach the steering arms from the wheel hubs
Obviously at some point there's a need to support the subframe or it will just drop straight down to the ground when the tower bolts are undone and probably break something. Knowing my luck it would be my foot!

Front subframe mounts
Having never done this before, I guessed that the holes either side of the number plate, each with a bolt head hiding inside must be to do with the front mounts. I'm clever like that! I further guessed that the bolt heads are supposed to be in the centre of the holes making it possible to attach a socket. Mine however were not as the mounts had stretched over time, making it very difficult to get the socket on. After a bit of messing about though, I did manage to fit the socket and get the nut turning.

Only to find out that the bolt has a corresponding nut on the inside of the subframe near the tie rod that needed holding with a spanner.

No problem though, as both the nut and the bolt are easy to reach and remove.

The second bolt, holding the mount to the car is undone from the inside of the engine bay. I found the 'wiggly' socket adapter useful as the brake line was in the way a bit. This is a simple enough job as it has a captive nut hidden away in the body of the car.

Undo the cable from the battery
Although the cable has already been unplugged from the engine itself, it's still attached to the underside of the subframe with three cable supports. Each of the three supports has a flat screwdriver head on the top and a regular nut underneath. All three need to be removed.


Undo the rear subframe mounts
The rear subframe mounts are held to the subframe with just 2 bolts each side. As these have been replaced fairly recently, there was no worries about the nuts being seized and everything came apart without a fight. The actual mounts I left attached the car for now. 

I'll check them for damage later on and replace if needed. I'm hoping that they'll be okay as they were only replaced just last year. At the time though, I cheaped out and bought the less expensive 'after market' ones as the originals were very expensive. I guess I'll find out if it was a good or bad decision soon enough. 

Remove the shock absorbers
This is a really simple job; just undo the nut at the top and bottom of the shock absorber and slide it off. 

Support the subframe
Now it's only at this point that I realised that I'd better support the subframe with something. (Yeah, I really should have stopped to think this through before I started, but hey-ho, no damage done, yet!!) After a scout around in the garden, I found quite a sturdy plank of wood and a jack. Setting the wood across the two jacking points on the subframe, I secured it in place with the jack.

Remove the tower bolts
With everything done, or so I thought (read on!), I started to undo the two hefty tower bolts. As I did I could feel that the subframe wobbling about as the only thing left supporting it now was the jack. 

I sat down in front of the car and slowly started to lower the jack with one hand and tying to keep the subframe balanced with the other. All in all the plank did a pretty good job of keeping it stable and it turned out to be more manageable than I first thought.

As it lowered though, I hit a snag! Something seemed to be wrong. The subframe seemed to be catching on something, but from my vantage point, I couldn't see what it was though. There was noting else for it! I was going to have to stand up and have a look!

As I did, my palm hit my face as I realised that the steering arms were still attached to the hubs!!

Detach the steering arms from the wheel hubs
Cracking out my handy ball joint splitter, I broke the tapers on both sides and released the track rod ends. 

just like that...

And out!!
Now, finally the subframe could be lowered all the way to the ground. Before I started, I had the foresight to place a carpet underneath the car for the subframe to land on. This proved especially useful when I pulled the subframe out from under the car as it meant it wasn't getting dragged along the floor.

Wow and that's it! It's out. While it was on the floor, I removed the brake calipers and also released the lower ball joints so I could remove the hubs and drive shafts. This made lugging the subframe around a lot easier.

Now that it's out, I can finally get to see all those tricky to reach parts of the bulkhead that need attention. 

Well that went okay, but definitely not as smoothly as planned, mostly because it wasn't planned. Should I have stepped back and thought to through, drawn up a plan and stuck to it - Yes probably I should have, but no harm was done and I soon realised the error of my ways and corrected them, plus it's more fun working through the problems as they crop up. 

So looking back, I'm glad I didn't plan, sometimes you just got to roll with it and this was one of those times.

I'm glad I rolled.

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