Control Arms... You Can Do It!

musclemerc

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The weather has been perfect lately here in the South, temps have been in the mid 70s~low 80s. This is ideal weather to do some welding/fabrication so I figured I would do a "How To" for building a set of upper/lower control arms.

Before I start I just want to be clear this is not a for sale thread, nor is it intended to bash any control arms currently offered by any vendor on this site. With that said here we go.

I personally believe the stock rubber bushing is the "best" bushing for our 4300lb cars, I also believe they provide a superior ride over any other bushing offered by current aftermarket control arms, with the exclusion of Zack&Macs tubular control arms with the improved pinion angle. They used the stock rubber bushings and unfortunately are not and have not been available for years. This how to will show some of you how to build your own fully boxed in control arms.

I want to build these using tools anyone can easily find so affordability is gonna be the main point of this thread. Lately I picked up a cheap and barely used Harbor Freight Mig 151 from a guy on Craigs list. I traded some of my old unsed tools for this welder so it didnt cost me anything. I do own both a Lincoln 180 and a Lincoln Weldpak 100. I will not be using either of my Lincoln welders to make these parts. Here is the Mig 151


Im using a gas mix thats 75%Argon/25%CO2. I DO NOT advise anyone to attempt welding anything unless your using gas for shilelding. Innershield welding wire is useless for strength and with all the spatter you wont have to cleanup its well worth using the gas mix.

I started with the upper control arms because they take a little more fabrication to make them work. You will need a length of 3/4"wide/2mm thick steel stock to box in the bushing area. Clamp it in place then bend it to fit the bushing area. You will want to place them like I did in the pic below


After you get the stock bent up you will need to remove 3mm from the backbone of one of the stock control arms, use a grinder, sawzall, jigsaw, or whatever you got to cut a straight line. I used a sawzall to make my cuts


Put the assembly together and check for a good tight fit


Time to head to the welding table and get the steel stock welded from the inside


Now you can clamp and weld up the backbone




I like to fill the entire bushing area in with weld for aestetics. It also adds strength to this area. Make sure you build your welds starting from the low area then blend them up on both sides so when you grind the area down you dont end up with gaps in the weld


Some of you were probably wondering what the holes were for. The upper control arm unlike the lower is hollow when you put the two together. I weld studs inplace to provide additional strength.


Here are the studs welded inplace


Time to head to the shop to do some gringing. I smooth the entire bushing area in and leave the weld down the backbone inplace


Heres what they look like after a few passes with the wire wheel to prep for primer


I like to put a few coats of steel primer on the control arm before installing the bushins, then I paint them after the bushin install. This will keep all the interior/exterior welds coated and protect them from rust.


I have a bench top press but I want to build these with the same tools many of you would use. Im using a cap for galvanized 1-1/2" pipe to drive the bushings inplace. This will ensure you will not damage the bushing during installation


I will post up a few pics of them when theyre all painted up. Im using Rustoleum Industrial paint for the final coat.
 
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musclemerc

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Here are the new upper CAs all painted up and ready to go. You can see the reason I narrow one of the stock CAs down, its to allow the bushing to make full contact on both sides of the CA. If you leave them the stock width the bushing will barely make contact on the other side.

Here is a top view

This mod will take some time to complete, especially if your as picky as I am but in the end its well worth all the effort.

The lower CAs start off the same way as the uppers. First you will need to prep them and make your holes for the rosette welds. I like to do one in the center then two on the opposing side on both ends

Next you will need to bend up some 1" wide steel stock to create the boxed in area for the bushing. Make sure you box in one side on each CA. This will create a sandwhich effect when you matte them together

After you weld up the steel stock that boxes in the bushing area you will need a few C clamps to hold them tight until you get a few tacks welded in. Try to tack both sides so you only do this step once

After you get them tacked go ahead and weld up the backbone

Now you can fill in the boxed area with welds. Start with the low areas first then build your welds up till they are the same height as the sides. Remember to hit them with a wire wheel and a grinder between welds to ensure a good bond. Here is what it look like when you have it all built up

After you get both bushing areas blended in time to hit the predrilled holes with a rosette/plug weld

Here it is after 3 coats of primer


Here are a few pics for comparison to the OEMs

Here is a side view to compare the bushing contact surfaces

Here is a view comparing the OEM hollow half pieces


This project turned out great, I have to admit the most surprising part of this build was how well the Harbor Freight MIG 151 welder laid down the welds. I wasn't expecting much from this MIG welder but it totally surprised me with consistent good quality welds
 
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