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  1. #1
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    DIY: Upper Control Arm Replacement

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    I replaced the upper control arms on my B6 S4 this weekend. One side took me a long time, but once I figured out what I was doing, the other side went quickly. I hope this write-up will enable people to do both sides quickly the first time.

    Note: This DIY will come in handy for people who have stock suspension, which is longer and more difficult to remove than aftermarket suspension.

    Note 2: Photos are compiled from both right and left sides of the car in no particular order.

    Tools needed:
    -Jack and 2 jack stands
    -17mm socket (or stock wheel lug wrench)
    -16mm socket and extender, at least 5"
    -13mm box wrench, preferably ratcheting
    -16mm box wrench, preferably ratcheting
    -18mm box wrench, preferably ratcheting
    -Adjustable wrench (or a duplicate of the 16mm and 18mm box wrenches)
    -Straight edge
    -Metric ruler or tape measure
    -Philips head screwdriver
    -Pliers
    -Hammer and punch
    -WD-40
    -Latex gloves
    -Motorcycle (or other type of second vehicle for making trips to the hardware store for unexpected necessities)

    NOT needed: Spring compressor

    Procedure

    Start by jacking up the car and removing both front wheels. The upper suspension links on both sides will have to be removed at the same time to allow the suspension full droop. More on that later.

    Remove the battery compartment cover.

    The whole suspension assembly has to be removed. It is connected to the chassis by three 16mm bolts in the engine bay. Bolt locations are marked by red arrows. To get to one of the driver's side bolts, you have to move the coolant reservoir to the side. This can be done without removing any hoses. Two of the three bolts on each side have washers. Be mindful of these washers and don't let them fall into the engine bay. Remove them and put them aside.



    The passenger side bolts are easy to get to.



    Side note: I have a subscription to alldatadiy.com, which is mildly useful but doesn't appear to have the torque specs for these bolts. Rather than breaking them with a torque wrench, I noted the torque angle of each bolt. It ranged from 45 to about 80 degrees. In short, torque angle is the amount of rotation it takes from the bolt head hitting the surface to reach the desired torque. If you know the torque angle, it is actually more accurate than a torque wrench because it isn't affected by friction in the threads. You can accurately gauge torque angle using a torque angle meter.



    Remember, torque angle can only be reverse-engineered when the bolt is being removed, which is why I'm posting this at the beginning of the DIY. Once the bolt is out it's too late. However, if someone has the actual torque specs for these bolts, please post them.

    Edit: The torque is 25 Nm. Thanks Slobo7x.


    Disconnect the bolt securing the outer ends of the old control arms, as well as the steering link, using 16mm and 13mm wrenches. The bolts are interference bolts and need to be removed completely, not just loosened. To get the control arms out of the steering knuckle, put your punch underneath through the holes and hammer them upward.

    This will cause the steering knuckle and brake assembly to fall outward.



    Have something ready to put under the brake caliper for support. I used wooden boxes. The brake and steering knuckle falling freely will extend the axle, which extends the inner CV boot. Be careful not to overextend the inner CV boot.





    Now it's back to the suspension top hat, but from underneath. Notice that the control arm bolts cannot be removed while the suspension is in place. It has to be taken completely out.



    There is an alignment stud with a clip that is installed from the factory, for what reason I do not know, but it is really hard to remove. To get it out, I pulled and pried down on the top plate to bend the clip downward, pushed the suspension back up to create enough of a gap to grab the clip. and then destroyed the clip with various types of pliers, and even the help of a Dremel. Fortunately, according to alldatadiy.com, this clip does not need to be replaced. I would curse the name of the person who included this in the suspension design in his native language if I knew his name and his language. But, now that it's gone, I will never have to deal with it again.



    Remove the lower suspension bolt from the lower control arm (18mm). Be careful not to damage the outer CV boot with the end of the shock. Finnagle the shock free. This is where it is necessary to have both sides of the suspension disassembled at the same time. When you push down on the lower control arm, you are also pushing down on the sway bar, which is connected to the suspension on the other side. If the other side isn't hanging free, it will limit the movement of your side, because that is what sway bars do. You could also disconnect the sway bar, but those bolts are extremely difficult to break, and I think this way is easier.

    Fold the steering knuckle out and remove the entire suspension assembly. It's tricky but it can be done.



    Replace the upper control arms. Do not tighten the bolts just yet.







    Here is why the bushings fail, and why it's critical to install the new ones at the right angle to prevent premature failure. The inner eyelet is tightened by the bolt to the suspension top hat, and fixed in place. The arm rotates around it. Thus, the rubber bushing gets twisted in normal use and eventually breaks.



    The new arms have to be installed and tightened at the angle of normal ride height, or the angle they would be with the car resting on the ground! This is impossible to do with the car on jack stands (you would have to compress the springs from below with pressure equal to the weight of the car). Fortunately, alldatadiy.com gives you that angle from the plane of the top hat. Set your straight edge across the top hat and measure 81mm down to the front arm, and 70mm down to the rear arm, both +/-2mm, measured to the flat surface at the end. Re-measure as you tighten to make sure it doesn't change.



    Tighten them down good.

    The suspension/control arm assembly is harder to get back in than it was to get out, now that the control arms are fixed in place pointing outward, but it can be done with some wiggling and finnagling. Put the 18mm bolt back in the bottom of the shock. Replace the control arms and put the suspension assembly back in on both sides before going any further, due to the aforementioned sway bar effect.

    To lift the suspension back up to the chassis, I put my jack under the lower control arm. This will bring the suspension up most of the way (but not all the way) to the chassis before it starts to lift the car off the jack stand.



    Grab the spring and lift it the rest of the way with your own strength while you thread the first bolt in from the top. The rest of the bolts will be easy. Don't forget the washers!

    Reconnect all the arms to the top of the steering knuckle, in order of front to back. The control arm posts can be installed with just your hand strength, if you angle and massage them right. WD-40 helps with this. I only had to use a hammer on 1 out of 4. There is a special VAG tool for this but it's not necessary. On the steering links, remember to rotate the notch so the bolt will go through, and tighten the 13mm bolt before you tighten the 16mm bolt.

    All back together.





    Why Audi used rubber bushings instead of ball joints or needle bearings, I may never know, but they are a wear item. But now that I've replaced them once, the next time won't be so bad!


    Dan
    Last edited by earthtodan; 05-17-2014 at 04:24 PM.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  2. #2
    Veteran Member Four Rings sa_seahawker's Avatar
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    I wonder if the ride angle is the same for a 1.8T A4?

    Great write-up!
    "Some people wear Superman pajamas, but Superman wears Russell Wilson pajamas..."

    "Amy" 2003 A4 1.8TQM - Amulet Red
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  3. #3
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Great write-up. Couple questions... Did you replace them because you had noise or just the cracks? And I always thought that there are in fact metal (ball) joints under the rubber seal of that joint?

  4. #4
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    No hidden ball joints, just rubber garbage. But there are ball joints on the outer ends. Go figure that one out.




    There wasn't any noise or even any obvious symptoms, but the cracking was identified by my mechanic in the PPI so I decided to make it an action item. Also, notice how the metal lip around the bushing is actually worn down. That means it must have been seeing some really crooked angles.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  5. #5
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Awesome write up!!

    Those three bolts have a torque of 25Nm according to EBahn, if you want to add it to your post..

  6. #6
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by sa_seahawker View Post
    I wonder if the ride angle is the same for a 1.8T A4?
    Only if the A4 sits at the exact same ride height. I think it's a little higher, so the distance is probably different.

    Quote Originally Posted by Slobo7x View Post
    Awesome write up!!

    Those three bolts have a torque of 25Nm according to EBahn, if you want to add it to your post..
    Added.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  7. #7
    Established Member Two Rings Sigster's Avatar
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    Is it just the upper control arm bushings that go out in these? My just went out and my mechanic is telling me that 3 or 4 parts per side need to be replaced. I only saw the busted bushing on the upper control arm but they said they all are bad.
    May we be thankful for all we got and all our problems slide off like snot

  8. #8
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigster View Post
    Is it just the upper control arm bushings that go out in these? My just went out and my mechanic is telling me that 3 or 4 parts per side need to be replaced. I only saw the busted bushing on the upper control arm but they said they all are bad.
    As far as I know, only the upper ones are typically problematic. However, it's pretty easy to see the lower ones by poking around under the car and examining the pivots. Look for cracking in the bushings.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  9. #9
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    I should add that there has been some improvement in handling since I replaced the upper arms. When steering into and through hard turns with less than ideal pavement conditions, the car feels more composed.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  10. #10
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    2004 Audi S4, 2008 Audi RS4 Ti
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    Phildelphia / Auckland

    I had a hard time removing the upper control arm pinch bolt. The 16mm nut came off easily, but knocking the bolt out proved to be more involved than I would have originally expected. I basically had to use my impact and a pry bar and wrench to leverage them out. See picture below:





    Then, to make my life even more difficult, both of the control arms were stuck inside of the knuckle and no amount of hammering, prying, pulling, spreading seemed to work. I've only found 2 tools that have been effective at pulling/pushing them out: a 2-jaw puller and pickle fork (aka ball joint separator). For one, I used an OTC 2-jaw puller and the other, I used a pickle fork. See picture below:



    I hope this helps some poor sap out there that decided that they wanted to DIY on a 100k+ chasis.
    Last edited by S4Bennett; 10-12-2014 at 10:04 PM.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Three Rings adioman6000's Avatar
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    noob question but, do you need an alignment after this?

  12. #12
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Nope, everything you take apart and put back together is fixed in place.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  13. #13
    Established Member Two Rings
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    13 Tacoma TRD OR, 67 Mustang, B6 A4 AVANT 3.0 USP 6MT [TOTALED], 06 R6 Track Bike, 04 CBR 600RR
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    interested in helping me sometime? I see were neighbors =) this is next on my list. looking to replace the upper and lower bits.. Which parts did you buy?
    KW V2 for sale Avant 3.0 B6 ~5k miles on them. PM for details

  14. #14
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Sure thing, let me know when you plan to attack it. With your car lowered, we'll have to do some figuring to get the distances right. I bought the FCP Groton kit.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  15. #15
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    When I did mine, I left the fasteners loose and supported the weight of the car on the outboard portion of the lca. This will set the suspension to ride height and give you room to reach in to tighten the fasteners. You won't be able to use a torque wrench tho.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Two Rings
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    2007 S46MT, 2011 S46MT,2009 R1
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    anyone else having trouble with the pinching bolts? both mine are completely siezed.. no budge at all, and i dont want to break the spindle... i am going at it with a bigger imact gun tomorrow, but any advice would be appreciated... i am at 80k on the car...

    thanks

  17. #17
    Registered Member Four Rings B6JoeS4's Avatar
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    Go to sears and buy an impact hammer for around $50 with the heads. If you don't have a decent compressor, rent one from Home Depot.

    Mine was seized to hell too from being in salt states all it's 90k life

  18. #18
    Senior Member Two Rings wtfwill's Avatar
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    this took me a week to do. i could not get the ball joints out for the life of me. good luck to anyone attempting this..

    current: b8 s4 | 6spd | cwpro stage 1 | roc-euro intake | navi / atlas cf inlays / b&o | led interior&exterior | rs4 grill | 20" rs6 reps | drilled&slotted f/r | vag'd
    previous: b6 s4 | 6spd | avic d3 | magnaflows&res delete | h&r drop + spacers | k&n drop-in | eurocodes | vag'd

  19. #19
    Senior Member Three Rings adioman6000's Avatar
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    couldn't you hammer a wedge of some sort to spread open where the ball joint is in?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Two Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by adioman6000 View Post
    couldn't you hammer a wedge of some sort to spread open where the ball joint is in?
    i dont believe so because it is threaded...

    We ended up getting these off after MUCH air hammering, PB blaster, and swearing.

    on a lighter note i believe the quality of the metal used for the spindles is very high. I could have sworn we were going to break the spindle while getting these bolts out and they took quite some abuse... (spindles are around $400 each, I LOOKED! haha)

  21. #21
    Senior Member Three Rings adioman6000's Avatar
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    I saw a video with fcp replacing upper control arms on a c5 a6, almost identical to ours andthey just hammered in a small wedge in and popped the the joint right out.
    Starts around 1:30

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEeMi...e_gdata_player

  22. #22
    Registered Member Four Rings B6JoeS4's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adioman6000 View Post
    I saw a video with fcp replacing upper control arms on a c5 a6, almost identical to ours andthey just hammered in a small wedge in and popped the the joint right out.
    Starts around 1:30

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEeMi...e_gdata_player
    Yeah, not that easy. Maybe on a California car with 50k.

  23. #23
    Veteran Member Four Rings Club Cheetah's Avatar
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    Here's kind of a dumb question... Why can't we just replace the bushings? I found the bushings online and it was a fraction of the cost.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Two Rings
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    After replacing the control arms, tie rod ends, and sway bar links the steering has become much tighter. which is a good feeling... however when doing things like parallel parking it seems like the powersteering is under greater strain than before... Is there anything that could have been installed wrong that could be putting excess stress on the power steering? i am going to check the fluid and over fill it a little bit but im curious if you guys know of anything that might be obviously

    Quote Originally Posted by Club Cheetah View Post
    Here's kind of a dumb question... Why can't we just replace the bushings? I found the bushings online and it was a fraction of the cost.
    This is an interesting idea... they definitley will need to be pressed in if you do...

    in my case the tie rod ends were completely shot as well...

  25. #25
    Veteran Member Four Rings Club Cheetah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SacAudi View Post
    This is an interesting idea... they definitley will need to be pressed in if you do...
    I have the ability to press them in.

    Any of you guys have a used set laying around let me know!!!!

  26. #26
    Senior Member Three Rings adioman6000's Avatar
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    doing my ucas tomorrow, how do you set the angle of the arms? do you put everything back on but leave the bushing bolts loose and set the car down and then tighten?

  27. #27
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Tighten off the car per the measurements, the control arms will hold their position, and then reinstall.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  28. #28
    Veteran Member Four Rings Elliott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Club Cheetah View Post
    I have the ability to press them in.

    Any of you guys have a used set laying around let me know!!!!
    I've never had luck pressing bushings into old arms. I think some bushings expand inside the arm and are nearly impossible to get out, even with a good press.

  29. #29
    Established Member Two Rings
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    Does anybody know how much this would cost at the dealer or independent repair shop? How long should this take a professional to do?

  30. #30
    Established Member Two Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by dmoney1282 View Post
    Does anybody know how much this would cost at the dealer or independent repair shop? How long should this take a professional to do?
    Two different stealerships quoted me at $553 and $600 for all 4 bushings being replaced (parts for bushings/bolts being around $50, and with the labor rate being $139, that's around 3.7 hours) I laughed at the idea of paying that much, ordered my cheapo arms from FCP and haven't had any issues after a few thousand miles.

  31. #31
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    I had a tire shop offer to do it for almost $1k before I did it myself. I assume they would have used parts sourced from the dealer.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  32. #32
    Veteran Member Three Rings Stevos555's Avatar
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    northbrook, IL

    DIY: Upper Control Arm Replacement

    My labor was 450

  33. #33
    Veteran Member Four Rings slvrb7's Avatar
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    Piece of advice flip bolts so next time you don't have to remove whole assembly just loosen bolts remove ca replace but not fully tighten until under load. Torque doesny matter because you can only get so much torque with a 16mm wrench under load.
    Kris

  34. #34
    Active Member Two Rings
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    Thanks for the nice write-up :)

    I'm currently stuck! I have un-mounted the pinch bolt, the 2 control arms are off, the bolt connecting the suspension to the lower control arm is off and all 3 bolts up top are off.

    The suspension WON'T move! It's just stuck there ... I tried compressing the springs but it's just not possible. What gives? Any insights would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thanks!!!!

    Marc,

  35. #35
    Active Member Two Rings
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rennes View Post
    Thanks for the nice write-up :)

    I'm currently stuck! I have un-mounted the pinch bolt, the 2 control arms are off, the bolt connecting the suspension to the lower control arm is off and all 3 bolts up top are off.

    The suspension WON'T move! It's just stuck there ... I tried compressing the springs but it's just not possible. What gives? Any insights would be greatly appreciated :)

    Thanks!!!!

    Marc,
    So I reinstalled everything back since I need my car tommorow. That suspension spring just didn't want to come off!

  36. #36
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    Did you remove the evil retainer clip?
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  37. #37
    Active Member Two Rings
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    Sure did! But it's like there was no play between the lower control arm (the one with the swaybar link attached to it) and the top-frame of the suspension.

    I have the same red, sport suspension as you.

    Thanks for any info,

    Marc,

  38. #38
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    I am in the process of doing this job myself. I had trouble getting the shock tower out until i remembered to undo the sway bar from the end link. This gave me more than enough play to get it out easily.
    2003 A4 1.8T Quattro Auto, Custom Stage1 tune, N70, 550cc Fuel Injectors, B7 console (with cup holders!)

  39. #39
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    If you let the suspension on both sides fully droop, you can avoid disconnecting the sway bar. The sway bar limits the motion of the LCAs relative to each other.
    2004 S4

    Horsepower to the people

  40. #40
    Veteran Member Three Rings
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    I am at the point of reinstalling the strut, should i tight to the UCA to the recommended gap? or leave them loose so I can get them back into the knuckle easier? I tried jacking it up with a piece of wood under the rotor, but I cant get enough under it. I guess I will try jacking it up via the control arm like this DIY states. But kinda confused on the UCA alignment.
    2003 A4 1.8T Quattro Auto, Custom Stage1 tune, N70, 550cc Fuel Injectors, B7 console (with cup holders!)

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