156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide - Alfa Romeo Forum
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(Post Link) post #1 of 10 Old 17-05-08 Thread Starter
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156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

Hi Guys,

Thanks to the help of various posters on this forum I have now finished the "tune up" of the front drivers side corner of my '98 156 V6. Just the other side to go now......

But I thought I would add to the already helpful info on here with my own version of how to do it all. I will describe changing:

i) upper arm
ii) lower arm
iii) brake pads

I did these all at the same time. Please remember to copper grease parts where required, and if nuts and bolts are knackered or corroded, throw them away, don't reuse them!

Upper Arm
So you have that "eek eek eek" as you go down the road that sounds like it is coming from behind the dashboard in the right hand corner? It is very likely to be your upper front suspension arms ball joint! These are cheap to replace (I got mine for £29.20 + VAT from EB Spares), and fairly straight forward to do - but not as simple as you might think!

1) Raise the car, support safetly, and remove the wheel.
2) The upper arm has a long bolt that it pivots on, and the small balljoint that connects to upper arm to the upright. That is all that keeps it in place.
3) Take of the 15mm nut that holds the balljoint to the upright.
4) Surely if you just take out that long bolt, and undo the balljoint, it is a straight swap of the arm right???? WRONG! It is more involved then that...
5) No matter how much you want it to be so, that long bolt has not got enough room to slide all the way out so the arm will come off without doing some work to make enough space. Some say the bolt will just pull out after you take the nut off, but I really beg to differ! (On mine the nut was facing the spring, bolthead facing the door). To make the space you will need to lower the strut/damper/spring by a) undoing the long bolt that joins the strut to the lower arm, and b) lifting the bonnet and undoing the 4 nuts that are at the top of the wheel arch (they may have black plastic covers on them) at the top of the strut.
6) With the strutt/spring loose it will (carefully) drop down in the wheel arch, and you will be able to rotate the whole assembly around and have enough space to get that 17mm socket on the long bolt to attack it properly and pull it out. Now you can put the new arm on put the long bolt back in. Reverse the above procedure and you are home free!
7) Act smug that you did it yourself.

Lower Arm
Got clunks and knocks as you go along, and you are not sure why? You have checked the drop link as its cheap and easy to do, but that is not the problem? Lower arm swap time then! THIS IS NOT EASY, AND UNLESS YOU HAVE THE SPACE, TOOLS, AND DON'T NEED THE CAR THE NEXT DAY THEN DON'T START!

1) Raise the car, support safetly, and remove the wheel.
2) Remove the two nuts holding on the drop link. Mine came off really easy, but many say they had to cut them off. I guess it depends how corroded the threads are.
3) Remove the big nut holding the lower arm to the hub.
4) Remove the track rod/steering arm by taking off the nut.
5) Take out the long bolt attaching the lower arm to the (soon to be very annoying) fork at the bottom end of the strut.
6) Remove the fixings in the corner of the undertray so you can reach the four bolts holding the lower arm on
7) Remove the four bolts that hold the lower arm to the front subframe. Make sure to note where each bolt goes, as they are all different lengths.
8) "Remove lower arm". Ho ho ho - easy to type, harder to do! Try and make a mental picture of the angle that it comes out - you'll have to match it to put it back in again!
9) To put the new lower arm in you'll need to connect things in the right order. That order is:

i) Balljoint
ii) 4 bolts to front subframe
iii) lower arm to strut/spring/damper fork

10) Balljoint to hub, put the new nut on a few turns to hold the two together. It is vital this is the first thing to be connected.
11) Now slide the lower arm into place on the subframe. This is tricky! The antiroll bar will be in the way - I raised it slightly with a scissor jack (without bending it) as this enabled me to get the rear lower arm silver bracket into place. I had the the strut fork held up high out of the way with another scissor jack - be careful as you will be compressing the road spring and a lot of force will be in play. I spent a lot of time bashing the oil sump with the front silver bracket and bashing the antiroll bar with the rear silver bracket trying to get the arm in the right location. It took me so long I had to shave halfway though.
12) Now you will need to put the 4 bolts back through the lower arms into the front subframe. The silver brackets can be "gently" drifted into location so that; a) the brackets are rotated round to be in the right "horizontal plane", whilst b) also banging them fore and aft to get them to line up with the holes in the sub frame. I thought getting a few bolts in would make the rest of the bolts easy - but no! I had three bolts in and the last one did not line up in the slightest. I was absolutely CONVINCED my new arm was faulty and had the holes in the wrong place which is why they did not line up. The hardest one is the rear inboard one - do that one first and then use a small vanity mirror under the car to make sure you have the other holes lined up before putting the bolts in. Prepare to fanny around a fair amount! My girlfriend went on holiday and had came back by the time I had managed this! I found that at one point it was easier to raise/drop the lower arm with a jack as if the car was on the ground to make the brackets line up with the holes. When all the bolts are in don't do them up tight, but proceed to the next step.
13) Now you can entertain yourself by getting the strut fork to line up with the relevant part of the lower arm. I used scissor jacks and soft mallets to get it all in place. When the holes line up put the bolt through and bobs your uncle.
14) Connect the drop link up via the two nuts, connect the track rod end/steering arm to the hub by its nut, (I did mention to remove this earlier didn't I?)
15) Check all the nuts and bolts are in place, and you have no bits left over!
16) Put the wheel back on and lower the car.
17) Tighten all the nuts and bolts to the correct torque. (The four bolts holding the lower arm to the subframe, the big nut on the ball joint, and the bolt through the middle of the lower arm and through the strut fork.... and any others I have forgotten!
18) Act smug that you have done this yourself!

To stress the point, the above task is difficult and time consuming, and will not be a two hour job if it is your first time. You will also find this almost impossible without two of you, as most of the time someone will be pushing/pulling/twisting something with all thier might whilst you put the nuts and bolts together. You will also need several jacks of varying sizes. Try and do it in the rain, like me, as it is really character buiding.

To confirm - you WILL NOT have to:
1) Disconnect the driveshaft.
2) Remove the disc or calliper.
3) Remove the strut/damper/spring assembly.
4) Remove the antiroll bar.
5) Lie and say it was easy. It isn't.

Brake pads
At last, an easy job! This is very simple.
1) Raise car and support safetly.
2) Remove wheel.
3) The two bolts you'll need to remove are hidden behind black plastic caps/plugs on the front of the calliper, so prise these off.
4) Remove the two previously hidden bolts with a 7mm allen key.
5) Remove the front part of the calliper, (might take mild force), and be sure to unplug the brake sensor from the connector on the calliper.
6) Push out the old pads, (the one on the piston side has spring clips holding it tight in place).
7) Throughly clean all the guides that the new pads will slide in, and copper grease them up whilst remembering not to get any on the disc or pads.
8) You'll need to push the piston back into the calliper - relax, this is not the nightmare it can be with the rear callipers, but they are still quite stiff. Make sure the rubber boot is in good condition and not all torn and perished. Don't reassemble it if it is!
9) I pushed the piston back in with the proper tool that winds it into place. You will have to wind it ALL the way back in, (so the rubber boot is quite squashed).
10) Copper grease the piston and the BACK of the pads.
11) Push the calliper spring clips into the piston, being sure to put the wear sensor wire through the slot in the calliper casting and connect it to the plug, making sure the connections are clean.
11) Put the bolts back in, and replace the plastic caps.
12) Pump the brake pedal a bit to get the pads back in line. Don't drive off first, or your pedal may go to the floor at the first junction! This is embarassing.
13) Act smug that you did it yourself.

So, thats it! I realise that this is very lengthy, and much of it has received almost "MAF Sensor" levels of threads before, but some older posts get lost in the past a bit. If I have forgotten anything or just plain got it wrong, then shout!

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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

Just done mine, but the hidden bolts were torx not allen key and I think you missed out the bit about the wire spring clips on the caliper that hold it together. You also need to check the brake fluid reservoir as it can overflow when the piston is pushed back. I found the easiest way to get the piston back is levering with a screwdriver on the old pads before removing them, saves damage to new pads and damage to the rubber boot.
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

Good guide ... will be doing my upper arms soon
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

cheers im not a mech but itll come in handy this week i have to do my front suspension so itll help,
I managed to do my front pads last week first time i have ever done any work to my car, i think ill keep doing the work my self and save few quid on labour chargers
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

I am glad you guys are finding my guide useful!

One thing though.... this is a horrid job to do in the cold and wet (and dark) at this time of year. Give yourselves a LOT of time allocated to do it, and get a mate to help out. Loads of things need holding to one side/in position whilst you are getting the arms in place.

But it is all worth it!
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

That sounds like it was the first time you ever did those tasks and you fell into the "I know Best" trap, there are already so many guides on here about how to do these jobs (a lot easier) that without trying to sound nasty, your guide is very confusing, I've done these tasks so many times that just swaping the lower arms is only an hour for both sides and to remove an entire corners suspension is only 30 minutes, I would say that you managed to describe the hardest way to accomplish these tasks and that the really only true fact in there is "To confirm - you WILL NOT have to: 4) Remove the antiroll bar."

Sorry, but as I said there is better guides on here... none of them written by me btw.
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

I find none of the guides are perfect. They all miss out some bits that the writer assumes are too obvious. It is also true that as this site is so popular these posts soon get lost in the ocean of information. I think there should be a separate thread that only had how to guides in it without all the replies. I found this guide good and helpful though I did find a few shortcuts, they don't detract from the guide. A lot depends on whether you are lying on the wet street or have the luxury of a four post lift.
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Re: 156 V6 front suspension upper and lower arm guide

Oh, aren't forums terrible for bringing out this kind of behaviour...

Shouldn't really bite to Smakys remarks, but here it is - I appologise now, it is just that guide was submited entirely voluntarily, took considerable time, and hoped to be a version for a bloke on his driveway with axel stands and normal tools where it's is own car and he has never done the job before...

Clearly my post started with me wanting "to add to the already useful info on here with my own version". I wrote the guide months a go because the guides that existed were often related to other similar Alfas, not the 156, and others generally aimed at more skilled mechanics that skipped bits out for us simpletons. You know, the old "step one - remove engine" routine, without telling you how that is done in the first place! My guide is step by every step, I know that, but better too much info then not enough, surely?

As for the "first time you ever did those tasks" - comment, wtf? Considering the life span of legitimate Alfa suspension arms, how many times in normal ownership do you change these things? The first time IS the last time for 99% of people, right? Unless you work at an Alfa garage? Mine did 75k miles when they started to get tired...

Smaky states for him that "just swaping the lower arms is only an hour for both sides and to remove an entire corners suspension is only 30 minutes", I think you are being VERY misleading to nearly anyone who might want to tackle this task.

The rollbar comment was linked to the discussion on here at the time at the start of the year where different owners had tried different ways to change the lower arms - some removed the relevant driveshafts to get extra movement on the hubs, others played with moving the anti-roll bar around to make more space. My comments were in relation to that discussion.

This forum is to help each other out surely? Any troll like response sarcastically using the phrase "I know best" where the troll then goes on in their own post to state that "they know best", well, the irony has not been lost on me!

If there are better guides then great, use those ones, or be useful and link those threads to this one as it is "current" on the forum at the moment, and that way anyone trying to do this bugger of a job has the most amount of info as possible to hand, and they can choose a guide that suits their approach and equipment. If your car is on a ramp, in the air, in a garage, and you have done the job 3 times before, this guide is not for you, I agree.

For the guys who did find it useful, thank you. In the issue of fairness please report back how long it took, the extent to which you found it easy or difficult, and if any of my guide is wrong, I am very happy to correct it. My sympathy to anyone changing the lower arms - it is a right pain!

I am off to Italy tomorrow by coincidence, I shall find the designer and give them a slap from us all!

Now, on to other matters..... should I buy that bargain MAF off eBay, and how do I change those pesky side light bulbs, and my mate can change my V6 cambelt and water pump and tensioners for just £100 - is he doing it right??? Lol....

Last edited by Lotuschris; 21-10-08 at 06:20.
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i never did one before i just got the tools out.. Peice of ****.. done! lol

Dammit googles fult for making me reply to a year old thread lol
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Check out this link for a simplified guide to changing suspension and wishbones.
Best bit is the pictures. Good work Jon n Pat.
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