HOW TO: Spider TS front and rear suspension and spring change:
OK folks, as some of you may have gathered over the last week or two I have been changing the suspension front and back on my Spider. There are a whole lot of options out there to consider when changing the suspension, I was working to a limited budget so I went for KYB Excel front struts and KYB Gas-adjust rear struts: both ordered from Camskills.co.uk for the grand total of 220 quid (150 fronts and 70 rears). I found a bargain pair of new Eibach Pro -20mm on Ebay for 80 quid
The suspension on my car (as far as I know) is original and is definitely at least 5yrs/50k miles old (as thats how long I have had the car)! Depending on the age of your car rusted/stubborn bolts are going to be the biggest issue you will face.
Theres nothing too difficult in the whole process, you will need the following:
-Bloody good breaker bar
-Good socket/ratchet set, from memory 13mm,15mm,17mm,19mm and 22mm are needed
-Ratchet/open ended spanners: 13mm,15mm,17mm,19mm
Id advise to you to order new bolts/washers/nuts for the parts you are renewing, but this can cause its own problems, as you will see later.
My car was polybushed at the rear about 3 years ago, this also caused its own problems with my car , which I will also come to later.
So, where do we begin:
- Jack the car and get it on stands, one at each corner of course and make sure its secure. You will need to have your head and body right under the car on various occasions so make sure you are happy that its not going to fall off. I put my wheels under the sills as a last fail-safe to catch the car should it fall.
Unhook the brake line, ABS sensor and brake pad wire from the suspension strut.
- There are two bolts on the bottom of the suspension strut that attach the McPherson strut to the hub upright. If your car is anything like mine these will be rusted SOLID. Soak them in penetrating oil/WD40 and leave for a while to make your life easier. The front bolt head should be a 15mm and the nut on the back 17mm. Access on the back is an issue, especially on the lower bolt as it is blocked in by the ABS sensor. If you want to get a socket on there you will need to remove the ABS sensor from the hub, mine look to be welded in with grime, so I passed on that and used a closed head spanner on the back and a socket on the front. It very likely you will need a breaker bar of a decent length to get these loose.
- Once the bolts are loose take them out (with the assistance of a hammer) and separate the upright from the McPherson strut.
- The next job is in the engine bay – the struts are held in place via a top mount to the chassis with 3 smallish bolts per side. **WARNING**.
These bolts are not very strong and will break if you are not careful. Of the 6 bolts 3 snapped on mine when trying to get them out. If your car is as old as mine its likely they will be just as brittle. The top mounts for my car were completely knackered so I was going to order new ones anyway – however if you want to keep your top mounts make sure you either dont snap the bolts or are prepared to spend a long time drilling out broken bolts! Once the bolts are out you can withdraw the whole strut/spring as once piece. The spring is held in by a captive nut so dont worry about it flying off somewhere.
McPherson strut and spring:
- When you look at the top of the McPherson strut there is a large (22mm) bolt with a hex head shaft inside. If you read the workshop manual it advises you to use a special Alfa tool which allows you to hold the shaft with an allen key (7mm) whilst rotating the bolt off. Sounds easy....... its not! I struggled with this for about 2hrs before giving up. Take my advice find a friendly mechanic with an impact gun – he had both nuts off insde 1min per side. VERY IMPORTANT: If you are doing this yourself you need to compress the springs. Front springs are under a lot of pressure and will do you a lot of damage if they shoot off and hit you.
N.B. The Alfa manual states the hex head on the shaft is 6mm – its very definitely NOT. Its 7mm, you will also find a Torx T40 fits OK.
- You can then take the strut to pieces and recover (if any) the parts you want to re-use. I kept the bump stop and the rubber mount for the spring to sit in at the top (on TS models there is no lower rubber mount). I also kept the locating ring that goes on top of the top mounts. The plastic protection for the outside of the strut is not available from Alfa at the moment – you might be lucky and find some dealer stock, but its not too important anyway, I did without.
Component parts of the front strut:
Shiny new top mounts (€80 per side!)
Old spring / Eibach -20mm spring:
- Re-assembly is very straight forward and should cause no issues. I used shorter springs which meant I hardly had to compress them at all to get them back on – if using OE springs you will need to compress them a lot. Put the big nut on the end and tighten as much as possible!
- Getting the strut back on the car is a little fiddly, but you can do it yourself. Locate the top mount in the chassis (these are handed LH/RH so make sure you put the right one on the right side) and get the 3 bolts in the top. Like I said, fiddly, but doable if even if working by yourself. Get the top bolts finger tight and then relocate the bottom of the strut in to the upright and put the bolts through to hold it in place.
- You then need to tighten the 3 bolts on the top. Be very careful, I used brand new bolts and they were still as soft as hell. The workshop manual states to tighten 25-32Nm – I accidentally torques the first one to 35Nm and the bugger snapped on me! I had to take the strut back off the car but was able to get the broken bolt out easily.
Tighten the bolts on bottom of the strut. No recommended Nm figures from the manual so I just made sure they were bloody tight.
- Put the brake lines etc back in the holders et voila.
- Front done!
Brand new bolt snapped
The rear is more straight forward in many respects, however you will be faced with bigger (and therefore tighter) bolts. A breaker bar on the back will be essential.
- The spring on the rear is held in by a spring pan and the shock is separate.
- I replaced the shock first – not much to tell really; release the bolts top and bottom, old shock out, new shock in and voila. I used a jack on the spring pan arm to slightly compress the suspension and thus take the strain off the shock.
New shock installed:
- To get the spring out you will need to release the spring pan arm. It is connected inboard to the Aluminium rear subframe and at the other end to the wheel upright (and then the dog bone arm that holds the shock).
- As mentioned earlier my car was Powerflexed a while ago. The workshop manual recommends that you release the inboard bolt in order to drop the spring pan. Once I got the bolt off (which required a LOT of force) the pan arm would not drop out of the subframe due to the slightly over-sized Powerflex bushes. In fact it was stuck solid! This may well NOT be the case on your car. Dont go bashing and forcing things around the subframe as you can quite easily snap it at the mounting point resulting in much $$$ of damage.
- So, I had to release the bolt at the outboard end of the spring pan – the only disadvantage of doing this is that it will also release the dog bone arm and may be harder to put back together again later.
- The bolt that runs all the way through is a big bugger and will be tight! I think the head is either a 19/21mm. You are advised to soak this in penetrating oil for a while first.
Once you have the nut off, bash the bolt out and separate the pan arm from the upright. I needed the assistance of a jack to 'help' it along.
- You then need to rotate the spring arm away from you in order to remove the spring. Dont worry the spring is not under tension like on the front.
- To get the spring out there is a small round plastic clip on the bottom of the spring that is connected to the pan arm. Lever this off and then you should be able to push the pan arm completely out of the way, toward the centre of the car.
- The spring is only loosely held to the turret via a rubber boot. I could remove mine by hand, others have needed a hammer to work them loose.
- I re-used the rubber seats as they were in pretty good condition. Now is the time to replace the bumpstops if you need to (I didnt).
- Seat the new springs in the rubber boot and reattach to the car in the reverse manner – it really is that easy.
- You will need the assistance of several jacks to line all the components up so that you can get the bolt back through. Take your time and its quite easy. I used my powerful torch and a 'snake' to make sure everything lined up by eye before trying to get the bolt through.
- Fasten everything to recommended torque setting and you are good to go!
I wanted to use new bolts/washers/nuts on the rear. I looked at Eper and found the diagram to be very confusing, so be careful with what you are ordering. I ordered new bolts for both the inside and outside of the spring pan arm. The inners were OK but the bolts for the outboard side did not match what came off my car and would NOT fit. They are the correct parts according to Eper but are longer and also slightly thicker then the bolts that come off. I had to re-use the originals and now have €40 of useless bolts in the garage!
When the spring pan arms are 'down' you can take the opportunity to tidy them up with a stiff brush and hammer. It was quite amazing how much dead metal (not structural) I got off the rear arms in the renewal process. If you scrape deep enough you will uncover small drain holes in the bottom of the arms, unblock them to allow future drainage.
Use a jack to separate the pan arm from the upright, once the bolt is removed:
The pan arm will probably look like this – give it a tidy!
New spring in:
And thats pretty much it.
If you want to order new bolts etc you can use the online version of Eper, just inout your chassis number at the start to make sure you get the right bits for your car.
Theres nothing too difficult in the process, working by myself I think it was about 10 man hours, but I took things slowly and learnt on the way. Make sure you re-tighten bolts to the correct torque settings and I adivse to mark the bolts/nuts with nail polish or similar so that you can check they arent slipping a while later.
You should get a 4-wheel alignment done if fitting lowering springs as it alters the geometry of the suspension.
I hope this helps at least someone!