This is a kind of a “how to” but more of a “what we did”, as I don’t think it is the finished article and there may be better methods of tackling certain tasks.
However, if you are thinking of tackling the job, then at least you might be able to learn from our mistakes experience (radicalmachine and I spent the best part of 6 hours trying to do this yesterday, so if this is the first time you’re thinking of doing this, then I would not recommend doing this on your own).
Let’s start with a list of the tools we used.
- A trolley jack (I was going to be facetious and say that you’ll need a Gtv or a spider).
- Axle stands.
- Metric sockets / spanners with the following dimensions: 19mm, 18mm, 17mm, 16mm and 15mm (we might have used a 13mm there too).
- A good chunky screwdriver.
- A sturdy long lever bar (aka a pry bar).
- Small Philips screwdriver.
- A balljoint splitter – I used a forked one with a 20mm open span, made by Clarke.
- A hammer.
- Patience (three buckets should do it) / a swear jar.
- Teabags, milk and sugar (water).
- Beer and Shampoo & soap
So the easy bit (which you can use as a “how to”), is the removal of the old wishbone, we followed the basic guide set out by AlfaWorkshop: How To... Replace the lower wishbones on an Alfa 145/146/155 and GTV/Spider
- Chock the rear wheels, loosen the wheel nuts, jack up the car and put on axle stands, remove the roadwheel.
- Remove the wheel arch liner (this is where the small Philips screwdriver is used). My car came without an undertray when I bought it if you have one, I guess you will need to remove it.
- Get under the car and remove sub frame brace. It is held on by four nuts (a mixture of 18mm and 19mm on mine – Alfas )
- Remove the outer ball joint securing bolt – you’ll need two tools here: A spanner / socket to undo the nut and another spanner / socket to hold the bolt. I think the nut is a locking one. Once the locking nut is off, take the bolt out (MC Hammer may be required here).
- Use the balljoint splitter and a hammer to free the ball joint pin from within its housing (at the bottom of the steering/brake/hub assembly).
- Using the long bar, lever the ball joint / wishbone away from the steering/brake/hub assembly.
- On the underside of the wishbone, undo the locking nut that retains the rubber bush and washer on the anti roll bar link (following advice I read on here, I decided to replace the drop link).
- Remove the four bolts that secure the inner part of the wishbone to the rest of the car (it may be easier to get under the car to do this).
At this point, you should be able to remove the wishbone. I would advise that you pay a lot of attention to how the wishbone comes out, because it really is a (insert appropriate swear word) very fiddly job to get it back in.
Here ends the easy bit and the “how to section”. Now, some manuals say something irritatingly simple like “Reverse procedure to replace”. I expect with experience that it may be that simple but our experience is that this will in fact only be many hours later, after much scratching of heads and bruising of human bodyparts.
So, the first job is to get the inner part of the new wishbone close to the four holes where the securing bolts are located. Note that:
- The drop link (and bush and washer) MUST be located in the correct hole.
- The drop link has a tendency to try to locate itself in the smaller of the two holes.
We tried several times to put the wishbone back in without the drop link in place and fitting it after the wishbone is in place just isn’t possible.
The tricky part, you will notice, is getting the inner securing nut (which forms part of the inner part of the wishbone) that is closest to the inboard end of the anti roll bar housing to seat underneath that housing (this is where you will require at least one of the buckets of patience), the wishbone requires a substantial amount of wiggling / coaxing to get it close to where you want it to be.
It is at this point is where simple instructions / theory part, so for the sake of your sanity / bodyparts, I’ll describe what we would do if we were to do this again....
I reckon you need to get the long inner most bolts in to their fixed nut housings first (not the short ones closer to the wheel), so to do this, I would get under the car and stick a chunky screwdriver (or anything beefy that will fit) in to the hole that is furthest away from the bumper and which is closest to the wheel (ie where the shorter of the two bolts go) and then try to get the end of the tool through the fixed nut housing on the wishbone. Once you have done that, you can lever / drag the wishbone inboard a bit more and with any luck, you should be able to screw the longer of the bolts in to their fixed nut housings. Now, it should be easier (
) to insert the short of the two bolts in to their respective housings. Now make a cup of tea, god knows you’ll need the strength....
So, bolts in, yeah? Wish you’d asked someone else to do it for you now, even if it had cost you £150 quid? The fun’s not over yet!
Next step is to get the new ball joint pin back in to its housing and there isn’t really an easy way to lift / manoeuvre the whole steering/brake/hub assembly on to the ball joint. What impedes you here is that the assembly is away from the engine (the driveshaft may even be out of its housing at this point). We used a combination of jacks, swearing and a pry bar. I think if we did the job again, we’d possibly try and get the assembly on to the ball joint before securing the four inner bolts, although I am not sure how much this method would help or hinder with getting those four bolts lined up. Hopefully other members might be able to suggest something else here.
So, ball joint in, high fives all round. Ensure that you can see the (shiny!) top of the ball joint poking out through the top of its housing and that you can see light through the hole that the bolt has to go through. Pop the long bolt through the hole, put on the locking nut (not forgetting to hold the bolt with a spanner / socket).
After we had done this, we then put the sub frame brace back on (four nuts, easy job).
Don’t forget to put the wheel arch liner back in its place and if you took the an undertray off, then best you put it back on again!
At this point there is still a rubber bush, large washer and locking nut to put on the anti roll bar drop link. If you have thread showing, then brilliant, put the nut on and you’re home.
Well, we tried this but there was no thread showing..... So, much swearing and effort later, we decided on a plan B.
- We put the wheel back on (obviously adding the wheel nuts) and lowered the car to the ground.
- We then jacked up the opposite side of the car at the rear (i.e at the corner diagonally opposite the one we were working on). That pushed the weight of the car on to our anti roll bar link and enough thread was then showing to be able to get the bush, washer and locking nut on to the thread (I think we jacked up the car to be able to get the spanner on to it). Bingo!
Lucea was then lowered gently back down on to the ground and we tightened the wheel nuts and felt very relieved.
A quick test drive revealed a massive improvement in stability and traction (even at 30 mph) and the symptoms that I had previously experienced (bouncy castle style pitching / yawing, where it felt like the car had a side to side motion) that were especially noticeable at around 70mph seems to have gone and I now have far more confidence in the roadhandling of the car.
And finally, an enormous thank you
to radicalmachine for his time, patience and help, I couldn’t have done it without you fella!
The beer was consumed after all this (and then I had a bath 'cos I was very grubby).