Today we are going to look at what is required to lower the front end of an ‘X’ series Falcon. The front suspension remained pretty much unchanged from the XW to the XF, in fact some of the real early Falcon’s (XR, XT etc) may be similar in design I am not sure. Perhaps a reader more knowledgeable on all things Ford could set me straight on that one?
Anyhoo, that gives you an idea of which models this article will cover. First things first, we will take a look at what tools are needed for the job.
- A tape measure, pencil and paper – handy for measuring before and after in case you need to alter the spring height again (as we did).
- A hydraulic jack and chassis stands. A trolley jack is mighty useful if you can get your hands on one, but a bottle jack will suffice.
- The usual sockets and spanners, in particular a 13mm socket and three inch extension for removing the bottom shock nuts.
- A set of Coil Spring Compressors. I have found a nice narrow compact pair useful for doing this job as you can fit them while the spring is compressed which can save you heaps of spanner work. You will see what I mean in the photos.
- A Set of Lowered Springs! Believe it or not you do actually need these for doing this job! We went with a set of King Springs from the local Repco store. We initially fitted a set of what they call ‘Super Super Low’ or ‘SSL’ springs which turned out to be too low, the top control arm was sitting hard up against the bump stop and there was no way there was 100mm clearance between the front crossmember, exhaust system and the ground so in the interest of keeping some sort of ride quality and legality a set of ‘Super Low’s’ will take their place very soon. It did look bloody good though! If you are going for anything more than a slightly lowered spring it is suggested that you replace the shocks at the same time with a set of ‘short travel’ shocks. Check with your spring supplier for a suitable set of shocks.
The first step is to measure from the bottom edge of the wheel rim to the wheel arch. Although not overly important, it does give you an idea of how far the car has come down after the springs are fitted and gives you something to go off if you need to change the springs for something more suitable. For instance we started with a measurement of 570mm and ended up with 490mm. I would like to increase the height a tad, maybe 30mm, and tomorrow we can go down and see which spring set will give us an increase close to that measurement. Without these figures we’d be guessing, as we did to begin with!
With that out of the way it is time to jack the car up, remove the wheel(s) and support it with stands under the chassis rail. If you don’t have access to a trolley jack you will find it easier completing one side at a time.
The next thing we need to do is remove the plate that the bump stop attaches to. It is held in by 13mm bolts and nuts and you will need to hold one side while un-doing the other. You may need to remove some things to gain access to the bolt heads inside the engine bay, on the XD we had to move the radiator overflow bottle on the passengers side but had clear access on the drivers side. The top two bolts are a bit tricky to get to, a spanner on the wheel arch side and a socket/ratchet on the engine bay side works ok though.
Next up we need to remove the shock absorber. The two bottom bolts are best removed by jacking up the lower control are until the spring saddle is almost level so you can get to both the front and rear 13mm nuts. There is also a washer and rubber insulator that probably won’t come off until you start lifting the shock out so keep an eye out for them as you are doing it.
I have found the best tool to use for this job is a 13mm socket, three inch extension and ratchet. The rear (or inward) nut is hard to see but you shouldn’t have too much trouble locating it with the socket setup. Once you have the two nuts removed it is time to remove the three nuts holding the top of the shock in. Once all three are removed the shock should start to extend upwards, if it doesn’t it’s time for a new set! Lift the shock out and keep a close eye out for the washers and insulators for the bottom mounts if they haven’t come off yet.
Now for the fun part. You can do one of two things here. If you have a reasonably ‘compact’ set of spring compressors you can save yourself some work by fitting them while the bottom control arm is still jacked up and once you let the jack down it should only be a matter of tightening the spring compressors up a small amount before the spring is compressed enough to come out.
The other option is to let the jack down under the control arm and fit the compressors while the spring is almost fully extended. Obviously it will take a lot more spanner work to tighten them up to a point where the spring will be able to be removed, but with some spring compressors this will be your only option.
A Word Of Caution When Using Spring Compressors – I have seen first hand the damage that can be done by a incorrectly fitted pair of spring compressors and believe me it’s not pretty. A guy that I went to tech college with lost the end of his thumb and put a nice hole in the workshop roof! Please make sure that the ends or ‘hooks’ of the compressors are sitting correctly on the spring and when removing them from a spring that is fully extended take extra care. Make sure nobody else is around and you have the spring positioned so that if something does go wrong it won’t take off straight for your body.
Once you have the spring compressed enough you should be able to lift it out of the spring saddle and remove it from the suspension tower. Carefully remove the compressors and the rubber insulators fitted to the top of the springs.
Time to get your nice new springs out. Take note of the part number on each spring as there usually is a difference between the height of the two sides. Our King Springs were marked L/H (passengers side) and R/H (drivers side) due to the R/H one being slightly higher to compensate for the constant weight of the driver.
Fit the insulator to the top of the spring, the top is the flattened out end just in case you weren’t sure! Slide the top of the spring up into place and with any luck you won’t need the compressors to ‘shorten’ the spring enough for the bottom to slide into place. You will notice on the Falcons that the end of the spring has a locator in the spring saddle and the spring?should fit snugly into place without too much drama.
You may find that the control arms naturally want to sit up a little bit and using a lever of some description is all that is needed to push the control arms down until they ‘bottom out’ and give you the most room for fitting the spring.
Re-assembly is basically the reverse of what we have done. Start by jacking up the bottom control arm until the spring saddle is reasonably horizontal, slide the shock down into position and fit the bottom nuts, washers and insulators (small fingers can be an advantage here).
Then let the jack down and compress the shock enough to refit the top mounting nuts, refit the bump stop plate, fit the wheel, jack up the car and remove the chassis stand and lower it to the ground. DON’T FORGET TO TIGHTEN THE WHEEL NUTS AT THIS STAGE IF YOU ARE NOT USING A RATTLE GUN!.
Once you have done both sides it’s a good idea to check that you still have a healthy amount of bump stop clearance and wheel to guard clearance both at full lock and full suspension compression. Also keep in mind that the car won’t ‘settle’ completely until you take it for a drive so it’s best not to check your clearances until then.
The final steps are to have a wheel alignment done and if you are not doing the rear at the same time adjust your headlights to suit the ‘rake’ of the car. You can also re-measure the wheel to guard distance as we did earlier to get an idea of the change – we ended up with 490mm – down from 570mm! No wonder it sits on the bump stops!!