Did your stabilizer sway bar end link bushings ever look this bad?
That's just down right ugly ain't it?
If you still have your original front sway bar end links... may these pictures inspire you to take a very close look at their condition.
I was at a parts store recently and asked an F-350 owner there if his end links were ok. He said he "hadn't had any problem with them." I asked if he would mind if I went out to take a closer peak, and his looked exactly like what is pictured above. Ugly.
That exposed grease is an open invitation for grit to grind into the joint. The grease is exposed because the relatively thin rubber encapsulating membrane has become brittle and cracked away in pieces.
The damage isn't always visible at first glance by just crouching down outside the truck and looking under. On the outboard side of the lower eyelet joint of the end link, the sway bar itself hides the condition of this membrane, since the lower end link eyelet mounts on the inboard side of the trailing stabilizer bar arm. It's better to inspect from underneath the center of the truck, to see the inboard side of each end link eyelet, which isn't blocked by the swaybar tails.
Being directly underneath the truck / Excursion also affords a better view of the upper eyelet condition, especially on the driver's side, where there is no concial washer heat shield to protect the membrane like there is over the passenger side upper eyelet bushing.
Most people discover the need for changing end links by hearing a clunking underneath the truck. I heard clunking, but couldn't quite pin point the source, since with tool boxes in the back, I have a lot of potential sources.
Well, for this post at least, the problem can clearly be seen. Over the next few days, additional posts and pics will describe how it was resolved.
There are indeed quite a variety of aftermarket replacement options to these endlinks. Some options involve only replacing the eyelet bushings to the endlinks, while others replace the entire end link as a whole. Much has already been written, photographed, and YouTubed regarding various aftermarket replacements. After looking at quite a few of the aftermarket options, I ultimately chose to go with the Ford OEM factory replacement end links, and curiously found that not much has been posted online about the factory option.
It is beyond the scope of this write up to debate the merits of one type of replacement option over the other. The first purpose is to call attention to the need to visually inspect the original end links, even in cases where no clunk is heard. The second purpose of this thread is to photo illustrate some details regarding replacing these end links with Ford OE parts that I would have have found useful to be able to visualize ahead of time, but could not find on the net. It is hoped that some of these details might help someone else searching for them in the future.
A few installation details for the right (passenger/curb) side:
The starter being in the way took me by surprise. It is possible to resolve this interference issue much more expediently than shown above... by simply reversing the bolt direction... ie by threading the bolt through the frame first, such that the bolt head is outside the frame web, and the bolt threads are pointing toward the starter.
For whatever reason, Ford did not install the bolt that way, so I didn't either. That meant the pillow block had to be temporarily unbolted in order to replicate the way Ford originally installs the bolt. Also, if using the Ford factory OE link, the top bolt comes pre-pressed into the bushing. It is not known if the force to press or brute force hammer the pre installed bolt out of the bushing is equal to the force that would unseat the bushing itself from the end link eyelet.
I did not want to risk unseating the bushing in side the eyelet, because the bore diameter of the eyelet is continuous, with no stop or step inside. That is one reason why the photograph of the eyelet circle without a bushing is posted above... to illustrate smooth bore with no steps or stops. When pressing in a SACHS replacement bushing that does not have a two tier diameter like the simpler urethane aftermarket options have, it might be important to know when the bushing is pressed in enough, but without a clearance calibrated jig fixture, how would one know?
This issue is likely one of the reasons that Ford, Moog, Raybestos, and Mevotech sells the entire endlink with bushings pre pressed into place. Two step urethane inserts are self calibrating... ie, shove them in until the second step is flush with the edge of the eyelet ring. The more sophisticated greased ball joint type of bushings, such as the OEM versions from SACHS, are continuous diameter with no step.
I post this seemingly obvious and arcane detail because there was a gap in my understanding about this subject when I researched other's experiences replacing the bushings. I came to realize that different people were talking about different bushings, mostly aftermarket options. It seemed useful to put up some clarity for those considering OEM options.
Up next, in a day or so, will be pics of the driver's side installation, as well as the addition and modification of more bushing heatshields.
Modifications to driver's side factory end link at upper eyelet to protect bushing from heat degradation from nearby exhaust manifold. Ford does not provide any heat shielding on the driver's side... only one heat shield on the passenger side. Since rubber deteriorates when exposed to high radiant heat, it is hoped that additional shielding might further assist the revised bushings to last a bit longer.
A very special THANK YOU to FTE member extraordinare timf150 for the surplus factory conical washers used in this project.
nice writeup, but id never put the stock junk back on my truck. Not after all the problems they have that is. 18 dollars for a Energy Suspension bushing kit and a half hour with my 20ton press and my trucks been good for five years now
Torque has nothing to do with those upper bolts. The whole thing is a design flaw by Ford. The only part that fits well is the quarter inch stepped up part near the head of the bolt which goes in the link bushing even though the bushing is about one inch long. The rest is all a sloppy fit and tightening the bolt tightly won't help. You need to take up that space inside the upper mount (not a pillow block). It was obviously an attempt by Ford to keep the bolt from freezing in the mount and/or bushing. The most imortant picture is missing (the bolt). Also; who has a press and the time to do it? My high quality complete end links were $20 each...........done
Oops! Earlier, I had said that the "first order of business is to press the failed bushings out of the links."
While that comment of mine is not germaine to this particular write up and installation, it would still otherwise be true if one wants use their existing end links and only replace the bushings. However, that is not what I ended up doing, so that post, and the images formerly associated with it, was an irrelevant distraction of my own doing. So I undid it. I apologize for any confusion. I will repost all the removed pics below.
One of the reasons why I posted detailed pics of a factory end link sway bar installation is precisely because not many DIYer's choose this option, and as such, there are not many pictures or comments available to learn from online. That not many, if any, go with the factory links makes sense in one respect: Why reinstall a repeat version of a part that failed, which costs more money than all the other cheaper choices that aren't built the same way the part that failed is?
On the other hand, one has to also wonder why Ford continues to source their OE end links with more sophisticated joint complexity that is more expensive to produce? After all, it can be safely assumed that cost reduction is an ongoing standard operating procedure of any business... and it isn't like Ford is unaware of a substance called urethane.
There must be some engineering reason why Ford continues to implement the more complex type of end link bushing design, even while going so far as to incorporate two revisions along the way, without switching back to the vastly cheaper and simpler solid rubber or urethane designs of 40 years ago.
Not knowing the answer to these questions, but being curious, I wanted to find out more. This curiousity explains why I went ahead and pressed out the original bushings from the end links... to see how they are made, and to see how the inside of the bore to the end link is machined.
When I was reading about peoples aftermarket bushing installations online, they referred to pressing their bushings in untill they "stopped". Yet there is NO stop inside the bore of the eyelet. I eventually came torealize that most of the bushing replacements that people typically do are of the simpler, two piece urethane variety, where the bushing itself has two diameters, and the "stop" is at the transition between the smaller and larger diameters, where the bushing flange stops agains the side of the eyelet.
However, there are some OE style bushings available from SACHS, a division of ZF Worldwide (think ZF 6 manual truck transmission). Based on catalog photographs, it appears that SACHS is the OEM of the Ford factory end link bushings. The Ford and SACHS parts are identical looking, down to the purple colored retaining rings. For a bit less money than an entire end link from Ford, one can order the SACHS bushings and press them into the open eyelets of the endlinks.
That being said, what the image above shows is that there is no step inside the bore of the end link to positive stop the flangeless SACHS bushing from being pressed in too far, or being pressed in not enough. Without a calibrated fixture or jig, how does one know when to stop?
What two images below show is the exterior body of the used factory bushings. While a bit dirty, what is notable to observe is that there are no steps or lands on outside metal barrels of these bushings either. So one has to guess how far in to press these bushings, or simply assume to space their overages equidistant from either side of the eyelet edges.
One of the most interesting aspects of the image below is the color and texture of the outer membrane. The color is a brownish tan that has some translucency. The new factory bushings, as well as the SACHS bushing photographs, have a dark black outer membrane. This color change is indicative of a material change, and it is assumed that this material change was motivated by the easy embrittlement of the previous material used. It is hoped that the newer material will be more resistant to hardening and degradation.
Finally, the last image below is the method I used to press the old bushings out. There are other ways to do it without a press, including a BF hammer, heat and beat with an impact socket of sufficient diameter as a punch.