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    Thread: Whoever said that changing the rear axle beam bushings was a "female dog"...

    1. 06-27-2006 09:14 PM #1
      ... has a talent for understatement.
      I've had great help from other users and searches on these forums so far, so I thought I'd contribute with my experience changing rear axle beam bushings on my 87 cabby. According to my search results, it's never been described in great detail here, apart from many commenting that it is quite a "discomfort in the derriere".
      I purchased a Prothane Total kit and installed every other bushing (I won't install the engine mounts) except the rear axle ones.
      I have the Bentley manual but the procedure is not described in great detail either. They mention that it can be done one side at a time, so that's what I tried.
      So here goes:
      Attempt 1:
      I jacked the back of the car, supported it on jack stands, blocks on the front wheels, the usual precautions.
      Then I installed my jack under the left side of the beam and undid the nuts securing the support bracket/bushing housing to the body.

      I lowered the jack, but the bracket would only disengage from one out of two studs even with a bit of prying.
      I had to remove the nut on top of the shock strut (the one in the trunk) to allow enough play for the bracket to fully disengage. Now the Bentley didn't mention this step, so I assume that with stock suspension you might not have to do this (I have Neuspeed sport lowering springs and Bilstein sport shocks).

      I lowered the beam enough to be able to access the head of the pivot bolt (the one that goes through the bushing's center and into the beam) with a socket, while watching that I didn't stretch the flexible brake line excessively.

      (by the way this picture is actually from attempt 3 after cable clip removal and parking brake cable damage)
      So I scratched my head (ok maybe not, I had greasy gloves) wondering how I was going to undo this big bolt. There wasn't much space for leverage on the nut. I was able to slide my impact wrench to the nut but the thing wouldn't move. I wasn't able to get the bolt head to turn either with the impact. In both cases, copious amounts of Liquid Wrench were used.
      It was getting late so I called it quits and put the whole thing back together to move the car.
      Attempt 2:
      Did the same thing, supported the axle beam with a milk box, installed a wrench on the nut

      and had a go at the bolt head with my newly acquired 27" breaker bar.

      It moved! I kept turning it until I noticed that the whole bushing housing was turning with the bolt and that it had stretched and kinked the parking brake cable. I tucked the cable out of the way with a tie wrap and kept turning until I got the nut loose. Dropped the beam a bit more and I was able to remove the whole bushing/housing/bolt assembly with just a bit of hammer/punch persuasion.
      My intentions were to reuse the bolt by separating it from the bushing (it runs inside a steel sleeve). But tons of Liquid Wrench and persuasion from a 6 ton press at work wouldn't make it move. I figured I'd have to press the bolt out with the sleeve and rubber stuck to it. The local dealer would only receive the bolts in 4 days.
      So again I had to put it all back together to move the car...
      Attempt 3:
      Received the expensive bolts (N0401573, $11.54 each Canadian, at least it looks like they have a Dacromet finish which is very good against corrosion) and nuts (N0221414, $1.16 each).
      Skip to the bushing/housing/bolt assembly on my bench, I cut off the rubber flange on one side, drenched the whole thing in Liquid Wrench, secured the housing in the vise and punched the whole assembly out with a nice big hammer.

      After cleaning out the inside of the housing, I greased the bushing halves with the stuff provided and pressed them in with the vise, then pressed in the sleeve. I used two of the four washers that came with the kit.

      By the way, at about this point I ran out of batteries on the camera. Sorry, no more pictures!
      So back into the beam it went, torqued it to 60Nm/44ft.lb, aligned it as per Bentley's recommendations (basically aligned at about a 10 degree angle from the trailing arm, just so that the housing holes line up with the studs at reassembly), jacked the beam back up... only to find that the housing holes (oblong side to side) wouldn't line up with the studs anymore. Too tight inboard. I fiddled with loosening the housing nuts on the other side of the car, tried prybar persuasion... It just wouldn't align.
      So I took the whole thing out one more time and replaced the inboard washer with the original big flat washer. I thought this would force the housing out a bit by changing the way the urethane compresses.
      Indeed it did, so I bolted it back up and started on the other side.
      Wrench jammed on the nut, Liquid Wrench showers and breaker bar persuasion again. Except this time, the bolt decided to shear right off!
      Not so bad, I had a replacement, except that the other part of the shank was still inside the beam. Hammer and punch persuasion wouldn't convince it to move, so I went hunting for a air hammer/zip gun. Only the second tool rental place had one.
      I protected the fuel tank with some sheet steel and heated around the bolt hole in the beam. With a few shots of the air hammer, the old shank came right out.
      So I replaced the bushings and bolt, using the original wide washer on the inboard side. Reassembled, aligned, torqued and so on, but again had trouble getting the holes to line up. Took quite a bit of fiddling and prying to get them in. Finally torqued the mounting nuts on both sides to 45Nm/33ft.lb, lowered the car while getting the struts to line up in their holes, and put the strut top bushing, cupped washer and locknut back together.
      I can't really say how it "feels" yet, I just went for a quick drive to make sure there were no abnormal noises but wasn't able to test the handling since the car badly needs an alignment since my suspension "overhaul". I have yet to change the damaged left parking brake cable. Will do soon.
      If I had to do it again, I'd undo the brake lines and parking brake cables and just remove the whole axle. This way I'd have proper access to the pivot bolt nuts and wouldn't risk shearing bolts. If I had to do it one side at a time, I'd make sure the parking brake cables are safely tucked out of harm's way before starting to undo anything.
      So that's my experience, if anyone notices that there's a part I didn't do properly and which puts me in great danger, please let me know!
      If it all sounds right then who knows, this might be FAQ-worthy!

      Modified by Rabid Chihuahua at 6:20 PM 6-27-2006

      Modified by Rabid Chihuahua at 7:14 PM 6-27-2006

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    3. Member tolusina's Avatar
      Join Date
      Oct 18th, 2004
      '95 Ranger, '71 Mercier Fixie
      06-27-2006 09:28 PM #2
      Quote, originally posted by Rabid Chihuahua »
      ....... this might be FAQ-worthy!

      Well done post!! FAQ it up!! You earned it! [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      Quote Originally Posted by kamzcab86
      I hate reading: "But I bought this car for $500 and don't want to put another dime into it."
      ____(hey, it's VW AND it's electrical, what's not to fail?) neoBentley+

    4. Member sehaare's Avatar
      Join Date
      Aug 4th, 2003
      Palatine, IL. But I'll NEVER call Chicagoland home.
      2013 TDI Sportwagen, 81 Rabbit Convertible, 92 Cabby (Daughter's), 98 SUV, 2011 Legacy
      06-27-2006 09:38 PM #3
      Great job! [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]
      I've replaced just about every other bushing on the car and was alway wondering about how to do these. Now that I've seen how I'm not sure that I want to do it after all.
      I'm always scared of shearing off bolts on a 25 year old car. And I have never had ANY luck after I've sheared somthing of getting it to come out.
      PUT IT IN THE FAQ!!!
      Enjoy every sandwich - Warren Zevon

    5. 06-27-2006 10:32 PM #4
      Thanks, by popular acclaim (well 2 users anyway), I posted a link in the FAQ. [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]

    6. 06-28-2006 07:30 AM #5
      Well you made it easier for me to plan my attack on the rear beam when I put my prothane kit on this weekend. Good job

    7. 06-28-2006 08:53 AM #6
      Quote, originally posted by sehaare »
      I'm always scared of shearing off bolts on a 25 year old car.

      I'd still rather shear them in the garage than have the rear beam depart the car!

    8. Member Moljinar's Avatar
      Join Date
      Sep 20th, 2001
      Indianapolis, IN
      89 Cabby, 87 Cabby, 85 Cabby, 90 Jetta, 83 GTI
      06-28-2006 09:31 AM #7
      Quote, originally posted by Rabid Chihuahua »
      I've had great help from other users and searches on these forums so far, so I thought I'd contribute with my experience changing rear axle beam bushings on my 87 cabby.

      I'd just thought I'd congratulate you on contributing to the VW community. Many of us lurk or ask questions forever before we find ourselves able to step up and help. Very few of us jump in here right off the bat and start offering expert advice. Most of us accumulate it over the years and then start giving it back to the community. Again, thanks for contributing!

    9. Senior Member dubdaze68's Avatar
      Join Date
      Oct 29th, 2001
      '81 Sportruck, '82 Jetta Diesel
      06-28-2006 01:00 PM #8
      I have something to say regarding this...IT IS MUCH BETTER IF YOU JUST TAKE THE WHOLE AXLE OFF...unbolt the cables, lines, and drop it...that way, not only is it easier to get to the bolts, you can inspect the rest of the beam for other problems more closely...
      It is indeed a PAIN to get the old ones out, however, as most times, the rubber has turned into "hard on the outside, gooey in the middle"...
      sometimes, it is easier to try and cut the bolt out with a utility knife and wiggle action, then burn out the old bushing with a torch (similar to what some people do with A-arm bushings)...
      the new one goes together MUCH easier, the two piece design helps.
      While you have the axle off, this might be a good time to inspect the e-brake cables, and definitely the sway bar bushings, as they break down over time...(These can be fun to replace, as the straps are a PAIN to get back on over the axle...and they're one time use pieces, as far as I'm concerned) and the bushings can be recalcitrant to go over the bar..
      with the new axle and sway bar bushings, the difference is noticeable...it takes a lot of the roll out of the "cabby lean" rear, with no noticeable difference in ride quality...

    10. 12-07-2007 06:00 AM #9
      Old thread but very good one!!!
      I'm trying to remove the pivot from the axle and my impact gun isn't able...
      It's the first time I can't remove something rusty!

      Modified by hoooboy at 4:24 AM 12-7-2007

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