Amazon’s $99 Cayenne control arms: some fitting required

September 1, 2016

It was time to register Ruby in Ontario, so we drove through an emissions test at an oil changing station in Kingston.  No problem.

Then we followed my mechanic’s lead to a new Midas franchise.  At Brian’s request they took Ruby right in for the mechanical fitness inspection.  After a long and thorough inspection and numerous consultations with colleagues, the mechanic reported three items which needed to be replaced before a pass:  both front lower ball joints, and the rear  wiper blade.  Three staff members commented on the lack of corrosion on Ruby’s underbody.  “You don’t see cars like this in Ontario.”

But then came the quote for the parts.  At $455 per after-market control arm, the bill would come to over $1100. plus installation.  I showed the service manager the same parts listed for $99 each on, and we arranged for me to bring  the car back in after I had completed the work.

So I hit the “order” button on my phone.  24 hours later the parts appeared at the local Kinek outlet at Wellesley Island Building Supply,  just across the Hill Island Bridge.

Following these online instructions carefully, I had no difficulty removing the right control arm.

Then I discovered that a $99 control arm may have the odd fit issue.  The casting and bushings looked good on the new unit, but the whole thing seemed bigger than the French one I took out.  Specifically, the threaded tail of the ball joint was about 1/2 inch too long.  With the bump on top of the socket, the unit wouldn’t fit beneath the quarter shaft so that the ball joint could drop into its space. It was too big to fit.   I was forced to round off the top with an angle grinder, and cut 3/8″ off the threaded part.  Then it worked.

I finished my first control arm installation with a fervent hope they could align the car with the new part.  I suspected that it had gone on pretty straight, as I had marked everything and replaced it carefully.  The instructions warned not to turn the bolt heads when removing them to protect the slotted bolts and eccentric washers, so I had to do a lot of box-end wrenching, but it really wasn’t a bad job.
Update, 2 September, 2016
At 4:30 a.m. I had the thought:  “If I can get that other control arm on before 8:00 a.m., I could probably get an alignment today, and thus have Ruby for the long weekend.”
The shop lights came on before 5:00.  The left control arm came off without difficulty.  It’s great working on a vehicle which has no corrosion.
The new part didn’t fit any better than the other one, so I ground away on the thing as much as I thought was wise, but the ball joint still wouldn’t drop into its space.
There was a large metal clamp in the way.  It runs around one of the two rubber boots on the front drive shaft, joining it to the wheel bearing, brake rotor, and so on.  And some slob had stuck the thing on precisely where I had to attach the ball joint (with attached control arm).  And there wasn’t room.
I couldn’t remove the clamp, because replacing it requires a specialized tool we do not have in the shop.  In desperation I decided to try to slide the clamp around the CV joint, and thus out of my way.  I found a wrench consisting of a short metal bar with a hook and a length of bicycle chain.  Before long I had the chain in place around the circumference of the clamp.  I hooked in at the right point and applied the considerable leverage of the bar to the gripping power of a tight bike chain.
The whole thing:  chain, clamp, CV boot, brake rotor, driveshaft and all, smoothly rotated around out of the way.  Duh!  It turns!  It’s a driveshaft!
A little embarrassed at such a rookie mistake, I popped the now-cooperative control arm into place and finished up the installation.
At 7:30 I landed a 9:00 appointment at Hank’s Tire in Smiths Falls for the alignment.
Take Your Kid to Work Day was a big thing in the late 90’s.  Grade 9 kids got to see what their parents did all day.  I’ll never forget one kid whose task had been to help assemble a helicopter engine and install it on a military chopper.  Then he balked at going along on the test flight.  “There was no way I was going to fly in something that I’ve worked on.”
I felt a bit like that boy as I eased Ruby out of the garage, down the lane, and eventually out into traffic on Highway 15.  What do I do if something breaks or falls off?
The car rode well on the highway, though the steering wheel was a little off centre and it pulled slightly to the right.
At Hank’s Tire, Slim allowed me to watch the 4 wheel alignment.  He explained what he did to the various bolts and kidded me about my slowness at doing a routine job.  “If you can’t change a pair of control arms in under an hour, you’d better find another line of work.  We’re not hiring you.”  Then he showed me on the computer screen that my left front wheel was perfect.  The right towed out slightly, but was easily corrected.  The right rear had excessive toe-in, so he adjusted it, as well.
He took off for a test drive and blamed the tires for the extensive road noise in the cabin.  We agreed that we’d know when the winter tires go on.




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