Replacing the Ford Explorer and Ranger
Radius Arm Bushings


Several Contributors

Replacing the Radius Arm Bushings

It would be advisable to print out this page and read it thoroughly before embarking on any one particular method of changing the radius arm bushings. This section is getting REALLY long so take your time and carefully consider which path you might choose to take. In fact, it is so long now that I will no longer be accepting updates for this section.

jeff


A How To provided by Garry A.

I have recently changed the radius arm bushings on my 92 EB, and thought I'd share the results with this newsgroup. I don't know how much it would cost to have them replaced at the mechanic's, I didn't ask. The kits were only about $20 each and one was needed for each side.

For me, this took several hours, (about 6) but hopefully this document will save you a significant amount of time.

First, some background information. The radius arm bushings are large rubber like bushings that fit on the end of the radius arm (imagine that!). The can be easily seen on the car by looking behind the front wheels in the wheel well. The radius arm is the large V shaped metal piece that goes toward the back of the car. It's about 18" or so long, with the small part of the V pointing toward the back of the car. It has a large threaded end that fits through the bushing and has a bolt on the end. Evidently the factory bushings on at least the 91 and 92 models were too soft, and probably need replaced, if you haven't done so already. A visual inspection of them turned out to be worthless on my car. They looked fine, but one was almost completely destroyed. The bushing connects to a large two piece bracket that is connected to the frame of the car.

When you look at the bracket, notice that it is held onto each end by 2 bolts and probably 2 "rivets". The rivets are the parts that will give you the most trouble. They're VERY VERY hard steel, and difficult to remove. If you have rivets, you will need to cut them out (I'll explain how later in the document) and replace them with GRADE 8 bolts. Please don't use softer steel bolts, as they could break and cause you to wreck.

I would suggest purchasing the GRADE 8 bolts prior to taking the part off, since you might have a little trouble finding them. You will need 4 bolts, I bought 4 bolts, 8 washers, and 4 nuts (all grade 8) for about $3.55 at my local NAPA store. I bought them all the same size (about 7/16" diameter with size 14 threads work perfectly). Get 3 bolts about 1 1/4" long, and 1 about 3/4" long. This is VERY IMPORTANT and will save you much grief. I bought them all the same size (1 1/4") and it caused me an extra hour and a half work.

The procedure:

First, jack up the car and place it firmly on jack stands. You will NEED the jack stands, because the passenger side is difficult to remove with the jack holding the car by the suspension. The weight of the car puts enormous pressure on that radius arm. I put the jack stand in the center of the car, and jacked the car up at the big end of the radius arm.

First, remove the two bolts holding the radius arm bracket to the frame of the car. They are pointing toward the ground.

Next, remove the 4 bolts holding the center of the two brackets together.

On the driver's side, you will also need to remove the fuel filter, contained in the frame of the car. Do this by removing the two nuts holding the bracket in place.

To remove the two rivets, (they are horizontal) I used a Dremel motor-tool with a cutting "blade" on the end (like the one they use in the commercial to cut the nail). Make sure you have several, I chewed up about 4, and I only had rivets on one side (the driver's side). If you have rivets on both sides you will need at least double that many. Remember this is VERY HARD STEEL. I cut several slots in the head of the rivet, to remove most of the material. Then I used an air chisel to remove the rest of the head of the bolt, and a steel punch to knock the rest of rivet out. This will be by far the hardest part of replacing the radius arm bushings.

Next, remove the large nut at the end of the radius arm. I used a huge adjustable wrench to remove it. Remove the nut and NOTICE THE WAY THE PARTS FIT TOGETHER. This is important. The bracket should be removed.

Remove the old bushing, and put the new one on the same way. Don't forget the heat shield on the passenger side, it protects the rubber bushing from the heat of the cat. converter next to it.

Replace the bracket, and put your new grade 8 bolts in place of the rivets. On the driver's side, use the SHORT bolt in the front, or you will have difficulty replacing the fuel filter bracket. I didn't use a short bolt, and had to cut a slot in the bracket.

After you do the other side, re-attach the 4 bolts holding the brackets together, and you're done!


Contributed by Shawn

Thank you so much for your website and all of its contributors. I recently replaced the radius arm bushings on my 92 EB, and your website was very helpful. I recently purchased the vehicle from the second owner, with 128xxx miles. Even after getting the front end aligned and putting new tires on the vehicle, I was still a little unhappy with the handling. There was a slight pull to the right, along with the excessive shaking described by other owners. I was about ready to live with the problem, chocking it up to just quirky handling characteristics of a 4wd truck (I mean, we all know their not luxury vehicles by any stretch of the imagination. A truck is a truck!) Then I got on your website and heard about the RA bushing problem.

I bought replacement bushings from NAPA for a total of $38.50. The clerk was nice enough to give me for free the grade 8 bolts, washers, and nuts that I needed to replace the rivets I drilled out. I replaced the bushings by way of removing the brackets.Yes, like about half of your contributors, I chose to tackle those rivets. They really weren't too bad though. In fact, here's a little helful tip.

Don't grind them! Just get two drill bits, one 3/8" and one 7/16". Cobalt bits work really nice for this job, since they can drill through most hard metals. You'll have to loosen the plastic wheel wells to get good access to the front rivets on each side. The rivets towards the back are a little trickier to drill straight through because of the cabin mount bolts in the way, but you can still get to them.

Use a center punch to make a starter point for drilling, unless you've got a steady hand. Drill a starter hole with the 3/8" bit. Drill about 1/3 to halfway through. Then use the 7/16" bit to continue drilling, and drill to the same point that you drilled with the smaller bit. By this time, the head of the rivet should be just about gone, except for the outer edges.

Use a cold chisel to knock off the rest of the head. You may get lucky and the head might just pop off during drilling. That's what happened with one of my rivets. After you loosen the rest of the bolts holding the bracket on, you should be able to take a crow bar and break the bracket lose. Then you can use a cold punch or your chisel to pound the rest of the rivet out.

I replaced the passenger side first, because that one was obviously worn; I could wrap my thumb and forefinger around it and twist it a little back and forth. I'm no bushing expert, but I believe those things are supposed to be tight. When I removed the old bushing, I noticed that the about 1/3 of the stem was gone, right where the RA spindle had put pressure against the bracket and chewed it away. I replaced it with a polyurethane bushing, and I doubled up on the dish (or cup) washers near the shoulder of the spindle (thank you Conyl Horn and Brad Martin!) The driver's side was fine, but I replaced it anyway, to make things even. It only took me about three hours to do the driver's side, once I had my system down, and that included loosening the fuel filter bracket and the parking brake cable, and no air ratchet or impact wrench (although that wouldv'e been nice). So, the total time to complete the job should probably take five to six hours tops. And what a difference in the handling! My wife even noticed the difference just riding shotgun.


Another Method from Steve M.

I spent an afternoon over Christmas break replacing the radius arm bushings on my 92 Explorer and I thought I'd jot down a few remarks.

I bought the Explorer a couple of months ago. The suspension felt like it had a little sloppiness or looseness to it, and the car made a faint "thunk" type noise whenever driving on rough pavement. It felt like it came from directly under the floorboard on the driver's side. I pulled off the RA rear bracket nuts and found no obvious bushing damage. The bushings must have been replaced before, since they were red and not the original black. Even though the bushings looked okay visually, I decided to replace them anyway because I couldn't think of any other reason the car would behave the way it did, and besides, I had the time.

First thing I did was run down to Home Depot and bought a 5-hp air compressor. They were running a special deal that included an impact wrench, an air hammer with assorted chisels and a punch, and a high speed cut-off wheel. I had been thinking about getting air tools for some time, so replacing the RA bushings gave me the justification to go ahead and fork out the moola. (Ahhh! the real reason.)

The cut-off wheel did the most damage to the rivets in the least amount of time, but due to clearance problems, I had to finish with a die grinder, which was slower going. It took me about 45 minutes per rivet. Once the head was ground off, I used the air hammer to drive out them out. The two lower rivets wouldn't drive out immediately, so I had to drill holes in them first to reduce the interference pressure. The upper rivets came out easily.

I had to remove the fuel filter to get to one rivet on the driver's side.

I didn't put the vehicle on jack stands. The bracket came off easily enough, but getting it back on with the new bushings in place required the use of a jack to raise the radius arm a bit in order to line up the bracket holes with the frame mounting holes.

Having read Dr. Bob's comments about ride quality with original Ford bushings, I went ahead and paid extra for them. $42 from Ford versus $18 from AutoZone.

I used my new impact wrench to tighten up the large nuts at the RA ends. I don't see how I lived without it before.

I used 7/16" X 1" grade bolts and nuts, with a flat washer on one side and a lock washer on the other. These worked perfectly.

It took me about five hours to do the job, working at a fairly leisurely pace.

The car now feels much better. The thunking noise is gone, and the suspension feels nice and tight, the way it should be. I am very pleased with the results, and using the new air tools was fun and made the job easier.

Steve


And an Alternative Method from the Creature

There is an alternative to removing the pins on the RA bracket. It takes about 4 hrs a side and the removal of some parts. I did this in a parking lot with basic tools and a couple of goodies noted below.

1) Take off brake caliper and suspend.

2) Remove shock.

3) Remove stabilizer link

4) Let wheel hang and remove 28mm spring bolt/nut and retainer, then pull out spring.

5) Get under vehicle and remove axle pivot bolt

6) On 4WD driver's side unbolt front drive-shaft U-joint retaining bolts. (Requires #30 Torx)

7) Remove 28mm nut at RA bracket and pry out the remains of old bushings.

8) Maneuver RA out of hole. (This requires some finesse and some brute strength. Have a pry bar handy. An alternative to the brute strength would be to disconnect the tie rod end.) Remove remainder of old bushings.

9) Put it back together with new bushings.

A little more detail is given in the Haynes manual for Ranger. This is what I used. It wasn't too bad. While I was under there I replaced my shocks, greased my bearings and locking hubs, and replaced a rotor and pads on one side. I did back shocks too. It took be about 14 hours for everything. Feel free to email if you have questions.


And Some More Notes from Tom Scanlan

My 92, 4wd, 4-door developed a "clunk" I could feel through the floorboard when stopping. The radius arm bushing was an obvious candidate for repair after all other noise sources (exhaust system, drive shaft, shocks) were checked. The visible exterior surfaces of both the bushings were free of defects. I could not wiggle either side by hand, but using a 2 x 4 as a pry bar, I saw some vertical movement on the right side (exhaust side) when lifting under the radius arm. After jacking the car I used a 1-1/8" wrench to loosen and remove the large radius arm nut, since I did not have a 28-mm wrench. Under the nut is a large washer, a big rubber bushing and a plastic ring. Removing these I could see the inner rubber bushing had clearly failed. Exhaust heat had baked the compound, movement flaked it into powder, letting the radius arm move and hit, metal to metal. I re-assembled that side and checked the driver's side as well. It was still pliable and intact. I made sure both nuts were tightened to 50 ft-lbs. before I drove the car to the parts store. The new bushings were $15 each at NAPA. Make sure you get the right type, as there is one for extended caster adjustment.

My Explorer has rivets on both sides. I had a lot of trouble removing the rivets. I cut the rivet heads off with a Dremel tool, using the reinforced fiberglass blade, which cost about $1.00 each. These last much longer than the little carbide wheels. Sadly, when I tried to pound the rivet out with a metal drift, I couldn't get it to budge. I spent fruitless hours trying to get a better angle, a better drift, a better hammer. No LUCK!! I finally removed the radius arm bracket from the frame by removing all the bolts and lifting it off the rivets. Even with it out of the way, I could not get the rivets out. I also undid some of the inner plastic wheel well liner's screws and propped it out of the way to allow better access.

As a last resort, I began drilling the rivets out, starting with a 1/16" bit for a guide hole, then 3/16" moving up to 11/32". At this point I was able to get the inner edge of the rivet to bend inwards when I hit it with the drift pin. Several good blows later, the rivet popped out, and I saw what had held it. There was a series of steps or ridges in the rivet. The frame rails are actually a two piece metal composite . The central web of the frame rail is about 1/4"thick, made of two layers of steel. The hole through both layers was not quite the same size or was slightly offset. When the rivet was installed the forging blows expanded the barrel of the rivet into the offset, locking them together. Brute force would have worked, if I could have used a 10 lb sledge or air tools. The finesse method of hollowing out the rivet took about 15-20 minutes each. As long as you are careful to center your drill bit, I think it is quicker and safer. The removed rivet diameter is 7/16". The frame web is about 1/4" thick and the bushing bracket is about 1/8" thick. Putting a 3/8" bit through the head plus some of that extra thickness makes head removal much quicker. Then a couple taps with a chisel or drift and the rivet is out.

 

The actual bushing replacement was easy. I used a scissors jack to support the radius arm and was able to move the wheel and bracket with a little effort. Off came the old bushing, and on went the new, inner and outer parts, in correct order, with heat shield and all. New 7/16"x1" or 1-1/4" hardened bolts and washers replaced the rivets. If you use washers on both sides, a 1" bolt is too short. I did use thread-locking compound on the nuts and made sure I tightened everything to mfg. specs (40-60 ft-lbs).

Good Luck, if you try this repair yourself. Be prepared. The more room you have to work, the better, so support the car well. Have an extra jack to lift the wheel/radius arm and a pry bar, pipe or board. Make sure you have the tools handy and it should be more satisfying than my experience. I learned ... the hard way.


Contributed by Alan M.

In addition to checking out this site, thought I'd pass along something that a friendly Ford mechanic shared with me.

The radius arm bushings sort of look like a mushroom, with a hole drilled thru the core. The end of the radius arm runs thru the bushing; we see the "cap" of the mushroom - the "stem" is hidden inside the bracket that holds the end of the radius arm to the frame. The stem is what goes bad, and unfortunately we can't see the actual deterioration without dismantling. The Ford mechanic told me that the way we can tell if our bushings are in fact bad is, when looking head-on at the nut on the back side, to measure the gap between the bushing "cap" and the bottom of the bracket. The distance should be about the diameter of an old-fashion wooden pencil. If the bushing is bad (stem is smashed) then the cap would rest against the bracket.

Haven't actually had to replace mine yet, though. No shake, and still have the right "gap". (93 XLT with 60K miles).


Contributed by Jeff Harris

I would like to give you my personal opinion on the act of chiseling out the rivets. I feel that whole procedure is totally unnecessary. I have the Haynes manual, and followed the procedure of removing the coil spring and stabilizer arm bracket. I did one side at a time, used a piece of coathanger to hold the caliper out of the way, and lowered the hub with a floor jack. I found the whole procedure to be quite easy. The first side (passenger) took me 4 hours, since I tried to lower the hub assembly without removing the spring (this was before I read the Haynes Manual), and the second side took only 1.5 hours. I personally would never dream of removing those rivets on the rear brackets. I feel sorry for those guys who struggled to get them out.

I think you should update your page to reflect that the Haynes procedure is enormously easier. If you would like me to write a play - by - play, I would be happy to do so.


Contributed by TC K.

I was asked by my sister about a brake pulling problem to one side and also a clunking and general noisy front end problems on her 91 Explorer 4wd . I myself have a 93 explorer that had similar problems at 26K miles and it took three visits before the dealer figured the problem to be bushings and replaced them. I consulted with a friend who is a mechanic and he said they always Cut the rivets in question due to time advantage. I did notice though, that the dealer on mine had Not cut them. Anyway, after reading all the other methods used by your site (numerous times to get the courage up) I decided to go for it. First of all, I basically followed the advice of others on your site. Raised and supported the car at the frame and axles. Secondly I removed the two fuel filter bolts and pushed filter upwards and away. Then I used my Makita 4inch grinder with a offset cutoff disk, and proceeded to Slice the rivets off at frame level. The front rivets I could cut Flush / Clean off. The rear rivets I could only cut about 3/4 of it due to clearance. Then I ground as much of the head as I could on the rear set . Lots of Sparks, wear good face shield and hearing protection. The last 1/4 was taken off with a 1inch cold chisel and hammer. I was into the job about an hour. Next I removed the four bracket to frame bolts with a 15mm open end. Next off came the four bracket bolts in the center. Lastly the Radius arm nuts using a 1 1/4 Socket on the driver side, and a big adjustable crescent on the passenger side. Then after hearing reading all the comments on the rivet shafts, I decided to next PRY the brackets off the shafts with a 4ft. crow bar. The driver side first and then the pass side. I then pulled out the Makita again and Sliced the protruding shafts off Flush again to the Frame. Then I hit the outline with a punch and the remaining shaft and opposite head popped out. The bolts I used were 1 inch x 7/16 G8 on the rear driver side and 1 1/4 inch on the rest with flat washer on head and locking washer on nut. Oh yes, I put the nuts on the Outside of the frame. not as pretty, but much easier. The rest is history and I have to give credit the the people that posted the methods before me to the ease that I had in this job. The only drawback I saw was some stray grind marks on the frame and bracket but I used spray undercoating to fix that. Best of all it drives great now, and the brake pull went away.


Contributed by Jim J.

Radius Arm replacement bushings are cheap; it's the labor in the actual replacement that's expensive. In any event, and after watching my own replaced, I'm not sure it's worth doing yourself, and personally I would NEVER grind off the rivets. Replacement cost from a good alignment shop, including the bushings, is in the range of $135. Time from roll on to roll off is 20 to 30 minutes. It's done thus, one side at a time. Remove the RA bushing nut. Remove tire. Remove bolts holding sway bar on the side you are working. Remove lower shock mounting bolt. Let axle swing free, and stand by to catch spring as it falls free. Using a small port-a-power (hydraulic ram. Here is where the home wrench runs out of tools. Try a rental shop) force axle forward until RA is JUST FREE from cross member mounting hole. Replace bushing and heat shield (passenger side only). Reassemble. Repeat for other side. Notes. If vehicle is 4x4, when repairing the driver's side and pushing the axle forward, push axle forward until it NOT QUITE CLEARS cross member. Use crow bar or hammer to get that last little bit. The object here is to NOT separate the drive shaft expansion joint, otherwise the drive shaft must be removed and reconnected. If you have waited to replace your bushings long enough for the holes in the cross member to ovate from wear by the pounding of the RA, you must replace the cross member and grinding/drilling the rivets is your only solution.


Contributed by Jeremy G.

I worked in an alignment shop and just thought i would let you know how most shops do the ra bushings

my best luck has been with the after market polyurethane bushings!


Contributed by Dan D.

This is a report on my experiences (attempting) replacing my radius arm bushings on my 1992 Explored Sport 4x4. I have 95K miles on this vehicle, virtually all street. I just recently began hearing a thudding, clanking sound from under the passenger seat and some looseness in the steering. After checking the wheel bearings and ball joints I concluded that my passenger side RA bushing had finally failed. Since I had been hearing that this would happen for the last 5 years, I was not surprised and was in fact happy that mine had lasted almost 100K.

I placed the vehicle on 4 jack stands, about 18" high. This gave me enough room to maneuver a creeper under the truck. Since the concrete floor of my garage is cold this time of year, being able to lay on the creeper made the job much less uncomfortable than it could have been, in addition to having plenty of room to work. It is still hard work, but giving yourself enough room to move around and keeping off the cold concrete makes things a lot better. I am proud to say that I did not suffer any major scrapes or bangs while I was working, although my arms are sore from holding everything above me while I was working. :-)

Next, I located all the bolts and rivets, on both sides, that would need to come out, then I assembled the tools I knew I was going to need. I then removed all the bolts (13 and 15 mm) holding in the frame cross member pieces and the radius arm nut (28 mm) from both sides so that the only things holding the cross member in place were the rivets. I freed the fuel filter and held it out of the way with some tie wraps. I decided to remove the rivets from the passenger side first, since that was were the noise was coming from. (This turned out to be a mistake, which I'll explain later.) I decided to use my 4 1/2" angle grinder to take the rivet heads off. On the passenger side this worked very well. There is enough room to get the wheel onto the rivets without much trouble and it is FAST. On the passenger side it should have taken me less than 30 minutes to completely remove each rivet. On the driver's side it may take a little longer because the p-brake cable runs down the outside of the frame rail right next to the back rivet. I decided to leave the cable in place (it is armored at this point) and work around it. There was enough room to maneuver the grinder, but you want to be careful.

This is what you SHOULD do, if you use a grinder. Using a metal grinding wheel (do NOT use a cut-off wheel, there isn't enough room and the rivet head is too big) grind off the head of each rivet on both sides of the vehicle, down until it is flush with the surrounding metal, this will take about 10 minutes for each rivet. Once the heads are off, grab the free end of the cross member piece on the bottom and use the cross member itself to pry it off of the rivet shaft. There is no need for a pry bar, although it may help. Next, grind the rivet shafts down until the are flush with the frame rail, again about 10 minutes for each rivet. Finally, use a 3/8" or larger driving pin and a 2 pound drill hammer to drive the remaining portion of the rivet out of the frame rail. The grinding will probably go faster if you are more experienced than I am, I lifted the grinder quite a bit on the first 2 to look at my progress. It went much faster on the last 2. All told, you should be able to get the rivets out and have the cross member off in 2 hours or possibly even less. I suggest that you wear a full face safety shield, as the grinder throws a LOT of sparks and they ricochet all over the place. You should also have a fire extinguisher on hand and wear good fitting gloves.

You can now install the new bushings and reassemble everything, using 7/16" Grade 8 hardware in place of the rivets. the suggestion from Brad Martin about adding the extra washers is a very good one, but the inside diameter of the washers should be 3/4", not 1". The 1" washers will work, but they won't be centered on the shaft. A jack is necessary, because the radius arm will sag and the pressure is too great to lift it back up with one hand while trying to thread a bolt with the other. A mallet or drill hammer will also help to pound things back into alignment. Get everything in and started, but don't tighten anything down until you have all the fasteners in place. I tightened the bolts and nuts to what I estimated to be approximately 80 ft-lbs. I did not have enough room to use my beam type torque wrench on the frame bolts, but a dial type might have fit. The RA nuts get tightened to 100 ft-lbs, which I was able to set with my torque wrench. Reassembly takes almost as long as disassembly, mainly because it can be difficult to get a socket on the nut inside the frame rail and if you are like me, you want to clean all the surfaces and the hardware before reinstalling it. You cannot hold the nuts with a nut driver or combination wrench, it has to be a socket. You will need a 3" extension, a 10" extension and a universal joint. If I remember correctly, the socket sizes are 5/8" and 3/4" for the Grade 8 hardware. Don't forget to put the fuel filter back. I couldn't get a 7/16" x 3/4" bolt, so I used a 7/16" x 1" bolt where the fuel filter is on the frame. I put the head on the inside and the nut on the outside of the frame. On the other 3 bolts I put the nut on the inside of the frame.

I made a number of mistakes, which I'll go over here in hopes that they will help somebody else. I tried to do it one side at a time, like 2 seperate jobs. Instead it should be done as one complete job. I should have taken all 4 of the the rivets off, one right after the other. Instead I took off the passenger side and then attempted to remove that side of the cross member. But since the passenger side of the cross member lays on top of the driver side, there isn't enough room to use the cross member to pry itself off of the rivets. I then tried to drive the passenger side rivets out through the cross member and the frame rail and wasted another hour. But as soon as I ground the heads off of the rivets on the driver side, I was able to pop that side of the cross member right off and then the passenger side also popped right off.

INSPECT YOUR NEW BUSHING BEFORE YOU START WORKING!!!! I cannot believe that this bit me, but it did. I was given the wrong bushings at the parts store. I thought they were correct, they looked correct, but they didn't fit, the inside diameter was too small and they didn't have one of the retaining washers that should be in the Explorer kit. I am not sure what vehicle they were meant for, but they will not fit a 1992 Explorer Sport 4x4. Once I had the original bushings out it was obvious that I had the wrong replacements, but I had never seen RA bushings before. To my inexperienced eye and going by the drawings in my Haynes manual, they looked correct, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. This is why I noted (attempting) in my first sentence. :-(

The good news is that my original bushings were actually in moderately decent condition. They aren't going to last forever, but I had no qualms about reinstalling them. The passenger bushing has some flaking and looks chipped on the stem end, but nothing excessive. The driver side looked great. I reassembled everything, adding the 2 washers suggested by Brad Martin, and the thudding and clanking are gone. Also, the steering is noticeably tighter and more responsive than before. I suspect that the stem end of the passenger side bushing has worn down just enough to allow a little bit of back and forth play. But adding the 2 washers and re-torquing the nut has eliminated whatever play there was and everything feels nice and tight now.


 

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