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Author Topic: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing  (Read 15243 times) Share

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  • Lupinsea

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    TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « on: July 30, 2008, 03:17:28 PM »

    Lower Control Arm Bracket Reinforcing

    CONTENTS

    1) Vehicle Setup
    2) Overview / Performance Review
    3) Installation


    1) VEHICLE SETUP

    No other modifications are necessary to perform this procedure and installation. It will work with stock or modified Jeeps.



    2) OVERVIEW / PERFORMANCE REVIEW

    Overview:
    After 4 years and 50+ offroad outings the control arms and mounting brackets on my Jeep needed repair. The control arms were bent and one smacked by a rock so badly the pressed in bushing came loose. The bracket ears on the frame were dented and crushed to the point they interfered with the control arm movement. All this resulted in wonky and vague handling and disconcerting clanking and creeking noises from the suspension.

    Solution:
    In addition to replacing the control arms with new(er) used stock control arms, the brackets on the frame were straightened and reinforced with a 1/4" rod shaped to a flange and welded in place. The lower axle brackets were boxed in with a mini-skid plate. This protected the end of the control arm from rocks and greatly strengthened the lower control arm brackets. Total cost for the project has been approximately $20-25 in steel, spray paint, and consumables.

    Performance:
    UPDATE:  Over the last 4 years I've whacked the brackets on a number of rocks.  To date not one has bent again.  I'd say this mod has held up VERY well over time.  In the case of the weld-on flange rod the edge of the frame brackets have tripled in thickness. And by boxing in the axle brackets the chance of the bracket tabs getting knocked askew is virtually eliminated by the skid acting as a shear brace.

    Road testing the new arms and straightened brackets has been great. All the clanking and creeking noises have disappeared. The handling and ride has improved as well and it feels like I have a new Jeep again. This exercise has certainly been worth the time and very modest expense.

    Leasons Learned:
    A few aftermarket companies make pre-bent and pre-cut front axle bracket skid plates for approx $25 tha are ready to weld. For a modest cost these save some hours of measuring, cutting and shaping of the steel. Were I to do this over I would have purchased a set of the pre-made weld-on skids as a time saver. The rear axle bracket skids are easy enough to fabricate out of flat bar stock and take significantly less time to make These I'd definitely recommend fabricating yourself.



    3a) INSTALLATION - FRAME BRACKETS

    Tools:
    Use of a welder, angle grinder are critical for this project. In addition, a pipe wrench made an excellent bracket bending tool. ratchet straps help suck the axle back into place making control arm re-installation easier. A dremel tool is needed for close-quarters grinding and cleaning of the front axle brackets. Beyond these is just basic mechanics tools.

    Note:
    Remove one control arm at a time. The remaing control arms help keep the axle located.

    Preparation:
    The process for the frame brackets are the same front and back. Note how damaged and misshapen the frame bracket is (Fig 1). Remove the control arm (Fig 2) and assess the bracket. Using the pipe wrench (Fig 3), place the jaws over the bent bracket ears and re-bend. This is a very controlled way to re-shape the bracket compared to smacking things with a mallet. Also, the control arm bolt was reinserted and snugged down to keep the bracket ears aligned during bending. Note how straight the bracket ears can be reshaped to (Fig 4.). Finally, use the angle grinder to grind off the paint around the welding area as well as de-burring the outer edge and reshaping any lumps.



    Fig 1. Front frame bracket was severely bent and distorted along with the
    control arm which was also replaced.




    Fig 2. Remove control arm and asses bracket




    Fig 3. Using special tool #3489, carefully re-bend bracket ears into
    original shape.  One of the suspension bolts was reinstalled to help keep the
    ears from spreading during the re-bending process.




    Fig 4. The re-straightened bracket.



    Flange Fabrication:
    With the ears now straightened, hold up a piece of cardboard and trace the outline of the bracket (Fig 5). Using a bench vice and mallet shape a piece of 1/4" steel rod to the profile traced on the cardboard (Fig 6). Once you get the hang of it the shaping process doesn't take much time. Test fit the flange against the bracket (Fig 7). Due to the factory facets in the bracket you'll need to fine tune the flange so it sits flat on all the facets.

    Note: Be sure to allow for sufficient clearance around the bolt hold for the bolt and washer/nut.

    Lastly, weld the new flange to the bracket by first tack welding it down, then welding both sides of the flange rod (Fig 8). Make sure the flange extends up to the frame and overlaps with the ramped portion of the bracket.



    Fig 5. Using an angle grinder, remove the old paint and get down to
    bare metal for welding.  While at it, grind down any burrs or protrusions. 
    Then trace the profile of the bracket onto a piece of cardboard for a
    template.




    Fig 6. Using the template and a precision bending machine, bend the
    1/4" steel rod to the shape.  Keep the shape of the rod "inside" the outer
    edge of the bracket profile you traced.




    Fig 7. Test fit the new flange rod.  Some tweaking will be required to
    ensure the rod fits flat against all the bracket facets.




    Fig 8. Weld the flange rod onto the bracket. 
    This tripled the edge thickness of the bracket ears.



    Clean-up and Finish:
    Using a wire wheel, wire cup thingy, and/or steel brush clean up the weld area for painting (Fig 9). Lastly put on a couple coats of paint for protection (Fig 10). In this case I used an industrial quality Rustoleum, black. After a few runs it'll dirty up again and blend in with the rest of the frame.



    Fig 9. With the wire wheel and steel brush hit the bracket to get rid
    of any welding residue and clean it for painting.




    Fig 10. Spray on a couple coats of good paint to protect the steel
    from corrosion and rusting.  Don't worry, after a few wheel'n runs the fresh
    paint will get dirty and blend in with the rest of the frame.





    3b) INSTALLTION - AXLE BRACKET MINI SKID PLATES

    Preparation:
    Like the frame brackets, re-bend then grind/clean the area to be welded (Fig 11). The use of a dremel tool is invaluable for the front axle brackets as thre are a number of places it's hard to manouver the angle grinder to.



    Fig 12. The mini-skids after welding the pieces together.  Ready to
    weld to the axle bracket[/B]



    Clean-up and Finish:
    Lastly, the final cleaning and painting put the final touches on this project (Fig 13).



    Fig 13. The new skids welded to the front axle brackets and painted.



    Rear Brackets:
    The rear brackets are much simpler to make since there are no side-skirts needed for control arm clearance. (Fig 14)



    Fig 14. The rear axle brackets were much more straightforward to
    fabricate.  Just bend the end of a 3" wide plate and notch at the bend for it
    to fit between the bracket ears.
    « Last Edit: February 02, 2013, 02:38:49 AM by Lupinsea »

  • kizer

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    Re: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « Reply #1 on: July 30, 2008, 04:06:05 PM »
    Heck nothing short of scanning those templates that's pretty cool.

  • Lupinsea

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    Re: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « Reply #2 on: July 30, 2008, 05:14:57 PM »
    This was what I was working and finished up at 1am the night before our Naches/Manastash run.  I was really looking forward to good control arms and straight brackets on the trail.  But no, my Jeep had to have a leak.

    Speaking of which, I got the rig back to the guy in my club and he's taking care of it.  He's really puzzled about the big leak and will talk to the tranny supplier about it.

  • Jeepster

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    Re: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « Reply #3 on: August 10, 2008, 11:17:31 PM »
    I like the welded those braces...
    Simple step by step procedures and nicely done...

    archebald23

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    Re: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « Reply #4 on: January 28, 2010, 10:36:32 PM »
    yeah, thumbs up. those done on a garage would have cost you a fortune. one question though, what if in the future you need to replace your axle bracket or your control arm, wouldnt it too difficult to remove since it was welded?
    « Last Edit: February 02, 2010, 12:18:54 AM by archebald23 »

  • Lupinsea

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    Re: TJ's LCA Bracket Reinforcing
    « Reply #5 on: February 01, 2010, 07:59:43 PM »
    It wouldn't be any more difficult than removing the stock control arm brackets as those are welded to the axle housing, too.  And I didn't do anything to affect the clearance on the bracketry so the control arms and be popped in and out like normal.

    The lower skids actually significantly beef up the front brackets by boxing in the two vertical fins.  By boxing it in it braces the fins from any lateral deformation.

    If you wanted to have a pro do this it should cost too much.  Several companies sell these weld-on skid for $25 / pair.  They're all pre-bent and pre-cut.  Just take these and your rig to a welder.  Shouldn't take more than 10-15 min of welding if you do the prep and grinding.