Cars, Computers, & Random Thoughts
DSM Steering & Suspension: Down The Rabbit Hole
DSM Steering & Suspension: Down The Rabbit Hole

DSM Steering & Suspension: Down The Rabbit Hole

So I’ve sort of run out of things to change on the engine as it sits. I had a few last small things to add while it’s on the stand, but I really need to get it on the hoist to move forward. My brother has been having difficulty completing another engine swap, meaning the engine hoist is just beyond being usable to me. So for now I got some new gaskets, added an EGR block-off plate (hi EPA!), attached the thermostat housing and water pipe that runs across the front, and added a Purolator oil filter (PureOne PL10193 for those wondering). I also painted my battery holder and some other small parts like the radiator supports. Pic dump!


Some information: EGR stands for exhaust gas recirculation. It’s one of those great smog related contraptions that recirculates exhaust fumes into the intake. The thinking behind this is that you will improve efficiency by burning unused fuel from the first cycle. In reality you get a grody intake manifold and hot air injected into *the* part of the combustion cycle that benefits from cold air. So most people remove that and use a block off plate to stop the intake mess, clean up a lot of now-unused vacuum tubes, and make things look a little neater underhood. Plus, you need to do this if you want to run a speed density setup, which we’ll get into much later.
So anyway, having some free time to work on things other than the engine is actually a good thing as it’s made me think about the suspension, steering components, brakes, and transmission. I need to clean the transmission and, after a thorough check of all the aforementioned equipment, a lot of replacing to do. Take a look at the transmission below, it’s filthy, the throw-out bearing is in good shape but I’ll be replacing it as the clutch I ordered came with an SKF throw-out bearing, which saves me nearly $35.


So it’s been a pretty slow week for work on the Laser, lots of research and ordering. Some pondering and then more ordering, and finally, waiting. I did a lot of research to find out what other people have done with their suspension setups, brake setups, and what parts people like/don’t like.
In doing so I ran across the good old big brake upgrade in which you retrofit larger 2-piston calipers to the wheel hub of a first generation FWD DSM. Some of the first gen AWD models actually came with those calipers, but it’s cheaper (or was for me) to find another car that uses the same caliper as the prices are mysteriously lower. In all, you need the pads, rotors, caliper, and caliper hardware from the donor car. I was able to find a great price on calipers for a 1992 Diamante as well as a rotor & pad kit, so I’m all set there! This increases the braking surface and is a great upgrade for track driving, plus it’s super popular so there are plenty of forums to let you know what will and won’t work.


With Saturdays round of deliveries in my hands, I set about actually taking apart some of the stuff I plan on replacing. When pulling the transmission on these cars you generally remove the half shafts, which means you also remove the wheels. We took it a bit further, removing the brake equipment and suspension, so I was already pretty well set to replace my control arms on the front. I haven’t uploaded it yet, but I’ve already replaced the control arms on the Mazda so I have the process down pretty well.
I started by cutting off the sway bar end links because they weren’t playing nice with the wrench and socket, plus I plan to replace them anyway. I also moved my caliper out of the way, don’t let them hang like mine are as it very well can ruin the hydraulic lines. Again, I can be sloppy here as I’ll be replacing those as well.


Next up is the steering knuckle. I had a bit of fun with the cotter pin in the castle nut on the outer tie rod end, but was able to eventually wiggle it out and get the knuckle and tie rod separated. There is a nut holding the knuckle to the control arm, and the knuckle will want to move with that nut. I was able to rest it on the sway bar using a lug nut on one of the wheel studs. This allowed me to get enough torque on there to remove it, so I took it off and moved to the underside of the control arm.
Here you will find two bolts that are incidentally the hardest bolts you’ll ever remove, as well as two nuts holding a plate to the under body of the car. One bolt is quite long, and the other is pretty short, but they both have about the same amount of thread are both very likely rusted. The control arm has a rear bushing that snuggles up between that plate we’re removing and the undercarriage. It’s likely these bolts have never been removed so have fun.
A lift is optimal, experience has taught me that lying on the ground and trying to put more torque on these bolts than it should take to loosen them is sub-optimal. But its doable! Two words: asphalt abrasions. Also, you’re hands will hurt from the amount of pressure you need to use. I need a lift.


Now you’ll need to remove the bolt that runs through the forward control arm bushing. This one it easiest if you do it last as you can drop the rear of the control arm a bit and make some more space. You may need a wrench on the back of the bolt in order to get the nut off the front. Once the nut is off, wiggle the control arm while pulling or pushing on the bolt so that it backs out. Once that is out (or out of the control arm bushing anyway) the control arm is free to run wild.


The control arm likely has that steering knuckle hanging off the ball joint yet. Both of mine did this, so I carried them to the garage and gave them some persuasion. The control arms themselves are still good, but all the bushing are gone and the ball joints are bad as well. I priced everything out, and it was cheaper to pick up a pair of control arms with everything installed from 1aauto rather than buying the ball joints and bushings and install them. Plus, to do the ball joint the control arm comes out anyway.
Anyway, I moved over to the other side and repeated the process. I even broke the sawzall blade on the sway bar end link just like when I did them on the Mazda!


So after removing both of those, I took my new controls arms to the garage and painted them with POR-15, along with those bushing plates for the rear of the control arm as those trap water and get quite rusty.


By then the sun was set, but it was still nice and warm out so I went ahead and finally got my exhaust wrapped with some Thermo-Tec copper exhaust wrap. The first exhaust picture is showing the method I used to tie the wrap on. A lot of people use stainless steel zip ties, but I don’t like that look and they aren’t worth the cost for me. Luckily, we ran across a guy at the Iola car show that was selling this ingenious wire wrapping contraption. There are several different ties you can make with it, but I prefer the look of the double hitch. The pictures should help explain a little bit of what’s going on.


You prepare the initial tie with the wire (mechanics wire in this case) and then fit the wire into the tip of the contraption (I’m blanking on the name right now). Next, you wrap the free ends of the wire around the pegs and use the wing nut to start tightening things up. Once you have it tight enough, you flip the whole thing over so the wire almost makes a loop, then cut the very bottom near the tip. Tuck those wires in and you’re set. This thing is freaking amazing, and works great and looks great on pretty much anything. You’ll see more of it, maybe I’ll even remember what it’s called!
Once the exhaust is all wrapped, you give it another spray down with Thermo-Tec wrap coating to help it resist water (especially important if your exhaust system isn’t stainless). I didn’t end up using all of my wrap, so I’ll be wrapping a little further back if I get the time. Here, have a nice before and after painting shot.


With that done, it was time to head inside and grab some pizza and apple pie. Murica!

I should have my new struts and strut mounts this week along with many other parts to add to the car. Control arms will go back on, then the struts, and then the brake hardware. As I mentioned, I need to clean my transmission and replace some axle seals, and my rear brake calipers will be getting a rebuild if they aren’t too far gone. So I should have plenty to show you all next week!

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