Offroad Trailblazers and Envoys

Custom Upper Control Arms

Any special projects involving a decent amount of fab work (bumpers, sliders, roof racks, etc)

by Trail X » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:16 pm

Due to the UCA failures I've seen in the past, and the constant replacing of upper ball joints due to the boot being destroyed by being over stressed, I decided to take on making myself some new beefy UCAs that fix the angle.

First step is creating a welding fixture:
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Original plan, M14 heims with spacers:
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I didn't like the heims, thought they looked way too spindly. So I found some 9/16" Johnny Joints, and decided to see what they looked like. Much better:
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Computer layouts:
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First rough layouts with the cnc plasmad parts. The main "wu tang" plate is 1/2" thick, the pinch is 1" thick:
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Coupling nuts are the connection points for the JJs. Thread is 1"-14
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Comparison shot, stock vs new plan:
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Machining drawing for the pinch bolts:
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Machined, had to extend the slot a bit further so the bolt could actually pinch the stud... the original plan was too stiff. Terminated the slot in a hole so there's no crack propagation point.
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Layout didn't look perfect at first, had to take off a sliver of about 1/4" of material from the "wu tang" plate around the pinch plate.
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Welded:
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Detail of the welds, they weren't all perfect, but most of them looked good. Had to grind down a couple here and there:
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Masked for powder:
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Finished products:
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Installed left side:
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Fitment was a bit tight. What I didn't realize was that the bushings in the stock UCAs allow for some axial movement when installing the UCAs to the bucket. Mine didn't. So I had to grind out about 1/16" of material from the JJ arbors.

Note the lock nut on the inside of the bucket. I was worried that the tight JJs would work the mounting bolt loose. Also to note, the stock bolts are too short for JJs, had to get some new 10.9 class M14s, 100mm long for the attachment bolts. The front bolt on the pass side was too long though and hit the washer bottle upon my first attempt at install. Had to cut it down to about 90mm and it barely fit.

Installed right side:
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Better picture with better light:
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Did a little testing at my local proving ground, and saw no issues. The JJs are a bit tight right now, but everything seemed to work as expected. Really firmed up the front end (but found my outer tie rods are shot... DOH):
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Ball joint angle still not perfect, I guess my measurements were a tad off, but a ton better than the stock UCA... even flipped. I should have angled the pinch plate back a bit more, I did 9 degrees of tilt on that axis, must be closer to 14:
Image
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by DustinC1989 » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:34 pm

Very nice

Any plans to try 14 degrees tilt, or content with 9?
Also any plans to make them to order?
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by Moots1288 » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:36 pm

they look awesome dude
Last edited by Trail X on Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: removed huge quote
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by dvanbramer88 » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:39 pm

That certainly looks different. Pretty cool James. Nice work. :cheers:
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by v7guy » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:41 pm

Woohoo!

Looking forward to seeing them at TECORE
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by NC_IslandRunner » Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:47 pm

Awesome!
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by The Roadie » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:09 pm

Inconceivable! Drool. And you can adjust the JJ to finally get us decent camber adjustability?
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by Chango » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:11 pm

Very nice. Good work!
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by Trail X » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:33 pm

DustinC1989 wrote:Very nice

Any plans to try 14 degrees tilt, or content with 9?
Also any plans to make them to order?

Nah, I'm fine with it for now. No plans to mass produce them. Maybe Barton would be willing to take it up.

The Roadie wrote:Inconceivable! Drool. And you can adjust the JJ to finally get us decent camber adjustability?

Yep, I can screw them in or our to adjust. It's a pain to do, but yeah, it gives me that adjustability that is needed.
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by mikekey » Sat Jan 11, 2014 10:12 pm

Damn, knew I should of been an engineer instead of a programer. Oh well. I've seen guys smarter than me do this on other forums for awhile, I'm surprised it took this long for one of the smart ones here to do it. Very impressive work James. :thumleft:

Any chance you'd be willing to share those cad details or measurements at some point in the future if you're not going the resell route?


BTW, that is one hell of an improvement over what we're all currently doing

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by Trail X » Sat Jan 11, 2014 10:47 pm

Yeah, I can share the plans. I don't think there's any way I'd have the time to make these, nor do I want to accept the liability that'd be put on my novice welding skills. Plans are one thing, and it would at least make it easier for someone to make themselves... but making it is another too. You probably need a welding fixture of some sort to set the spacing properly, you need access to 1/2" and 1" steel... and a way to cut them, a way to drill two holes in 1" steel, at a precise location and distance, and a way to weld 1" steel.

As I said, maybe I can talk to Barton or the liftmeister and see if they are interested in producing them. Maybe I can find some way to do it quickly and robustly, but I keep going back to not wanting to accept the potential liability of one breaking and causing a wreck.
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by Opeth » Sat Jan 11, 2014 10:56 pm

Awesome! I have a set laying around here I was going to try and drill out the spot welds holding the pinch bolt portion on and just turn them upside down and re-weld them in place. Just haven't had the time to play with them. If you did get mark or mike to make these I'd be in for a set.
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by Norcrosski » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:07 am

was just thinking of this today actually
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by HARDTRAILZ » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:46 am

Nicely done!
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by bartonmd » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:47 pm

Cool! Is 1/2" stronger the weak direction than the factory box construction?

Also, no way, no how, would I take on the liability for making suspension pieces, even with the REAL business insurance that I already have, that costs $2k/year. Making a spring spacer or something is one thing, but something that if it breaks, involves the suspension coming apart and a loss of control, no thanks!

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by mikekey » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:55 pm

How about machining pieces and leaving it on us to weld and take the liability.
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by bartonmd » Sun Jan 12, 2014 1:59 pm

FWIW, I can't get pieces that thick cut at work, as we have a punch press, not a laser or CNC plasma.

Even still, even just providing the pieces, there is more liability there than one should take on without insurance and an LLC.

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by mikekey » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:10 pm

Probably for the best, we don't want you any slower on those bumpers. :raspberry:

I think most people would be sticker shocked anyways, considering one of those Johnny Joints from pricing I've seen is about $40 each, that's only $160 into the project. Not counting Jame's time or the CNC pieces. Then you'd have to earn something for your time & liability.

This is probably best left in the realm of DIY.
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by bartonmd » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:14 pm

It wouldn't take much time at all, or backlog anything else, but it's strictly a liability thing.

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by Trail X » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:48 pm

bartonmd wrote:Cool! Is 1/2" stronger the weak direction than the factory box construction?

I wasn't worried about that direction and never did the math. The area right near the pinch plate is much stronger than the neck down, but as you get a little closer to the coupling nuts it might be closer to equal. Not sure. Its something i'd have to FEA to really tell you, and I'm not going to put the time into modeling the stock UCA.
bartonmd wrote:Also, no way, no how, would I take on the liability for making suspension pieces, even with the REAL business insurance that I already have, that costs $2k/year. Making a spring spacer or something is one thing, but something that if it breaks, involves the suspension coming apart and a loss of control, no thanks!

I kinda figured. There's a lot more risk with suspension stuff...
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