I decided it was time to install the roller bearing idler arm I had purchased from Opentracker. My old idler arm was actually in good shape, but I was hoping that the roller bearing version might help with steering effort and maybe tighten the steering up a bit. It should be an easy install and I was feeling motivated, so I jumped right in.
Here is a picture of the idler arm ready to install. Notice that there is a castellated nut and cotter pin where the idler arm attaches to the frame bracket just below the lower mounting hole. This became a minor issue which I will discuss later in this post.
For comparison, here’s what the old idler arm that I removed looked like.
The first step was to remove the old idler arm. I was afraid I would have issues removing the tie rod end from the idler arm, but when I unbolted it the tie rod end slipped right out without the need for the tie rod end puller tool I had purchased. The frame bracket bolts also came out without a hitch. So far so good.
When I attempted to install the new idler arm, I was unable to put the nut on the lower frame bracket bolt. The castellated nut and stud attaching the idler arm to the frame bracket was partially blocking the hole in the frame bracket. My first instinct was to grind down the stud that was protruding through the castellated nut just enough for everything to fit. I decided against this plan as I was concerned that I might get metal bits in one of the roller bearings or weaken something. For plan B, I chose to install the lower bolt backwards since the head of the bolt was able to clear the protruding stud and castellated nut. This is backwards from how it would normally be installed, but I didn’t see a good reason why it wouldn’t work.
Once I had come up with this plan, the new idler arm bolted into place with no issues. I will be getting a front end alignment in the next few days, weather permitting, and then take the car for a test drive. Hopefully all this work will make a noticeable difference in how the car rides and handles. Since I only made a couple of changes (Arning drop and roller bearing idler arm), I should be able to get a good handle on how much the Arning drop affects handling.