Installing a Bushing Without a Press
If you don’t have access to a hydraulic press, as very few of us do, there is a simple and inexpensive alternative to installing a suspension bushing. Using tools we had laying around, and a trip to the hardware store, we built a homemade bushing installer that did the job quickly and efficiently. More importantly, the hardware cost was under $10. In this article we’ll show you how to make your own bushing installer and give you some dos and don’ts to make your install go as smoothly as possible.
- Removing the OE Bushing
- Bushing Installer Parts: Do’s and Don’ts
- Tips and Tricks for a Smooth Installation
- Installing the Bushing
For those of you visual learners.
Removing the OE Bushing
Before you can install your new bushing, you have to remove the old one. If you need help removing your OE bushing, check out our How-To Burn Out Bushings: The Right Way article.
**Be sure to consult your installation instructions before you remove the outer shell, as a lot of aftermarket bushings require the use of the OE shell.** But for those of you with bushings that have a new outer shell, please read below to see how we installed a bushing without a hydraulic press.
Sand and Polish the Housing
Once you have removed the OE bushing and shell, you should be left with an empty housing. Its a good idea to sand and polish the inner diameter of the housing before you install anything in order to clean up any corrosion, contaminants or rust that may have accumulated. The last thing you want is a sharp edge in there that damages your new bushing when you install it. Additionally, a clean and polished housing will reduce friction, allowing the new bushing to be installed more easily.
Bushing Installer Parts: Do’s and Don’ts
Once your housing is prepped, you are ready to build your bushing installer. Full disclosure: The first bushing installer we built failed, hard. It just wasn’t strong enough to provide the force necessary to install the bushing. So throughout the description of this installer, when we say “you don’t want to use” something, it’s because we tried it and it failed.
Sockets or Pipe
We used a set of sockets because we had a set available, so if you have a socket set you can use that. But if you don’t have one, and you don’t want to go spend a hundred dollars on a nice set of sockets, don’t worry. You can do the same thing with two pieces of 3 dollar metal pipe. You will need a piece of pipe with the same diameter as the bushings, and a second piece of pipe with a larger diameter that will brace itself against the housing you’re installing the bushings into.
Important Notes about Nuts and Bolts
Now that you have your sockets, or pipes, you need a threaded bolt to go through the entire contraption. A few important things about the nuts and bolts:
Use a Grade 8 bolt, not a Grade 5
A Grade 8 bolt can be identified very easily. On the head of the bolt you’ll see a number of lines. If there are 6 lines on the head, that’s a Grade 8, if there are 3 lines, that’s a Grade 5.
The first bushing installer we built used a Grade 5 All Thread rod. The threads on the Grade 5 were too soft and failed under pressure when we were installing the bushing into the housing. When we switched to a Grade 8 bolt, we wondered why we ever tried anything else.
Use a Coarse thread, not a Fine thread
With our brilliant minds (sarcasm) we thought surely to use a fine threaded rod. The more threads there are, the less force needed to complete a turn on a thread. Thus reducing the amount of strength required to push the bushing in. That was the thought anyways. But in practice, the fine threads were weaker and failed under the stress. A coarse thread is stronger and more durable for a task that requires as much force as installing a bushing.
Use the largest diameter bolt allowed
This bolt will have a lot of stress on it to install the bushing, so you’ll need a beefy bolt. But this bolt will have to fit through the inner sleeve of your bushing. Be sure to get the largest diameter bolt as allowed by your inner sleeve size.
Long Grade 8 Bolts usually have little threading
Now this is where we had to stop and put our thinking caps on. The whole point of the bushing installer was to tighten two nuts, causing the sockets to push against the bushing on one side, and the housing on the other, pushing the bushing into the housing. So we needed a threaded bolt that would allow us to torque the bushing all the way in. This is why we originally used the all thread rod, lots of threads. But once that failed, we tried to find a Grade 8 bolt that would work. Unfortunately the Grade 8 bolts at our local hardware store had a short thread length. Once we threaded the nut down to where it touched the socket, we had maybe one or two turns of thread left. After we pouted for a minute a light-bulb came on. Washers! Using a stack of washers as shims we were able to use the entire thread and then some. Once we torqued the the nut to the end of the thread, we took the nut off and added more washers to reset the bolt to the end of the thread.
Use a tall nut
The taller the nut, the more threads the nut has. Our first nut was short. When we switched to Grade 8, we had to switch nuts as well. The taller nut had way more threads, allowing the force to spread on a larger portion of the bolt, putting less stress on each individual thread. Now all you need is two wrenches (or one wrench and pair of vice grips) and you have your home-made bushing installer.
Tips and Tricks before you Install
Before you start torquing there are a few other tips and tricks you can use to make your install smoother.
Lubricate the bolt
This was a critical step in our success. The first go around we didn’t lubricate the bolt. The nut got really hot (to the touch) because of all the friction. That heat softened the metal, making the rod not only too weak to install the bushing, but we actually destroyed the thread. On the grade 8 bolt we lubricated the thread. It reduced friction, which reduced the heat, allowing the metal to stay strong.
Lubricate the housing with oil
We also lubricated the housing with oil. The oil helped the bushing slide in by reducing friction. Additionally, a coat of oil will protect your freshly polished metal from corrosion.
Freeze the bushing
Huh? Yeah you read that right. Science backs its up. Metal contracts in the cold. We put the bushing in the freezer for 24 hours before the install to help contract the bushing. Now it didn’t make the bushing just drop in, but even the slightest decrease in the bushing diameter can make all the difference.
Installing the Bushing
Now you are ready to install. Use a wrench or vice grips to hold one of the nuts tight. Then torque the other nut with a wrench. As the socket pushes the bushing, the opposite socket acts as a brace, pressing up against the housing essentially pressing the bushing into the housing. After a few minutes, the bushing was entirely in the housing, all without a press.
Once we had the right tools, the process was very simple. We even used the same tool to remove the bushing and then put it BACK in. It’s really all about having the right tools. So if you are have trouble installing your bushing with your homemade bushing installer, remember:
- Find the Right Size Sockets or Pipes
- Use a Grade 8 Bolt
- Coarse threads, not Fine threads
- Use the largest diameter bolt possible
- Use washers as shims to reset thread
- Tall nut beats short nut everyday
Making sure you have the proper tools for the job is key to your success. But don’t forget these helpful tips and tricks:
If you have any other questions comment below or contact our DST customer service team. Share you successes and failures (if you dare) in the comments below? Was anybody surprised about the freezing the bushing tip?