removing leaves from front beam to soften...(May 2018)

I really want to soften my front suspension.  My car rides like the wheels are bolted to the chassis.  I've chipped teeth running over pebbles.  Searching the archives I found a thread that talked about removing leaves from the front torsion bars.  Does anyone have any experience with how many leaves to remove and from which torsion bar for the weight of our cars to make the ride softer and not bottom out?  I only want to do this once.  Should the upper and lower torsion bars be done to match?

Thanks in advance,                                                                                                              Craig

Technically, according to Chemistry, Alcohol IS a solution.

Original Post

First- what front shocks are on the car? If the car has stiff shocks (I first wrote "if you have stiff shocks", but the juvenile male in me...) then changing suspension spring rate won't do anything. Next is how is the car lowered? Has 1 tube been turned more than the other? If the tubes are cut, turned (and re-welded) the car will ride best with both tubes turned the same amount. 40 years ago I ran a Cal Look bug with lowered about 4" with a Select a drop (it rotates the top tube down while the bottom tube remains at stock position and puts all the suspension action on the bottom tube) and the front rode horribly (the evil little 135's and Koni's didn't help either)!

I don't think pulling torsion leaves in any of the above scenarios will achieve what you're looking for. Otoh, if the car is lowered with spindles, has stock front shocks and the beam tubes are stock (or cut/rotated the same) then yeah, removing leaves may do the trick. I have read about guys pulling 1 set of  small leaves out of each tube, 1 set and 1 full leaf (again, out of each tube), and all the small leaves out of both tubes (mostly in buggies, iIrc). I'm sorry to say that I don't remember any of the outcomes. I think a couple guys have done it here, but again, don't remember any specifics. Maybe ask on the Samba's 'Kit Car, Fiberglass Buggy, 356 Replica' forum? Al

https://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewforum.php?f=38

Craig, have you checked the tire pressure yet? The tire manufacturer recommends way more pressure than these light-front end cars need. I'm only running about 18lbs in my front tires and that made a big difference. Also, the shocks could just be too stiff for the car. With the reduced weight in the front end of these cars there is nothing to compress the shock which can make the ride harsh.

I've heard of people removing some leaves like Al says.

That being said, My Vintage Motorcars Spyder has a full complement of leaves but it's a 2" narrowed beam. Shorter leaves makes the spring rate

I know the Formula Vee guys remove ALL the leaves in one tube and install an anti-sway bar in the tube. But a Vee weighs what, 800-900 pounds total?

A stock Bug is 1800-1850(as was a 356) and some Speedsters are 1700 pounds or more. There are a couple Speedsters that are lighter. My Spyder weighs 1500 pounds total with 45%(675 pounds) on the front. A stock Bug has 630-700 pounds on the front so I'm thinking the spring rate should stay the same if the weight is the same.

Try this: Jack up the front of the car and grease the front beam(it should have zerks on it). One zerk for each trailing arm bushing. Take it for a ride. Any better? if no, remove the shocks, then take it for a ride. If you determine the shocks were too stiff, buy some nice black COFAP stock Bug shocks. If that doesn't fix it then maybe remove a couple leaves.

And tire pressure: I run 22-23 in front, 25 on long trips at highway speeds. 18 is too little, sidewalls are too soft at that pressure with modern tires(IMHO).

Thanks Al, Robert and Danny.  I'll do some checking tomorrow on your questions.  Shocks are KYB Nitrogen, will check model when I get it up off the floor.  Car has stock spindles, not lowering ones.  My beam is adjustable, I'll post pics.  The two center holding nuts are not in the same location, but close.  Tire pressure was the first thing I did when I bought this brick.  Lowered to 18-20 with no result, ride still stiff.  I went back up to 25-28PSI because I have 205 55 15's on the front and at 18-20 it took two people to turn the wheel when parking or backing to turn out of drive.  We are in a 5 day rain delay until I can test it without shocks.  That's my next try.  Any advice on the best SOFT shocks to buy?  There is not an Advance Auto around here that sells "used" shocks.  I even put more foam on the drivers seat bottom.  Didn't help.  I may mount seats with springs next or rubber bushing in place of the hard spacers.

Craig

Cofap shocks. Oil filled. LoPo. They work.

Take out moar air. Build up yer muscles.

Then (if necessary) take out small leaves. Bridget (my MGTD) has all six small leaves removed from each of the beam. Only the eight large leaves are left. Doing that took the ride height down (now a bit too much—six years later I'm probably gonna put a few back in!) but the ride quality—with lopo oil-filled shocks and 165/80-15 Nankangs running 16 lbs improved a bunch.

Speedsters have better weight distribution than Bridget. After the shocks (cheap ones!) and removing most of the air from the tires I'd start, in your case, by removing 3 small leaves from each beam. That will take the spring rate down to something close to ideal, but beware, as it will also give you more roll. You DO have the larger 5/8(?) sway bar up front, right? 

 

It would seem strange if 98% of the cars heard of on here have never had leaves removed from the torsion stack and they all ride just fine while yours doesn't.

Like Stan, my money would be on those gas shocks, but I would also grease the front trailing arm bushings, too, as Danny mentioned.  That's just as important.  And not just one or two squirts on each either - There are four grease fittings; top and bottom on each outside end of the torsion tubes on the front side of the tubes and it sounds like they might be dry, so put 6 - 10 squirts into each one, road test and then do the shocks.  Get the softest, oil-filled shocks you can find for a VW sedan of your pan vintage and you should be all set.

He's lowered at the beam. Running oil shocks for a car lowered with adjusters from one of the many VW places online (like these, from CIP1) would be the best bet, in the event that it really is the shocks.

As I said, my money is on the shocks-- but a dry beam is no bueno, and dry bushings will make it ride like a log-wagon as well.

@craig- I hate to be the 1 to suggest this, but if tire pressure isn't too high, greasing the beam and removing/changing shock absorbers doesn't find the problem there are 2 things to check.

First check that the ball joints were properly oriented when they were installed-   balljoint notch alignment 

The ball joints need to be correctly aligned to function properly. If 1 or more aren't the front will ride rough and the ball joint itself will self destruct faster than normal- how fast I don't know, but they all need to be in the same plane as the trailing arm movement. You can see the damage that's been caused belowballjoint notch alignment- not correct2nd- The beam itself could be bent. If it was brand new when installed in the car then it'll be fine but if it came out of a donor car (and that car was sold for parts because it rear ended something) it's something to check. If it's bent on 1 side (I've seen just the bottom tube tweaked and it doesn't take much) the trailing arms will bind when they move and make the car ride rough. 

Hope this helps. Al 

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I think there were two balljoint issues a while back.

One was where they were installed without paying attention to the index arrows that are supposed to be lined up which caused binding during use.

The other one was Asian replacement balljoints that would become stressed somehow  when assembled to the trailing arms and then would bind and be stiff.  I think @chines1 Carey Hines had a few of those and alerted us to them.  IIRC, if you got Brazilian VARGA units they were OK.  And, of course, the German ones have always been good.

Wanted to say thanks for all the feedback so far.  Right after I started this post we had guests come to stay and they are leaving today sometime, so I will get into the front end tomorrow to see what's up.  Didn't know about aligning the ball joints.  Would hate to have to have them pressed out and back in.  Will keep everyone posted as I see what I've got.  I'm hoping the shocks are the culprit.

Craig

OK Ladies and Gentlemen, update #1.  Shocks Are KYB GR 2.  Car has less than 8000 miles since build so these are fairly new.  Ball joints are all aligned correctly.  These were new 2000 miles ago.  Tires had 24 PSI in them this morning.  There are NO grease fittings on the ends of my beam (top and bottom).  I put new trailing arm bushings on 2000 miles ago and packed the ends of the tubes around the torsion leafs with grease when I did that.  Attached are pics of the shocks, trailing arms/bushings, and the beam adjusters.

I disconnected both shocks from the lower trailing arms and went for a ride.  OK difference, but not the amount I expected.  I thought the car would be all over the place and not really drivable but the ride shocked me into exclaiming, "What the hell do I need Shocks for?".  I slalomed the car drastically side to side at 25 MPH as a Nascar warming up tires, and It controlled well.  I came back to the house and reduced the front tire air to 20PSI, went back out and said, No big change.  Yes, I'm not cracking teeth on pavement grooves, but it still wasn't a soft ride.  When I hit a bump (small pavement crack) It sounds like the body is going to come off the chassis or as if there is something loose in the front suspension.  I've looked at everything under the front and do not see loose members or parts.  My next move is going to be removing the KYB's and getting softer shocks, even if I don't feel the difference.  If My next move becomes the arduous task of removing leaves, I'll pass and live with it.  I'm getting tired of working on a car that is so simple, it cannot possibly be this much of a pain in the ass. 

I don't want to change the beam adjusters because I don't want to effect the caster, which I spent a day getting better than it was.  I'm going to try the old "Dead Body in the front boot" idea to see if more weight changes anything.  If anyone has any other ideas, please pass them on.

Thanks, Craig

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Here's shot of where the grease fitting are on H-beam.  It's a '65 link pin but location should be same.  They could have been ripped off or maybe a plastic plug is there and has to be removed to add metric grease zerk fiting.  Humm - no anti-sway bar at all? I don't see a steering damper shock but can't see the steering box either. Wonder why adjusters are set different - appears riding hard on 1 set of torsion bar spring and not on other.  Try Googling for Avis adjustment instructions.

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Thanks @WOLFGANG, I didn't realize they might be inboard of the vertical shock towers.  I just looked and there are only holes, no fittings.  I'll add them this week. There IS a steering dampener.  I was going to put on a front sway bar, but read that it would stiffen the ride, so I chose not to.  I do have a rear sway bar.   Today's test ride is going to be putting my wife in the front boot.  She's got good flexibility.

Craig

At first I thought the outer needle bearings might be rusted to the control arms but I do see the substitute red poly bushings.  I'd still pump is lots of Molybdenum grease - until it oozes out.  I don't think an anti sway bar stiffens ride going straight - just around hard corners (when you want it).  VW added the front one in early '60 to keep a higher center of gravity bug right side up - a Z shaped rear bar was added briefly in late 60's (69?).  I read ages ago that you should not add just one - you should do both front and rear for handling predictability.  If you get out to NW FL I'm sure I have a stock skinny bug bar (you might have to mod front bumper brackets though).  I might also have a rusted out beam with greasy intact bar springs for experimentation. 

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Craig,

When you (or someone) installed those Urethane bushings on the trailing arms, did you/they lube them inside with Urethane Bushing Grease?  If not, they will have dried out in 2000 miles and either be stiff, squeak or both.

And you can’t “just add grease fittings” to the beam, right now, as there is no place for the grease to go.  If you intall fittings, they’ll be pushing up against the Urethane bushing with no place for the grease to go.  Before you install the fittings (pressed in or threaded), you must drill a hole at the fitting locations through the urethane bushing so the grease can get to the inside of the bushing to lube against the trailing arm shoulder.

Use a drill that fits through the fitting location holes, preferably of a size that you can run a tap into the Urethane that is the same size as the threads on the fitting (or just screw the fitting right in to the Urethane and let it cut its own threads, but you’ll still need a suitably-sized hole, like 3/16” or so).  Drill through the Urethane until you hit the trailing arm shoulder and no more.  That hole will be the passage to get the grease from your gun to the space between the bushing and arm - shoot it in til it comes out the end of the bushing.  It will take a few pumps.

There is special grease for Urethane (“Prothane” sells it) but unless you can get it into a grease gun it might not be for you.  I would just get an automotive grease with a high Molybdenum content and have at it.  Not quite professional, but it’ll work.

Good luck!

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