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This is, in effect, the continuation of my thread http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums...nt-stabilizer-endlinks-movement-question.html about slack in the front stabilizer (anti-roll) bar endlinks on my 2007 Outback.

There are probably different ways to tackle the job of replacing the endlinks, but this is what worked for me, at least this first time. (See below for what I would probably do next time.)


Here’s a photo of the right side endlink before the work began (also in the above-linked thread):



Both front links are the original factory parts. The car has about 105,000 km (65,000 miles). Now that I think back, it was around January 2013 that I noticed creaking in the suspension when moving slowly over small bumps in the roadway. Since then, as noted in the other thread, it must have progressed to the soft clunking that would be heard under the same circumstances.

The white markings visible in the photo are to help identify when the threaded shaft turns with the nut, which others have reported, and which the technicians at my dealer say is the biggest problem with this set-up.

The 2007 has two different nuts holding the endlink. The upper one is a crimped thread type, while the lower appears to be a regular flanged nut. In earlier years, and for MY2008+, both nuts are the crimped type. (See post #11 in the linked thread for more details and p/n.)

Here’s the replacement nuts.



The standard nuts do have serrations on the working face that, presumably, act to prevent it from backing off.

The first step was to try to clean the exposed threads as well as possible. I used a combination of penetrating oil (pre-soaked) and a battery terminal cleaning brush. This did a fair job of removing dirt and some of the rust.



I then started to back off the nuts using a 14 mm, 6 point, deep socket. The lower nut, however, required a breaker bar to get enough leverage to break the bind, but it started moving with the ratchet after that. The upper started and turned with the ratchet handle alone.

Unfortunately starting to back off the nuts and continuing the process was two different things. Both shafts began to turn very soon. I reverted to using a 5 mm hex key in the end of the shaft, having first cleaned out the opening as best I could, and a 14 mm box wrench.

This worked for a while until the hex key slipped in the opening (it only goes in a few mm) and rounded the opening enough that it wouldn’t hold.



The nut had been backed off a bit at this point, and there was room to get a vise-grip on part of the shaft on the joint side of the stabilizer bar (as other posts have suggested), while using the socket on the nut.



The vise-grip slipped off a few times until I managed to get it on really tight and straight (there’s only a narrow “disk” to grip), but from there it was just a matter of working the ratchet. (At this point I also started moving the nut back a couple of turns, then going forward a few notches, brushing off the threads, spraying again, and continuing. I believe this facilitated the removal by cleaning out material that was getting caught in the threads.)

The lower nut was equally hard to turn despite no visible evidence of it being a self-locking type. However, I was able to get it all the way using only the hex key to hold the shaft.

With both nuts off, the old link was removed, and it was quite evident that the upper joint was loose, more like “sloppy”, especially compared to the lower one, which was almost as tight as the new ones.

I cleaned the surfaces of the stabilizer bar and lower mount, installed the new link, and spun the new, standard nuts down the threaded shaft. (These are the nuts that the shop technicians use exclusively and they have never had a problem using them.)

With the nuts still loosely installed, I applied a drop of “thread locker” (blue/medium) to the threads of the shaft, and slowly tightened it down with the ratchet to a point that "felt right". (The torque on the oil pan drain plug is in the same range, and I was reasonably sure I was close to that by feel.) There was no sign of the shaft threatening to turn. (As with the old ones, I had put white marks on the new one to be able to see any movement.) I then used the 3/8-inch clicker torque wrench to ensure the nuts were close to the spec (33-34 lb-ft).



New right side end link installed:



I then did the left side, but this time once the nuts were initially broken free (and the shafts began to turn) I reverted to the hex key and box wrench, but only backed the nut off a full turn before reversing it a bit, cleaning the threads, re-lubricating, and then continuing. In both cases, the hex key held very well, and while, this way, it seems to take forever to manually back the nuts off completely, it was done without need for the vise-grips or frustration with the nut becoming jammed on the shaft.

Interestingly, both upper link joints were internally loose, while their lower joints were still tight. The reason for this, and the use of the crimp-type, self-locking nut on the upper end, became apparent when the car was lowered. As it came down, the wheels and suspension move up relative to the body. With the stabilizer bar mounted on the body and the link mounted on the suspension, the link moves up and down. The stabilizer bar, for the most part, is transverse, but at the ends it turns toward the back to connect to the link. Because of this, as the suspension moves up and down, the end of the stabilizer bar pivots at the upper connection with the end link. As the shaft of the joint is fixed to the bar by the nut, if the nut isn't tight enough to hold the stabilizer bar fixed between the nut and the disc on the other side, this pivoting action can, conceivably, cause the nut to back off. In addition, because of this pivoting action, the upper joint's ball (inside the joint) is constantly rotating back and forth within a small range, and this could seem to lead to more wear on this joint than the lower one, which doesn't seem to visibly move at all.

The joints themselves are made of a plastic “cup”, a metal shaft, and what appears to be a chromed ball encased in a plastic “cup”.

Here’s what the inside of the upper right joint looked like with the rubber boot peeled back.



There’s some sign of grease, but it’s “rusty” and probably not much good. No doubt the deterioration of the grease along with moisture led to the wear. (Incidentally, the large end of the rubber boot is crimped to the joint; the smaller end is snugly fitted on the shaft, but is not a 100% seal as the shaft has to be able to rotate.)

The following photo is the same joint after a quick flush with brake cleaner. Note the apparent corrosion on the ball. (The knurled disk between the ball and the threaded part is where the vise-grip had to hold the shaft from turning. This narrow surface led to it slipping off a few times until it could get a good grip.)



The joint is easily disassembled by cutting off the four plastic pieces that extend out the back of the joint (see the first photo above). This is what the plastic bearing cup looks like:



Here’s the heart of the joint after snapping off half of the plastic cup:


And, here’s the ball itself, which was once shiny and smooth, and now is clearly pitted and corroded. Inevitably, the rough surface would have also led to wear of the plastic cup and the slack that was apparent.



In retrospect, perhaps the easiest/quickest way to remove these links might be to clip off the plastic extensions behind the joints (I used a flush-cut wire cutter), pull the metal case away, break the plastic cup off the ball, and then grab the ball with a full size vise-grip, as had been suggested by ntippet in the linked thread.

Altogether, it took not more than 2 hours, with lining up the tools, cleaning the threads etc, taking my time getting the old nuts off, installing the new ones, tearing apart the joint to see what's inside, and stops for photos along the way.

I also checked the rear links. They don't appear to have the same slack, but I did find they could be twisted on the balls relatively easily, suggesting that the joints are not tight, and might well need to be replaced in the not-too-distant future. They have nuts on the "inside" which allow for the use of an open wrench, instead of the hex key, to hold the shaft while turning the nut on the outer side; however, posts I've read suggest that there's a risk that an open wrench will just end up rounding the inner nut if the outer nut becomes jammed on the shaft. As noted a couple of paragraphs earlier ("retrospect"), just disassembling the joints and grabbing it with a vise-grip would seem the easiest way to go if the old link is trash in any event.

As a final note, I'm wondering if there's a way to protect the exposed threads so that, if/when the links have to be replaced again, the nuts will be easier to remove (on clean threads). Ideas?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Another way to remove the nuts

As mentioned above, it might be easier from the start (or perhaps when the shaft starts to turn) to break the joint apart and get a good vise-grip hold on the ball end of the threaded shaft. Following is a bench demo of how I’d do it. This is using the old right side endlink.

The link was mounted on a small piece of plywood to simulate it being on the car. When the nut (on the other side) is turned, the whole shaft turns with it.



Clip off the plastic extensions on the back side of the joint. These will be fairly accessible (see first photo in the previous post). I’m using a flush cut wire cutter, but anything that will cut off the plastic close to the metal case will do.


We end up with



Use a pry bar or hammer or whatever you have to pry/knock the metal cover back. This will expose the plastic inner cup.



Pull the metal part off and this is what is left



Now, use the cutter or something similar to break the plastic cup. I cut the cup at the front (open) end at two places and it split in two.



Here's the exposed ball



With the plastic cup off, the ball can be held with the vise-grip while the nut on the other side is turned.



Additional note: This is the lower joint of the right side endlink, which was still tight. The ball is still nice and shiny, enough to see the reflection of my hand holding the camera. The grease also seemed to be in good condition, but we can see some corrosion starting at the lower end in the photo, where the rubber boot is "slip fit" on the shaft, so probably some moisture gets in here. (The small scratch-like marks on the ball are not scratches – they’re grease that I didn’t wipe off adequately.) Compare this to the last photo in the previous post.

 

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2004 Outback H4 5 speed manual
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Thanks for the informative and well documented post. I'll definitely be referring to this guide when my time comes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4

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2008 Outback 2.5i AT
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I wish I had this information last year when I changed the front endlinks. It took me forever to get the nuts off to free the endlink. I wound up cutting two of them off with a small carbide cutting wheel on a drill. I admit cutting off the cup to get to the ball would be a much better way and will keep in mind when the day comes to replace the ones in the rear.

However, I do not like the design as mine wore out at something like 25-30K mi. I replaced with Kartboy which are much better design, and will not use oem when comes time to replace rears.
 

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Thanks for the great how-to. Another way to remove the nut could be a nut cracker tool. It worked for me on a Dodge minivan which uses a similar set-up. I would suggest to use an aftermarket link with a more substantial construction, in case the OE part hasn't been upgraded (as it has been on current models).
 

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2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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You can always coat the exposed threads beyond the nut (after proper tightening/torque) with anti-seize. I have done this often. Serious cleaning job if the "torque threads" are contaminated though. It didn't appear from your pictures penetrant was used. If not, soaking these parts for 1/2 a dozen cycles over a few days prior to the work can do wonders. Mine came right off...Colorado car.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Some follow-up notes:

I did consider aftermarket replacements, and might go that route for the rear links when they're done. Need to look into what makes them better in design/component terms and how much longer they would likely last.

I've used nutcrackers before and had two (different sizes, arrangements) at the side "just in case". I also had the "Dremel" tool with a large cut-off disc handy. But they weren't needed, and I doubt they'd be needed in future for the factory links because the ball can be exposed so easily.

Penetrating oil was used; I started spraying the nuts and exposed threads several days before as well as during the nut removal. In the fourth photo, showing the use of the 5 mm hex key and the box wrench, the exposed threads of the shaft are wet. However, some of the other photos were taken after brushing or cleaning the threads, before re-spraying.

I thought about using anti-seize, but decided against; not that it wouldn't work, but it would have to be re-applied regularly to ensure the integrity of the coating, especially in winter conditions (which would also make re-applying challenging). I'm thinking about just getting a selection of plain metric nuts (not flanged or self-locking) of different thicknesses (if possible) and then just stacking them on the exposed thread. But I'm also beginning to think that this is overkill. Again, given the ease with which the other side of the shaft/ball can be exposed, the options for nut removal are better than I had thought earlier.

But these are all good ideas that should be kept in mind as every situation could be different.

Keep the ideas and experiencing coming for this thread . . .
 

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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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It didn't appear from your pictures penetrant was used. If not, soaking these parts for 1/2 a dozen cycles over a few days prior to the work can do wonders. Mine came right off...Colorado car.
Sorry...I meant to state, it didn't look like significant penetrant was successfully used. There is still heavy, DRY, corrosion on the threads. Soaking for several days can get in and break this up. I usually heat in cycles as well if it won't damage any surrounding parts.

If you try too early, you get to that point...you feel it is starting to bind and stop. Or you strip something.

Usually day 1, you can try all day long. Day 2, same deal. After Day 4 or 5(of soaking)...It spins right off...so to speak.

Excellent DIY though...Cheers:)
 

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Master Caster
2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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Looks like you did all you could...My Bad. SORRY.

I have the Whiteline HD/adjustable Rears. I haven't road tested yet. Other than fitment and centering rides. I have a full Alignment tommorrow...after all of my recent suspension work. BUT, They are a true, full metal, cup and ball,(no plastic) "heim" joint. I'm pretty confident most aftermarket upgraded ones are the same.

The adjustability is sold to set the car up without any sway bar "pre-load". I like the fact that the upper and lower cups can be custom aligned at each mounting point. Look at the stock, they are visible tweeked.

More threads, nuts, and more hinge points to worry about...so you can't really set and forget. Like anything custom...you have to check on it. Like a pet or a kid. :gasp: There are HD's out there that are fixed length as well.
 

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2008 Outback - base model, 2.5 NA, 5-speed MT
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Thanks!

Just wanted to say thank you for this excellent guide. The end links are shot on my 2008 OB and I will be doing this job as soon as life dries out and warms up a bit. Will start soaking with penetrating oil this weekend, though...
 
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