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Replacing Front Suspension Components

How to replace mk1 golf front suspension components

This is a guide on how to recondition the front of the car, from the guide you should have enough info to repair most consumables such as:-

  • CV Joint - CV joint boots tend to split and this is an MOT failure. After a boot splits you can get grit into the joint in which case it may need to be replaced
  • Driveshafts - You don't normally  need to replace dirveshafts unless they've been subject to an impact
  • Wheel bearings - These wear over time and you often get a grinding noise when turning in one direction
  • Track rod ends - Adjustments to wheel alignment is done with these and they are often siezed and corroded. The ball joint on the end has rubber which can perish and need replacing
  • Wishbones (including ball joints) - Wishbone bushes tend to wear rather than the wishbone itself and the same for ball joints as the track rod end. In my case the wishbone itself had obviously had an impact and been bent so both were replaced
  • Anti-roll bar bushes - The bar itself is unlikely to need replacing (but can be uprated for stiffer ones to improve handling), it is normally the bushes that are replaced as they perish over time
  • You could easily do the suspension (shocks and springs) whilst you're at it, shocks tend to leak when old and the coil springs can snap



  • Large Socket Set and Spanner Set
  • Big Breaker Bar
  • Large Hammer
  • Philips and Flat Headed Screwdrivers
  • Pliers and Mole Grips
  • Pry Bar or Ball Joint Splitter
  • Spring Compressors (if replacing springs)
  • Jack and Axle Stands

When it comes to working on the suspension I suggest you have large sockets, a big breaker bar and a large hammer handy. You will be hitting some of the toughest nuts and bolts on a car with high torque and likely corrosion due to exposure to the elements underneath the car. Brain overpowers brute force here - long lever make the job easier, if you try some of this stuff with a normal ratchet you'll hurt your hands and probably fail miserably so get the right tools for the job.

Saying that, these jobs are nice and simple - just nuts and bolts and anybody can do it. Don't be afraid to tackle this sort of stuff because it really isn't that difficult. This is my first go on a Golf and it took me about 90 minutes to strip the car down whilst taking my time and a LOT of photos. You can easily do this rebuild in a weekend or two.

The "Mk1 Golf Owners Club" do not accept any responsibility for damage to the vehicle, parts or yourself, howsoever caused as a result of following this guide.



Step 1:

Remove the centre cap retaining screw from the front wheels. If you don't have the locking nut remover then you can tap it with a flat blade screwdriver and a hammer to free it off (See picture 1) or use a couple of jeweler's screwdrivers and a flat blade between them to loosen them (picture 2/3)


Step 2:

Remove the retaining screw (Picture 1) and pull the centre cap away (picture 2)




Step 3:

'Crack off' the wheel nuts by about 1 turn while the car is still resting on the road wheels (if you try and do this after you jack the car up, the wheel will just spin). Note that one may be a locking wheel nut as shown in the second/third pictures

Note : If you haven't got the locking wheel nut key or (as with mine) someone has chewed up the nut, you can still remove it with a bit of determination.

Mine were fitted with a 'collar' that spins around on the outside so you can't grip it with a monkey wrench etc so this was removed by cutting down the collar with a chisel (picture 1).

I then hammered a 17mm socket onto the nut (which was about 18mm diameter) to get some purchase to apply force (picture 2). Don't be bashful here (excuse the pun!), you need to carve good edges into it if possible so try not to keep slipping off. Cheap wheel nuts can be 'moulded' easily so make sure yours aren't hardened steel or you'll be there all day!

This can then be removed with a normal ratchet and the locking wheel nut will need to be replaced (picture 3)




Step 4:

The driveshaft is a metal bar with a joint at either end. The shaft runs between the transmission (gearbox) and the road wheels at the front of the car. To attach the shaft to the wheel, a large bolt (30mm) is used. This should be removed while you still have everything together because you can put it in gear and/or have an assistant press the brake pedal while you apply force to this nut (it is tight).

The bolt is shown in the middle of the first picture. To remove the bolt you should use a long extension bar (a 'breaker bar') as shown in the second picture to allow you to apply enough force to undo it. Note that you only need to undo it a turn or two and then it becomes much easier and you can do this with a normal ratchet. For now, crack the nut off two turns



Step 5:

Now you have slackened all the wheel nuts and the driveshaft bolt you can jack the car up and remove the wheel nuts completely and put the wheel to one side (it just pulls off now)





Step 6:

Now get down behind where the wheel was and look at the back of the caliper (the metal thing attached to the disc that does the braking). You should see two 15mm nuts that hold the caliper in place (the 'carrier'). You should undo two 17mm nuts for each side, I've taken pictures of both sides as shown below

Note the use of an extension bar on the top bolt to get round the brake lines





Step 7:

Now ease the caliper up and away from the disc (might need a little wiggling) then slide off the rubber hose restraint (second picture). You should tuck the caliper away so that it doesn't dangle on the rubber hose (brake line), I just put it on the driveshaft for now as shown in picture 3


Step 8:

Now onto the brake disc, this is only held on by a short philips screw. When removing this you can end up with a heck of a job if you sheer the screw head (you then have to drill it out which his a real pain). To prevent this, use some anti seize compound if you have it but most importantly apply a lot of forward pressure towards the disc rather than in turning the screw. Put yourself directly in front of where the road wheel would be and apply your whole body weight down the screwdriver so all your force is pushing the screw towards the disc then twist. This way you won't be likely to slip of the screw and distort the head




Step 9:

The disc will now ease away from the hub and leave you with the following sight



Step 10:

Now you can finish off removing the drishaft bolt that you loostened earlier on



Step 11:

If you now look behind the hub, there is something called a 'pinch bolt' which goes through the bottom of the hub and holds the ball joint of the wishbone in place. Below shows either end of the pinch bolt





Step 12 : (optional)

If you find that the heatshield for the brakes is getting in the way then you can rmeove the 10mm bolts (see pics of bolts below) and you'll be able to rotate it around the hub to attach sockets etc




Step 13:

Removing the pinch bolt is shown below. I found that once the initial turn was performed the bolt was quite easy to release but as you can see in the pictures this bolt gets exposed to dirt, water etc so expect a bit of rust and resistance (same goes for all suspension bolts really). Once you have undone the nut, you can tap the bolt out by using a hammer and a screwdriver if it is stubborn (picture 4)





Step 14:

If you have a ball joint splitter then insert it between the rubber boot of the ball joint (see pictures 1 and 2) and the hub then hit it with a large hammer to separate it as shown in picture 3. If you don't have a splitter then I recommend you get one (they are cheap) but you can use a pry bar or something similar if you really have to.



Step 15:

Now we move onto the anti-roll bar, this is attached to the wishbone with two 13mm nuts (See first picture). I found them surprisingly easy to shift and I made sure I released each bolt a little at a time to reduce the stressing on the bracket holding the roll bar down. With the car supported by a jack the roll bar won't be under tension so don't worry it won't 'spring off' when you release the bracket. The third picture shows the short studs that protrude through to the underside of the wishbone




Step 16:

There is a second bush on each side of the car for the roll bar and it is attached to the bracket that holds the wishbone in position. A single 15mm bolt shown in the first picture should be removed to free the wishbone and then a 13mm bolt (second picture) should be taken off to drop the roll bar.

Once removed, you can pull the metal retainer down with your fingers (see picture 3) and the the roll bar will drop away from the car as shown in picture 4.

The 5th image is showing the metal clamp





Step 17:

With the roll bar detached, the wishbone is held to the car by one bolt which can be tackled with a 19mm socket and a breaker bar. The bolt threads into the car i.e. no nut on the other side (picture 1). The second picture shows that this is quite  a long bolt to remove but the thread at the end is the only bit you are working against so it's not too bad once you get it moving.



Step 18:

Now the wishbone is free to be removed from the car. To do this, wiggle the wishbone up and down whilst pulling it away from the car and it should slide out quite easily



Step 19:

There you have it, one wishbone! You can see at the bottom left there is the rubber mount which was mounted alongside the roll bar. Also there is the ball joint on the right which swivels to allow the hub's angle to vary and finally the top anchor point which has a rubber bush inside it where our large bolts attached the wishbone to the frame.

I've included a picture showing how bent my wishbone was when I decided to start all this strip down





Step 20:

Next is the suspension, two 17mm nuts and bolts to undo here. They will be quite tight and if you struggle get a breaker bar on and wedge a spanner against the hub to stop the nut from spinning (shown in the second picture)




Step 21:

After removing these two nuts, simply ease the hub away from the strut and it should be completely free. If you were changing the suspension, at this stage you would just need to undo the bolts at the top and the shock/spring assembly would drop down for you to disassemble it.





Step 22:

Finally we move onto the track rod end. There is a 'castle nut' holding this in place with a split pin running through it. A split pin is simply a bent piece of metal that threads through a hole then opens up in two directions to prevent a nut from moving. You should replace these each time they are removed (don't refit them because they'll just break next time if they didn't already!).

To remove the split pin get a pair of pliers and bend the two 'legs' so they are straightened up and can pass back through the whole they came through (picture 1 and 2).

Use a pair of mole grips to pull the pin out (picture 3) - it will probably take some wiggling and bending and don't be surprised if the pin snaps. If it does snap then just pull each half out individually.

Once you've removed the split pin you can fit a 19mm socket to the castle nut and remove it (picture 4)





Step 23:

I didn't get a very good picture of this but support the hub on an axle stand so the track rod end is facing squarely up from the ground then give a sharp tap to the top of the track rod end bolt and it will pop out of the hub. Some force is required for this and a ball joint splitter may be used.



Step 24:

The hub should now come away from the car (it will simply slide off the driveshaft). You'll notice all the nuts/bolts are fitted to the hub - it's easy if you always put things back once you've removed them so you prevent ending up with a huge pile of fasteners and no idea where they came from at the end!



Step 25:

I had a split CV (constant velocity) joint boot so needed to replace this, steps 25-32 cover this. The CV joints simply tap off as shown below



Step 26:

Clean up the drive shaft area



Step 27:

Check for any grit/dirt or signs of wear in the joint. If necessary replace it, otherwise clean out the old grease




Step 28:

Once everything is cleaned up (picture 1), you will need to get your new dust boot from your CV joint kit (picture 2) and slide it over the driveshaft (picture 3). It's a little tight but just push and wriggle it, resist using screwdrivers etc that may damage the sleeve.




Step 29:

You will have some kind of retainer to fit which is normally a toothed clip as shown. Simply squeeze it (tightly) around the rubber sleeve and hook the teeth into the grooves. You may find it easier to trim some of the excess off the clip itself because they often come with a far greater length than you need.




Step 30:

Re-pack the CV joint with some new grease




Step 31:

Slide the joint onto the driveshaft


Step 32:

As before, use the retaining clip to hold the joint in place. This one is much larger but again, you may need to trim it to size.


Step 33:

Now, on to the anti roll bar. Pull the metal C clip off the end bushes as shown in picture 1. Then wriggle the bush off the anti roll bar (picture 2). The trick is to apply lots of pulling force and then just wriggle the rubber bush back and forth to help it slide.



Step 34:

Discard the old (probably worn bush) and you'll see the ridge it sits in on the roll bar.


Step 35:

Now for the more difficult one - slide the old bush all the way up and off the anti roll bar (alternatively just cut it off but the act of removing it gets rid of the built up dirt on the anti roll bar).


Step 36:

Now go through the same process in reverse, slide the new bush all the way down the bar again (picture 1). Once you've done this, refit the outer bush and then do the same on the other side so you have 4 new bushes (picture 2).

Note you will find the anti roll bar is not that stiff and it may be worth investigating upgrades of the bar itself if you are needing to replace the bushes.



Step 37:

Now it's time to refit the wishbones (trailing arms). I was short on time but ideally you should wire brush all the brackets, hubs etc and then paint them up so they look nice and pretty. Start with the bracket that holds the rear of the wishbone and also the anti roll bar (picture 1). Push the bracket over the two studs that protrude from the underside of the car (picture 2) and loosely fit the two 15mm nuts.


Step 38:

If you have the same luck as me then you'll end up with a broken stud here (picture 1) and end up drilling it out (picture 2) which makes life much more difficult!


Step 39:

Once the bracket is loosely fitted the wishbone can be put into place


Step 40:

Remove the bolt from the front wishbone support (assuming you left it in there) and then offer the wishbone up


Step 41:

You may want to tap the wishbone back in to place (just gently) or do some wriggling to make it slide back into the rear support then it will push straight into the front support with ease.


Step 42:

Now tighten the two 15mm bolts for the rear support


Step 43:

Once the rear support is fixed firmly in place you can use a 19mm to tighten the long front bolt that holds the front in position



Step 44:

Once the wishbone is held to the car we can go back to the hub.

Now is the time to replace your wheel bearings if required, simply remove the cir-clip you can see in the middle of the hub then take to your local friendly mechanic with a press (unless you have one yourself). These bearings tend to last a long time though and can be quite expensive but it's a fair bit of work to get the hub off again so you decide!


Step 45:

Hook the bearing over the ball join on the end of the wishbone (it won't seat properly over it)


Step 46:

Spin the hub through 180 degrees so you have a good view of the ball join and great access to tap it on with a hammer. Don't be shy here, give it a few strong taps where the ball joint seats in the hub (make sure you have removed the pinch bolt if you stored it with the hub!) and put a jack/axle stand under the wishbone to stop it from moving up and down


Step 47

By the time you finish beating the hub with a large mallet it should seat right down as shown in thie picture


Step 48:

Now refit the pinch bolt with a 17mm socket and spanner


Step 49:

Remove the two bolts from the suspension leg (if you stored them there like I did)


Step 50:

Use some spring compressors to compress the suspension and prevent the damper from returning to its current (too low) position in relation to the hub.

I tend to use a trolley jack to compress the spring/damper and then fit the spring compressors afterward`s but you can simply fit them and (painstakingly!) tighten them until the spring compresses.


Step 51:

Once you have compressed the spring, jack the bottom of the suspension leg up so it compresses the damper and you will be able to align the hub to the shock assembly as shown



Step 52:

Note that picture 51 shows the top bolt fitted, you should actually use the bottom one! This is so that you can then pivot the hub forwards and angle the CV joint so that the driveshaft slides into the hub as shown in this pictures


Step 53:

Straighten the driveshaft (picture 1) and then continue fitting the hub (picture 2)


Step 54:

On to the track rod end now, as usual replace if necessary (inspect the boot and make sure it rotates freely), then connect it to e the hub. If you do remove it then mark the position and then fit the new part at the same place to give you some sort of tracking. You will still need to go and get your tracking done after this.

Use the steering to move it to a favourable position (you'll see the steering system in action now, turning left pushes the track rod out to the right etc).

Once aligned, drop the ball joint into the hub and tap it into place.

Note it is a tapered joint, if you try and fit it from below it won't work! Get it the right way round and it should slide together quite easily.




Step 55:

Double check that everything is tight and admire your rebuilt hub. All that's left now is securing the driveshaft and adding the brakes


Step 56:

I suggest you get some new pads and discs while you are down here, they don't cost much (about 40 for both).


Step 57:

Remove the disc from its packaging and pop it on the hub. Fit the cross head screw to hold the disc in place (don't tighten this a lot because you'll only regret it next time you do the discs). Clean off the disc which has been coated with special protective fluid (I wiped with petrol)


Step 58:

Remove the two pins holding the two parts of the brake caliper together



Step 59:

Take out the old brake pads and throw them away, picture 2 shows how they slide out sideways


Step 60:

Use a large G clamp to wind the piston back in (you should place an old brake pad in position so the clamp pushes against the pad not the piston but I've not shown this for clarity)


Step 61:

Slide your new pads into place and put the two parts of the caliper back together



Step 62:

Tighten the pins that hold the caliper together back up


Step 63:

With the piston wound back fully, the calipers should slide over the disc reasonably easily. Make sure the pads are correctly aligned in the runner and pushed to either side of the caliper before you slide it over. Tighten up the carrier bolts that hold the caliper onto the hub


Step 64:

Fit the grommet back in so that the brake pipe flexi hose is properly secured


Step 65:

Admire the finished set up


Step 66:

Anti roll bar is next, insert the metal retainer and then offer the roll bar so that the rear bushes are in their seats. You may fine it easier to support one end with a jack if you do this on your own


Step 67:

With the nut loosely fitted to the rear bushes, push the front of the roll bar up to the wishbone so the u-shaped brackets protrude through to the top of the wishbone. Loosely fit the 13mm bolts

Step 68: Now progressively tighten each bolt. This job can be a bit fiddly and but get the car nice and high to make it easy on yourself.

Step 69: The final job is to refit the driveshaft bolt and then you're done

Guide made By JSeaman

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is it just me or are the photos not showing?O_o
The photos are not showing? great write up!