FK Hightec Suspension Kit Install
I had big plans for the suspension on the GTI. I'd done tons of research and found the exact setup that I wanted to run. Then I found out the rear struts were going south before I had a chance to buy the stuff that I really wanted to install. So I went out and found the least expensive suspension I could get that was of decent quality. I read a TON on VW Vortex and it came down to two systems FK or Vogtland. There was more information on the FK and it was $80 cheaper. At this point that made the difference. Fortunately, New German Performance was having a big sale on all of their suspension kits. I got springs, struts, new strut bearings and adjustable sway bar links for under $550. Since NGP is local, I got it immediately and I didn't have to pay shipping. This stuff would have cost big bucks to ship... it weighed almost 60 pounds.
|Parts||Tools||Front Suspension||Special Note about Passanger Side||Rear Suspension|
Enough babble. Lets get on with the install!
There are a few specialized tools that you'll need for this installation. A few of them you can make yourself if you're watching money like I was. One you pretty much have to go out and get.
8mm Hex ground down on the sides
This is what the end looks like
Here's one more look
21mm socket with the sides ground down, vice grips, a 7mm hex socket and a 6" extension for the 3/8" socket
A closer look.
This is the headache. I got this started late in the afternoon and was trying to hurry. I didn't take a lot of photos of it. I think I got enough though.
I jacked up the whole car and put it on jack stands. To me this is just easier than jacking up 1/2 the car at a time. It is MUCH easier to do the rear suspension if the whole back is off the ground. Don't even try doing it right and left. You're just making things more difficult than they need to be. You'll need the wheels off too.
Up front you need to disconnect the brake pad wear sensor and unhook the sensor lines from the strut. You'll also need to unhook the ABS sensor lines from the strut. I didn't have to unplug the sensors. They had enough slack that just unhooking the lines from the strut was enough.
ABS Sensor on Passanger side (pictured on the new strut)
Pad wear sensor. You can see that it bolts to the strut at the top of the photo with a t20 torx bolt.
I disconnected the sway bar at this point. I knew I would need to do this at some point. I figured having it disconnected would let me move the spindle down a bit more to remove the strut. One bolt releases the sway bar. You'll see more of that when I install the new links.
At this point you're ready to unbolt the strut on the driver's side. You'll see that there is a long bolt that clamps the base of the strut in place. 18mm sockets will take the nut and bolt right out. I then used the 8mm socket that I ground into a spreader in order to open the clamp up and release the strut. It slipped right out. Be careful not to stretch the brake line! I put a block of wood under the spindle to make sure the brake line wouldn't get too stretched. The photos below show what it is like with the strut out.
Strut out. You can see the disconnected sway bar link on the left.
Installing the spreader
Close-up of the strut clamp totally open.
Once the bottom of the strut is out, you can remove the top nut. This is where that weird contraption with the socket, vice grips and hex key comes in handy. I found it easiest for the first 1/4 turn to hold the 21mm nut with the socket and TIGHTEN the hex bolt. Then I loosened the nut from there. Towards the end you can just do away with the hex and hold the strut with your left hand in the wheel well and loosen the nut the rest of the way with your fingers. The strut lifts out easily.
You'll need some of the hardware from this strut, so you need to take the springs off. Here's where the spring clamps come in handy. Tighten down the spring clamps till the spring cap moves freely. Then get out the same contraption that you used to remove the top strut nut and do the same with the nut on top. This one is easier. Once it is loose you can spin it out by hand. Then you dismantle all the parts of the strut. They look like this.
From left to right: Nut, Strut bearing, Strut bearing insert, spring cap, bump stop, inside cover.
Strut Bearing insert (this comes with the strut bearing kit)
Bump stop and dust cover.
Like I said above, don't be tempted to go cheap and not replace your strut bearings. Here's a photo of a 2-year old strut bearing and a brand new one.
The one on the left is all squashed.
Now you compress the new spring and being to assemble the front strut. Just install stuff in reverse order of what you took off. Tighten the top bolt all the way down to the end of the threads on the strut shaft.
Unassembled strut and spring
Insert the top of the strut up into the strut tower.
Guide the bottom of the strut into the open clamp (I just left the clamp opening tool in the clamp while I assmebled the strut). It should all slide together easily. The strut doesn't slide all the way in with the separator installed. There is a small metal tab that goes between the halves of the clamp. Once you remove the separator it should slide right down into place. You can put your floor jack under it to help press it into place. Don't press too hard though because it is hard to pull it back out if you insert the strut too far. You can put the bolt back in and tighten it down.
Put the strut cap back on in the engine bay, then tighten down the top nut. The final tightening will have to be done with the socket/hex key tool that I made earlier. To make things complicated, FK makes this kit with a 6mm hex key and a 22mm top nut.
Make sure you hook up the wear sensor and the abs sensor line to the strut again.
Wear sensor and ABS line hooked to the strut
Now it is time to install the new sway bar link. You will probably want the floor jack for this. This is easy. Unbolt the old one, Install the new one. I put blue locktite on the threads of the adjustable link to make sure it won't loosen. I also cranked down the adjustment nuts pretty tightly. Take the time to do this. Trust me, this isn't something you want coming loose.
Kamei Adjustable sway bar link.
Special Note about the Passanger Side Front Strut install: So far the install has been pretty easy. Here is where it gets kind of tough. The problem with the passanger side is that the spindle can't drop very low because the longer drive shaft will rub on the sub frame. Bentley tells you to disconnect the axle from the tranny and tie it up so you can lower the spindle more. I didn't want to do this.
I started by disconnecting the sway bar. I then used the spring compressor to compress the spring while it was still in the strut tower. If you have the type of compressor that uses nylon bands instead of the screw type, this is MUCH easier. I had the screw type. I ended up removing the top strut nut and cap and moving the strut to the side so that I could tighten the spring compressor from down through the strut tower. I had a 12" extension on my 1/2" drove socket so that I could reach down from the engine bay into the strut tower and compress the spring. This takes patience and time. Eventually I got the spring compressed enough that I could loosen the bolt, expand the clamp and the strut came right out.
I'm not sure if this would work with a normal Golf or Jetta that didn't have the sport suspension. I think I had a little extra slack because my 20th AE gti already had suspension that is lowered 1.2". It might be worth a try, but don't count on it working.
If you need to remove the axle, you'll need a 10mm triple square socket. It looks like a Torx, but it isn't.
Rear Suspension: Breathe a sigh of relief. The hard part is over. It is cake from here on out. :D
It is easiest to do both sides of the rear suspension at the same time. That is because of the way the rear beam suspension is designed. If you've got a Neuspeed or Autotech rear sway bar, it complicates things a little, but not too much. You'll just have to disconnect and reconnect your sway bar as part of the install. If you installed it, you should know how to disconnect it and re-install it. I used a Shine rear sway bar, so I didn't have to touch it. Neener neener. ;)
Looking in at the rear suspension
I noticed an ABS sensor line that went to the rear brake. You can see it on the left in the photo above. I thought it might stretch a little if I didn't release it. I didn't disconnect the sensor, I just released the line from where it was held on the suspension beam. That gave me plenty of slack.
Instead of using the spring compressor, I decided to try using the floor jack. I compressed the suspension a little using the floor jack. That allowed me to disconnect the bottom of the rear strut without the spring bouncing out violently (I don't think that is a huge issue, but I liked releasing the springs in a very controlled way. Once I released the bottom of the strut on the driver's side, I moved to the passanger side. Again I compressed the spring with the floor jack, then released the strut.
Lower Shock bolt
Compressing the spring with the floor jack before taking out the lower shock mounting bolt.
When you lower the jack slowly, you can just lift the springs right out. Be careful not to stretch the brake lines. That is very bad for them. Remove the rubber cap from the top of each spring and install it on the new springs.
Rubber cap on new spring. It just twists on.
The new spring in its entirety.
Now it is time to remove the top of the shocks from each side. These are held in place by two bolts each. Remove them and they come right out.
Top of the rear shock.
Now it is time to take apart the rear shock. We'll need some of that hardware on the new shock.
There is a plastic, domed cap on top of the shock. This just comes right off with your fingers. That reveals the top nut that holds the mounting plate to the shock shaft.
Plastic top cap.
I gripped the flat sides of the shaft with a crescent wrench and loosened the top nut with an offset 12-point box-end wrench. They're great for suspension work and available at Sears. Once off, the parts look like this:
Mount and dust boot
cap, top nut and mount, boot and bump stops.
They all fit perfectly on the new shock.
I then just reassmebled everything the same way it came off. I started by mounting the tops of the shocks in back on both sides. I aligned the bottom of the shocks so they'd slip into the mounting bracket on the rear suspension beam when it is raised. I then placed both springs in their seats. I raised the floor jack a little to align the tops of the springs and align the shock hole on the side with the jack. Replace the lower shock bolt and reconnect the sway bar on that side if you've got a Neuspeed or Autotech.
Once this is done on the side with the jack, raise the jack another 3/4". You can then seat the spring on the other side. I was able to align the hole for the lower shock mount at this point. You might need to move the jack to this side to do that part.
Re-attach the ABS sensor line on both sides to make sure it doesn't stay loose.
New springs and shocks
I scrubbed out my wheel wells while I was there.
I went over everything to make sure it was all tight. I put the wheels back on and was ready to take it off the jacks.
One thing to think about before letting it off the jack stands. If you've got side skirts on your car and you've lowered it significantly. You might want to put some blocks of wood under each wheel so that you don't damage your side skirts by dropping them onto your floor jack. I made ghetto ramp stands out of 2x6" pine boards. I use them whenever I jack up the Corrado or GTI.
I think that is about it. Unless your alignment is WAY off, I'd drive it for a day or two and let the suspension settle. Then I'd definitely invest in a good alignment. It will go a long way to making your car handle great.
Its a little lower than stock in this photo. It has already settled another 3/4" up front since I snapped these.
Another look at the front.
The back has settled about 1/2" since this was taken.
Let me know if you've got questions. I can be reached via e-mail.
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