Replacing the front Sway Bar
on a 356-C Porsche!
By: Charlie White
I've posted to the 356 Registry Forum several times in the recent past about my various projects involving my 356-C. To date, I've replaced the shocks, changed out the old rear bump stop rubbers, replaced the air filters, replaced the turn signal flasher with an Al Zim special, added a third brake light, replaced the headlights with 6V H4 units, replaced the ground strap from the transaxle to the chassis, cleaned up the electrical system, replaced all the fuses, detailed the underside of my engine and transaxle, and thoroughly cleaned and detailed my front and rear suspension and disc brakes, to name a few. There's still a fairly long list of projects to do, I like LISTS, they keep me on track! I have no claim to being a mechanic, and definitely don't have a greasy thumb! I do like doing projects on my 65 356-C mostly because of the great satisfaction derived when they turn out right. I decided to post these comments mostly because of a lot of feedback from others saying that reading about my exploits encouraged them to get under their cars and try some projects.
This project was replacing the front sway bar bushings. While I was replacing the shocks and detailing the front suspension, I noticed the sway bar bushings looked like black liquorice gumballs being squeezed out of their fixtures. After 45+ years, I don't think they have ever been replaced, and they were literally oozing out of their holders, and had the consistency of candy gumballs. In addition, they just looked horrible, and probably weren't contributing much to the car's ride and handling! I thought it would be interesting to see if there would be any improvement in the handling after the project was finished, like the welcome difference experienced with the new shocks.
So the first thing I did was look up the sway bar bushings in my factory B/C workshop manual. There was a picture and several lines of how to do it, but it really didn't give me much direction. But I was able to see where all the 6 rubber bushings are supposed to go. An inspection of the situation under the car revealed that both ends of the sway bar are suspended off the front suspension in a bushing, and the rest of the bar was held in place to the chassis with two bolted-on U shaped clamps. The directions said first loosen the fittings on each end of the sway bar that are attached to the front suspension, then loosen the two bolts holding each of the two U shaped clamps, which also hold a bushing. Having followed the directions to the letter, the sway bar came off fairly easily, to my great relief! One bolt holding the end of the sway bar to the front suspension required a little encouragement with some "liquid wrench" to get it undone. Great stuff to have around if you're undoing something that was done 45+ years ago!
Now I'm not one to take something apart, and just replace parts and put it back together. No, each part has to be thoroughly cleaned and painted, or replaced. There was an amazing amount of dirt and grease welded onto that sway bar and the related parts. So each part was thoroughly cleaned and repainted before reassembly. I don't have a parts cleaner, wish I did. But the small parts were put into a large glass jar filled with a combination of "Gunk" the engine cleaner, liquid dish soap, and a green liquid cleaner called "Holy Cow"! Yeah, I too, thought that was a strange name for a cleaner. Anyway, I let these parts sit over night, and in the morning, with a little brushing, they come out amazingly clean. In most cases I like to replace all the nuts, bolts, and washers with new ones. Makes things look newer and cleaner down there.
When ever I do these projects on my 356-C, I'm always struck by the fact that it's always easier to talk about it, than it is to do it! Saying you're gonna to replace the shocks is always much easier than actually going out there and doing it! Another thing that strikes me is how DIRTY & GREASY everything is down under there! For me it's never enough just to fix or replace a part. It always seems imperative that everything be thoroughly cleaned, repainted if necessary, the nuts and bolts replaced with new, and carefully put back together so that it looks brand new! Anything less seems to me unfinished! Given all this, the last thing that strikes me is how long it takes to do anything! I don't have a lift, only a stock jack, a scissor jack, some blocks of wood, and some jack stands, and I barely have enough tools to do anything. I'm always going out and buying a new tool. And I'm 67, and 6'4" so getting down on the ground, getting under the car, getting up again, going to get a tool, back to the car, under the car, back to the toolbox, all this moving around tends to tire me out. Nothing ever seems to be easy and efficient. Given these little exercises prompts me to wonder how real mechanics get anything done! I guess their lifts, special tools, experience, patience, shortcuts, and calm personalities etc, get them through a job much quicker than I can do it!! I'm not complaining, mind you, getting it done right is very, very satisfying! Maybe that's why mechanics do what they do!
Back to the sway bar bushings. Next step, final cleaning! All parts were painted, and were hang out to dry on the grapefruit tree in my back yard on wire clothes hangers. And then came the attempt to put everything back the way I found it. I even laid out the sway bar and the bushings and all the other parts, under the car, sorta in the way the came off the car, so with the help of my workshop manual picture, I would be able to remember how to put them back on the car.
All parts were stripped down to bare metal, including the sway bar, the suspension supports, the U shaped clamps, AND the nuts and bolts. Decided to keep the original nuts and bolts, so had to strip off the surface rust, old black paint, undercoating, and red overspray from sometime long ago when the car was repainted. That was a chore. I used wet sandpaper, and my cordless drill with a wire brush wheel. Took a while, and it was in the mid-90's, so got a little tan on my uncovered head. Once stripped to bare metal, sprayed everything with flat black primer, and let everything sit out in the sun. A final coat of gloss black went on late in the afternoon.
Had some concerns about the rubber bushings going on after I painted the sway bar, so I put them on first, masked them off, and then painted the sway bar. Did the same with the bushings in the supports for the sway bar that hang from each side of the suspension. I sprayed a little soapy water on the bushings, and they installed with no problem. The bushings from NLA fit perfectly. But don't try to put them on the sway bar or in the supports without greasing them up a little with soapy water. That would have been a lot more difficult!
I found a unique way to spray the heads of the bolts, basically turned a box upside on the lawn, punched some 1/4 inch holes, and pushed the bolts thru so only the heads showed, and then sprayed them gloss black. So all the parts got new bushings, they had been stripped to bare metal and painted black, and were hanging from various trees in my back yard using metal coat hangers.
Next came assembly day, I decided to wait until the afternoon so the newly painted parts could hang out in the sun for a while longer. So far this project had gone pretty smoothly, hope was high that everything would come together and I could finish this project. Then I would go out for a drive and see if the new busings made any difference in the ride and handling!
OK, final segment on replacing the front sway bar bushings on my 356-C. You all are probably getting bored to death with this dialogue, so I'll make it short. I can happily say the reassembly went without a hitch. The worst thing that happened was I kicked over my drink while I was under the car! The hardest part was getting the old bushing out of the pieces that are suspended from each side of the suspension, where the sway bar parts meet the front suspension. Since I couldn't take them to my work bench, I had to deal with them under the car. Not wanting to knock the car off the jack stands, I resisted pounding on them, and instead cut them out with a razor knife.
A couple of lessons that I learned in this exercise are first put the bushings that fit onto the sway bar, on the sway bar first, before painting. Just be sure to line them up on the bar to approximately where the bar is attached to the chassis. Trying to slide the close fitting hard rubber bushings onto a freshly painted sway bar doesn't work too well! Then assemble all the pieces of the sway bar on your work bench. First slide the smaller clamp that fits outside of the chassis mounting to hold the bushing in place, remember the bushings are already on the sway bar, put there before you painted. Then attach the piece that holds another bushing to each side of the suspension.
Actually installing the sway bar with all its parts attached, has the makings of a two man job. Since the front of my car was about 18 inches off the ground, I found two boxes and slid them under the car near where the sway bar would be attached. Placed an old towel over each box so the newly painted sway bar would not get scratched. Then set the completely assembled sway bar, appropriately situated, on top of the boxes and slide them into position under the mounting points.
I first attached one side of the sway bar to the mounting point on the suspension and slid in the bolt. Left this nut and bolt loose, and attached the other side. Then I carefully lifted the sway bar up to where the U clamps hold it to the chassis. Previously, I had placed these bushings approximately in the right place, and with a little adjustment pushed the sway bar with bushing up to the chassis and attached the U clamp with two bolts, leaving them loose. Did the same thing on the other side also leaving the bolts loose. Last, I pushed the smaller U clamps up against the rubber bushing held by the other clamp to the chassis and tightened the nut and bolt to hold it in place. Ditto the other side. Lastly, I carefully tightened everything, and wala..........it was finished!
Three rubber bushings suporting the sway bar on each side of the car.
I have to say this was a very successful project, mostly because I finished it without any significant problems, other than knocking over my drink, and getting a little sunburn on the top of my head. It is amazing how much you learn about how things work when you're taking them apart and putting them back together. The right things I did: I researched this project in advance, read the manual, asked some questions, took my time, studied what I was working on, remembered how things came apart, and most importantly took a double dose of my "Chill Pills" before I started. I take pills for heart problems, and my wife calls them "Chill Pills" because she says they calm me down. Maybe real mechanics also take "Chill Pills"! In summary, this is a good project for anyone to do, and if I can do it successfully, all the rest of you mechanically non-inclined 356 Porsche enthusiast couch potatoes can do it too! And don't be too upset if you get a little dirty in the process! Attached is a picture of the finished project.
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This website was created on 10/14/10, updated 2/18/14.
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