Since most of you are either dealing with kids going back to school this week (and some of you are going back to school yourselves!), today's lesson is installing airbags on the front of a 92-96 Chevy Impala SS! This is one of the easier vehicles to work on, since it has a full frame and coil springs at all four corners, but I'm going to share some tricks to show you how to get one dropped the right way!
The first step, as with any suspension work, is to jack the vehicle up and support it safely. FYI, just leaving it on the jack without jack stands is STOOPID- don't do it! I lost a dear friend years ago when a jack slipped while he was working under the car- learn from other people's mistakes.
Okay, enough preaching. Take off the wheels, then start taking the suspension apart. You'll want to use a spring compressor to... compress. the. spring. What else did you expect the spring compressor to do for you? Pick your favorite ball joint to separate- upper or lower doesn't really matter, but since you're working on a 20 year old ride, why not take this opportunity to put new balljoints on both? Unbolt the sway bar, too- you won't be using one anymore, so get it out of your way.
With the ball joint separated, you should be able to drop the lower control arm and slide the coil spring out of the pocket. If everything has gone properly, here's what you should be looking at:
From here, you will need to do a bit of trimming to ensure that the airbag doesn't touch anything- when bags rub, they leave you stuck somewhere, and most people don't like being stranded with a broken car.
If you've lived a charmed life, then you have access to a plasma cutter. If you're not as fortunate, you'll need to use a grinder, sawzall, or a cutting torch for the next part. If you go the torch route, there's a lot of stuff around the spring pocket that can burn and cost you lots of money to replace, so be careful. This next photo shows how much was cut out of the pocket:
Basically, the idea is to remove the lip and a bit of material around the back of the pocket as shown. Don't worry about structure- I've seen people HOP Caprices with more cut out than this, and I've never seen a frame crack at the spring pocket. Clean up all of your cut edges with a grinder or your sister's toothbrush, then move to the next step:
The lower control arm will hit the top of the pivot point and keep you from dropping as low as you'd like. Cut that pocket up about an inch to an inch and a half, and you're golden!
Now you can slide your airbag with cup brackets into the spring pocket and lower control arm. Only one last thing to address!
See the tie rod turnbuckle? Loosen it and slide it around so the bolts are below it as shown. This will keep them from hitting the frame and damaging anything. Sound good? Good! Now hook up the rest of your air suspension and put your car back together!
BOOM! You just bagged the front of your Impala! These modifications will lay out a 20" wheel with a low profile tire to the point of putting the front air dam on the ground. Getting lower or laying a larger wheel is just a matter of adding drop spindles and cutting the wheel wells out.
If you have any questions about this vehicle, or any other custom ride you're working on, drop us a line at www.bcfab.com
, or email
us directly. Class dismissed!