Let’s start off with a little background information. As I am sure most of you know, the 240SX, like its Japanese counterpart, uses McPherson strut front suspension. The lower control arms (LCA) span the distance between the bottom of the knuckles and the chassis itself. They control the knuckles’ up-and-down and side-to-side movement. Because of their singular chassis attachment points, the LCAs is incapable of keeping the wheels from moving forward or backwards – enter the tension control rod.
It is the tension control (TC) rods that keep the front wheels stable during cornering and braking while allowing the suspension to move up and down. Each TC rod is rigidly attached to the LCA with 2 bolts while its other side is attached to a bracket by a large rubber bushing. These bushings deteriorate over time, allowing unwanted movement, extra stress on front end components, and vagueness in steering and braking. The bracket is bolted to the radiator core support and frame rails. These brackets are rather flimsy they flex easily, and when coupled with sticky tires and stiff suspension, lack the rigidity to properly support the TC rods. For many years the only solution was to replace these brackets entirely with a Nismo power brace; the Nismo unit adds additional gussets and a cross bar. The power brace – however well designed – is expensive. I, for one, have always thought there should be a cheaper and more effective solution.
Here is what the brace’s creator had to say about the inspiration behind them.
Quote, originally posted by Jonnie Fraz »
Well truly I wanted an easier way to bolt in a Tension arm brace than the Nismo, but the best way to install this one is to take out the brackets. It is possible to do it in the car, but it is way easier if you pull them.
The main reason I came up with the S13 brace, and then the S14, was this is a very flexible part of the car. These brackets can be flexed just by hand. As you know the tension control arms keep the bottom of the strut from moving for and aft. This is why any bracing helps with braking feel. Also during cornering an amazing amount of flex can be felt. By tying the two brackets together drivers have also experienced better turn in.
I liked the way the Nismo was designed, except I thought that it left a little flex in that the cross bar has to be so far forward. This is because where the power steering bracket bolts to the tension arm bracket. This is why I used the four point triangulated mounting. This stiffened up the brackets on the back half.
To order one of your own for the S13 or S14, check out Jonnie in the fabricators’ marketplace here, S14 Tension Rod Brace. This brace is meant to be installed with the TC rod brackets still in the car, though for a few reasons I chose to remove mine for installation (but I will explain the installation process if the brackets are left in the car, just keep reading).
Time: 3-5 hours
– Brace ([url=http://forums.nicoclub.com/zerothread?id=266824]Direct through Jonnie Fraz[/ur])
– anti-sieze compound
– Rust Penetrant
– Floor Jack
– Jack stands
– Metric socket set, including 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, and 21mm
– Metric wrench set, including 10, 12, 14, 17, 19, and 21mm
– Ratchet, to match your sockets
– Misc. extensions to match your ratchet
– Phillips and standard screw drivers
– 17mm 3/8 swivel socket (needed if you choose to install the brace without removing the TC rod brackets from the car, or if you have bushing-style tension rods)
– Assorted drill bits
1. Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Grab your trusty dusty floor jack and lift the front end of the car as high as you can. The higher you lift it, the less claustrophobic you will feel while lying under the car. Before diving under, make sure you support the total weight of the vehicle using a set of quality jack stands, if you get crushed, you won’t ever get to test your new parts.
2. With the car safely in the air, remove the plastic splash shield from the underside of the car and set it aside, all my bolts broke a long time ago, so mine is help up by zip ties.
3. With the splash shield out of the way, you can get a good view of the task at hand. Its time to grab your can of rust penetrant. This will help prevent broken bolts, and believe me, if you life in a place where rust is an issue, it will make getting things apart easier. If you are only installing the brace, you only need to spray the nuts that hold the TC rods in the brackets. For the rest of you, spray everything, most important are the bolts holding the rear of the brackets to the frame rails, the easiest way to spray the threads is to use a straw to aim the spray through the small holes on the side of the frame rail near the bolts. You may not be able to get them perfectly, so just hose them the best you can then let them soak for a few minutes.
Using a 17mm wrench and socket, remove the bolts attaching the TC rods to the brackets. If you’re just installing the brace on the car, skip to section nine. If you are replacing your TC rods along with the brace, also remove the two bolts holding each tension rod to its respective LCA. Now if you are lucky, the bolts holding the tension rod to the bracket will come out easily. If you are like me however, the bolt will have seized to the inner bushing sleeve. It may take a little hammering, but for most of you the bolts should come out. Remove the TC rods from the car. Make sure to mark which side the TC rods came from, they should be reinstalled on the same side.
5. With the TC rods out of the way, you can now gain access to the two bolts and two nuts that hold the sway bar support bushings to the tension rod brackets. Remove them using a 14mm socket and extension. Once the sway bar is loose allow it to swing down and hang.
6. Using a 10mm socket or wrench, remove the too bolts holding the power steering pressure hose to the bracket. Just let it hang there, it shouldn’t be in the way.
7. With everything out the way, you can now remove the eight remaining bolts holding the tension rod brackets in the car, six are 17mm and two are 14mm.
8. If you run into the same issue I did with the TC rod bolts being seized, you will have a difficult time removing the rear bolts holding the brackets to the frame rails – the TC rods block access to the bolts. If you are creative with a 17mm wrench you can break the bolts loose. You could also use a swivel socket, if you have access to one.
The brackets should now be free from the car.
9. Before you can go bolting everything together, its time to bust out the drill. Now don’t go crazy and start punching holes all over, we need to mock up the brace. If you are doing this outside the car, lay the tension rod brackets on the floor or workbench just like they would be if they were still in the car. If you are still in the car, slide the brace up into its location. You should be able to set it on the lip on the tension rod brackets – see below for orientation information.
10. If you look closely at the endplates on the brace, you will notice that the edges are beveled on one side of each plate. This is to allow the brace to sit flush with the lip on the brackets. Using an awl or small screwdriver, scratch two marks into the endplates showing where the center of the bolt hole is. Lay the brace between the brackets, remember – bevel towards the bend. Using the bolts for the tension rods, attach the rear portion of the brace to the brackets. Don’t torque the crap out of them, just snug them up. Now transfer the marks you made on the brace ends to the brackets themselves. This will be the map that tells you where to drill. With the marks made, remove the brace from the brackets and extend your marks until they meet.
11. Place a small punch or Phillips head screwdriver on the spot where you are supposed to drill, tap it with a hammer to create a small indentation, this will keep your drill bit from walking around. Starting with a nice small bit, think 1/8”, drill a pilot hole in each, and then work your way up to larger bits until the hole is large enough for the bolt to pass through easily, IIRC my last bit was a 5/8”. That’s it, no more drilling, unless that is if you didn’t drill in the correct spot.
12. With the holes drilled, refit the brace using the tension rod bolts. Now using the bolts supplied with the brace, attach the front of the brace to the brackets – don’t worry about the crush sleeves, remember we’re just test fitting. If you put your holes in right place, the bolts should go in easily and everything should line up. If not, you will need to adjust the holes slightly so everything fits.
13. Now if you ran into the same issue that I did where the TC rod bolts are seized, you will need to get them free before continuing. It was getting late and I was cold and tired, so I decided to just take them to work with me where I have all my air tools and acetylene torch. After getting creative with my vice grips, air hammer, and impact wrench, I was able to free the bolt without damaging it. Again, if you are not replacing the tension rods, make sure to mark which side they came from. If you damage the tension rod bolt, you will need to source a suitable replacement from Nissan, don’t just use any bolt, it is specially designed to do its job. Using a regular bolt is asking for a disaster.
14. With the brackets bare, let’s shift gears shall we? Since I was already at work, I spent a few minutes cleaning them up in the parts washer. Cleaning the brackets inst necessary, but I figure it’s out, might as well pretty it up some. Since I had everything out of the car, I decided to rough the brackets up and hit them with a few coats of black paint. I had a little surface rust, and I wanted to put a stop to it.
15. If you are installing the brace on the car, you can go ahead and install the crush sleeves, don’t forget to install the washers, they should be installed on the outside of the bracket, between the bolt head and the brackets and the bracket and the brace. Then you can jump to section twenty two.
I also chose to paint the brace, I chose Ford Implement blue, it helps highlight the brace, and it just plane looks cool.
16. Once the paint is dry, if you painted anything, its time to start assembling. If you are also installing adjustable TC rods like I am, take a moment to mock them up next to the old parts, try your best to match the length of the new rods to the old ones. Also, make sure the sleeve is centered on the two ends. Don’t worry about tightening the jam nuts, just get them finger tight.
17. I started assembly by laying out all the parts, trying to orientate them as though they were in the car.
18. Lay the TC rods into the brackets and slide the bolts though them, but don’t put the nuts on yet. Reinstall the brace onto the end of the TC rod bolts, before putting the nuts on, slather some anti seize on the bolt, that way if it ever needs to come off again, it wont be as much of a hassle. Do not tighten the nut; just thread it on a few turns to keep everything from falling apart.
This is a picture of the bevel on the end plates, It should face down.
Here the TC rod, and brace are installed on one side.
19. Now grab the hardware that came with the brace. You should have two bolts, two crush sleeves, and four washers. Two nuts are included, but you will not need them. Start by laying the crush sleeves in the brackets. Leave one washer on each bolt. Slather some more anti seize on the bolt, then slide it through the back side of the bracket, into the crush sleeve and out the hole you drilled. Before you thread the bolt into the brace slip your other washer onto it between the bracket and the brace endplate. Do not tighten the bolt; just thread it in halfway or so. Assemble the other side in the same fashion, but remember, do not tighten the bolts all the way – this will allow you some wiggle room while installing it into the car.
20. With the brace pre-assembled, it should look something like this. Step back and take a moment to bask in your own awesomeness for getting this far.
21. Enough lollygagging lets get this thing back in the car. Having a friend handy to help you hold the assembly up while you are threading bolts in is a good idea, but you could use a floor jack as well. Don’t forget to goober some anti seize on the bolts before putting them in. Make sure to install the bolts in the same places as removed from, six in the front, and two in the rear.
22. Tighten the bolts in stages, so the brace doesn’t bind up. Once you have them all snugged up, torque them to 80-94 ft-lbs. If you installed, or have pillow ball TC rods, you can tighten up all the bolts for the brace. They should also be torqued to 80-94 ft-lbs. If you are using normal tension rods, with bushings, you will need to wait until the vehicle is on the ground before torquing the tension rod bolts. If the bolts for the bushings are torqued with the vehicle in the air, it can cause bushing bind that will adversely affect the suspension’s ability to move.
23. With the brace tight, you can now reinstall the sway bar bushings. Just lift the sway bar up and slide the bushings over the studs, don’t tighten either down until both are in place. Once you have both bushings snug, torque the nuts and bolts to 29-36 ft-lbs.
24. Its time to bolt the TC rods up to the control arms. The tension rods should sit on top of the LCAs. If you are using factory pieces, they have the studs mounted in them. If you are using aftermarket parts, they will most likely have nuts and bolts. Whatever the case, the bolts/studs should point down, and the nuts should be on the bottom. Once you have the bolts in, torque them down to 69-83 ft-lbs. If you have adjustable TC rods, the jam nuts should still be loose. Leave them that way, you will be tightening them up with the wheels on the ground.
25. If you removed them, you can now reinstall the 2 bolts holding the power steering pressure line bracket.
26. Its time to do some double checking, recheck every bolt you removed during this install, everything should be tight except the tension rod bolts and the tension rod jam nuts.
27. If you have pillow ball TC rods, you can now reinstall the splash shield and lower back onto the ground, with the vehicle on the ground, follow the pillow ball centering procedure in section thirty two.
28. If you have bushings, then you will need to leave the splash shield off while you lower the car, so you can gain access to the TC rod bolts with the car on the ground, follow the procedure below for tightening the bolts.
29. If you are installing the brace, with the tension rod brackets in the vehicle, or if you are using stock tension rods that need to be tightened with wheels on the ground, you may have come to realize, there is no easy way to tighten the nut holding the rear of the tension rod brace in. The location of the sway bar blocks access to this nut. Without the brace installed a normal wrench could get the job done, but with the brace, it’s a different story. There is one easy option.
30. If you are lucky, you or someone you know has a set of low profile 3/8” drive swivel sockets – specifically a 17mm. With the 17mm swivel you can quite easily tighten the TC rod bolts without any extra work. If you don’t have a low pro swivel, you could try using a 3/8” drive short well 17mm, a universal, and an extension. If you mix and match you might be able to tighten the bolts down, although I didn’t try it, because I had my swivels handy.Whichever option you choose, or if you figure out some other way to do it, remember to torque the bolts to 80-94 ft-lbs.
31. If you noticed I stated above that the TC rod bushing bolts need to be torqued once the vehicle is on the ground. This only applies if you still have rubber bushings, it does not apply if you have pillow balls (they have other issues, see below). The reason behind this is called bushing bind. If you tighten a bushing with the suspension at full extension, then allow the suspension to compress to normal ride height, it will put large amounts of stress on the bushing. This can have adverse effects on the alignment, as well as greatly shortening bushing lifespan.
32. Pillow ball TC rods, while avoiding the issues with bushing bind, there is still a special procedure related to final assembly. Because of the adjustability associated with pillow ball TC rods, the actual joint is aloud to twist in the bracket. If special care is not taken when tightening the jam nuts, they can succumb to the same issues as the bushing, causing poor suspension movement, and even premature pillow ball failure. With the front wheels supporting the full weight of the vehicle, center the pillow ball in the bracket, then tighten the jam nuts. When having the car aligned, be sure to advise the alignment technician that special care should be taken when adjusting caster. If at all possible, take the car to a shop that performs race alignments, as apposed to a normal tire store, they will be much more capable of catering to your needs.
Here is how the TC rod should look when it’s centered.
With everything buttoned up, you can reinstall your splash shield, if you haven’t already, and also reconnect your negative battery cable.
Here are some finished shots of the installed brace and tension rods, see, I told you the blue looks bitchin.
Don’t get all excited, we’re not finished yet, by installing this brace, especially if you installed new tension rods, you have changed the front wheel alignment. You NEED to bring your car into an alignment shop. I recommend a quality race shop alignment, it will cost you a little more, but it is worth it. Because of the greater amount of adjustability associated with aftermarket suspension parts bringing your car to the local tires plus is just asking for a giant headache.
How do I know this? Tragically, I myself work as a mechanic for tires plus, I understand that the majority of alignments are not as thorough as they should be, in the industry, we call them toe and go’s. Alignment technicians rarely take the time to adjust anything other than toe. The day I brought my car in, I spent nearly an hour and a half on the alignment rack setting everything to my liking, according to the computer, my caster and camber are still out of spec, but that’s the way I like it. I should have brought my camera with, so I could have taken some pictures of the alignment itself.
The alignment may not seem very important, but believe me; it can completely change the feel of a car. If you’re not going to do something right, then don’t do it at all. To find a good alignment shop, check out your local racing forums, SCCA and Solo II drivers need their alignments perfect, so they often know the best place to go. If you are in MN, check out Jeff the alignment guy, if I didn’t have access to a rack, I would bring my car to him.
That’s all I’ve got, as far as I can tell that is everything, although I’m sure I missed a few things, if you notice anything that should be added, don’t be afraid to post up or email me.
Id like to should out a great big Thank You to those who help with this:
Jonnie, without you, there wouldn’t be such an awesome part to install.
Cale, your help/company is indispensable, without good friends working on cars isn’t nearly as fun.
This is just an amateur write up, I take no responsibility for any damage you cause to you or your car, this is meant to be a general overview of the installation. If you don’t have the skills or the tools to do the job right, bring it to someone else.
After spending a weekend in the Duluth area, driving the car all all sorts of roads, Ive come to one conclusion. I love this TC rod brace. The turn in and braking are so much cleaner, and groaning from the front suspension has been greatly reduced. Driving respectably, my ability to perceive weight transfer seems much crisper, I can more accurately feel traction loss through the break pedal, and mid corner bumps do not seem to effect traction as much.
Over all I love the way the car feels. The only downfall is the rest of my suspension, I am now working the front tires harder than I would like, larger sway bars should remedy that issue.