We know that installing anything can be hectic at times. And we found out first hand when one of our employees was working on his 1999 Dodge Dakota and ran into some trouble. It was the first vehicle he had ever lowered, so he was learning as he went.
Since we're sure he isn't the only newbie working on his vehicle we called DJM Suspension to ask them about some tips for installing their lower control arms.
Lower Control Arms
DJM has been making lower control arms to drop '97 up Dodge Dakota for years. They are available in both 2" and 3" drop and you can also add DJM lowered coil spring to the 2" arm for a total 4" drop. DJM said that using control arms achieves a consistent amount drop and retains the factory ride. You can even use the factory front shocks with their control arms as long as the factory coil springs are used. This is a big advantage over coil springs because they require new shocks and the drop can vary from 1"-3" drop.
Over the years improvements have been made to the control arms. The most significant change was the reduction of the diameter of the material running on each side of the coil spring. The original arms used 1-1/2" DOM (Drawn Over Mandrel) tubing, which has now been changed to 1" solid round. This allows the bars to be located closer to the coil spring and the smaller diameter dramatically improved the turning radius. The additional room gives more clearance for the tire when the spindle hits the steering stop on the control arm.
The stop (located on the ball joint plate) was original designed to limit the turning. For some wheels this was not enough and installers would have to add material to the stop to keep the tire from hitting. Now with the new 1" solid bars, the stop can be ground down to increase turning radius. In fact, DJM is planning to eliminate the stop completely, giving even greater turning ability.
So here some tech tips from the experts at Stylin' and DJM. When the installation is complete and the wheels are on, carefully check for clearance problems. This needs to be done at ride height, not with the truck on a lift or jack stands. The best way is to drive the truck onto an alignment rack. Turn the wheels and watch both sides for tire and wheel clearance. Keep turning until the spindle hits the stop. If the wheel or tire is hitting the control arm before the spindle hits the stop you will need to add to the stop. More common is that spindle hits the stop and there is still room for the tire to turn. If this is the case you will need to remove some of the stop. When you are sure there is adequate clearance; take it for a test drive and make some u-turns to check turning radius.
Decreasing the Turning Radius
To stop the wheel from contacting the control arm, you can bolt or weld a piece of flat or angled material to the arm right where the stop is on the arm. The stop is located on the rear side of the control arm. Add to the stop to decrease turning radius, remove from the stop to increase turning.
Increasing the Turning Radius
You can increase the turning by grinding the stop down. Now this is where the installer must use his experience. If the wheel and tire has clearance to turn more, you can grind down the stop on the arm. Do this slowly and keep checking for clearance because you do not want to grind off too much.
Getting More Alignment Adjustment
On some Dakotas, the alignment adjustment on the upper arms may not be able to go out enough or is close to the limit of the slots. The slots can be elongated more than from the factory. DJM has had to do this on a few. A Plasma cutter is the tool of choice but a round grinding stone will work also. You should only need to go maybe 1/2" more to the outside. In the accompanying photos you can see the elongated slots.
Now that you have some tips on how to get the most out of your Dakota lower control arms you can get out in your garage and try it your self!Related Links: