How-To Install a Bushing Without a Press

Installing a Bushing Without a Press

If you don’t have access to a hydraulic press, as very few of us do, there is a simple and inexpensive alternative to installing a suspension bushing. Using tools we had laying around, and a trip to the hardware store, we built a homemade bushing installer that did the job quickly and efficiently. More importantly, the hardware cost was under $10. In this article we’ll show you how to make your own bushing installer and give you some dos and don’ts to make your install go as smoothly as possible.

For those of you visual learners.

 

Removing the OE Bushing

Before you can install your new bushing, you have to remove the old one. If you need help removing your OE bushing, check out our How-To Burn Out Bushings: The Right Way article.

Burn Out Bushings Right vs Wrong

**Be sure to consult your installation instructions before you remove the outer shell, as a lot of aftermarket bushings require the use of the OE shell.** But for those of you with bushings that have a new outer shell, please read below to see how we installed a bushing without a hydraulic press.

Sand and Polish the Housing

Once you have removed the OE bushing and shell, you should be left with an empty housing. Its a good idea to sand and polish the inner diameter of the housing before you install anything in order to clean up any corrosion, contaminants or rust that may have accumulated. The last thing you want is a sharp edge in there that damages your new bushing when you install it. Additionally, a clean and polished housing will reduce friction, allowing the new bushing to be installed more easily.

Install Bushing Installer

Bushing Installer Parts: Do’s and Don’ts

Once your housing is prepped, you are ready to build your bushing installer. Full disclosure: The first bushing installer we built failed, hard. It just wasn’t strong enough to provide the force necessary to install the bushing. So throughout the description of this installer, when we say “you don’t want to use” something, it’s because we tried it and it failed.

Install Bushing Installer

Sockets or Pipe

We used a set of sockets because we had a set available, so if you have a socket set you can use that. But if you don’t have one, and you don’t want to go spend a hundred dollars on a nice set of sockets, don’t worry. You can do the same thing with two pieces of 3 dollar metal pipe. You will need a piece of pipe with the same diameter as the bushings, and a second piece of pipe with a larger diameter that will brace itself against the housing you’re installing the bushings into.

Install Bushing Installer
Install Bushing Socket

Important Notes about Nuts and Bolts

Now that you have your sockets, or pipes, you need a threaded bolt to go through the entire contraption. A few important things about the nuts and bolts:

Use a Grade 8 bolt, not a Grade 5

A Grade 8 bolt can be identified very easily. On the head of the bolt you’ll see a number of lines. If there are 6 lines on the head, that’s a Grade 8, if there are 3 lines, that’s a Grade 5.
Install Bushing Socket
The first bushing installer we built used a Grade 5 All Thread rod. The threads on the Grade 5 were too soft and failed under pressure when we were installing the bushing into the housing. When we switched to a Grade 8 bolt, we wondered why we ever tried anything else.

Install Bushing Socket

Use a Coarse thread, not a Fine thread

With our brilliant minds (sarcasm) we thought surely to use a fine threaded rod. The more threads there are, the less force needed to complete a turn on a thread. Thus reducing the amount of strength required to push the bushing in. That was the thought anyways. But in practice, the fine threads were weaker and failed under the stress. A coarse thread is stronger and more durable for a task that requires as much force as installing a bushing.

Install Bushing Socket

Use the largest diameter bolt allowed

This bolt will have a lot of stress on it to install the bushing, so you’ll need a beefy bolt. But this bolt will have to fit through the inner sleeve of your bushing. Be sure to get the largest diameter bolt as allowed by your inner sleeve size.

Install Bushing Socket

Long Grade 8 Bolts usually have little threading

Now this is where we had to stop and put our thinking caps on. The whole point of the bushing installer was to tighten two nuts, causing the sockets to push against the bushing on one side, and the housing on the other, pushing the bushing into the housing. So we needed a threaded bolt that would allow us to torque the bushing all the way in. This is why we originally used the all thread rod, lots of threads. But once that failed, we tried to find a Grade 8 bolt that would work. Unfortunately the Grade 8 bolts at our local hardware store had a short thread length. Once we threaded the nut down to where it touched the socket, we had maybe one or two turns of thread left. After we pouted for a minute a light-bulb came on. Washers! Using a stack of washers as shims we were able to use the entire thread and then some. Once we torqued the the nut to the end of the thread, we took the nut off and added more washers to reset the bolt to the end of the thread.

Install Bushing Socket
Install Bushing Socket

Use a tall nut

The taller the nut, the more threads the nut has. Our first nut was short. When we switched to Grade 8, we had to switch nuts as well. The taller nut had way more threads, allowing the force to spread on a larger portion of the bolt, putting less stress on each individual thread. Now all you need is two wrenches (or one wrench and pair of vice grips) and you have your home-made bushing installer.

Install Bushing Socket

Tips and Tricks before you Install

Before you start torquing there are a few other tips and tricks you can use to make your install smoother.

Lubricate the bolt

This was a critical step in our success. The first go around we didn’t lubricate the bolt. The nut got really hot (to the touch) because of all the friction. That heat softened the metal, making the rod not only too weak to install the bushing, but we actually destroyed the thread. On the grade 8 bolt we lubricated the thread. It reduced friction, which reduced the heat, allowing the metal to stay strong.

Install Bushing Socket

Lubricate the housing with oil

We also lubricated the housing with oil. The oil helped the bushing slide in by reducing friction. Additionally, a coat of oil will protect your freshly polished metal from corrosion.

Install Bushing Socket

Freeze the bushing

Huh? Yeah you read that right. Science backs its up. Metal contracts in the cold. We put the bushing in the freezer for 24 hours before the install to help contract the bushing. Now it didn’t make the bushing just drop in, but even the slightest decrease in the bushing diameter can make all the difference.

Install Bushing Socket

Installing the Bushing

Now you are ready to install. Use a wrench or vice grips to hold one of the nuts tight. Then torque the other nut with a wrench. As the socket pushes the bushing, the opposite socket acts as a brace, pressing up against the housing essentially pressing the bushing into the housing. After a few minutes, the bushing was entirely in the housing, all without a press.

Install Bushing Socket
Install Bushing Socket

Once we had the right tools, the process was very simple. We even used the same tool to remove the bushing and then put it BACK in. It’s really all about having the right tools. So if you are have trouble installing your bushing with your homemade bushing installer, remember:

Making sure you have the proper tools for the job is key to your success. But don’t forget these helpful tips and tricks:

If you have any other questions comment below or contact our DST customer service team. Share you successes and failures (if you dare) in the comments below? Was anybody surprised about the freezing the bushing tip?

Comments

  1. Steve

    Outstanding! It really helps to have an understanding of the task and a proper fix before undertaking the job. Thanks for the good tips and explanations.

    1. Profile photo of Drew TaylorDrew Taylor

      Thanks Steve! Good luck on your install. I’d love to hear how your attempt goes and your thoughts on the process. I know everyone would benefit from another person’s experience with the installer. Have fun!

  2. Phyllis

    I appreciate the information accompanied with video and photos. I have a suggestion for those control arms that are not solid. My suburban control arms started collapsing when I was pressing in a bushing. I loosened up the bolt and inserted a piece of flat iron between the two sections that house the large bushing then tightened it down and it seated perfectly. Freezing the bushing allowed for pressing with very little effort. Thanks

  3. Chuck

    Did you try heating up your control arm as well? As you mentioned expansion and contraction. If you warm one up and cool down the other they go together very easily. What about a bench vise as well for those who have one.

    1. Profile photo of Drew TaylorDrew Taylor

      Chuck great point! We elected not to heat ours up solely because we didn’t need to. But if you are having any trouble you can heat up your arm a little bit. As for the bench vise, it is the same basic principle. So I’d say go for it if you have a bench vise. The only issue I can see with that is you’d need a wide set of jaws. Even a small bushing would need a pretty wide jaw.

    1. Profile photo of Drew TaylorDrew Taylor

      Hey Steve! Thanks! Not having to buy a cheap press is a huge deal, because even a “cheap” press costs way more than this set-up. Let us know how your install goes, we’d love to see pictures too.

  4. just_a_guy

    I like to lubricate my puller bolts with 90wt gear oil. It might be called 85/120 EPA or something like that.

    It’s just differential lubricant.

    The BEST threads are ACME type, but they aren’t readily available to hardware stores.

  5. R

    Here’s an idea…why not just use a grade 8 theaded rod(whatever bolt size you wanted to use) usally available in 3′ sticks, leave it long or cut it down, leaving it long you can use it on multiple projects, no extra shims or washers needed

    1. Profile photo of Drew TaylorDrew Taylor

      That’s actually something we thought about using, but we opted for the bolt so that we could use a wrench to torque the bolt and press the bushing in. If you could find a way to torque it, you could use a threaded rod.

      1. R.S

        Just saw this article, very good information in here. I have two options for using threaded rod.

        1) If you have access to a welder, weld a nut on one end of the threaded rod.

        2) Use two nuts on one end and tighten them against each other (same idea as jam nuts).

        Both methods would allow you to torque the fastener.

        1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

          Hey R.S.,

          Those are some great tips!

          Like a lot of DIY projects we tried to make due with what we had laying around, but using your suggestion with a nice piece of grade 8 All Thread would have eliminated the need for shims or washers and cut down on the install time considerably. It’s great to see the community coming up with so many options for people to accomplish this task easily and cheaply.

          Any other tips or tricks for quick and simple bushing install?

          Thanks again, R.S.

    1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

      Hey, thanks for the insight!

      You are right that fine threads are stronger than coarse threads in the areas that you mentioned. Though in the case of our jury-rigged bushing installer, we were looking for speed and endurance.

      The coarse thread bolt proved more durable and got the job done in fewer revolutions than a fine thread rod. Of course we made several other adjustments, like using a larger diameter bolt, taller nut, and lubricating the bolt, but all in all we felt the coarser thread was best for the job.

      Has anyone tweaked their own bushing installer with epic success? We would love to hear about it!

  6. John

    What a simple and effective way to get bushings in, or out in my case. I was about to go rent a bushing press when I stumbled across this article. I feel almost stupid for not thinking of this. Thanks for the article!

  7. Kasim

    I didn’t quite follow these instructions and now I have a 3″ diameter subframe bushing pressed half way in. It will not go anywmore. Any tips on pressing it in the rest of the way? I forgot to oil the housing

    1. Profile photo of Chelsea BakerChelsea Baker

      Hey Kasim!

      Sorry to hear about your bushing troubles. If you’ll give our customer service folks a call at 1-888-406-2330 they would love to help figure out a solution. We have a ASE mechanic right here in the office and we will assist you in every way that we can.

  8. Tom

    I recommend using vegetable oil on anything that will touch the rubber of the bushing. Petroleum and mineral oils will degrade the organic rubber compounds.

    1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

      Hey Tom,

      Great tip! When certain chemicals come into contact with rubber it will definitely cause some degradation sooner rather than later. Any TLC you can provide for those bushings during install will keep them happy and working correctly longer.

      Any other tips for a smooth DIY bushing install?

  9. Mike

    HI just found this was about to buy a press do you think there would be enough grunt to replace front castor bush’s on a 80s landcruiser I’ve been told 20tn press is needed thanks again

    1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

      Hey Mike,

      Getting the bushing out should just be a matter of getting the housing hot enough to get the rubber boiling. If you take a look at our how-to burn out a bushing article we got a bushing out with great success this way. I imagine that pressing the bushing in is going to be the problem, and if someone you trust has told you a 20 ton press is necessary then that’s probably what you’re going to need. I imagine the threads on the bolt will give out before you could get the same punch as a 20 ton press.

      That said, there’s no reason you couldn’t give the DIY bushing press a try first, if you have some time, and another vehicle to take your parts to a shop in case it doesn’t work. If you do try the DIY press please, please take pictures or video of the process and let us know how it goes.

      Thanks Mike, and good luck getting those bushings in.

  10. Peter

    My stabilizer end link bushing doesn’t have a metal outer sleeve. It is vulcanized rubber which looks like a pulley with a metal centre where the bolt goes. (Subaru Part No. 20461AA002 )

    I tried installing using your method but it ripped the rubber flange (for lack of a better term) off of the leading edge as it was pressed in.

    What would you recommend?

    Here is a link to an image of the bushing

    http://parts.subaru.com/images/uploads/SimplePart%20-%20Subaru/fullsize/a_20160615_1528020776.png

    1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

      Hey Peter,

      First of all, sorry to hear about your bushing but maybe we can provide some tips that will help you, and someone else, from losing another bushing.

      Now, how much lubricant did you use? For a bushing like this you need to “grease the dog out of it” as my grandfather would say. lubricate the housing, lubricate the bushing, lubricate everything. Then lubricate it all again.

      Next, the edge of that housing is probably sharp and straight like the cutting edge of a pair of scissors. If you grind just a little bit of that edge down and bevel one side of the housing it should go a long way toward keeping that flange intact when you try and press it in. That said, don’t overdo it. Just enough to smooth out that sharp edge.

      Even with these tricks installing a bushing of this type is going to be a messy pain. My boss installed a similar bushing on an Integra he owned 10 years ago and he still remembers how difficult it was. We wish you luck, and please let us know how your project turns out.

      Has anyone else had trouble with the DIY bushing installer? Or does anyone have any other tips for installing a difficult bushing?

      Thanks Peter and good luck!

  11. John L Fak

    For me the bushings really aren’t that hard.
    Its the arms that have a ROD in the middle that prevent you from using a press on one end.

    Anyone every got a round this easily ?

    1. Profile photo of Josh DanielsJosh Daniels

      Hey John,

      Yeah, those upper control arms with the cross shaft are a pain. There are a lot of factors that will make each DIY installation different, like “is the outer diameter of the cross shaft smaller than the bushing housing?” or “is the replacement bushing moulded into the shell?”

      The DIY solution will work in many cases and will get you halfway there with cross shaft control arms, but that bar will get in the way of completeing this project with our beloved bushing installer.

      Bottom line, this may be one of those situations where the DIY option isn’t really going to be worth it. Special tools may be a requirement if your want to get this project done at home.

      Does anyone know of a DIY method that can be used to install bushings on a front control arm that uses a cross shaft? We would love to hear about it!

      Thanks for the question John, and we hope you find a way to DIY those control arm bushings.

Leave A Comment?

About The Author

Profile photo of Drew Taylor